Sony’s Shifting Crisis

Few will argue that Sony is currently facing one of the biggest (and strangest) corporate crises ever witnessed in Hollywood, or anywhere for that matter. And that’s saying a lot, given the doings of those who earn their livings in the star-making capital of the world.

But this crisis is different than others. I spent 11 years at the agency that advised J&J during the Tylenol crisis, and before that had represented Pepsi when it had to deal with some nut job placing syringes in the beverage maker’s vaunted cans. Both of these companies were true victims, and as such, could easily play the sympathy card with their various “publics.”

Photo: Sony Pictures
Photo: “The Interview” (Sony Pictures)

Sony also was a victim of a nefarious attack that most now believe was directed by that most nefarious of governments and its nut job leader. Sony’s PR consiglieres took steps that included quashing all media interviews and banned TV crews around the premier of the film that presumably catalyzed the attack. Incredibly, Sony also removed its name from all marketing materials for the film.

Yet, suddenly without warning, the sympathy card flew out of the hands of those charged with advising Sony management on how best to minimize the damage. The corporate “tampering,” i.e., hacking, produced a most unwelcome and unflattering bi-product: private documents and emails that exposed the ugly underbelly of the star-making business.

Who hasn’t at this point heard about the exchanges between the prolific and irascible film producer Scott Rudin and Sony Pictures chief Amy Pascal casually disparaging the likes of two of the planet’s boldest of bold-faced names?

Chance meeting of Angelina Jolie and Sony's Amy Pascal
Angelina Jolie and Amy Pascal at the Women in Entertainment Breakfast in Los Angeles Photo: Action Press/REX

Angelina Jolie and Amy Pascal at the Women in Entertainment Breakfast in Los Angeles Photo: Action Press/REX

Sony suddenly had to play the contrition card. Ms. Pascal told The Hollywood Reporter:

“I’m being proactive and I want to accept responsibility for these stupid, callous remarks…I wouldn’t wish this on my worst enemy. You’re being judged on things that you said in a 10-second frame that were stupid, and that’s not my whole career and everything I’ve done.”

To make matters worse, the hacked trove of private communiques surfaced a document that struck a most timely nerve in Tinseltown: the disparity in salary between actors and actresses. And we’re not talking about some supporting roles here. Did I say Jennifer Lawrence?

Who can blame Ms. Pascal for wanting to change the conversation back to one in which Sony is portrayed as the true victim it actually is?

“I think the conversation needs to switch to a conversation that a crime was committed, and that things have been stolen from our company that people are profiting from.”

It also helps to have some A-listers vocalize their support for the beleaguered studio chief. Here are two pieces, both from The Hollywood Reporter:

“Sony Hack: Aaron Sorkin Defends Amy Pascal”

“‘The Interview’ Premiere: Seth Rogen Thanks Amy Pascal “For Having The Balls to Make This Movie”

What’s odd to me is how Mr. Rudin has managed to escape the level of scrutiny that Ms. Pascal has had to endure. Talk about gender disparity in Hollywood!


  1. Going forward I believe people will now be abandoning email to really express their true reasons and opinions and will be making phone calls and in person office visits. It is all out there – that is all email/tweets/texts, etc. and one can only imagine at some point there will be the biggest hack and that will be against some world power and all those communications will be open for the world to see.

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