Leading food writers in cat food for comment scandal

Thursday, 14 May 2009

Eleri Harris writes:

A sample of leading Australian food writers yesterday received an interesting offer from a “junior” accounts manager at Ogilvy PR’s Pulse Communications:

From: Treble, Lucy
Sent: Wednesday, 13 May 2009 4:33 PM
To: Lethlean, John
Subject: Good Food and Wine Show — blogging opportunity

Hi John,

By way of introduction my name is Lucy and I work for a PR agency in Sydney. We’re currently crafting a campaign for Fancy Feast Sensations, a premium brand of cat food that has a stall at the Good Food and Wine Shows across Australia. We’re looking to get a high-profile food journalist involved and thought you’d be a great fit. I’m firstly wondering whether you have a cat? (If so please read below).

You’d be required to write a blog entry (about 500 words) by Wednesday May 20th on Fancy Feast cat food and the fact the product is so good it has a stall at the Good Food and Wine Show. The blog would be about what you feed your cat, anything quirky about your cat, and whether you think cat food has a place at a (human) good food and wine show.

With the Melbourne show coming up in two weeks I would need to lock down confirmation by the end of this week to give you adequate time to pen a blog. Please find more information below and do not hesitate to contact me if you have any queries.

Product background:

You love your cat and you want them to have the best food, Fancy Feast Sensations has elevated cat food to human food status so now you can enjoy the same meal as your cat every night of the week. There is a new range of cat food coming out that has Tuscan and Florentine inspired flavours so when you are making your cheese soufflé, you know you can open a can and you cat can enjoy the same meal too.

The cat food company will have a stall at the upcoming Good Food and Wine Shows across the country. This cat food is so good that it has a place at the show. Now cats and their owners have something to be proud of.


  • Blog entry — Write a blog entry (Approx 500 words) on ‘Cat Food SO Good it is at the GFWS’ — talk about your own cat, what you feed it, anything quirky you might do with your cat and what place you think cat food has at the GFWS.
  • Required to be written by Wed 20 May (next week).
  • Media interviews — undertake approx 2 x media interviews each with talk back radio in the lead up to the four GFWS across the country about the blog entry.

Dates of the Good Food and Wine Shows:

  • Melbourne: Exhibition Centre, 5-8 June 2009
  • Sydney: Exhibition Centre, 3-5 July 2009
  • Perth: Convention and Exhibition Centre, 31 July – 2 August 2009
  • Brisbane: Convention and Exhibition Centre, 6-8 November 2009

Lucy Treble

Account Coordinator | Pulse Communications

Then came the tongue in cheek, but still gobsmacked, reply from The Weekend Australian Magazine‘s food and wine editor John Lethlean:

From: Lethlean, John
Sent: Thursday, 14 May 2009 9:53 AM
To: Treble, Lucy
Subject: RE: Good Food and Wine Show — blogging opportunity

Dear Lucy,

I saw your email yesterday. Well, I didn’t see the email you sent me yesterday… I saw the email you sent Pat Nourse at Gourmet Traveller yesterday. In fact, by close of business yesterday, I reckon just about every food journalist in Australia had seen your email to Pat.

Little did I know there was something identical waiting for me when I got to my desk at The Australian this morning. In fact, I was still slightly delirious with mirth at your approach to Pat when I saw your name pop into my Inbox this morning. Goody, I said to myself… my big opportunity to get out of journalism.

Unfortunately, your email doesn’t indicate just what sort of money you have in mind for me to trash my entire career, but I’ll just assume it’s substantial, given that after I do your bidding, I’ll be sacked by News Limited and will henceforth have a lot of trouble gaining another position or selling freelance work. I’m sure you understand.

If you can just get back to me with a figure, I’ll be able to get the old creative juices flowing on this exciting project. And don’t worry, I’ll get myself a cat from the animal refuge.

John Lethlean

Co-Editor Food + Wine

The Weekend Australian Magazine

Pulse Communications managing director Samantha Allen told Crikey this morning the emails were “a terrible mistake on our part”.

“We are in the process of sending out an apology email,” Allen said, “It is not at all the approach a PR agency should be taking.”

Allen assured Crikey Pulse were not offering “cash for comment” and that the email should have been sent to freelance writers to contribute to the Pulse Communications blog and the Fancy Feast website.

Crikey were unable to locate said blogs, but wonder if the contribution would have involved the “Confessions of Love” section of the Fancy Feast website, which includes such delightful anecdotes as:

My beloved cat, Gemini, (now in Cat Heaven) is identical to the Fancy Feast cat, the white Himyla…n [sic] Persian. I would very much like to have/purchase videos of the Fancy Feast cat(s). I tape the advertisements whenever I can, when I see them. — Bonella Marcotte & Gemini

Allen said Pulse Communications would pay a “normal writer’s rate” per word for the blogs.

Get more Crikey, for less

It’s more than a newsletter. It’s where readers expect more – fearless journalism from a truly independent perspective. We don’t pander to anyone’s party biases. We question everything, explore the uncomfortable and dig deeper.

Join us this week for 50% off a year of Crikey.

Peter Fray
Peter Fray
Editor-in-chief of Crikey
50% off