Amici Curiae: Augusta National’s First Women Members, Corporate Marketing and Children’s Rights, and the Logic Behind Legal Advertising
Augusta, Welcome to the 21st Century: Green Jackets, Coming to a Woman Near You
Augusta National Golf course, home of the Masters, has finally welcomed women to it’s traditional boy’s club. Darla Moore, South Carolina financier and Condoleezza Rice, former Secretary of State will become the first women ever in the club’s 80-year history to don the infamous green jackets. Both women accepted membership on August 20th.
The inclusion was sparked due to the mounting pressure the club faced, first by not admitting IBM’s CEO, Virgina Rommetty and then by Chairman Billy Payne’s timely hypocritical sentiments. Rommetty’s rise as CEO raised controversy for the club, because it has given membership to four former IBM (which is, inciddentally, a long time sponsor of the Masters) CEOs. In the spring, Chairman Billy Payne promoted the club by encouraging children of both sexes to get involved in the game of golf at a young age. This promotion was in response to the sport’s dwindling popularity, primarily due to the expenses related with learning and playing golf, the remote locations, and the steep learning curve. So, the club was encouraging male and female participation in the sport, even as it did not extend the possibility of membership to women.
The controversy came to a head about ten years ago, when Martha Burk of the National Council of Women’s Organizations loudly protested the club’s exclusive protests encouraging the it to include female members. The club’s former chair, Hootie Johnson, protested, saying that while Augusta might one day have a woman admitted to the club, it would not be “at the point of a bayonet.” The club is a private entity, and like all private clubs, Augusta has the right to create its own membership requirements, whether or not they are good PR. That being said, the inability to join Augusta has become a relic in socially progressive groups, as many clubs have displaced such antiquated and gender-biased policies.
Billy Payne noted the offering of the green jacket as a “joyous occasion.” He went on to say that “this is a significant and positive time in our club’s history and, on behalf of our membership, I wanted to take this opportunity to welcome them and all of our new members to the Augusta National Family.” Augusta opened in December 1932, and has approximately 350 members – all men – including Warren Buffet and Bill Gates. These two women, however, are no strangers to being strong females role models breaking barriers. Moore was the first woman to be profiled on the cover of Fortune Magazine, and Rice was the first black woman to be a provost at Stanford.
Corporate Marketing Tactics: Are They in Violation of Children’s Privacy Rights?
Danger seems to lurk everywhere on the World Wide Web. Parents worry about their kids over-sharing on Facebook. Parents keep an eye out for predators luring their kids in chat rooms. And parents are rightly concerned about cyber-bullying. Perhaps household names like General Mills, McDonald’s and Nickelodeon should be added to parents’ list of woes?
On Wednesday, some children’s advocacy, health and public interest groups filed complaints with the Federal Trade Commission. They claim that these companies market online to children in a way that violates a federal law protecting children’s privacy. They end up accumulating data about kids – what they do online, what their preferences are, etc. – and about their friends.
Under the Children’s Online Privacy Protection Act, 15 U.S.C. §§ 6501-6508 (COPPA), websites must obtain verifiable consent from parents before they can collect any data about children under the age of thirteen. It was enacted in 1998, and became effective in 2000.
These interest groups charge six popular websites with encouraging kids to share their friends’ email addresses without obtaining prior consent from their parents. Kids would play brand-related games; at the end, they would be asked to send customizable videos promoting certain products to their friends. That is just one example of unlawful behavior that these companies are engaging in with their young demographic, according to the complainants in this case.
A lawyer for the Center for Digital Democracy, a non-profit group in Washington, explained it this way: these companies, some of which are the largest and the most influential in the world, are skirting around COPPA; rather than collecting email addresses from kids and sending marketing materials directly, these companies are asking kids to play a game first and then share the game with their friends. Clever, but perhaps still illegal.
Furthermore, the complainants have asked the Federal Trade Commission to investigate marketing practices that are exploiting kids in other ways. For example, companies are purportedly employing sophisticated programming code to track children’s activity online – which websites they visit, how long they stay on there, etc. Some even ask for photographs from children. If these allegations turn out to be true, parents should be even more protective of their children online – as though they do not have enough to worry about already.
Advertising Legal Services, and the Hesitancy of the Legal Profession
An interesting blog post from the Globe and Mail talks about the advent of legal advertising in Canada, and its cautious entry onto Canadian media and television channels. The post also points to the hesitancy in the Canadian legal profession to market itself out to potential clients, implying that the preference is for more traditional forms of advertising, that are governed by the strict rules of the Law Society of Upper Canada (LSUC).
It seems like the hesitancy among most lawyers then, is a combination conventional thought and strict rules. Commentators on the issue, however, have also called for lawyers to accept that social media marketing strategies are here to stay, and not using them to put their firm “out there” means losing a lot of potential business. Obviously, the point is not to lose the sense of decorum or professionalism, but perhaps to relax it, and to project the law profession as one that is in tune with the times.
Our law school professors often bring up facets of access to justice issues in the legal profession, and increased advertising may be one way to combat the image of lawyers as being out of reach. What if, for instance, more creative marketing was designed towards differing economic and social strata of society? And what if legal aid services were allowed to market themselves through creative social media campaigns, appealing to immigrants and other groups who are not always able to access or feel comfortable with the stodgy advertising techniques that are used today? While convention and decorum are certainly necessary in a profession like law, they must not be allowed to get in the way of true access to justice and service to the public, which, we are told, are two of the main tenets of the profession. If this means Facebook is the best way to do so, then perhaps this must be accepted a sign of the times.