Bay charges raising little interest

The Bay and its president and spokesman Bob Peter are due back in court at the end of this month defending themselves against charges of misleading advertising.Although the department store and its top executive have only been charged - not convicted...

The Bay and its president and spokesman Bob Peter are due back in court at the end of this month defending themselves against charges of misleading advertising.

Although the department store and its top executive have only been charged – not convicted – whether Peter can or will remain as The Bay’s spokesman given the media coverage the case has got, remains to be seen.

Repeated calls to The Bay to inquire about Peter’s status as an advertising spokesman, particularly for the busy fall and Christmas season, have not been returned.

Calls to the Saffer Group in Toronto, The Bay’s agency, were referred to the department store.

Also charged with Peter is Bay Vice-President Robin Norris.

Jim Dion, senior consultant at John C. Williams retail consultants in Toronto, says whatever the result of the charges against The Bay and its president, experience suggests customers are not interested in such matters.

One indication of The Bay’s intentions with respect to Peter may be revealed in its choice of new spokesperson.

A publicist for Balmur Management in Toronto, Anne Murray’s company, says the singer is due to start filming a series of commercials for The Bay.

The publicist says Murray first appeared in some Bay advertising about a year ago.

Another singer – Celine Dion (not related to the consultant) – is already appearing in some ads for the department store.

28 charges

The Bay and Peter face 17 charges brought by the federal government earlier this summer. Norris faces 11 charges. Both men were charged under the Competition Act.

The federal government alleges that between April 1, 1989 and Feb. 29, 1991, The Bay’s promotional sales of box springs, mattresses, pillows, crystals and sleep sets advertised in flyers and newspapers were false and misleading.

Advertising industry interest in the case has been less than overwhelming.

Executives at agencies with significant retail business say The Bay, perhaps, ought to drop Peter from its advertising, but, for creative reasons, not because of the criminal charges.

Alan Gee, chairman and creative director at Gee Jeffery & Partners in Toronto, says now is probably a good time for The Bay to look at its advertising and inject it with some personality.

Besides the matter of whether Peter continues to appear in Bay advertising, consultant Dion says the case raises another issue – the role of the federal government.

‘I hate to say it, but sometimes the feds go after the big guys,’ Dion says.

Elliott Ettenberg, chairman and chief executive officer of Prism Communications in Toronto, agrees.

Ettenberg says Ottawa’s message is that company presidents and other senior executives have to think more about what their businesses are saying to customers through advertising.