Back in January, I was ecstatic to describe how Lora DiCarlo, maker of the innovative Osé sex toy, responded to the abrupt and unexplained withdrawal of its CES (Consumer Electronics Show) innovation award. Four months later, the Consumer Technology Association has reinstated the award. But did they cop to being sexist prudes?
Let’s take a peek at Wednesday’s press release from the Consumer Technology Association about restoring the award.
CES PRESS RELEASE
CTA Presents Lora DiCarlo with CES 2019 Innovation Award
Commentary: Actions, check: Lora DiCarlo gets the award back. Words, not so much: the CTA just “reiterates the its sincere apology” rather than actually apologizing. (If there was a sincere apology, why not link to it?)
“CTA is pleased to present Lora DiCarlo with a CES 2019 Innovation Award,” said Jean Foster, CTA’s senior vice president of marketing and communications. “CTA did not handle this award properly. This prompted some important conversations internally and with external advisors and we look forward to taking these learnings to continue to improve the show.”
Commentary: As apologies go, this is terrible. “CTA did not handle this award properly” takes no responsibility. And what happened next? “Conversations.” There’s no indication that CTA understands why it made a mistake, admitted that its policies are sexist, or has publicly made amends to the people it hurt: not just Lora DiCarlo, but all women in technology. The word “learnings” makes me gag; humans don’t talk this way. What did you learn? A real apology would describe that. This doesn’t.
“I am thankful that the CTA has reconsidered our eligibility for this award and validated the innovation our engineering team is responsible for,” said Lora Haddock, founder and CEO of Lora DiCarlo. “The incredible support and attention we’ve received in the wake of our experience highlights the need for meaningful changes and we are hopeful that our small company can continue to contribute meaningful progress toward making CES inclusive for all.”
CTA is committed to continue to make CES a more welcoming and inclusive event for all. CTA will share related policy updates in the months leading up to CES 2020, taking place January 7-10 in Las Vegas, NV.
Commentary: I wish I could have eavesdropped on the conversation that led up to this sanitized quote. Haddock was much feistier in her original press release objecting to having the award yanked back. Her quote is so bland because, almost certainly, CTA said “Unless you provide a quote without any barbs in it, we won’t return the award.”
Dances with dopes
Let’s talk PR strategy.
I’m guessing the negotiation around this release has been going on since January. CTA didn’t just decide it had gotten smart in May. The award was going to be reinstated. It was just a question of when and how.
Lora DiCarlo got a huge dollop of coverage in January for receiving the award and having it rescinded. This week it announced it had received an additional $2 million in funding. That funding — not normally front page news — got mentioned in dozens of article about CES restoring the award, including in The New York Times yesterday.
If you make a sex toy, you’re not normally going to get coverage in mainstream media. But Lora DiCarlo has turned that on its head, taking its own censorship as a challenge and manipulating the massively powerful Consumer Technology Association into timing its press release to a tiny sexy startup’s schedule.
Lora DiCarlo is small, nimble, feisty, smart, and uninhibited. In this battle, those qualities win. Thrilling.