PR Agency Issues Apology After Using Paris Attacks To Sell Nail Polish

Photographed by Elk Studios.
Shock. Sadness. Anger. These are just a few of the emotions that have flooded our minds in the wake of Friday's terrorist attacks in Paris. Our hearts go out to everyone affected by this tragedy in France, and others across the world. But even with such solidarity in the air, we've seen some far less empathetic, even self-serving, reactions to the harrowing event — including one that involved trying to sell nail polish.

A New York Times op-ed piece mentions that some public figures have used the tragic event as a social-media “megaphone" to further their political agendas — whether that be gun control or even global warming. And yesterday, the Brooklyn-based company Duri Cosmetics came under fire for hawking its French flag-colored nail polishes so “beauty mavens can unite and wave hands (and toes) in unity,” reports the New York Post.

The Post references a press release that was sent out to members of the media (it was not posted on the Duri Cosmetics site or its social-media channels) that promotes red, white, and blue lacquer shades as an “effortless way to pay respects and show support.” While some bloggers jumped on board, this rubbed many recipients the wrong way. And rightfully so. Being "effortless" is not exactly the humanitarian approach we had in mind. Also, The Post reported that none of the proceeds actually went to French charities or to support victims — rather, they funneled straight to the Duri bankroll.

We spoke with Carol A. Ientile, president of public relations firm C.I. Visions Inc., who drafted and sent out the email without showing it to her client, Duri Cosmetics, first — a standard company policy. (Though maybe not for long.) She just sent out a sincere apology email. “In retrospect, I could have been a better human being and seen that this could have been making light of the situation,” she told Refinery29.

Ientile, who immediately added the red-white-and-blue filter to her Facebook photo after she heard the news of the attacks, says she was inspired by the outpouring of support flooding her feed, and simply thought this would be a “cute” way to add to it. She states that she regrets listing prices and where to buy the polishes on the media blast — and even mentioning the brand, for that matter — and should have just suggested the idea of a manicure in the French flag's colors. “I got inspired by social media, I felt so sad,” she says. “I wanted to see what we can do. I love being supportive and was happy to be part of making a difference."

As for donating money from the sales to support the victims, Ientile argues that this would also have been in poor taste. “The frivolous sale of a nail polish? Is this really going to help?” she says. Her apology states: "By referencing where to purchase the products, I realize that my subsequent outreach monetizes and trivializes feelings that come from a deep and frightened place in people's hearts. For this, I am deeply sorry — this was NEVER my intention. I regret my missteps and any harm it has inflicted, and take total ownership. Duri had no part in my pitch efforts."

Her intent was not to sell polish, but to show support — she just went about it the wrong way. She also mentioned that she never spoke with the New York Post reporter; just answered the question about the proceeds via voicemail. “I want to own my mistake,” she says. The owners of Duri, who do not stand behind the press release, were horrified. “They were appalled that their brand was a part of this controversy," says Ientile.

While Ientile did not act with ill intent, she acted without care — which is especially problematic during such times. If she feels like getting a red-white-and-blue manicure to show support for France, we stand by it. But let's please save the blatant color-hawking for Bastille Day — although even then, it's pretty tacky.

For full coverage of the attacks on Paris, click here.

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