Japanese newspaper ads featuring Geraldine Ferraro as "the politician who loves pearls" were intended to promote Ferraro and a women's forum she later addressed, not the pearl company that put its name on the ads, the meeting's organizers say.
The ads, which included large photos of Ferraro and biographical material, made no reference to the conference but were part of a larger campaign to publicize it, according to Naoe Wakita, senior vice president of Dentsu Eye Inc., which organized the forum. Dentsu Eye is an affiliate of Japan's largest advertising company, Dentsu Inc. The forum was paid for by Tasaki Shinju, the pearl company whose products are sold mostly to women.
Earlier ads gave details on the conference, Wakita said, but Dentsu Eye decided against further mention because close to 3,000 people had applied for the 350 seats available and organizers did not want to attract more.
Wakita also said, "We didn't think very deeply about what would be the reaction from Ms. Ferraro's side." One Dentsu Eye staff member said that in retrospect, the firm should probably have mentioned the conference.
Wakita said Dentsu Eye never meant the ad to be seen as Ferraro plugging the conference's sponsor, Tasaki Shinju Co., Japan's largest producer of pearls.
"There's not one word about an endorsement of Tasaki Shinju," Wakita said. "We still think this was a promotion of Ms. Ferraro herself."
A spokeswoman for Ferraro has condemned the ad, saying it made unauthorized use of her name to promote the pearl company. The spokeswoman also said Dentsu Eye misled Ferraro about the text of the ad, which was in Japanese.
The dispute follows Ferraro's controversial appearance in a Pepsi-Cola ad, for which she received a reported $500,000. Her staff has since said that she will do no more commercial endorsements.
Ferraro had earlier agreed to be the keynote speaker at the Tasaki Shinju forum, which was described as a follow-up to the recent United Nations Conference on Women in Nairobi.
Ferraro received an undisclosed fee for her speech and, according to Dentsu Eye, hotel expenses during her week-long stay in Japan. She paid her own air fare, stopping in Japan on the way back from a private trip to China with her family.
According to Dentsu Eye, Ferraro and the company signed an undated memo of understanding before the forum in which Dentsu Eye agreed that "special arrangements will be made to ensure appropriate media coverage . . . to ensure Ms. Ferraro's continued high media profile and attentive coverage by the international press corps."
The memo also said that "Ms. Ferraro's photographic portraits will be used for newspaper announcements advertising the above roundtable discussion" and that her picture would "most likely" appear in the Tasaki Shinju house organ and company brochures "recapitulating her participation" in the forum.
Dentsu Eye prepared a newspaper ad that includes a large photo of Ferraro sitting at a desk and wearing what appears to be a pearl necklace. The headline says: "The day when a housewife aims to be vice president." The ad included an interview with Ferraro, particulars on the conference and the Tasaki Shinju name and symbol.
Dentsu Eye sent Ferraro's staff in New York a copy of this ad and received approval, Wakita said. The ad then ran in three Japanese newspapers with no objection from Ferraro.
What Ferraro did protest was a second ad. It was prepared at the last minute, Wakita said, and not submitted for approval, because Ferraro was en route to Japan at the time and the company believed the ad to be essentially the same as the one that had been approved.
It includes a large photo almost identical to that of the first one and a photo of her as a girl. The headline reads: "The politician who loves pearls." It includes a thumbnail biography and an essay lauding her for accomplishments, beauty and character and displays the name Tasaki Shinju in bold characters.
During the Democratic convention and presidential campaign, it says, she always wore pearls. It closes with: "Japan, country of pearls. Let us welcome from the bottom of our hearts those who love pearls." There is no reference to the conference.
This ad appeared in the Sankei Shimbun newspaper on July 27, the day Ferraro arrived in Japan. Wakita said she met Ferraro at her hotel that night, showing her the new ad and describing it as a "welcoming" message.
The ad appeared in almost identical form on July 30 in the Yomiuri Shimbun newspaper, noting that on that day Ferraro would talk with Japanese women, without mentioning where.
Ferraro's staff has said Ferraro asked the U.S. Embassy here to translate the ad. Officials there told her it was an ad for Tasaki Shinju, not the conference.
Wakita said that after their first meeting, Ferraro raised the subject of the ad and Wakita explained the circumstances. Ferraro, she said, seemed "not happy" with the explanation and said that the company had some things to learn if it was going to continue inviting international figures to conferences of this type. Ferraro promised to provide them with some advice, Wakita said.