"60 Minutes" Conflict Diamond Story Has Consumer Impact

March 20, 2001

"60 Minutes" Conflict Diamond Story Has Little Consumer Impact

The day after the Feb. 18 "60 Minutes" episode about conflict diamonds and De Beers, J. Walter Thompson, the public relations company that represents De Beers, conducted a study on the effect the episode had on consumers. The study revealed the show negatively affected consumer attitudes toward De Beers, but the reputation of the diamond industry as a whole was not hurt.

The goal of the survey was "to provide a snapshot of the immediate impact this programming had on public opinion about De Beers and the diamond industry," says Joan Parker, director of the Diamond Information Center. Results of the study include: 63% of those questioned agreed with the statement "the diamond industry has products I wouldn't hesitate to buy" and just over one-third of those who saw the episode agreed with the statement "De Beers is a reputable company." Nevertheless, 70% of all surveyed agreed with the statement "De Beers is a company whose products I wouldn't hesitate to buy." Since the study was conducted the day after the episode, Parker expects the negative reactions to diminish after time. Also, J. Walter Thompson believes "the negativity stemmed from the erroneous portrayal of the company's business practices and not necessarily the conflict diamonds issue."

In addition, after the "60 Minutes" episode, De Beers sent a letter to the show's executive producer to address "the inherent bias and inaccuracies related to the conflict diamond situation." The letter, written by Corporate Affairs Director Rory More O'Ferrall, accused "60 Minutes" of showing a one-sided picture and misleading the viewing public.

- by Julia M. Duncan