Posts Tagged ‘BBC’

Suarez, shame and the not-so-beautiful game

The BBC crowned Liverpool player Luis Suarez the king of football controversy yesterday afternoon following the FA’s announcement that they have handed him a massive 10 match ban.

The scandal has had scribblers on the sidelines outraged at football’s reputation since. Left, right and centre, commentators have been clamouring to declare that football’s reputation is in the gutter – but is it?

The truth is that football’s reputation has been in the gutter for decades. Biting, spitting, headbutting, rioting, racism, rape and homophobia have riddled the Professional Game for years. Not to mention the number of super injunctions players have taken out against wives and girlfriends. These super injunctions – which come with a hefty price tag – are part of wider attempts by the industry to use financial muscle to prevent the real extent of players’ malfaisance.

Let’s face it: there are very few role models in football. There have been a few wonder boys with brilliant branding, and international superstars who have made formidable efforts to improve prospects for their home countries, but on the whole, the interest isn’t there. The culture is tainted from the top down and it will take a lot more than an FA ban to rectify things. With so much money to be exploited, does anyone care? The CSR and faded campaigns trying to polish the sport are nothing but fig leaves.

Football’s 1992 move into television sparked a wave of commodification that inverted the sport’s culture. Football is about money now, not values. Multimillion pound sponsorship deals inspire a culture of short-term agency. The real stories that affect football are those about management changes, player transfers, new signings, sponsorship and digital television deals – not fidelity, etiquette and corporate social responsibility.

The Voice v BGT: another limp response from the Beeb

The eventual defeat of The Voice by the Cowell war machine- compounded by that too perfect final story about the crew watching BGT in the gallery- has far more to do with the BBC’s mentality than it does with the show. Once again, the beeb has shown itself to be something of a shrinking violet, and it won’t be able to enter the hardball arena of true showmanship until it learns to man up.

The initial success of The Voice was driven by the freshness of the concept- both in its actual content and in the fact that it was outside of Cowell’s influence. There was everything to play for, and the BBC had a golden opportunity to strike a blow for originality just within its grasp. Arguably, audiences were tired of Cowell’s monopoly- when they weren’t busy sniggering at him in the wake of the Tom Bower revelations.

Yet, as TS Eliot once wrote, ‘between the idea and the reality, between the motion and the act, falls the shadow’. Or, as they say in the less Oxbridge-educated echelons of TV land, ‘eat shit or get out of the kitchen’. The BBC dithered, and refused to commit to all-out war. Yet all-out war was brought to it, and by the time Cowell got into his stride, there wasn’t a single entity involved with The Voice, from eerie hip-hop aristocrat to the back-room concept makers in the boardroom, who got away without a savaging. Never underestimate the ruthless commitment to publicity that Simon Cowell both expects and delivers.

The BBC and other broadcasters are increasingly getting the content, but we’ve yet to find a channel with the stomach for publicity and showmanship that ITV have developed over the past decade. If it goes on at this rate, we’ll have Amanda Holden’s face plastered over every flat surface in the land. For ever and ever. If there was ever an argument for healthy competition, I think that’s it.

The Voice vs BGT: Cowell’s Monopoly on Showmanship

However much we hate him, anyone even vaguely interested in the saccharine world of Saturday Night Telly needs to say a quick prayer at the altar of Simon Cowell. Whatever side you came down on, the whole BGT/The Voice battle proved that, as an individual and a brand, he drives the whole weekend entertainment market more or less single handedly.

With both sides claiming victory and analysts still picking over the remains, the ratings battle between BGT and The Voice was a close call. While BGT won the peak ratings prize with 11.5m viewers, The Voice managed to sustain figures during its 20 minute overlap with BGT, showing that Cowell’s property didn’t entice many viewers away.

However, the publicity battle was clearly dominated by one man alone.  You can’t manufacture, train or interview for a showbiz force like Cowell. For all his slick, cultivated grouchiness, he is approachable. Like the great capitalist showmen before him- PR Barnum and Gordon Selfridge to name two- he befriends journalists and makes himself available naturally, without looking desperate, and without needing to concede too many favours.

As a consequence, when he went in guns blazing to the pre-show PR wrangling, the results were staggering. From a few artfully handled nubs about his sense of humour failure on Jonathan Ross (which served the purpose of placing Cowell firmly on his pedestal as well as re-establishing the funnyman profile of David Walliams), to his threats to ‘poach’ Jessie J, he brought the firepower, and the papers lapped it up. I don’t think I’d realised until now how much The X Factor suffered from his absence.

The Voice is a great show, and a much quoted tweet of mine describing it as ‘too complicated’ was overly hasty- this is a real grower. However, I hope they learn a sharp lesson from this- the beast of compliance creates caution, which numbs the sense of promotion. As Dan Wootton tweeted on Friday, the lengths the BBC went to to play down the importance of ratings were fascinating. With spend on the programme reaching 22million, the pretence was farcical- evidence only of the beeb’s lack of publicity balls.

With outlets like the BBC dominated by an obscurantist, executive driven culture, where is the next Cowell? Whether the thought of another fills you with dread or fervour, you can’t deny that a publicity punch-up between the two is just the sugar rush the Saturday night chatter has been waiting for.

Freedom of Information: The Changing Function of the Comms Industry

There was a great post by Kevin Bakhurst on the BBC editors’ blog the other day explaining the changes to the nature of the newsroom in the post-social media age. Bakhurst gives a pretty considered rundown of the challenges poseblue td by social media, not least the fact it almost always has someone else be first with the scoop, as well as its benefits for newsgathering, research, and understanding the zeitgeist. It’s great to see journalists so honestly and humbly engaging with the great communications innovation of our time.

However, I think what really needs to be assessed- not just by journalists, but by all of us in the communications industry- is what exactly the social media landscape means for our role and our image. Journalists no longer find the scoops, PRs no longer control the conversation, Marketing people no longer enjoy hegemony over public information. These are no longer problems to be considered: they are facts, known to public and media alike.

As a consequence, how do the communications industries present themselves and their function? If the newsmakers are, often, not seen as sleuths and explorers, then what are they?
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Absolutely Fatuous: The Ravages of Misdirected Satire

It’s pretty ironic that the proposed return of Absolutely Fabulous this Christmas has been getting so much attention. With the stars splashed all over the culture media and some big news stories, anyone familiar with the industry can spotpatsy and edina the tell-tale signs of a hardworking publicist beavering away. Yet this presumably highly professional and efficient team is working unwittingly toward branding individuals working in PR as exactly the opposite. After all, this is the show which-arguably more than any other- has damaged the public perception of the PR industry.

Of course, the real PR world would make a pretty poor comedy. Sure, it’s on one level a creative industry, and there are moments of brilliance (as well as the odd rambunctious, explosive event, one or two of which I’ll admit to orchestrating). However, there’s a good deal of daily grind- the PR consultant’s agenda is laden with stress, and often driven by trickier clients who expect the earth, want it right away and then demand precise figures to confirm its existence.

Needless to say, if I turned up to a lunch with one of my corporate clients clutching a Stolly Bolly, sporting a beehive and spouting a series of irritating catchphrases, I’d not long keep the account. Though I’m sure I’d look pretty marvellous.

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Brand Glastonbury: the survival of the muddiest

“The philosophy behind much advertising is based on the old observation that every man is really two men – the man he is and the man he wants to be.” William Feather

I’m off to wade in the ever-welcoming Somerset mud. Yes, it’s work not pleasure, especially considering the Glastonbury Festival regularly descends into a replica of Passchendaele’s swampy goo.

I’ve always struggled to understand the risks that passionate music fans take when buying their tickets, knowing the chances are high that the heavens will deliver rain. Why? I guess partly it’s hope. If you want to see hell, you can get a great view from the Pyramid Stage.

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Careful what you wish for in the new communications age

According to Private Eye, Times media correspondent Patrick Foster was sacked after being earwigged by the BBC’s head of Press during a call in which he made a rather inappropriate comment to Caroline Thomson, the BBC’s chief operating officer. Paul Mylrea, head of press at the Beeb, swiftly raced off a letter of complaint to the Times and Foster has apparently been sacked.

Are we really operating in such a venomous and cut-throat arena these days? Are the new generation of PRs set to completely and unquestioningly inherit the methodology of the Alistair Campbell school of PR – to seek and destroy by any backstabbing methods available? Will we all be thrust into an environment of fear?

This last weekend, we heard how Chris Huhne had been (potentially) undone by his wife. Last week I did a number of media noddys on the great Twitter privacy debate. The same week I delivered an open heart-to-heart on the future code of business in PR at #think11. Read the rest of this entry »

The Ghosts of Business Nightmares Past

I’ll be appearing on BBC2 next week, as one of the interviewees in three part series Business Nightmares, with Evan Davis. I’ll be appearing in all three episodes, which cover product design and manufacture, marketing and PR and strategy and deals, discussing stories such as Sunny Delight, Hoover free flights, Ratner, Mini, New Coke and Cadbury Get Active.

The series has been made in conjunction with the Open University and focusses not just on what happened, but why it happened. Other business people speaking include: Virgin boss Sir Richard Branson, entrepreneur and inventor Sir James Dyson, Interbrand chairman Rita Clifton, management trouble-shooter Sir Gerry Robinson, and CEO of global advertising group WPP Sir Martin Sorrell.

It starts on May 9th at 8pm on BBC2.

What’s In A Name?

What’s in a name? That’s the question I have been asking myself this week.

Back in the day, I thought that trading under my name was a great idea. Some have challenged the conceit, but it was the need to create a family business that was my biggest inspiration. I was proud of my father and recognised his sacrifices, which enabled me to have the freedom of thought and mind to become a publicist. My mother never quite understood what my daily grind involved. She wondered why, if I loved media so much, I didn’t apply for a safe job at the BBC. Hanging out with odd circus folk was a worry, especially the exciting itinerant crowd who sucked on gasoline and juggled chainsaws.

The trend for spawning agencies with odd and clever names will always be in vogue. I remained resolute, however; I even registered a trademark; and this week has underlined why I am proud of my family name. Read the rest of this entry »

Malcolm McLaren: Great Lives

Today’s Great Lives on Radio 4 is a look at the life of the great rock and roll swindler, Malcolm McLaren, who died earlier this year. He was nominated for the programme by me. Here’s the blurb from the BBC website.

“‘I’ve been called many things,; McLaren wrote as advance publicity for his one man show, ‘a charlatan, a con man, or the culprit responsible for turning popular culture into nothing more than a cheap marketing gimmick. This is my chance to prove these accusations are true.’

“The man behind the Sex Pistols and Duck Rock is nominated by public relations expert Mark Borkowski, author of The Fame Formula, and a man who knew him well. What intrigues Borkowski is not just the success, but the myths that have evolved around this highly manipulative man. Read the rest of this entry »