Posts Tagged ‘Daily Mail’

Daily Mail’s magic trick: former half-human Red Ed, now fully formed

So the Mail/Miliband hoo ha drags on – as I write this an argument already played out a hundred times on twitter is being hashed out afresh on Question Time. I don’t want to contribute to either side of the moral debate, but I do want to make an observation. For once, the Mail, the hymn sheet of middle England, looks out of touch, while weirdy, wonky red Ed looks positively cuddly. How did this happen?

When the Mail ran Geoffrey Levy’s piece on Ralph Miliband last Saturday, it expected some backlash. Indeed, it wanted one. Ed Miliband was apopleptic. Who wouldn’t be? The paper also will have anticipated a certain amount of outrage from what Paul Dacre usually dubs the ‘liberalocracy’. In both cases, a bit of playful disruption would have boosted the Mail’s anti-establishment image and rattled a few cages ahead of the press regulation skirmishes to come.

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iBaby: Clarence House’s latest must have toy

Royal Baby


Photo Credit: Andre Camara

So there we have it; the conclusion of the greatest product launch campaign Britain has ever seen. No, Apple didn’t bring out the iWatch while you weren’t looking. I’m talking about the latest release from modish mass market lifestyle brand Clarence House. In order to promote the latest instalment in their Cambridge range, the brand’s PR pixies arranged a years-long campaign, incorporating a wedding-based stunt, a boat party, several celebrity world tours and a much-hyped mystery unveiling. The whole thing is enough to make an old hand like me exhausted, but will it pay off?

A good bet for an early health-check is to look at the social media traction. Twitter have run a blog (link: deconstructing the ‘royalbaby’ hashtag which will make encouraging reading for Clarence House’s analysts. Following the official launch announcement (timed daringly late – 8.35pm) twitter action reached 25,300 tweets per minute.

Clarence House kept a handle on the conversation throughout. Their announcement included a series of tweets revealing tantalising product details (including the all-important weight, usually considered to be a crucial detail in the sector) which provided food for discussion for consumers. They also arranged supporting tweets from brand-appropriate influencers, including the Daily Mail and the British Monarchy. The brand will also be pleased that they’ve ironed out creases in their social media machine. Their 2011 ‘Royal Wedding’ stunt – which garnered great trad media traction – sparked criticism from some commentators for its strikingly negative reception among 33% of British Tweeters (link:

Speaking of trad media, the launch marks the jewel in the crown of Clarence House’s much lauded press and broadcast strategy. Over the past few years a team of advisers including Jamie Lowther-Pinkerton, Paddy Harverson and most recently Sally Osman (a canny acquisition from Sony, another big selling entertainment producer) have run a PR campaign which stands as a benchmark for taking advantage of a weakened media.

For decades, the rambunctious British press, heartened by a progressive public spirit, painted the brand as unfashionable and outdated. It took particular joy in the infamous malfunction of the popular Princess Wales model (though it showed contrition after forcing that product from the market). Now, with newsrooms collapsing, broadcast getting puffier by the day and commentary fracturing across cyberspace, Clarence House has realised the media has a use for the brand values its products offer: pappy nationalism, quirky political incorrectness and soft-focus shots of brunette women in dresses. Only British Daily The Independent dared to cover the launch without a hefty forelock tug, and analysts predict 90% of independent readers are sandal-wearing teachers who hate fun, love and freedom.

However, the real test will come in the value for Clarence House’s shadowy parent company Brand Britain (BBinc). BBinc have great success with their own stunts, including an innovative experiential advert-cum-sports party last summer, and they’ll be watching to see if Clarence House, which is a pricy and strategically complex asset, can still deliver the goods. One study last year valued Clarence House at £44bn, largely due to its popularity in foreign markets, but others disagree. On BBC breakfast this morning republican campaigner Graham Swift claimed that Visit Britain predict a near-zero change in tourism revenues if BBinc were to scrap its venerable property.

What’s more, we’ll need to see how the product matures. When, for the first time, it appears before the public to demonstrate the functionality we citizens have paid for, how will it work? When it looks at the array of camera flashes and hungry eyes, at the waving celebrity bandwagoners and the grasping politicians, what will it do? Will it stand firm, or will it falter? Will it understand that while it feels like it’s flesh and blood, it’s really manufactured? Only time will tell.

Mike Tindall and the Folly of the Front Pages

Somewhere in the heart of New Zealand, the England team will be shaking off hangovers, disengaging themselves from the arms of dwarves and former family friends, and getting psyched up for training prior to their all-important clashRugby Player with France.

While Mike Tindall’s injury excludes him from the final team, his presence will be felt nonetheless. A little while ago, I posted a short note warning that, following reportage of an early wild night out across the tabloid press, the England team faced potential PR disaster should they fail to perform. This week that’s been stepped up and nailed down with the long-running tale of his ‘mystery blonde’.

After renewed interest in the story on Monday, the Mail outed the girl as old family friend, and ex-lover, Jessica Palmer on Tuesday. By Wednesday, she was gleefully reported to be going into hiding.

It hasn’t, by any means, been the worst sporting publicity disaster of all time. Even Ryan Giggs’s superinjunction scandal, itself surprisingly minor, far eclipses it as far as recent tabloid splashes go. What’s important, though, is that this coverage has well and truly brought the team out of the back pages and into the front.

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Rory Weal and the Brand Narrative Quandry

(You can also read this post in the Huffington Post, here)

The excitable and ubiquitous coverage of ‘labour boy’ Rory Weal following his appearance at the Labour Party Conference on Monday said a lot about the power of narrative. From Melanie Philips’s enraged dismissal of his ‘mantra of hate’ in the mail to the Guardian’s moving video content, everyone found something to grab them about this 16 year old child of the welfare state turned political prodigy.

It’s hardly a surprise: his back story looked pitch-perfect. Following a divorce two and a half years ago, his family home was repossessed and he was cared for by his mother alone: despite her suitably hardworkinLabour Boyg yet appealingly lowly job as a cleaning supervisor, his ravaged family required a leg up. They aren’t TV Guzzling, lazy tabloid welfare bugbears, yet Rory stated categorically that ‘I owe my wellbeing and that of my whole family to the welfare state’.

Now he’s working to develop his socialist creds: an interview published in the Times on Wednesday was a total spinmeister’s wet dream. In it, he name checks The Ragged Trousered Philanthropist (his ‘call’, in narrative theory terms) in the same breath as extolling almost calculatedly ordinary clothing brands like Primark (where he bought his tie) and Tesco (the suit: ‘great buy’, says Rory). He stresses that his less extraordinary friends are issues driven, too, but acknowledges, humorously, that the issues which drive them involve the ‘trebling of their bus fare’ rather than ‘party politics’. His favourite programme is Question Time, but he despairs, affectionately, of his mother, who won’t stay up to watch it.

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ThaR(WC) She Blows: A PR Iceberg Drifts Onto the Horizon for the England Boys

The Mail’s coverage of a particularly wild night out for England’s Rugby World Cup lads today- in which Chris Ashton wrestled dwarves and Mike Tindall took a ride on a motorboat (if you catch my drift)- should set alarm bells ringing in any media-savvy mind. Other than raising an eyebrow at Tindall’s quasi-infidelity, the paper stops short of making any definite moral pronouncements. However the language is telling: ‘questions were being raised’, ‘what will the wives and girlfriends make…?’, ‘it was clear that a lot of money had been spent’.

This is the distinctive sound of the, still mighty, British tabloid press flexing its muscles. Should the team head on to glory in New Zealand, this will all be brushed under the rug as a bit of harmless- probably even necessary- team bonding. But they’d damn well better: if they fail, the papers are now coiled, and they’ll unleash on this stuff with nothing short of relish. The article is a warning: ‘remember Ian Botham?’ says the Mail, ‘yeah, well look on my works, ye mighty, and watch your bloody step’.

Remembering the Legends of Journalism

My favourite website of the moment remembers a long forgotten media age and celebrates the memory of a breed of journalism that seems to have vanished.

The website is and it features splendid stories and reminiscences about such legends as the late Peter Batt and Leo Clancy, both of whom died recently.

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Why Everyone’s Going GaGa at the Grammys

Stand by – the Lady GaGa Grammy show is heading to town! The awards season is upon us and the stars have been camping on the doorsteps of designers and rounding up the usual suspects when it comes to kitting themselves out. And they all have to up the ante to match GaGa.

No camping out on designers’ doorsteps for last year’s attention-grabber supreme, I’m betting – it is surely fair to say that GaGa is cooking up something spectacular this year, after 2010’s meaty extravaganza. And, given the hoo-ha, furoré and small cyclone of speculation and excitement about that outré outfit, and given Gaga’s tendency to want to outdo herself, it’ll be fascinating to see what she turns up in this year, especially for the Grammys.

Things are changing already – the Mail has just had a little huff of shock that Leona Lewis has ditched her wholesome image: “…she turned up at the Never Say Never premiere with dark brown hair, razor sharp fringe and new style clothes,” wrote the Mail. “The top had a pair of red padded lips to cover her chest but left her stomach bare. She wore a pencil skirt and high heels. She’s supposedly starting her own clothing line. What has brought about this change from wholesome to vamp?”

What else but GaGa?

According to reports, GaGa has been knocked off the ‘most talked about fashion icon’ top spot by Kate Middleton this year. She’s going to have to pull something spectacular out of the hat if she’s going to beat the ‘modern princess’ phenomenon into second place again. But she shouldn’t have to worry too much if Leona’s makeover away from the princess mode is anything to go by.

GaGa has an astonishing ability to mould the media narrative and is doing her level best to make everything she does newsworthy before her performance at the 53rd Grammy awards. She’s already brought forward the release of her single Born This Way.

However many awards she wins or costumes she wears this year, it is most likely she will clean up in the news stakes. GaGa is a clever woman – as sharp as Madonna. She has “it”; the “stuff”. Her audience and the media are at her mercy. Whatever costume she comes in, it’ll be something new – she knows how to keep people paying attention. The only thing she could do wrong now is to oversaturate the market with things that are less than worthy of her individualist brand.

All this suggests that pure talent is no longer enough for the stars. GaGa has changed all that. Now lesser lights like Leona have to look and act the part at award ceremonies as it is not enough to just win an award for the music – one has to win the headline awards too.

Looking to the Future of PR

The recent story in the papers about Geoff Baker, the former gatekeeper for Sir Paul McCartney who now dresses as a dustman to give tours of his home-town, should act as a salutary lesson for all entertainment publicists.

I first met Geoff at the height of his journalistic powers, as a showbiz reporter for the Star. This was well before the modern British publicity industry started to emulate Hollywood in the late 20th century, taking control of every aspect of their client and shutting out the media if they wouldn’t play ball; before the idea that stars were brands really set in.

Geoff’s big legacy as a journalist is the Princess Margaret awards, now called the Shaftas (shame the title is so crude). In the days when the geriatric Royal PR spin machine shut up shop at 5pm and the old duffers wouldn’t dignify anything with an answer out of working hours, Geoff announced – at five past five – that Princess Margaret was to make a guest appearance on Crossroads. The story was beautifully absurd. Absurd enough to have everyone gleefully report it long before the Palace could step in and correct the story, allowing it to become one of those ‘true at the time’ stories. Out of this came the Princess Margaret awards, celebrating the liberties taken by showbiz journalists. Read the rest of this entry »

The Publicity Spin Drier

The Mel Gibson/Oksana Grigorieva row that has been consuming America whole for the last few weeks has taken a new turn, according to the TMZ website, with Oksana’s publicist Steve Jaffe leaving for pastures somewhat less argumentative.

The big question racing round the media and the net is: did Jaffe walk or was he pushed? But in an age when the big news organizations are repositioning themselves as verifiers of the news, given the predominance of the blogosphere and the Twitterati as breakers of the news, it’s never going to be as cut and dried as that.

According to RadarOnline, and quoted in the Mail, Jaffe has stated: “The case was so all encompassing in terms of my time and the strict orders by the judge. I have other clients in serious crises who require my time.” Read the rest of this entry »

SamCam and the Politics of Image

What is the status of the 12-year-old Samantha Cameron photo shoot that’s been sashaying its way across the news agenda over the last 24 hours? Has an enemy found something new to embarrass the Tories with or is this just another shot across the bows of the upcoming election by the party’s spin doctors? Have these photos really been in an attic all this time?

I’d say not. It strikes me, looking at this morning’s excitable ruminations on SamCam’s modelling “past” in the press, that this is a sure-fire PR distraction from Lord Ashcroft and other pre-electoral woes, that the Tories will revel in the “slightly racy” past of SamCam at the expense of having to worry about her husband’s policies and his party’s veracity. Read the rest of this entry »