Posts Tagged ‘jedward’

The Joy of Fabulous Nobodies: Naked Whitehall Guy, I Salute You

This afternoon, Twitter has been captivated by a brand new golden balls. We don’t know who he is yet, or why he did it, but he ensured Whitehall was shut down for several hours after he scaled the statue of the first Duke of Cambridge, Prince George, stripped off and performed a number of acrobatic balances atop George’s hat.

I have long been a champion of what I like to call the Fabulous Nobodies: the ordinary people who experience a meteoric ascent to fame- or infamy- in the most unpredictable of circumstances. The rise of the Fabulous Nobodies coincides with the advent of social media. The man in the street is now able to create his own heroes, and it turns out he’s often just as interested in an errant deer chasing dog, or a naked man balancing on a statue, as the latest record-company-groomed, airbrushed pop starlet.

This reveals an important truth about narratives that captivate. We are drawn to stories that resonate with our everyday experiences; the raw materials of real life are easily recognisable to us, and that is why the memes that spread online are so often the ones that strike us as human, rather than those created by committees of marketing folk. It is the inherent, addictive shareability of these stories that assures their dissemination and leads to the creation of legendary figures for the Now Economy. The bad news is you can’t make them up. The good news is they exist in every single organisation that has human beings at its heart. All you have to do is look for them. As the internet becomes an ever more ubiquitous tool in the spreading of information, shifting the focus of communications from broadcast to interaction, those that will survive and thrive are the brands that understand the power of the real stories that drive them.

In honour of the newest, most celebrated ‘member’ of my Official Chart of Fabulous Nobodies, I thought I’d run down a few of my favourites of all time: the good, the bad and the ugly.

1) Guy Goma. Remember the ‘cabbie who was waiting for his fare’ in the BBC reception? He was hauled in front of the cameras by researchers who believed he was an IT expert. Except he wasn’t an IT expert and, once the story got out, it went wild across the web, taking the truth and creating a better story from it, to the extent that Goma, who had in fact come in for a job interview, became a cabbie whisked at random into the studio. And that invented truth is the one that sticks in people’s brains.

2) Jedward. The Irish irritants from the 2009 X Factor continue to carve a semblance of a career for themselves as far removed from music as it is possible to be when one has a record in the shops. The mere fact that they survived, week after week, in the face of booing and staged derision from the shows judges, proves how viral their success had become. Jedward are the pop equivalents of puppets on children’s television – they are there to shout and gurn and be pleasingly annoying. They will last in the nether regions of the collective consciousness for a while yet, thanks to viral, net-based love.

3) Balloon Boy. The insalubrious tale of the family who sought fame with unbecoming desperation and how they exploited the fears of the world to get attention for themselves, by pretending that their six year old son had been carried off by a helium balloon they used to track the weather. The six year old was in the attic all the time that the search and rescue teams were pumping thousands of dollars into trying to rescue him. The parents’ hoax, created out of a desperation for fame after appearing on Wife Swap and Storm Chasers, in the hope that they would get a reality TV contract out of it, ended with short jail sentences for them both.

5) Terry Jones. The pastor of a tiny Pentecostal church in Florida who decided that it would be a good idea to declare 9/11 Koran burning day. Within hours, his lunatic anti-Muslim agenda was getting oxygen from the world’s media, the White House and an enormous number of furious Muslims. Now Jones has been called by the FBI, White House officials and the world’s media. There have been protests about his actions across the Muslim world and intolerance has been amplified. And this before Jones even set match to book – something he never need do at all. The desired effect, making the world a less friendly place, had already been achieved.

6) Star Wars Kid. A chunky 15-year-old Canadian who filmed himself swinging a golf club around as if it were a lightsabre and ended up posted to YouTube by friends, to the hilarity of millions. The video became a cult hit, mimicked and jazzed up with special effects and sliced into footage from films like The Matrix. The film, in all its iterations, sped round and round the globe. The kid in question claimed to want his life back, especially after early mean comments, but then a wave of love came flooding in. Eventually his parents discussed suing the friends who posted the video, but it was too late to stop the viral nature of the video.

7) Mahir Cagri. A Turkish journalist who was looking for a wife, Cagri created a website with a friend to aid him in his search. The website went viral with astonishing rapidity thanks to the broken English he employed (his catchphrase, “I Kiss You” being the most notable example) and the incredibly cheesy photos – posing in red Speedos, playing Ping Pong – that he posted. Instead of finding a wife, he found a harsh mistress by the name of Fame, and ended up releasing a single and a book. He also got a ranking on the Forbes top 100 celebrities list and made appearances on chat show worldwide.

8) Leeroy Jenkins. A World Of Warcraft player charges into a high-level dungeon with a distinctive cry of “Leeeeeeeerooooy… Jeeenkins!”, ruining the meticulous attack plans of his group and getting them all killed. Like Star Wars Kid, the online gameplay footage went global, with jammed versions putting the nerdy battle cry into the mouths of all sorts.

9) Claire Swire. Claire went on a date with a guy and then sent him an email describing in vivid detail how much she liked giving him oral sex. The email went viral to 60 million people after he forwarded it to all his friends and Claire became one of the first big victims of the lack of privacy in the new social media world.

10) JK Wedding Entrance Dance. The wedding procession for Jill Peterson and Kevin Heinz of St Paul, Minnesota, choreographed to the song Forever by Chris Brown. Popularized on YouTube with 1.75 million views in less than five days in 2009. The video was later imitated in an episode of the American version of The Office.

11) Steven Slater. From the moment JetBlue flight attendant Steven Slater swore at a passenger over the PA, grabbed a beer and descended to the tarmac at JFK airport down the emergency chute, the entire internet lead the response, whilst JetBlue’s corporate arm squashed the company’s previously golden child social networking department’s ability to respond. JetBlue were caught between a rock and a hard place. The brand was powerless, trapped in the headlights of an extreme action, one which captured the global wave and birthed another fabulous internet nobody.

12) Chesley B. Sullenberger III. The splendidly-named Sullenberger became an instant hero when he landed the Airbus he was flying in the Hudson river, just next to Manhattan, after it ran into technical difficulties in January 2009. Within hours of saving the lives of all on board, Facebook groups had sprung up praising him and the web-based cult of Sullenberger flew around the globe.

13) Sarah Palin. What election will be the same in the wake of Barack Obama’s canny use of Twitter to swell support for his 2008 campaign? More astonishing still was Sarah Palin’s rise into the upper echelons of American politics, largely driven by a huge groundswell of interest on the internet, which carried her name, either in all seriousness or in satirical sideswipes. The end result was to transmute a minor, gaffe-prone politician into a national treasure of the American political right.

14) Fenton When Max Findlay took his dog Fenton for a relaxed stroll on Richmond Common, little did he realise he was about to become one of YouTube’s biggest ever hits. With 7.5million views and counting, the enthusiasm for the video of the mayhem that unfolded when Fenton ran into a herd of deer, and his owner’s desperate cries of ‘Jesus Christ…Fenton!’, is the ultimate expression of the British love of life’s eccentric bunglers. Inevitably it has generated a host of commercial spin offs, including T-shirts, mugs, and a Where’s Wally style book where Fenton runs amok at various London landmarks.

The Ego Has Landed

Britain’s Got Talent has rolled around again and again the nation is gripped. Out with the old and in with the new. It’s been this way for a while. Remember, it’s not five minutes since the X Factor was all anyone could talk about, but that’s seeped away into the mists of time as BGT conquers the attention spans of the nation.

Like a Chinese meal, it is all you can taste and think about, but when it’s finished it’s forgotten and all you want is the next fix of foodstuff. There’s news, there’s excitement, there’s hyperbole scattered all over the place like MSG – and then it’s gone.

Of course, we are at the point that everyone is most interested in – the freak parade. Never mind the machinations behind the scenes or the commercial value of the brand; this is what the people most care about; the narrative, the crazies.

Given that it’s all about BGT right now, will we ever know the truth of what caused Cheryl Cole’s American X Factor exit and non-admittance to the UK judging panel? I doubt it, as the people have spoken and what they want is the tears, the heartache, the visceral stories, whether good or bad. What use is a nation’s sweetheart without some pain? We’ve used up the divorce tears – here’s the next weepie Cole adventure. Read the rest of this entry »

How to Keep Your Head in Advertising

The Media Buying world is clearly in need of some PR help to drag it out of the 1980s. I found myself reading, jaw dropping to the table, this Media Week article by MediaCom’s Claudine Collins. It’s as if it had been ghosted by Charlie Brooker, Chris Morris and Helen Fielding – it reads like an unholy alliance between Bridget Jones’s Diary and Nathan Barley.

Snippets like “Later, the Telegraph’s party goes to dinner at the Goring Hotel in Victoria, where I sit next to Sir John Sawers, the head of MI6 – it is a real-life James Bond moment” and “Back in the gym for 5.45am where my personal trainer Gary nearly kills me – but luckily he is gorgeous to look at so I don’t mind” really set the tone, if a tone can be found in amongst the slew of names of the successful, rich and famous. Read the rest of this entry »

The Sleb’s Prayer and The Exterminating Factor

Have you overdosed on the X Factor? Are the opinions of the judges getting you down? Have you felt like venting your feelings about the loss of your favourite contestant? Did Danyl’s departure in the semi-finals really get your goat? Did Lucie losing out to Jedward rile you to the point of despair? Or are you simply sick of the whole ‘poptastic’ shebang?

If the answer to any of these questions is “YES”, Borkowski has a couple of tasty slices of satirical goodness to ease your rage, two fine diversions from a toxic weekend of TV carnage. In a burst of pre-Christmas generosity, we present The Exterminating Factor, a neat-but-twisted X rated game that allows the player an opportunity to vent their destructive feelings. All within the bounds of legality and common sense, of course – we are in no way suggesting that the game’s scenario should be re-enacted in real life.

You see, this twisted little game allows the player to shoot virtual nails into the disembodied heads of Simon Cowell, Danni Minogue, Cheryl Cole and Louis Walsh – and what would there be on TV worth being ranted and fulminated about if The Exterminator Factor were taken too seriously and acted upon in real life?

Better just to play the game and feel that shiver of nervous satisfaction as the first virtual nail strikes and two smaller judges’ heads burst from Simon Cowell’s smiling face. Or gasp as the dimpled smile of a tiny Cheryl Cole disappears forever in a hail of virtual nails.

Based on the gaming classic Asteroids, The Exterminating Factor is the perfect way of letting loose all your pent up frustrations at the 21st Century’s premier talent contest cum soap opera. Click on the picture to access the game.


And as if that wasn’t enough, Borkowski also presents a sharp, satirical poem for all the pacifists and non-gamers out there who are tired of celebrity for the sake of celebrity; of popularity contests masquerading as talent contests; who cannot bear to see the world and its wife doing everything in its power to be famous.

The Sleb’s Prayer, by the remarkable poet Adam Horovitz, features music based on a sample by great 60s garage rock band, The Groupies. The track has been wrapped up in Mel Rodiq’s stunning video in the style of magazines like Heat and OK. You can see it below.

Jedward and the X Factor

Jedward may finally be gone from the X Factor, but that’s no reason to expect that they have automatically dipped straight off the fame radar. For all of you wondering why and how they lasted so long on the X Factor, I contributed to a couple of articles in the Independent and the Telegraph looking into the phenomenon, the manipulation and the plundering of the Jedward brand.

To read the Independent article, click here. To read the Telegraph article, click here.

Defending Simon Cowell

I appeared on GMTV this morning to defend Simon Cowell – not the obvious popular choice since he let the public vote decide who was to stay in the X Factor instead of condemning Jedward to the slag heap of pop ephemera history, but it really needed doing in a week of froth and fulmination.

The martyrdom of Lucie Jones to the cult of Jedward was a masterstroke on the part of Cowell; he knows that the Irish twins are box office dynamite and knows that, even if the viewing figures dip a little as a consequence of public ire, this will not prevent the X Factor from keeping its position as the highest rated entertainment show of the moment. And anyway, if it dips, it won’t stay dipped for long. Too many people will want to know who will be next to fall victim to the capricious nature of TV popularity.

The ghost of Barnum has taken full possession of Simon Cowell. “Every crowd has a silver lining,” said Barnum, and Cowell has ensured that crowds and crowds of people are talking about the X Factor, either in anger or amusement. There’s no escaping the fact that the contestants are, and always have been, cannon fodder in the hard-bitten business of making sure that Cowell keeps on winning the X Factor every year and that his coffers keep on chinking more tunefully than Jedward ever will.

Undoing the X Factor

I received an interesting call yesterday, in the wake of the surprising X Factor showdown between Miss Frank and Danyl Johnson on Sunday, from a mysterious man with a social networking plan and a dream to undo Simon Cowell. He wanted to meet me to discuss his plans for guerilla tactics to destabilise the X Factor format, by pushing the Irish duo John and Edward – those twinned Frankenstein’s PR monsters who are basically John Sergeant’s better looking Irish cousins, phenomenon-wise (they may be able to dance, but they cannot sing) – into winning the show at the expense of actual singers, and how my social media knowledge could help him achieve this.

Now, I’ve taken calls from all sorts of mavericks and loons with endless harebrained schemes over the years, wanting to do crazy things: someone keen to promote a troupe of performing pit bulls not long after a spate of dangerous dog stories; a man who wanted to jump the Thames in a Routemaster bus; an Australian promoter who wanted to tour the UK with a cannibal tribe demonstrating various rituals including a simulated human feast; a man who claimed he received messages from God and claimed he had the solution to drug peddlers; various musicals including one on the life of Ted Bundy and one about Ed Gein, not to mention CIA: The Musical; Ladies on Call a musical about a famous Hollywood brothel; an exhibition of naked pictures of various Hollywood names before they were famous; a woman who wanted to promote Pagan Christmas; live trepanning on stage; a website protesting against fluoridisation called; a new Christian group that wanted to reach students called Slouching Toward Bethlehem and a slew of weird science groups.

I’ll admit that I was intrigued by this latest maverick, despite being a little sceptical of his plans. He kept things strictly enigmatic – he wanted to meet in a dingy and anonymous Shoreditch pub for the discussion. I declined the meeting – if I were younger and crazier, I might have considered meeting up with him and possibly taking his plans on, but the commercial operation of business need to come first in these recessionary times

It’s worth noting that there are certainly activists out there who are skilled at co-opting television for publicity and image-making purposes in a way that most moguls in the Simon Cowell mold just don’t understand. Also, bear in mind that, this morning, The Sun reported that “some viewers complained their votes for other acts were accidentally allocated to John and Edward when they called the voting lines” in their article about John and Edward’s triumph in the X Factor weekend phone polls. Suddenly there is reasonable cause to doubt my initial feeling that I was being scammed.

So it would seem, thanks to certain details let slip in the course of our conversation and the report in this morning’s Sun, that the maintenance of the Jedward vote is due to my mystery man. If his destabilisation gains traction, there are interesting times ahead for the X Factor and a number of talented performers who may yet be steamrollered by the tone-deaf twins. As to who this guerrilla is: I’m still young and crazy enough to not want to reveal his name. I don’t want to spoil his fun. It’ll be interesting to see if he or Simon Cowell gets to be master of the X Factor universe…