Posts Tagged ‘jonathan ross’

The Ross Ultimatum

Speculation surrounds the departure of Jonathan Ross from the BBC after 13 years – did he jump or was he pushed?
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Sofa Wars

The King and Queen of Morning TV have been ripped apart in a plot worthy of Shakespeare. Money, greed, deceit, jealousy, subterfuge and high drama are driving this scenario, as if an excitable new scriptwriter with grand designs has been drafted in to rescue a failing soap. The vigour is intoxicating. Fern Britton has quit This Morning because she is fed up with being in Philip Schofield’s shadow. The screaming headlines are a sub-editor’s wet dream; Fern’s sensational walkout has fractured her relationship with ITV chiefs.

Rows in TV are fantastic copy for the dailies, but never a good thing for the talent; they’re often a wounding career move. I have been on This Morning once or twice and I like both Fern and Philip. I think they are both terrific broadcasters and stand shoulder to shoulder in the talent stakes.

Perhaps, if there is one factor that separates them, it’s that one embraces the modern techniques of digital PR and the other doesn’t. Far too simplistic you cry, but is it really? If we know one thing, it’s that the digital PR space is a subtle knife, which has unfathomable, hidden depths, which can sharpen a celebrity’s ability to persuade and inform.

We are not privy to the fine detail of the true row between Fern and ITV – it will be left to the unnamed friends and spokespeople to whisper into eager ears to keep this particular soap opera on the pages of the red tops. The hullabaloo will undoubtedly pick up pace over the weekend – until boredom sets in – but I believe it has lessons to teach us all in the game of brand husbandry.

Philip Schofield is a keen advocate of the digital space. He has a lively blog and a refined online presence. He uses Twitter well and is building a profile that is both honest and engaging. There is also a hint of vulnerability in his Tweets. We see his brand through a prism of tweets and the Twitter folk cherish his banter as he moves through cyberspace like a weekend charity half marathon runner.

Twenty years ago, his brand of celebrity would have been engaged in constant fete openings, ready with a smile and oodles of time to sign autographs for ladies of a certain vintage. But Scofe is a hands-on collaborator in the digital PR process and has generated a subliminal channel of support as a result. Perhaps this consideration suggests that he has a real hunger to remain relevant and that he recognises what it takes to stay ahead. No wonder people are paying top dollar for his services.

I would suggest that there is no complacency in Scofe’s world, just a craving not to be mutton dressed as mutton. Fern, on the other hand, has perhaps suffered from being a little too relaxed; she was certainly bruised by her unfair treatment at the hands of the News of the World. Her only crime was a lack of transparency regarding her weight loss, but negative press can create disconnection and a mistrust of the process. Scofe, however, has built the tools to reinforce his brand value whereas Fern feels like a superpower with a rusting arsenal of weapons, hampering her ability to fight back. I pray she doesn’t become a footnote – she has a crowd of support but she needs to source it!

Another TV talent who has proved that he can rise above the fug of negativity with the same tools is Jonathan Ross. I was not surprised when he received a BAFTA nomination. He too has created a virality and herd that has interacted with his brand since he started using Twitter. It’s a new dawn for celebrity engagement – the writing is on the virtual wall.

The analogue media should be looking over their shoulders; it might well be fortuitous that the This Morning bust up is played out today. But in the future the stars will have their own digital media to drive their brands forward without the perilous media high-wire walk.

Wellcome Back: The Art of Stunt Resurrection

Reading about the Wellcome Collection’s stunt to promote research into the science of the freak show, featuring contortionist Delia du Sol, in the Evening Standard yesterday, I was reminded how, in the dark days of the recession before the big one, I met an extraordinary contortionist called Hugo Zamoratte.

Delia du Sol squeezing into the Evening Standard yesterday

Delia du Sol

Zamoratte was an Argentina exile who was able to stuff himself into bottles; he had discovered a natural talent for dislocating his joints after he accidentally dislocated his arm in the Argentinian National Guard. After 20 years of practicing his art in South America, training in yoga and gymnastics all the while, he illegally crawled into the US from Mexico through a tiny sewer outlet.

On his arrival in America, Zamoratte’s extraordinary skill was quickly exploited and showcased by the Ringling Brothers. He became a national sensation in the USA. My client at the time, Gerry Cottle’s Circus, were impressed by his ability to stuff himself inside bottles that held as little as ten litres and booked him for their annual season at Wembley Arena. I was handed the task of generating media interest.

Hugo Zamoratte

Hugo Zamoratte

I spent weeks researching the great contortionists and, in the course of my research, I discovered the Art of Enterology. Escapology we all knew about – Houdini escaped from things whilst the great Enterologist squeezed into tiny spaces. The art had died out thanks to the more immediate thrill that escapology presented – both took weeks of preparation, but the escape happened in minutes, whereas the enterologists had to take their time getting into the right shape to enter a bottle. Audiences naturally inclined to the flashier, more immediate art.

I stole the idea of this long-lost practice and applied it to Zamoratte, dragging him through all the media hoops available at the time, from Jonathan Ross’ The Last Resort to the Wogan show, presenting him as the missing link in the art of Enterology. Ross still mentions Zamoratte when I see him – his impact was enormous. He garnered a great deal of attention for the Gerry Cottle Circus and went on to become a true international phenomenon.

And then he vanished, like Mickey Rourke’s wrestler. For all I know he is trapped in a bottle somewhere like a genie, wishing he’d spent more time practising escapology. In the meantime, I was fired up with the art of Enterology and, when Britvic asked me to help them launch their new design of bottle a few years later, I returned to the idea, setting up a series of auditions to find a new enterologist who could fit themselves inside an outsized version of the new Britvic bottle.

There was only one person who could do it; Delia du Sol, who is now working with the Wellcome Trust. She was a brilliant eneterologist – the only one who could enter Britvic’s bottle. She had only one flaw – she could never close the little door in the side of the bottle and would have been left exposed, like the overgrown Alice in the White Rabbit’s house, if one of my team hadn’t been on hand to shut the door behind her.

Delia in the Britvic bottle

Delia in the Britvic bottle

Wellcome’s stunt has no connection with me, I should point out. They have clearly imitated the stunt, recreated it now that some time has passed – very flattering it is too. I’m of the opinion that my book, Improperganda, inspired them to do so. Secondhand copies of the book have been flying off the shelves in the wake of the release of The Fame Formula. Perhaps it’s time for a reprint of Improperganda?

More to the point, I wonder what other stunts of mine that appear in the book will be imitated in the coming months as companies find that they need more interesting ways of communicating their brands and celebrities over the fog of the credit crunch.

More on Jonathan Ross and the BBC scandal

A couple of news snippets on YouTube in which I comment on the ongoing crisis at the BBC.

The Jonathan Ross Song

The Borkowski poet in residence’s take on Jonathan Ross’ part in the scandal currently consuming the press. Vocal rights for this podcast have been subcontracted to EDF.

Jonathan Ross is, Jonathan Ross is
a sacrificial lamb for the BBC bosses
he may be cheeky, sweary and slick
a gold plated carrot on the end of a stick
but however many kids he got watching the box
his stellar career is now on the rocks
at least at the Beeb, where he’s put on ice
for phoning up actors and not being nice

but Jonathan Ross is, Jonathan Ross is
perfectly capable of cutting his losses
he could go anywhere, and quickly get work
with a wink and a wave and a quirky smirk.

Jonathan Ross is, Jonathan Ross is
highly unlikely to be carrying crosses
he won’t walk on water but he’s not going to drown
however much the press try to push him down.

Pulling the pluggers

In these difficult times, spare a thought for the unsung victims of the media song and dance surrounding Jonathan Ross and Russell Brand’s prank calls to Andrew Sachs; the pluggers.

Now that Ross’s shows have been cancelled for the foreseeable future, the pluggers for any number of stars are without two of the most popular shows on television and radio to promote whatever book, CD or film their charges have out at the moment. They will be forced to go cap in hand to the producers of The Paul O’Grady Show, This Morning, Loose Women and the like, hopeful that they have a little bit of traction left with these shows, despite having initially taken their stars to the Ross show.

The absence leaves a hole that needs to be filled – the BBC has already lost The Killers and Miley Cyrus as a consequence of the cancellation of Friday Night with Jonathan Ross – and there is only so much humble pie a plugger can chow down on and, more importantly, only so much space the TV can fill in prime time slots like the one currently vacated by Ross.

Where next for Brand and Ross?

The suspension of Jonathan Ross and Russell Brand by the BBC over their boorish and lewd phone call to Andrew Sachs is a definite case of the BBC finally sitting back and taking a look at their media stock after a week of keeping its collective head in the sand,

Suspension is the equivalent to the mediaeval practice of putting offenders in the stocks in a market place and letting passers by throw rotten fruit at them – the only difference being that the rotten fruit thrown is ink and pixel and the people throwing it are the media and vocal and irate people many of whom most  probably rarely or never listen to the show, which airs after the watershed.

I cannot imagine that this will last too long – Ross is a vital brand for the BBC, who need to cling on to their younger audience in a fractured media world. Ross and Brand could get jobs anywhere they liked, and it is worth asking who is likely to be able to replace them at the corporation. With Brand gone of his own volition, we must watch and wait to see what happens next.

Yes, there are complaints flooding in about their shock jock tactics, but this is from a vocal minority, which is tiny compared to the audience base they attract. Yes, what they unloaded on Sachs was boorish, vulgar and unpleasant, but no puppies were drowned. The disgust at Brand and Ross’ call divides along the boundaries between young and old. Many older Radio 2 listeners would not be caught dead listening to the show. Many of the target audience think that what they did was funny and not much different from the sort of pranking that mobile phone-owning teenagers do to each other every day of the week.

The truth is that this would never have hit the airwaves if a producer at the BBC had stepped back for a moment and said ‘This isn’t nice, we can’t air this.’ Certainly, Ross and Brand are culpable insomuch as they made the call to Andrew Sachs in the first place, but they are not finally responsible for what goes on the air if the item was pre-recorded, as this was. I spoke to Jonathan Ross, who said that he assumed that the producers had cleared everything with Sachs, since the broadcast was going ahead.

It is a mistake to associate all blame with the two stars when clearly the people in authority at the BBC have no perception of what is over the line, of what should and should not be broadcast.

I think that the suspension is a PR gesture to take the heat off whilst the BBC look into this in depth. I would suggest that the BBC are going to use the suspension as a chance to make Ross think about his actions and to look into what happened, but I hope that they will look at the producers of the show with equal scrutiny. One thing is certain, the BBC didn’t move quickly enough on this matter – is it possible that they have let the story build out of all proportion because of the low profile of the station controller. Lesley Douglas?

I cannot believe that the BBC would completely remove Ross for something he is not entirely responsible for, however boorish it may be. I am certain that they will rehabilitate him, in much the same way that Kate Moss was rehabilitated after the cocaine scandals of a couple of years ago.

Moss, it should be remembered, lost several contracts before bouncing back more successful than ever. The BBC would be kicking themselves as hard as some of the people who dropped Kate Moss must have been if they bow to the pressure of a vocal minority and let Jonathan Ross follow Russell Brand by taking his anarchic brand of humour to a rival broadcaster.

However, with even Gordon Brown using the furore to divert the news agenda away from headlines about the shocking state of the economy and certain papers, those that hate the BBC paying entertainers large salaries, sticking the knife in at every opportunity, anything could happen – as, indeed, Brand’s falling on his sword proves. Unfortunately, the story has all the toxic ingredients: cock-slinging maverick; old comedy icon; racy granddaughter; TV host the midmarkets have an issue with. Add to that the BBC’s foolish display of heel-dragging over making a statement and the conflagration could take out a lot more than just the careers of Ross and Brand.

The times they are a-changin’

The hoo-ha over Jonathan Ross and Russell Brand’s pre-recorded assault on the answerphone of Andrew Sachs has spilled over into a debate in today’s Times about whether presenters will earn as much money in the predicted straitened times post credit crunch and the global impact of such anarchic behaviour in a more tight-fisted entertainment world.

“Mark Borkowski, who represents Noel Edmonds, said: ‘We’ve just passed through the over-inflated times. Ross has a huge following and the audiences love him, but with controversy like this the commercial broadcasters don’t want to annoy their advertisers.’

“But any decision to try to drop Ross may have unwelcome consequences, Mr Borkowski said. The presenter is represented by Addison Creswell, whose firm, Off The Kerb, also has on its books such in-demand stars as the comedians Jack Dee and Jo Brand. Mr Borkowski said: ‘Addison Cresswell has a stellar cast of talent that all broadcasters want. When you have a roll call of talent like that in your stable, you have huge bargaining power. Would you want to go into battle with that?’

“Ross has said that he has an affinity with the BBC and that he enjoys the fact that he can both appear on television, on his Friday Night With Jonathan Ross show, as well as his Radio 2 Saturday show. Were he to leave the BBC, he could look to follow the lead of Ricky Gervais, who has laid claim to the title of producing the world’s most downloaded podcast, independently of any broadcaster, with an average of 295,000 per episode. After establishing the success of the format, Gervais resolved to charge £4 for four instalments of the programme.

“Russell Brand does not enter the same league as Ross when it comes to pay, and is thought to pick up about £200,000 a year for his radio show.

“He has carefully cultivated a following in the US, where his foppish image has met with bemusement and celebration in equal measure. Last month, however, he angered many Americans by describing President Bush as a ‘retarded cowboy’ as he hosted the MTV Video Music Awards.

“‘They are a lot more anxious about these things over in the US,’ Mr Borkowski said. ‘This controversy will pedal across the water.’”

To read the full article, click here.

Zen and the art of Russell Brand

If you are surrounded by the press, being bombarded by difficult questions about something you’ve done, something that you may or may not be ashamed of, but are definitely unwilling to talk about, there is a new model of zen-like avoidance technique, thanks to the ever-inventive Russell Brand.

Click here to see Brand say absolutely nothing about his involvement in the abusive phone calls to Andrew Sachs. He speaks in a charming manner, using words that imply friendly (if somewhat zany) intentions yet which state nothing concrete at all.

Russell Brand, PR fixers past and present would be proud of you!

Is all publicity good publicity?

Jonathan Ross and Russell Brand have sparked a lather of frothing outrage with their series of lewd messages on the answerphone of Andrew Sachs, who starred as Manuel in Fawlty Towers, detailing an alleged sexual liason between Brand and Sachs’ granddaughter Georgina Baille (click here to read the transcript).

I feel some sympathy for Sachs and his granddaughter, but what do people expect when Brand and Ross get together? Brand makes a living from his controversial approach to sexuality and Ross caused a storm a while back by asking Conservative leader David Cameron if he had ever had teenage sexual fantasies about former prime minister Margaret Thatcher and referring to a lewd act.

Brand and Ross’ verbal tirade is the latest in a long line of comedic outrages – does anyone remember Julian Clary’s comment about fisting a few years back at an awards show for example? No one inside or outside the BBC should be too surprised that something blew up – the Beeb must have hoped that having these two together on the radio would stir up a welter of controversy and publicity. And now they have it. In spades.

It is worth asking, in light of this, if all publicity is good publicity. Certainly not for the corporate suits at the Beeb, but it’s a great day at the office for those concerned with the careers of Brand and co, whose cult stock is likely to rise considerably, however much they are forced to apologise.

One thing I am certain of is that Sachs’ granddaughter, Georgina Baille, a model who has auditioned for Page 3 in the past and is a member of a burlesque troupe called the Satanic Sluts, will get a welter of job offers and interest in the wake of the controversy, whether or not she actually slept with Brand. The photos of her that have been plucked from the internet by numerous papers (see below) certainly suggest that she might be willing (and even able) to cope with a flurry of media interest.

The saddest thing about the whole affair is that two hip youngish comedians felt it necessary to be so flagrantly disrespectful to a member of the old guard. The blunt truth of it is that they were as casually brutal to Andrew Sachs as Basil Fawlty ever was to Manuel – and all because the 78 year old missed a phone call he was supposed to be taking for the radio show.

Georgina Baillie, centre