Posts Tagged ‘russell brand’

Branded content: The Passion of the Russell

If Facebook shares had audio to accompany the multitude of posts, the latest commentary surrounding Russell Brand on Newsnight would be littered with loud, smug and triumphantly-toned exclamations from people saying, “Yes! Finally, somebody is speaking the truth! Look at Jeremy; he’s being rendered almost speechless!”

Fresh from his guest-editing spot on The New Statesman, Brand bounced into the recent Newsnight interview with Jeremy Paxman like the messianic man he is positioning himself to be. Brimming with energy and armed with a vocabulary that would rival the average person (and possibly journalist), Brand is a powerful figure and completely aware of his influence and charisma, especially when combined with his comic-laced verbosity. However, while many are applauding Brand’s impassioned efforts atop the political soapbox, it’s important to step back and shake off the utopian glitter, in order to completely consider the repercussions of some of Brand’s proclamations. Read the rest of this entry »

Chilean Miners and the Cold Light of Fame

It’s weird to consider the forthcoming global PR implications for the Chilean miners. It’s all too clear that this will be the biggest story in the world come Wednesday assuming that the men are released from the mine. It can’t be ignored – every news gathering organisation is surrounding the escape route as it nears completion; the three ring satellite truck circus is there for all to see.

It may sound crazy to say it now, but in the days to come I think that the Chilean miners, trapped below the earth for so long, will come to regard their accidental prison as a haven of freedom. Read the rest of this entry »

Brand and Woods: The Celebrity Rollercoaster

Another week of charting the ups and downs of celebrity, first in the Guardian, discussing the rise, fall and rapid rise again of Russell Brand, who has risen phoenix-like out of the ashes of Sachsgate to find himself on the verge of international stardom. You can read the full article here, but here’s my note of caution:

“But will he stay the course? ‘Very difficult to predict,’ says the publicist and historian of celebrity Mark Borkowski. ‘He’s had a huge amount of American fame in a very short space of time. But standup comics from the UK don’t have a good track record – not many succeed. And tucked away somewhere on his torso is a self-destruct button. America is still very small-c conservative. There is,’ Borkowski adds, ‘still time for him to mess it up.’

Talking of messing things up, I was asked to comment the effect of Tiger Woods’ meltdown on the brands that have supported him over the years. According to Paul J Davies’s article, When star power finds the rough (Financial Times, April 7th): “…the stock market value of all the companies endorsed by Mr Woods collectively lost $5bn-$12bn by the middle of December [last year].” Read the rest of this entry »

Russkat: The New Brangelina?

The Independent requested my opinion on the hotting up of the Russell Brand and Katy Perry romance – and more particularly the way they are being aggressively pushed into a Brangelina-shaped hole. Or should that be RussKat, as the Independent puts it. To read more, click here

Who is Pulling Nick Griffin’s PR Strings?

The BBC have, without doubt, handed Nick Griffin and the BNP a potential PR coup by allowing him to appear on Question Time. It is very likely that Griffin will be working desperately hard to avoid belching racist bile, especially as the programme surrounds him – in the interests of the BBC’s “central principle of impartiality” – with Jack Straw (Jewish ancestry and, appropriately, Labour’s Justice secretary), Lady Warsi (Muslim Conservative peer), the critic Bonnie Greer (African American) and token Lib Dem Chris Huhne.

Griffin’s PR nous comes hard earned – the BNP’s Director of Publicity, Mark Collett, has had his share of run-ins with the television, having been caught on camera during Channel 4’s Young, Nazi, and Proud documentary in 2002 declaring his admiration for Adolf Hitler and calling homosexuals “AIDS monkeys” on Russell Brand’s Re:Brand show in the same year. Collett is highly unlikely to want Griffin to fall into the same trap, despite the strong likelihood that he will be mercilessly provoked.

So should we allow a thug in a well-cut suit on the TV to attempt to seduce the masses? Is Griffin likely to raise his status to that of statesman in the circumstances? Prohibition would, I suspect, be more likely to fan the flames of disaffection among voters – who have much to be disaffected about at the moment, hence the 6% who voted BNP in the European elections – and the last thing most people, let alone most politicians, want is to allow them more chances to snare votes.

The hope, then, is that Griffin will succumb to anger and show his dark side, which has been slathered in nice suits and careful spin for the last few years. Gordon Brown has gone on record this morning to say that: “it will be a good opportunity to expose what [the BNP] are about”. Russell Brand has said it with more style in The Sun. According to Brand it will help to let the BNP “gurgle up their chuckle-brained hate-broth” on Question Time. “The right thinking people of the Earth are on relatively safe ground when it comes to the ‘war of words’ with televised bigots,” he adds.

A few years ago Griffin told a meeting of the American Friends of the BNP (which included the then leader of the Ku Klux Klan) that: “Once we’re in a position where we control the British broadcasting media, then perhaps one day the British people might change their mind and say, ‘yes, every last [immigrant] must go’. But if you hold that out as your sole aim to start with, you’re not going to get anywhere. So, instead of talking about racial purity, we talk about identity.”

With this in mind, I think that Michael Corleone’s advice in The Godfather Part 2 – “Keep you friends close, but your enemies closer” – is the best bet. Let’s keep Griffin and his hateful, hate-full party close and hope that they deliver a horse’s head to their own bed, making it clear just how appalling their views, which they keep simmering under the veneer of careful PR, really are.

Skaggs, Blags and Rags: Hoaxes and the Press

If you want proof that stunts are an art form, your best bet is to head down to the Tate Modern’s Pop exhibition and take a long, hard look at the Andy Warhol and Jeff Koons exhibits. Here are two prime examples of early stops at one of the stations of the cross of Consumerism, part of its steady progress to becoming the prime 21st Century religion.

And proof is needed that stunts are an art form – they are making something of a comeback at the moment, but the latest examples – the Starsuckers film and Balloon Boy – are in need of a bit of spit and polish if they are to really shine. Despite all this, there has been not one mention of the master of the hoax, Joey Skaggs, the master Culture Jammer whose hoaxes have always had a pertinent point to make. This is a pity because the Starsuckers team could learn a trick or two from him.

Take, for example, Skaggs’s Celebrity Sperm Bank hoax from 1976. Skaggs organised a sperm bank auction in New York, then arranged for the sperm bank to be robbed with the semen supposedly being taken hostage. Or the Dog Meat Soup hoax from 1994, in which Skaggs portrayed Kim Yung Soo, a butcher who wanted to purchase dogs for food, to expose cultural intolerance and the media’s tendency to overreact. These are the stunts of a master and they are works of art.

There has been considerable attention for the hoaxes at the heart of the new film Starsuckers – the film’s makers created a series of hoax stories about celebrities that they then pushed on the tabloids. The aim was to point out how easily one could dupe journalists at the tabloids into taking patently ridiculous stories about celebrities and in this they succeeded. Reports of Amy Winehouse’s beehive catching fire, Avril Lavigne falling asleep in a nightclub and Russell Brand’s secret childhood desire to be a banker all made the tabloids – and some made it round the world.

But filmmakers’ aim, which was to expose how the whole of the news industry is running stories without checking their facts, has not been achieved. This was not a sublime act of Culture Jamming – celebrity journalism and hard news are quite different animals (most of the time at least) and the hoax story they tried to push on the media that came closest to qualifying as real news, in which G20 protestors were apparently planning to dump tonnes of sugar on Alan Sugar’s drive, was not picked up.

Telling everybody that it’s easy to pass off nonsense about celebrities to the papers is hardly news in itself – most reporting of the lives of celebrities verges on the nonsensical as it is and most people know this and don’t care, so far gone is their addiction to celebrity soap. The team behind Starsuckers are going to have to work harder if they are to achieve what they want.

Balloon Boy is another matter again. A family in Colorado claimed that they thought their son had been carried off by a weather balloon – he was found “hiding” in the attic after an expensive two hour cross country chase in full view of the world’s media. I suspect that this was a stunt by a publicity-hungry family of stormchasers keen to further promote themselves after appearing on American Wife Swap. I also suspect that the only reason that the police aren’t treating this as a hoax is to save face.

None of this has stopped a full-scale media hoo-ha and #balloon boy trending on Twitter. There’s been reams of analysis in the medi and newscasters claiming they’d burst into tears as a result, followed by a backlash after the six year old boy was found in the attic at home. As my pal Mark Solomons says: “He’s a falcon liar, that’s what he is. The father put the con in Falcon. It’s like the Bart-Simpson-down-the-well episode. If the balloon had been up any longer, they could have had Sting do a charity record.”

We know that the media are willing consumers of all kinds of storytelling, but it would be good to see more artfulness and careful thought going into any future hoaxes. More Skaggs less blags, perhaps?

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.

Brand Banned

The Borkowski poet in residence reflects, in oblique headlines, on the part Russell Brand played in the affair currently consuming the front pages.

Brand Banned
Brand Gland Banned
Brand Gland Hand Banned
Brand Tanned Gland Hand Banned
Brand Manned Tanned Gland Hand Banned
Brand Banned
Stand Brand
Brand Stand By Banned Gland
Brand Ban Planned By Bland Gland
Brand’s Banned Gland Planned To Expand
Brand Unmanned By Bland Gland
Bland Gland Planned to catch Brand Strand In Hand
Brand Banned
Stand Brand
See Bland Gland Unmanned

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.