Posts Tagged ‘simon cowell’

Twitter or Trad PR? Always Check the Bathwater for Babies

The past few years have seen huge debate in the PR industry around the radical reshaping of public relations. Why, asked the naysayers, would a Celeb employ a PR in an age where they can use Twitter to break stories, correct rumours, build their brand and offer coveted insights into their lives? DIY was the way forward.

I’ve always believed in checking the bath water for babies. Don’t discard the essentials especially when the proven skillset has a purpose.

This weekend saw two stories which validate my point of view. The first was the Xfactor meltdown of the Pink impersonator Zoe Alexander- auditions cannon fodder who claimed, after being thrown off the stage, she had been persuaded by manipulative producers to choose a song which lead to her ritual humiliation. Then there was Jackie Powell, Ian Brady’s mental health advocate. In the Sunday Times she spoke of being stitched up by a TV production company. After back tracking on an agreement she accused them of deliberately using her for publicity purposes, culminating in her arrest.

I do not know how much truth lies behind each of these claims, but I do know just how ruthless TV production teams can be to produce the ultimate end product. Whether you have reasonable cause to be angry or not, a seasoned PR hand who know their way around the block is essential in this situation- if nothing else, they can offer safe, reasoned counsel.

Social media has its uses- we’ve seen it brilliantly exploited lately by the likes of Tulisa, who used a frank and open YouTube clip to head her money grubbing ex off at the pass. Bear in mind, however, that Tulisa is also backed up by hefty PR muscle, not to mention a shit hot legal team. In a crisis, always look for a few grey hairs.

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.

Frankie Cocozza’s Meltdown is an Unrestrained, Uncontrolled Toxic Mess- It’ll do Wonders for the X Factor, though Little for M&S

The X Factor’s token Rock n Roll hairbrush Frankie Cocozza was splashed in lurid glory all over the red tops this morning: you can’t beat a good old fashioned tabloid coke scandal. Especially when it comes courtesy of Frankie, the boy who wanted to be a mashup of Richards, Moon and Shelley. The question, however, has to be where the duty of care lies as the show washes its hands of Frankie at the precise moment he becomes more useful to them offscreen than on.

I’ve written about the show a lot on this blog: it’s always thrived on controversy. Syco’s PR lifeblood comes from outrageous stories that dig their claws in to the tabloid column inches and don’t let go for days: Katie Waissel’s gran, Chloe Mafia’s Prostitution, Ceri Rees’s humiliation and countless others. After making it through Boot Camp, Cocozza was pretty much handed an Ikea flatpack ‘hellraiser’ lifestyle, which he duly assembled within minutes and then attempted to cram up his nose.

For a time, he served his purpose: he was a decent story factory, most recently grabbing the show a page in the Mirror after his first girlfriend took them a kiss and tell. However, arguably things became a little too real after he started appearing inebriated on the show and prompted a full scale Ofcom investigation.

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The Ceri Rees Story: Validating Chinese Government Policy?

The tale about Ceri Rees- an upbeat but apparently mentally challenged woman allegedly repeatedly invited to appear on the X Factor for the sole purpose of ratings-grabbing rejection- has really captured the tabloid imagination yesterday. This has the shape of something that could seriously run and run.

The latest Mail piece by Richard Price, which (in its online form) incorporates nearly 2000 words of surgically targeted attack on the show, including interviews with a hapless carer of Rees’s and a spokesperson for mental health charity Mind. It would make it without question into my list of “top ten examples of stories you don’t want floated about your brand” if I was the kind of person who kept inane lists.X Factor Contestant

The sincerity and depth of feeling of the coverage, however, marks this out as more than a simple lesson in the devastating consequences of poison publicity. This is not just an unfortunate expose of one woman’s treatment, it is a tailor-made vehicle for injecting awareness of the fundamentally flawed reality show process into the mind of even the least media-savvy member of the public.
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How to Survive in Media Limbo

In the wake of Cheryl Cole’s turbulent relationship with the media since her sacking from the American X Factor, here are some tips, inspired by Andy Green, that might help her through any other media difficulties that may come her way in future.

Cheryl’s recent sacking is an opportunity to re-evaluate her identity and learn valuable lessons in creativity. We all have to learn to deal with rejection and the word ‘No’.

1. Focus on who you are and why you’ve been successful.

A strong identity and deep roots in what made you successful in the first place will help you weather the worst storm. Was the American ‘X Factor’ actually the right strategic move for you? What is your real mission in life? Is your brand in accordance with this? Remember, being a sleb is not the most important thing in life.

2. Do you have a relevant narrative?

When you move on to a new challenge is your ‘story’ appropriate for the new context you are moving in to? Consider this: is an American TV focus group going to be moved or confused by “British television celebrity/Geordie singer/overcame the odds/deprived back story”? Always bet on the latter. Read the rest of this entry »

Publicity Stunt? What Publicity Stunt?

The great Ronan Parke caper seemed to just fizzle out yesterday. Pre- the Britain’s Got Talent final, it seemed the final hype was upstaged by a rogue blogger. The disgruntled record exec-come-whistleblower touched a raw nerve with his well-written conspiracy theory suggesting that Britain’s wannabe Beiber had actually been ruthlessly groomed by the Dark Lord, Cowell.

This creative provoked the TV mob to launch a complaint to the Kensington and Chelsea rozzers. The Saturday final audience watched a wounded Cowell’s emotional appeal for the nation’s trust. Heaven forbid that an entertainment mogul would consider manipulating the career of a starlet!

I thought this plea for trust was like Stevie Wonder asking a car hire company to allow him to take a family saloon.

To ensure the quality of any reality show is difficult. When all is said and done, Britain just isn’t brimming with world class talent waiting to be discovered. Reality show formats prove that, no matter how much hype and primetime TV exposure, very few global superstars are likely to be unearthed. This is a primetime format, hooking a nation and desperate advertisers. Read the rest of this entry »

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 manage a celebrity’s reputation

I have known Keith Schilling for many years; he’s a highly able human being. On many occasions I’ve worked alongside some brilliant folk in his firm and have regularly taken part in their brilliant, thought-provoking, well attended seminars.

In the last few days, Keith has been pictured in many broadsheet newspapers as journalists debate and chew over Schilling’s tactics and, of course, fees. It’s in their nature to feed on these events, but make no mistake, he’s a formidable operator. Read the rest of this entry »

The Cowell Question

The Observer is asking the big question – is Svengali in chief Simon Cowell essential to the X Factor? Two journalists debate the pros and cons, intersecting the public conversation surrounding Cowell’s migration to America. But neither address Cowell’s principal ingredient, his enormous power to influence the hype and guide the off-screen narrative.

After watching Britain’s Got Talent – the Dark Lord’s other bastard child – on Saturday, it was obvious from the slow media pick up that something was missing. Taking its first wobbly steps without Daddy, I wondered if it could ever be as successful. Could the new panel of judges cast the same spell and begin to bewitch the nation? Could its freaks and fame-hungry dreamers deliver the same connection to the media, on and offline?

Michael Mcintyre, jester-in-chief to the great unwashed, probably has the stuff; the Hoff is in another time zone; and funky, tender Auntie Amanda Holden looks lost as she tries to take the lead. Without Cowell, it all seemed a little trite; he’d left them with the formula, but the gold dust was missing. Read the rest of this entry »