Posts Tagged ‘x factor’

Never Mind the Mayans, Here’s the Apocalypse

Whether or not the Apocalypse is approaching this Friday is speculation that I will leave to the Mayans. As life flashes past us, however, the approaching end of year provides a good opportunity to contemplate the changes that have happened in our world over the course of this past year and some of the PR dilemmas generated by a tsunami of negative memes.

As we have been quaffing the dregs of the Diamond Jubilee and delighting in the now-distant memory of the success of Team GB, a strange transformation has been taking place in the celebrity sphere. Celebrity culture has been punctured by the Post-Savilegate Twitter Trials that now drive the media agenda.

Whether we are looking at the names of those implicated in Operation Yewtree or Chief Whip Andrew Mitchell’s scuff with the Metropolitan Police, it is the ire of the crowd that has dictated, and continues to dictate the narrative – and in some cases – the outcome of the story. Where the old vanguard festers in its own corruption, there is growth, but not of the kind we might anticipate.

Where the post-World War Two working class would turn to professions such as boxing, football or music to seek fame upon the Yellow Brick Road, in recent decades we have seen the emergence of people seeking fame for fame’s sake. The value of culture has been undermined by a sugar rush driven by ten years’ worth of reality TV. Further proof of this generational lust for fame and overarching cultural shift came in the form of an interview earlier this week with Rylan Clark, the X Factor’s latest pantomime Dame. In Rylan’s words, “I knew what I wanted to do. I wanted to be famous. I didn’t know what I wanted to be famous for. I didn’t care. It was about being, not doing.”

But reality TV and Twitter cannot produce the kind of culture we export around the world. As luminaries argue over the future of the Arts post eBacc, they miss the point. The first question we should be asking is why this type of culture has slid so far down our list of priorities. I can point to one word: ‘elite’.

The word ‘elite’ has become a political power word that plays upon British class sensibilities. What we forget is that the word is not always about exclusivity, but about quality – and the UK is in possession of a cultural elite of which it should be proud.

The daring production and creativity showcased in the Olympic opening ceremony was a brilliant example of this, showing that a risky idea could reinvigorate the nation. It reminded us of just what Brand Britain has to offer in terms of quality of thought across all disciplines. Writing about the event, Frank Cottrell-Boyce reminded us of GK Chesterton’s old adage: “The world shall perish not for lack of wonders, but for lack of wonder.”

I fear that this prophecy might be the actual Apocalypse we are awaiting. While we laud the efforts of our artists and thinkers at a time when the world’s eyes are upon us, we have failed to create the right circumstances to sustain this creativity in the future. The likes of Danny Boyle were supported by a subsidised sector and institutions that many would now consider ‘elitist’.

The fact that these institutions have failed to defend themselves from such criticisms is a PR disaster not only for these institutions, but ultimately, for all creatives and potential creators of culture that we celebrated this year.

Our EU neighbours don’t appear to suffer from the same problem although they too are feeling the bite of the downturn. Where Angela Merkel is frequently seen at the opera and Germany has increased Arts spending by 8 per cent despite spending cuts, in the UK we continue to peel and pare the Arts out of existence.

While we may be able to reduce Shakespeare to 140 characters, we could never get Shakespeare from 140 characters, and though we may enjoy Rylan’s exploits, I don’t think he could get close to igniting the nation in the way Danny Boyle did.

If I could have one Christmas wish, it would be for our politicians to stop being too embarrassed to stand by culture and support it for fear of being branded ‘elitist’. The Arts are for everyone, and nothing embodies this better than the volunteers who worked tirelessly to create the opening ceremony this summer. Unlike the ultra-ambitious fame junkies like Rylan Clark (though he too has his place), they were not chasing Fame for Fame’s Sake, but Art for Art’s sake: for the people, to be shared by all.

In a world driven by the Twitterati, I can only hope that we start to see some real support for – and investment in – the Arts. If we run away from away from our cultural heritage, what will be left to export? Financial services? Well, we’ve seen where that’s got us.

The most challenging PR brief for 2013 will be how to rehabilitate elite culture and save it from damnation.

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.

Starting a business? Keep your eyes forward and your ears tuned to what’s real

“The media wants overnight successes (so they have someone to tear down). Ignore them.”

So writes .com marketing legend Seth Godin in his piece “The Secret of the Web”. He’s totally correct. As anyone who has ever striven to realise an original idea knows, not only the media but those with the power in business and in society are professional cynics working to a very small time scale. If you want to create something real, you’ll have to spend a lot of time ignoring those who take your lack of results as proof of failure almost as soon as you’ve started.

It’s a thought that conmingled in my head over the weekend with the triumph of the pathetically named but surprisingly talented ‘Little Mix’ in this year’s X Factor. The audience got behind this somewhat rag-tag bunch because they got about as close to representing truth and single-minded determination as it’s possible to on the X Factor.

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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 »

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 »

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 »

Breaking X Factor in America

This weekend the nation gathers around the TV once again, to watch the X Factor final; the uber-karaoke contest live from the Wembley’s Amphitheatrum Flavium, thumbs poised for pollice verso. Tomorrow we will marvel at the victor who, with scrupulous and unaffected dignity, will be giving thanks to the loyal viewers for allowing him or her to live the dream.

Predicted viewing figures suggest a modern record which will grab the headlines and refocus attention on the Dark Lord himself, Simon Cowell. You know, he who can walk on water, the saviour of ITV, the man who has redefined event TV.

I, on the other hand, will be more interested to see how the narrative of the next chapter of Simon Cowell’s personal story shapes as he moves the X Factor juggernaut to trundle through America. Will his throne be exposed as a bench covered with velvet?

The man charged with managing this important move is Matt Hiltzic. Evidently, he told a friend of mine last weekend that he has been appointed as chief strategic advisor on X Factor, working directly with Cowell. Read the rest of this entry »

How to Build on Past Protests

It was fascinating, on Wednesday, to watch the streets of London step back 20 years in time to the sort of violent protests that marked the anti Poll Tax movement. I admire the energy and the zeal of the students but, in an age where everything is being re-drafted, reinvented, challenged and overturned, I wonder why they would choose to default to the divisive clichés of protests past.

The power of social media is at their fingertips, so isn’t it time to reinvent the act of protest and direct action for the digital age, where the image is ever more important? Images of violence, window smashing and scarf-faced ‘anarchists’ are something the establishment can deal with in the aftermath all too easily – it allows them the breathing room to default to a huffy ‘look at them, they don’t care about anything’ stance. Read the rest of this entry »