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.

We know that Fox had a part to play, and Cowell, and many other factors, from agents to stylists – but it barely matters so long as the newspapers and Twitter benefit.

Brian Solis says that Social Media is creating its own ego systems. To survive, brands, businesses and celebrities should ride the shift in public perception and develop market strategies to work these ego systems. They need to recognise the shifts for what they are, however – the public has taken built in obsolescence at the heart of celebrity and business and celebrates it wholeheartedly – the nation no longer cares for yesterday’s cast offs. It only cares for the now.

We are living in one giant QVC-style shopping channel trading in celebrity; not a format that creates longevity. There’s no need when the consumer gladly moves on as soon as the sleb stops living in the now and starts thinking about the future.

Consumers are setting up information networks and are happy to be governed by social media connections. They expect the information to come to them in the instant – hardly anyone seeks out information elsewhere any more. They want it all NOW!

Yet, since no one is focusing on the past, no one is contextualising what’s happening now either, so let’s try to. Only people with platforms triumph – hence we see Cheryl Cole becoming cannon fodder to the march of the platform she’s been ousted from. High profile she may be, but she’s still just cannon fodder. It’s the people who’ve been spat out of the system who can offer most context on what is happening within the machine, but the machine has programmed us to expect a retrospective in ten years time asking “where are they now?”, at which we’ll grunt with slight recognition at the participants of all the old formats who never made it and then move on. There is no room for context in that model.

Fans and followers are firing up the process so it runs ever faster. Image is as disposable as a burger container. There is no point to super injunctions; the law is a blunt stick – and anyway, it’ll all be forgotten tomorrow.

Only a few are managing to succeed; Jedward are a prime example. But then they make no references to the past and they don’t care about the future – they may have represented Ireland at Eurovision, they may have met Obama but they have skins like rhinos and they don’t care. Their career is now and we have got to the point where the audience don’t trust people who talk about a future.

Maybe you just have to be stupid to succeed. Or, as I heard Simon Cowell tell a Britney impersonator: “Never mind the negativity. Ride it!” Salient lessons for Cheryl Cole and anyone else wanting to enter the social media whirl and the giddy world of celebrity in the 21st century.

4 Responses to “The Ego Has Landed”

  • Mark, I love your work but really, come on! BGT conquers the attention span of the nation? No. It doesn’t. It really really doesn’t. It’s just Barnum de nos jours and as ever, some want their bread and circuses but some of us are far more discerning and are not at all partial to Cowell’s churned-out chav fodder. SOME of us are watching the latest sublime Adam Curtis documentary: And All Watched Over by Machines of Loving Grace. SOME of us like the media deconstructed. Some of us rarely stray from BBC2 or BBC4.

    More people don’t watch BGT than do. Let’s not make the mistake of assuming that a large audience – thought tiny by TV standards in the 70s – is ALL the available audience.

    We’re not all stupid and easily manipulated.

  • Mark,

    More great words!!

    You have inspired me for another day.

    Dan.

  • Jedward are a prime example. But then they make no references to the past and they don’t care about the future – they may have represented Ireland at Eurovision, they may have met Obama but they have skins like rhinos and they don’t care. Their career is now and we have got to the point where the audience don’t trust people who talk about a future.

  • I love your work but really, come on! BGT conquers the attention span of the nation? No. It doesn’t. It really really doesn’t. It’s just Barnum de nos jours and as ever, some want their bread and circuses but some of us are far more discerning and are not at all partial to Cowell’s churned-out chav fodder.

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