To queue or not to queue, that is the question. Recently, fashion and retail publicity, with Madonna, Kate Moss and now Lily Allen turning their hand to clothes designing, has demonstrated a real lack of imagination when launching new season’s collections.
Surely I’m not the only one to have noticed the ubiquitous stunts that are being used to generate media. Plan a) have a celebrity create a wardrobe. Followed quickly by plan b) mass hysteria of the crowds queuing for hours to be the first to purchase a flimsy skirt made in some far-flung place.
There is a growing industry of consultants who are happy to provide services to support these PR stunts. Companies emerge out of the woodwork, cold calling with offers of celebrities who are available to help create content for brands, whilst crowd delivery consultancies promise hoards of people to stand outside stores, all for a reasonable fee.
I have to confess that I once primed a queue for a forgotten video and all those who took part wished they hadn’t. But I was desperate. I admit, I used a few out of work turns to stand out in the cold forming a queue, just for the cameras. Perhaps it did sell a few more copies?
The “cheating” is not the problem – it’s the frequency with which the technique being used. People spot these stunts and each time another one is dragged out, it loses its potency.
Business is actually booming for companies that offer their services to manufacture stunts, and they are ten a penny. There are far too many uninspired PRs trying to impress their clients, falling back on what they believe to be fail safe stunts, but at some point there will be a total burn out.
As a result, I am often asked if those zealous fans that put their real lives on hold, besieging concert venues for precious tickets, are for real. A few years ago there was a definite desire to get hold of prime seats but, alas, internet ticket agencies and wily promoters have moved the goalposts.
Hardly a day passes without a call from an LA based artist agency proffering names that might be available for product endorsement. These offers tempt brands and their PR advisors to use the easy trick. The temperament of the media suggests that the jury is out on what the true financial return will be on those names being used to revitalise clothing lines.
In my opinion, the art of the publicity stunt is the art of the practical. It should never be indulged for the pure pleasure of the thing, since over usage dulls the mechanism and defaces the façade and the spirit of intent. I fear that one of the oldest stunts in the publicists’ handbook is facing extinction simply because of over use. Perhaps it needs a rest, and then like some TV format, return refreshed and ready for a new generation of fans.