In turbulent times decision makers in any industry – be it CEOs, politicians, film directors or football managers- will fall back on tactics which served them well in the past, even if that past is growing distant and the tactic dating doublequick. The mechanism behind this decision is simple: the greater the desperation, the less strategic consideration goes into the adoption of the tactic.
Following this logic, PR – in terms of practice – is in a pitiful state.
Floating things down the Thames was fun 30 years ago, but for Amazon – one of the most belligerently successful and COVID-proof companies in the world, with near infinite resources- to be reduced to floating a giant Borat down the Thames to promote his long-awaited sequel, symbolises an industry with no grip on its future, floundering for ideas and purpose.
It might sound like a lot of meaning to attach to one bad stunt, but this was a dereliction of imagination. And it gets worse when you consider that the subject matter is basically one big stunt. And a good one: at its best (and not having seen the new film yet, but having heard decent things from reliable sources) Borat is also both imaginative and a cogent exposé of America’s medieval political attitudes. The Giuliani prank sounds explosive and a strong symbol that everything good about Borat has survived a world that has evolved beyond parody since his heyday.
However, if the finest PR minds that Amazon Prime’s supervillain levels of wealth can buy aren’t able to think of anything more imaginative to do with Borat than scrape the bottom of the barrel of PR cliches, then the industry is in even more trouble than we thought.