Nice to see the Mirror’s page 3 exclusive on the defrosting of the (allegedly) glacial rift between Heather Mills McCartney and her step-daughter, Stella. The evidence, what there is of it, comes in the shape of a picture of Heather wearing one of Stella’s dresses.
Presumably this is a different exclusive from the same story in Red Magazine’s February edition (page 21) which is accompanied by a different picture (which actually looks exactly the same). At least today’s Daily Telegraph (page 11) had the decency to credit the picture and the story to Red Magazine, and made no exclusive claims.
If we could just take apart the components of this particular conundrum, we might discover who’s publicising what to whom and why.
First off, let’s dispatch the sidebar of the “Exclusive” tag. Most tabloids are genetically pre-programmed to write rubbish, so no surprises there. It’s a minor detail, so don’t get too worked up about it.
The dress itself was donated to Red, apparently, with “full endorsement from Stella”. By phoning a premium phone line (£1 per minute) readers have a chance to win the dress (worth £555) – and proceeds from the call will be shared between the Linda McCartney cancer treatment centre in Liverpool and Heather’s “Adopt-a-Minefield” charity.
Punters need to be encouraged to purchase magazines. As good a way as any is getting this month’s hot story (“new poll reveals that mineral water enhances desire for kinky sex”; “Beckham gets his kit off”) trailed in the dailies (preferably with pictures). So one PR point for Red Magazine.
Next up, Stella McCartney likes to sell dresses. So stick a picture in Red. Red is “for the best things in life”, as the strapline goes: these apparently include eating disorders, relationship break ups, embarrassing IBS (that’s wind to you and me), and “how Sex and the City ruined my love life”. Clearly an ideal place to punt an expensive dress and to raise funds for a cancer centre and “Adopt-a-Minefield”. (I don’t need to: I live in one already).
Then Red will stick the picture in populist, downmarket, celeb-obsessed papers such as the Daily Telegraph and the Mirror (see above), meaning Stella McCartney racks up three PR points. As do the charities. This is cool.
Finally, there’s the small point of Heather Mills McCartney, who sweeps the board. The dress, the charity, the picture, “my life with Paul” – fantastic. Particularly because the basic story is “woman wears dress designed by daughter to raise funds for charity”.
Of course, it’s been very artfully packaged. The hook from which all this promo for product, personality and publication hangs is the drama, the conflict, the tragic emotional rollercoaster of Stella and Heather’s relationship.
All this makes Elizabeth Hurley’s Versace dress stunt seem very unsophisticated indeed. She was just a sexy coat-hanger. Heather Mills McCartney is coat-hanger, magazine PR, charity promoter and self-publicist. That’s shrewd. Congratulations.
One small glitch: if you win the dress, you win THE dress – the selfsame one in the picture. It’s a size 10. Useless, unless you have an eating disorder.
Which may be why the prize is being offered by Red.