One of the joys of life for a humble publicist is to marvel at the poetry of pure propaganda.
Often when a pro-active campaign is shaped like the proverbial clay on the potters wheel, it is moulded by a ham-fisted half wit resulting in acres of print that work against the original aim. The new Britney Spears soap opera, centred on her marital problems, seems to be holding its own against the real news agenda as it contemplates the results of the U.S. congressional elections and the sacrifice of Donald Rumsfeld. Normally such a truly trivial story would be relegated to the pages of the Weekly World News or the National Enquirer, but such was the perfection of the strike against Spears’ wayward spouse Kevin Ferderline, it managed to generate ink even when the global news agenda had more momentous things to consider.
Even for those who can’t be bothered with such trivial fare it has not gone unnoticed that Britney seemed to have slipped out of favour with the celebrity tabloid media. The acres of press that came from her marriage to Ferdeline, when she wore a white strapless gown that was designed by Monique L’Huillier and carried a bouquet of pink and white, is a thing of distant media memory. Her brand had degenerated into a frumpy, trailer trash non entity. A steady flow of unglamorous images in the press, as the star seemed to balloon in size, seemed to suggest that the once glamorous teeny bop queen had put her career on hold and abdicated from the celestial hemisphere. Her fan base sighed as she was no longer the incandescent supernova of the entrainment universe.
Spears has had a nightmare with publicists over the last eighteen months and she instigated a change after her much talked about failure to deliver on the U.S. television show “Dateline”. She was filleted by Matt Lauer’s pummeling questions and pundits feasted on Spears’ weepy, disheveled collapse.
“Neither of her publicists, Leslie Sloane Zelnick or Nanci Ryder, showed up,” said a source at the time . Spears insisted on doing her own hair and makeup – a regrettable decision. Web sites derided her hair as a “rat’s nest” and, when she started crying during the interview, one of her fake eyelashes fell off. But the recent events seem to have the hand of powerhouse celebrity divorce lawyer Laura Wasser, who has repped Angelina Jolie, and Kiefer Sutherland in domestic cases The campaign instigated over the last 72 hours, has got the showbiz pundits buzzing that they have got a fantastic story on their hands, and the queen is back. The same website that turned against her seems now to be suggesting that her bad boy husband was not taking on the responsibilities of fatherhood with any sense of seriousness. Instead, while Britney was a stay at home Mum after their second child, he was enjoying the pleasures of benders in Las Vegas.
Ferdeline has borrowed on his wife’s celebrity status to help launch his own career, and with a new album at the dawn of its release, his wife has hit back in a spectacular way. Her strategy was to not only destroy his well laid plans, but use the occasion to reassert her brand assets. In a blitz we have seen the new glam, combat hungry Britney unveiled, complete with weight loss and new hairstyle. The brilliantly orchestrated outing established that she was no longer some forgotten frump but a chic craving column inches. Consider the campaign; she chose to break the news to her spouse that she had filed divorce papers by texting him in the middle of a TV interview he was doing to promote his new album. Following this, she was seen and photographed on the arm of her old business manager, ice skating in the Rockefeller Plaza, looking at ease and teasing out the soundbytes. Finally, she was pictured leaving a restaurant with figure hugging dress and fishnets, about to enjoy the NYC night life. Simple reinforcement underpinned with well prepared briefings to key media under lines a new assurity.
The art of reinventing a brand whether it’s a tired celebrity or an old household favourite is to go spectacularly on the attack. She has demonstrated the merits of being bold and adventurous without employing any risky gimmicks. At the heart of Spears’ proactivity is the old skool Spears, girl next door, glamour. The “girl from” has always seemed cheeky and playfully provocative; perhaps some times controlling, but her attitude was always well cast. She was always a chic with front, never afraid of exposing her midriff in a trashy way in the pursuit of ink. Her advisors have gone back to basics to reassert her spirit , and just as Ferdeline used her to launch his musical career, the worm has turned and chosen to fight back at the time when he would expect to be getting maximum lift.
There has been nothing complicated in the re-syle but it’s the use of the media agenda spinning out a fantastic script that has got the showbiz world engaged. All the key messages are there and overnight the whispers of Federline’s behaviour have been underlined. This is not an opportunistic campaign, it’s a well orchestrated strategy that has played to Spears’ strengths. We wait to see if a new record deal is close by. But by leaving nothing to chance and going on the attack, I suspect prime time U.S. T.V. might just be getting a cute Spears interview. Perhaps the waring parties in the McCartney v McCartney/Mills might learn a thing from the queen and her courtiers.