Thursday, June 23, 2011

Bad news bared

It’s been argued that there’s no such thing as bad publicity, but the phenomenon of organisations deliberately creating negative stories about themselves would appear to be a relatively new one. It started in a small way with food manufacturers releasing made-up stories that they planned to modify or do away with treasured brands (such as Vegemite iSnack 2.0) and comic publishers killing off beloved characters, or just threatening to do so, as has happened to everyone from Superman to Desperate Dan; the latest victim of this trend being poor old Spider-Man. The only risk is that devoted fans won’t be quite as outraged as was expected, and a valuable property will be sacrificed in ignominious obscurity; or, more deliciously, they’ll have to go through with a move that they never intended to execute in the first place, because consumers don’t tell them not to.

Virgin took things to a new level in early 2009 when they released a letter complaining about the standard of their in-flight catering, although they rather gave the game away by having the letter begin “I love the Virgin brand”, thus immediately identifying the author as an advertising executive; real people don’t love brands, or if they do, they’re not aware of it. But things have really kicked off in the past few months, when Simon Cowell got in on the act: first with the whole Cheryl in the USA saga; and then the distinctly fishy e-mail that essentially accused Cowell of grooming a contestant on Britain’s Got Talent. And this week we have the “news” that the dating website has accidentally allowed 30,000 uglies onto its books, and has had to kick them off again. Cue outrage from those who believe that beauty lies within: cue free publicity.

I just think it’s odd that high-profile entities are paying good money to concoct unpleasant stories about themselves at the same time that certain high-profile individuals are also shelling out in order to quash such stories. And I wonder if it’s not beyond the realms of possibility that one or more of the stories that are being suppressed by injunctions (super or otherwise) might turn out to have been entirely concocted as well.


Dave said...

I wish to make it clear that the rumour that I am going to stop blogging is entirely false.

Anonymous said...

So you mean Jemima Khan is NOT shagging Jeremy Clarkson after all?
But they're so right for each other.

Tim F said...

But Dave, is your affirmation of falseness to be believed?

I bet they've held hands, BWT.

The Poet Laura-eate said...

Interesting. Must all date back to the Coca Cola debacle in the 70 when they genuinely did change the recipe, people hated it, they had to change back but won astonishingly good PR in the process of listening to their customers, so what should have been a commercial disaster turned into a PR Trumph, and 'Coke Classic'.