An insider’s eye on the murky, surprising, funny and sometimes shocking history of the fame industry

Fame Formula Update

Mark My Words » Little Red Lines

Posted 4 days ago

Snatching defeat from the jaws of victory. This is how shadow chancellor John McDonnell’s whipping out of Mao’s Little Red Book went down in the Commons yesterday. Critics, on both sides of the house, have lambasted the former backbench romper stomper for quoting from a genocidal dictator. McDonnell argues this “flamboyant gesture” was required to cut through the Osbornomic noise and get a point out about the sale of public assets to foreign buyers, including the Chinese (“Maoist”) government. The assumption is that publicity –whatever the controversial means applied- is self-justifying. Is he right? Amazon provides a case for the defence. To promote their latest series The Man in the High Castle, an adaptation of Philip K. Dick’s alternate history that imagines a totalitarian America in the shadows of the Axis victory of WW2, the online retailer turned film production behemoth decked out Nazi-style banners in a number of New … [Link]

Mark My Words » You can’t get better than a PR quickie

Posted 10 days ago

The formula for the Christmas Ad is out and even PRs are having a go. John Lewis’s Man on the Moon and Sainsbury’s Mog the Cat may have been beamed out into the national conversation courtesy of big budgets, social media overkill and appearing on platforms that still demand attention; but a bundle of Christmas-themed videos released online by every brand under the grey clouds shows that you don’t need the budget of an Oscar-bait film to tap into the seasonal magic. Kwik Fit’s winter safety check campaign is proof in point that PR “content” is moving further into terrains previously occupied by advertisers and the media. Christmas Surprise, dreamed up by Taylor Herring and put together by production company London Us, shows several dull family trips to the garage schmaltzed up by the discovery that Father Christmas also needs to ensure that his Dasher lights are working and that … [Link]

Mark My Words » TV Adverts

Posted 18 days ago

From the infuriatingly catchy to the plain bizarre Mark joins Adrian Chiles on Five Live to discuss the value of TV adverts- past and present. Alongside branding guru Robert Bean and Go Compare’s opera singer Wynne Evans Mark explores how, from Andrex to John Lewis, classic TV ads inject a brand into our cultural bloodstream. He also ponders whether, in an age of digital engagement, there is much life left in traditional formats. [Link]

Mark My Words » A World without PR

Posted 3 weeks ago

In this month’s PR Week I ask what a World without PR would look like and basically imagine myself out of existence….. [Link]

Mark My Words » Dreaming of Christmas 2016

Posted 3 weeks ago

You could power much of the national grid on the hype that’s been fissioning on social media. We’ve been drip fed on teasers and speculation has been rife. It isn’t a new Star Wars or Bond. It’s November 2016 and we’re watching the latest John Lewis Christmas ad. Could it possibly top the previous year’s much lauded television event? Since its broadcast Man on the Moon went on to become an award winning classic. Lewis saw an 18% rise in telescope sales and even Labour leader Jeremy Corbyn, who bears some resemblance to the grizzled and lonely lunar figure, saw a significant, if short-lived, bounce in his poll rating. The magic of John Lewis cannot be reduced to a simple formula. But it would be fair to concede that the 2016 contribution to the cannon was comfortingly familiar. An adorably toothless child in a well-furnished house befriends a fantasy figure … [Link]

Mark My Words » Corbyn and the PewDiePie effect

Posted 5 weeks ago

“Once the press officer becomes the story, it is the end of the press officer.” This was the verdict of one of David Cameron’s inner circle on Andy Coulson. For Seamus Milne the knives were out from day one. Jeremy Corbyn’s new PR chief- branded “fascist” and “odious” on Twitter and treated as “a man with questionable views” on Newsnight- started his job by spinning his own appointment. Milne’s problem, however, isn’t what he is. In the real world he’s hardly a household name and, being an Oxford PPE man with spells at the Economist and Guardian, his CV is more Walter Bagehot than Lavrentiy Beria. Rather, his problem is what he isn’t; namely, Andy Coulson. Leaving aside what we know now, Cameron’s decision to recruit Coulson was one of his deftest moves. The former tabloid editor hails from an estate that is council rather than country. Coulson was able … [Link]

Mark My Words » What our stunts say about us

Posted 7 weeks ago

Last week an eloquent appeal was made by Mark Perkins to all London PRs: stop floating things down the Thames. He reminds us (given how forgettable they all are) that this year our murky waterway has been invaded by an armada of houses, apocalyptic horsemen, lottery balls, melted ice caps- to name a few. In a talk I presented this week to an audience of senior communications and marketing directors I described these stunts as a prime example of ideaporn: interventions for the sake of being interventions, existing simply because everyone else is doing it. One explanation for the rise in stunts of this kind is the growing lack of confidence in how to deploy effective PR. For many the stunt isn’t about the brand or the story but is an opportunity by integrated marketers to charge higher fees. An interesting point that Perkins touches on is that the current … [Link]

Mark My Words » Radically Dull

Posted 8 weeks ago

The commentariat are baffled by Jeremy Corbyn. He does the unthinkable of giving straight answers to hypothetical questions. He can be pictured with a large marrow and not look ridiculous. So infuriated was Eamonn Holmes by Corbyn’s lack of sartorial concern that the Sky presenter gave up on sentences and reverting to a state of spluttering apoplexy. For all the talk of spin in Team Corbyn their man’s great achievement is perfecting the charm of dullness. This week we were reminded by the publication of the Dull Men of Great Britain that dullness is quite a different shade of grey to boring. These figures, like Corbyn, shroud their rejection of certain norms under the guise of mild manners and dandruff-shouldered dishevelment. Featured dullards like John Potter, 60, who spends his time compiling the European Rail Timetable, or Michael Kennedy, 73, who spends two hours every day (except Saturdays) moving rocks … [Link]

Mark My Words » Dawn of the Red

Posted 10 weeks ago

In the early hours of Monday the undead corpse of old Labour was seen walking across Westminster Bridge. The zombie being harangued by a small cohort of junior journalists was the newly elected Labour leader Jeremy Corbyn. Over the summer a virus known as Corbynmania spread through disaffected members of the public. Alarmist rumours of undead socialism sharpening its clause (all four of them) on the imaginations of thousands developed into an all-out bloodbath for the Blairites. Burnhamites and token moderates were saved- presumably to be sacrificed at a later date. Cries of “They’re coming to get you Tony” sent the former PM into panic mode. It turned out the zombie tag was more than just a headline; it captured the tone of Corbyn’s first two days. The refusal to join in with God Save the Queen at a WW2 memorial service on Tuesday –anthem anathema!- may have been principled … [Link]