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

Fame Formula Update

Mark My Words » The meaning of Cecil

Posted 26 hours ago

Cecil was not a lucky lion. First being named after the unreformed imperialist who invented the concentration camp; then to be slowly killed, skinned and decapitated; and finally, to become a meme of the moment and plundered worldwide –from stuffed toy makers to press offices groping for a current analogy. (See Patrick Kidd’s skewering of a recent press release that exploits various Cecil metaphors to sell a story about renewable energy. PRs, Kidd concludes, “have no pride anymore. Like Cecil”.) What are we to make of all the furore (not to mention the furoar of bad puns that quickly followed)? I posit three things that we’ve learned from Cecil. They come from nowhere Cecil strutted his last hakuna matata when he crossed paths with a bespectacled dentist from Minnesota. It was not as nature intended. Nearly a month later Walter Palmer was unprepared for the barrage of bile headed his … [Link]

Mark My Words » Mudslinging on twitter

Posted 8 days ago

She is considered the most influential female rapper of all time. He is has less sheen than a dog-eared copy of The Ragged Trouser Philanthropists. But it turns out that Nicki Minaj and the Labour leader hopeful Jeremy Corbyn have one thing in common. Both have shown this week that twitter thrives on good old mudslinging. For Minaj it was personal. What started with a tweet about the exclusion of her video from the VMAs turned into a frosty exchange that dangled racial and gender issues above a fan-charged pressure cooker. The intervention of Taylor Swift demonstrated the ego of she-who-brought-Apple-to-its-knees, and PoVs offered from Katy Perry to Piers Morgan ensured that this (non)issue spread out from social to old media – and back again. But despite invoking sensitive themes the end result was a mélange of misunderstanding. Rather than functioning as a forum for exploring points of view twitter … [Link]

Mark My Words » So Farah, not so good Freuds

Posted 10 days ago

The agency faces a formidable challenge fighting the wildfire of speculation surrounding the Olympic athlete since a Panorama investigation was aired. Read the opening paragraphs of athlete Mo Farah’s Wikipedia page and you’ll be confronted bya roll call of records sufficient to fill the sports category of several Trivial Pursuit decks. But amid the distances smashed and gongs awarded the only section of the page that matters now is a four-line paragraph headed ‘BBC Panorama investigation’. Having become ensnared in the doping speculation surrounding his coach Alberto Salazar, Farah has learned the only fact worth knowing for the hounded luminaries of our public life: forget the facts – the story is king. After further ‘revelations’ about missed drugs tests, Farah spent the past few weeks lying low and lagged behind the speculative race to “the truth”. In the post-Lance Armstrong world the only truth that papers want to print is … [Link]

Mark My Words » Cannes Lions – the sober reality

Posted 10 days ago

Sex and death. “Two things that come once in my lifetime,” quipped Woody Allen. At this year’s Cannes Lions both happened- and that was just on the Croisette. The fatal car accident involving a Google executive and Twitter’s gleeful smuttering over a couple caught eloping on the red carpet after one too many melon balls overshadowed much of the creative powwow that is this Mad Men sur-la-mer. Rather than appealing to Woody’s aforementioned corporeals, many of the wares on display aspired to a higher kind of social purpose. To follow the festival on twitter is to be removed from the backslapping delirium and to experience the hype–from the highfalutin to the just plain stupid- through a glass empty. From a Bedouin-chic tent off the promenade a tweet proclaiming that brands can make the world a better place and agencies can inspire social movements might make sense. To rest of the … [Link]

Mark My Words » Flacked Off

Posted 15 days ago

What do you get when you pack a room full of PR folk and journalists – with the former outnumbering the latter 4 to 1? The result is less a confident face-off and more a joint session in existential angst interspersed by the occasional bout of mutual backslapping. Such was ‘Hacks V Flacks’, an event organised by PR Moment earlier this week. The gathering was eye-opening to us insiders – and, I suspect, eye-closing to anybody else. Rather than reflecting on the big issues pulling at the contours of our mediascape – the sucking up of old media by the new through Twitter’s Lightening and Facebook News, the application of virtual reality to new broadcast possibilities, the imminent conquest of radio by a certain fruit -branded app – we talked about whether it’s better to email contacts or catch them on the phone. No one cares about history. But if … [Link]

Mark My Words » PR stunt hubris and the Paddy Factor

Posted 3 weeks ago

It’s night-time. Toxic plumes are being pumped out of industrial chimneys. An image of a crying child cuts through the smoke-smeared sky. Surreal, disturbing, it’s like a batman signal for help from a beleaguered mother earth. After this haunting spectre of aerial gas chambers a logo and web address appear. It is an advert for an air purifier by the company Xao Zhu. After a few hours the factory that was inadvertently providing the novelty backdrop for Xao Zhu’s projection put a halt to this eerie open air screening. Outdoor advertising -the oldest medium in the book- brings an aura of the real to a campaign’s digital afterlife. Through Xao Zhu’s own channels the smog babies gained over 17 million views and scored $3.1m in media coverage. In a country where thousands of deaths can be traced to airborne contaminants the Chinese company’s intervention is a shining ray of worthy … [Link]

Mark My Words » It was true at the time: does it matter that yesterday Chris Evans was lying and today he is telling the truth?

Posted 6 weeks ago

Last Autumn it was ‘100% not true’. This Spring it was ‘absolute nonsense’. On Tuesday the BBC announced that Chris Evans had signed up for a three year stint as Top Gear presenter. Like conkers and daffodils in Summertime, the veracity of past statements becomes irrelevant in the time-space continuum of our mediascape. Evans, the Beeb’s resident man for all seasons, has always been the obvious choice to replace Clarkson. 3.7 million watched his one-off TFI Friday special — a reboot that in retrospect was a test drive for Top Gear. But surely he did himself no favours by not mincing his denials in the previous months? His first acknowledgment of his new gig conspicuously avoided any reference to past protestations and, in light of the U-turn, his pledge that ‘NO I’m not leaving Radio 2’ must be of little comfort to the successful breakfast show’s producers. We now know … [Link]

Mark My Words » Merlin, PR wizard

Posted 6 weeks ago

“You’ll forgive me if I’m not really focussing on the share price at the moment” said Nick Varney, shooting down Kay Burley’s ambulance chasing questioning. It is the Sky News interviewer, not the Merlin Entertainment CEO, who is now feeling the heat. More interrogation than interview, Burley’s aggressive approach has generated more than 1,000 complaints to Ofcom and calls –from tweeters to online campaign sites- for the presenter to be sacked. None of this is overlooking the fact that Merlin has questions to answer following the tragic collision of carriages on the Smiler roller-coaster. 16 were injured, 4 badly. A 17 year old girl lost a leg. The emergency services weren’t contacted immediately and the protocols for dealing with the accident were initially less than seamless. It could have been worse but given Alton Towers’ glowing safety record the incident was undoubtedly the biggest test the group’s CEO had ever … [Link]

Mark My Words » Battered

Posted 8 weeks ago

Twin US and Swiss investigations. A fall out with UEFA‘s chief. Excoriating editorials. Calls to resign from Prince William to Rod Stewart. Major brands threatening to withdraw their sponsorship. But what really convinced Blatter to call time on his FIFA presidency? Last week it seemed like he’d managed to pull one over on America’s long-armed law and Britain’s foul-mouthed press, and cling onto power like a true Mugabe of the sporting world. Tuesday’s resignation –dubbed blatter late than never- represented the thickening of a plot already as dense as a platinum-plated Chuck Blazer. Whether or not the FBI has something on Blatter – purely hypothetical, too early to tell, etc etc- we shouldn’t forget that it remains the same organisation that voted for Blatter… five times. The complexity of FIFA has not been simplified by Blexit. The accusation by Blatter’s defenders of a Euro-American coup against the rest of the … [Link]