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

Fame Formula Update

Mark My Words » In praise of survival

Posted 29 hours ago

This month marks the last time a brand new VCR will roll off the conveyor belt of Funai Electric in Japan. It is 12 years since most major shops in the UK and Europe stopped selling VCRs, relegating their bulky tapes to ever-decreasing shelf space at the back of charity shops. Someone, somewhere was still buying them a decade after the technology’s death had been pronounced. In our headlong rush to embrace the new we’re too quick to write off the capacity of the predecessors to cling on. Just because something should be eclipsed it doesn’t mean it will be. Videos are no vinyl and the days of rewinding after viewing, spooling tape and opening up the back to blow out the dust are not greatly missed. Yet they survived for 40 years where DVDs and Blurays managed merely a decade before their sales started to fall thanks to online … [Link]

Mark My Words » The lie that won

Posted 11 days ago

The comedy is that David Cameron believed his own lie. The tragedy is, so did the rest of us. The Conservative victory at last year’s election sent shockwaves through the media and political establishments. When the dust had settled and the pollsters had been pilloried, it was all so obvious why the Tories had won- or, more precisely, why Labour had lost. The Conservatives had a clear economic message, supported by the business establishment. They had the backing of business leaders and the tacit support from international bodies such as the IMF. A vote for Labour was to risk the recovery. Pundits left and right bought into this analysis. The British public, we gathered, is risk-averse and listens to the experts. How wrong we were. What really happened in the 2015 election was something much more interesting. Lynton Crosby, who spearheaded the Conservative campaign, knew first and foremost that it’s … [Link]

Mark My Words » Experts be damned: on post-factual communication

Posted 3 weeks ago

‘Post-factual’ is a phrase we’ve been hearing a lot of lately. Once upon a time you would have been discredited for calling the Bank of England corrupt. Now –as Rafael Behr quotes in his Guardian long read autopsy of the remains of Remain- you can plaster it over a bus and the BBC will give you a free ride. Post-factual is identification politics- it means understanding what it’s like to “walk in my shoes”. As Tony Blair explained, those irritating factual outcomes – non-existence of WMDs, failure to exhaust viable alternative to combat- only tell half the story. We’ll never know just how hard it was on him. Then there’s Andrea Leadsom’s own dodgy dossier. Having misled the country over the prizes of Brexit it seems only appropriate that her application for No.10 comes laden with invented job titles and semantic promotions. What’s a pay grade between friends? PR too … [Link]

Mark My Words » Zen and the art of Cannes Lions

Posted 5 weeks ago

“What is this festival anyway?” asked a bemused Dave Grohl to an audience of star struck advertising folk. Few of the execs in the room –who had spent the last few days pickling their vital organs in Rosé- were in a fit state to respond. There are several ways of answering Dave’s question. Excess knows few limitations For many the festival is a marathon piss-up, circa 1987. You’d think Maggie was still clinging onto power and the referendum on the 23rd June was a vote to leave the Common Market. All those who sold their agencies for mega bucks pour out ‘the true story’ at 3am. One friend I spoke to, an old Cannes veteran who has recently gone teetotal, remarked on his surprise to discover that there are seven days of talks from business leaders and inspirational public figures. “Who knew?” Inevitably, those with most to learn do not … [Link]

Mark My Words » Brexit and the end of the general public

Posted 5 weeks ago

In PR we talk about reaching out and cutting through. We craft messaging that will engage that poised and docile mob we call ‘the public’. Well, if this morning’s result has shown us anything it’s that this pursuit is utter rubbish. Any illusion of commons threads that bind together our diverse country has given way to intractable division. Communicators speak of audiences as if they picture their publics as attentive theatre-goers sitting down to watch a show. In truth, they live in lead-encased silos through which no views contrary to their own will enter. Reason be damned. London overwhelmingly voted to stay in the EU. Of course it did. London is one of the world’s great cities, heaving with life, culture, ideas, talent. 48.1% of the country decided they’d had enough of that. The outcome is a repudiation -loud and clear- from the rest of England of the forces that … [Link]

Mark My Words » Outside the Referendum Bubble

Posted 6 weeks ago

“Lost for words”. This was how so many of us reacted to the senseless, brutal murder to MP Jo Cox. After a frenzied week of last ditch campaigning for the upcoming referendum the tragic event in Birstall has catapulted everything into miserable perspective. Only on Wednesday the Dumbish Armada was descending down the Thames. Even by the low standards of the tat that gets floated down our noxious waterway this was an eyesore. Nigel Farage, looking like a poor man’s Alan Partridge, had his Brexit love cruise gate-crashed by Geldof’s ragtag band of Kensington pirates. Between the mudslinging of nasty epithets and Dobi Gray songs a small dinghy, carrying two adults and two children, charted its way quietly through the chaos. It had a simple message emblazoned on a flag: “In”. At the time –with the foul-mouth Rat on one side and the Fisherman’s Friend on the other- this modest … [Link]

Mark My Words » Muhammad Ali: titan of the ring who invented a unique brand of showmanship

Posted 8 weeks ago

Muhammad Ali was a limitless divinity, touched by a tincture of madness. He was the showman beyond all showmen, conquering the decades with an all powerful chaos. When I was still in short trousers I witnessed his all consuming hype machine sweeping up all in his path. Nobody was immune to it: an intoxicating deity, an all powerful one man circus, beamed into our homes via a black and white analogue medium. What joy, what excitement. Ali was the enduring icon of my childhood: brash and ebullient, a heavyweight pugilist whose brilliance in the ring and bravado outside it made his face one of the most recognisable in the world. He distinguished himself as not only an unparalleled sporting genius; he also invented a unique electric showmanship, which conveyed a subliminal message to my future career path. Back in 2005 Borkowski promoted the World Sports Awards in the Royal Albert … [Link]

Mark My Words » A week of spin can’t save Top Gear from ratings slip

Posted 8 weeks ago

The spin and backtracking that have characterised Chris Evans’s steering of Top Gear have been more Downing Street press office than racing track. Last year it was “100% not true” that he was in line to fill Clarkson’s shoes; months later the BBC announced that they had signed him up for a three year stint. If the presenter’s people ever advised him against loose talk in the wake of this U-turn their caution wasn’t heeded. When pushed on ratings Evans stated that anything less than 5 million would be “disappointing”. Sunday night’s opening episode drew 4.4 million viewers. This still made the BBC Two show the most watched television of the evening- but this figure was a long way off the Clarkson-May-Hammond finale. Nevertheless Evans went on to hail the ratings as proving the show “a hit” and produced a figure of 5.6 million based on consolidated ratings that hadn’t … [Link]

Mark My Words » Jose Mourinho produced a PR masterclass to land his dream job at Manchester United

Posted 10 weeks ago

Jose Mourinho’s journey to Manchester United is the culmination of an impressive behind-the-scenes campaign of media manipulation. Assistant professors at Harvard Business School – where Sir Alex Ferguson has taught – would call it strategic positioning. It has been a masterclass in PR and playing between the lines. To read more: [Link]