America’s Got Talen…err…an Efficient and Highly-Paid Publicity Team!
In 2009, there are, like, five billion television channels. I know that I alone on my cable system have a channel called “LinkTV,” one named “Federal Tax Slide,” and even “Brigham Young University Television.” All of these channels, I assume, are offering content I am not watching, and they’re offering it twenty-four hours a day.
The number of newspapers with which I was unfamiliar was previously very high also, but these days there are only about nine newspapers left, so they’re all pretty recognizable. Newspapers, as you may recall, used to be prime places for PR firms to put positive spin on their clients’ current debacles. But now no one reads newspapers anymore, and the internet is often too slanty and biased. Public relations outlets, being smart folks, realized that no one was getting their messages anymore by newspaper, and only half the public was getting their content by website, since websites tend to cater to one side of the public or the other, and they figured out that they needed to find a new frontier for hyping clients.
It should be noted that television, of course, is no stranger to the PR spin. That’s one of the main reasons the televised press conference was invented, after all. But with so many channels, there are more opportunities for public relations managers to get into the ears of Hollywood creatives. The result is that a quick spin around the dial yields quite a bit of programming that seems on-the-level at first glance, but really is nothing more than a cover for a publicity agenda. Oh, you want a few examples on television right now? Well, since you asked, let’s note a few choice PR tactics witnessable on your cable dial now or in the past few days.
Trick #1: Go on a talk show and tell everyone that what they think about you is wrong. That’s precisely what Vogue editor Anna Wintour, purported great Satan of the publishing industry, did on Letterman this week. Wintour, who it’s widely believed was the basis for the antagonist of the novel and film The Devil Wears Prada, is currently being forced to promote the current documentary The September Issue. So how do you promote something when everyone thinks you’re an awful, awful person? You simply go on a talk show and address all the rumors, laugh about them and dismiss them. Then do something charming or cute or funny and all is forgiven. Wintour addressed the New York Times’ recent piece by Maureen Dowd, which portrayed the editor as an alien from District 9, a dominatrix and questioned her very humanity. Wintour came across as quirky and endearing, commenting on Letterman’s choice of socks and offering up some self-depracating humor toward herself. The fact that it felt forced, or that she likely went right back to screaming at interns the next morning, doesn’t matter. Crisis averted! Anna Wintour is cute, America! Now turn off the TV and go to bed remembering that!
Trick #2: Create a show based around yourself where you simply act like you’re not the terrible person everyone thinks you are. Not satisfied with doing a little “damage control” on a late night talk show, obnoxious NFL wide receiver Terrell Owens decided to go one better. He created a whole program around the fact that he is, in fact, not the pompous, insult-hurling diva he appears to be every Sunday on television, but rather is a sweet, klutzy joe looking for love! VH1’s The T.O. Show, which reeks of a PR firm getting their hooks into the channel’s head of programming, features the endearing foibles of a professional athlete who just can’t seem to find a nice girl to settle down with! You’ll see T.O. touring Niagara Falls! You’ll see T.O. having trouble with the accommodations at a too-small bed and breakfast! You’ll see T.O. going on a series of dates with hilarious results! You won’t see T.O. burning bridges one-by-one with every professional franchise in the NFL because he’s too difficult to work with, talking smack about his own teammates or turning on his own fan base. Oh, that T.O!
Trick #3: Just get a show, and then just be famous. Period. There is very little reason why Kim Kardashian is famous. And there is little reason why Kim Kardashian should be famous. But why is she more famous than she should be, outside of starring in a sex tape with a pop singer’s brother? Because of E!’s Keeping up with the Kardashians, which put Kim and her entire family out into the pop culture atmosphere. Keeping up with the Kardashians followed the exploits of not-famous Kim until she got famous, and also featured her sisters, who started out as even less famous, until they got sort of famous. Then Khloe and Kourtney Kardashian, Kim’s sisters, turned their not-much fame into sorta-fame when they clearly made enough money from Keeping up with the Kardashians to hire a publicity firm and agent who landed them Kourtney and Khloe Take Miami, another show about people named Kardashian that you are not, nor should you be, watching. These people are famous for nothing. And that’s not an exaggeration. They literally have never done anything worth being famous. They’re not actors, musicians, writers…they are just people who were born with a sister who got a little bit famous — by making a sex tape. But it’s working. The show’s on the air now. Be sure to not catch it!
As you can see, a little publicity goes a long way in the Hollywood machine. Are you an awful person? Or maybe you’re just someone who happens not to be on TV?Do you have millions of dollars at your disposal? The right publicist has a deal for you: buy your way into the public eye today. Because after all, everyone loves people who are on television. And with the magic of Hollywood, you can be whoever you want — a hilarious fashion editor, a clumsy bachelor, or the toast of Miami. Pony up that credit card and pick your persona, America.