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PR’s Alive?! April 6, 2014

Posted by normanmonkey in Consumer PR, Media.
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flash25smThe spirit of Francis Fukuyama (now there’s a name to say after a few drinks) was summoned this week with Robert Phillips’ PR Week article entitled ‘PR is dead: Public leadership is the future‘.

After the collapse of the Iron Curtain Fukuyama famously wrote a thesis in 1992 called The End of History, not foreseeing among other things: the Balkan conflict, 9/11 and Al-Qaeda, the global financial collapse, the rebirth of Russia as an economic and military power, the tyranny of quinoa and David Moyes. And as anyone who has ever watched a Hollywood horror film will know, declaring the end or death of anything without a certificate inevitably leads to a pair of zombie hands round the throat to open the door for a lucrative franchise.

So I came into work last week expecting an eerie silence, Maddie the receptionist sobbing into a Kleenex and to be handed my P45 by a solemn faced usher as I surveyed the windswept debris of a PR agency that had been singing, dancing and telling jokes only the day before. Not so. We were alive. Rejoice.

Now there is much to laud in the article. PR, laden with many human character traits, does tend to follow the buck. Too much CSR is flawed or tokenistic. Lots of the food that is marketed as healthy is quite the opposite (low fat usually means high sugar and don’t even start me on Omega 3 bread) and so on. But PR is also about forming an argument, debate, building communities and battling it out across media and social networks and direct to consumers. That applies to anything from GM crops, the fifth runway to your choice of soap powder.

However Robert argues that this is not enough. Engagement should be replaced by public leadership and should address societal needs. This same argument has notably been applied before not only to PR but to everything from literature to pop music and, of course, politics (where his argument definitely applies, as this is an area that now consistently follows rather than leads).

We are not only dead but ‘broken’, ‘tired’ and ‘bloated’. That is a broad brush stroke that doesn’t make any exception or allow any give. Especially as every day I see work and ideas that are creative, original, bold and invariably delivered with wit and warmth.

So where does this leave the world of consumer PR that many of us work in? Consumers are pretty good judges of what they like and they vote not only with their money but their heads. It also assumes that those of us working in these fields will peddle whatever message pays the best rates and that’s simply not true. It’s in our interests to give the best advice and stop a client aiming a gun at their own foot as we’ll a) have to clear up the mess and b) get the blame for not seizing the firearm.

Will we see Hob Nobs with a conscience, organic-only Asdas or the Avon Lady quoting Antonio Gramsci on her rounds? I doubt it. Why not? Because consumers will go elsewhere to brands they can relate to and delivers them the best value. That is the flip side of progressive capitalism – you can’t enforce an argument for social change, only deliver it. People make the final decision. Businesses are free to embrace radical change but they can also go bust.

Ultimately, there are different schools and practices of PR serving different needs – all listening and responding to consumers. Sometimes PR is just about being maverick, entertaining and disruptive because that’s what excites many audiences and makes brands stand out. Paddy Power can shock at times but then it can also use its power of reach and influence to pull Rainbow Laces out of the hat when it wants. One example of many.

So is PR dead? Well, if it isn’t then Robert’s headline certainly made good copy, grabbed everyone’s attention and ignited a debate. That in itself is good old-fashioned PR, so in declaring it dead it’s safe to assume that PR is alive and kicking after all.

Osama Bin Llama: rebranding al-Queda May 4, 2012

Posted by normanmonkey in Consumer PR, In the news.
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osama

Documents seized by U.S authorities in the raid on Osama Bin Laden’s hideout and just released reveal the global terror chief was planning a change of name and strategic approach for al-Queda’s ‘tarnished’ image. This attempt to regain popularity in the Islaamic world was cut short by a bullet to the head after his position was located, but among the papers seized was a pitch documents from a leading London creative agency with ideas on how to rebrand al-Queda for a wider consumer audience.

For the the first time, we can reveal the agency document Osama had received and signed off (pending approval by al-Queda’s procurement department):

Our Platform: 9/11 is soooo over!

There’s a recession on. Budgets are down. People are tightening their suicide belts. Long gone are the  days of demolishing landmarks of US imperialism on home soil for a TV spectacular. Instead it’s all about engagement, going digital, a softer approach and collaboration with cooler third-parties than the Saudis.

And yes, we signed the confidentiality agreement. The absolute sensitivity you kept repeating re. this brief was highly stressed to Alice, our nine-year old intern.

The Stella McCartney Suicide Belt

Lets look first at one of your iconic pieces of attire. We say it’s time for a bit of reinterpretation: no one wants to be seen dead wearing something so cumbersome and bricky. Look at the design! There’s no give and it’s not in tune with modern metrosexual needs. No wonder recruitment is down!

That’s why we’ve got Stella on board to add her flair to the ultimate jihadist accessory: the limited-edition Stella 100 suicide belt, made entirely from ethically-sourced materials.

Stella has spent six months and several hundred thousand pounds taking her inspiration from Afghan rug patterns to come up with a design that is an Afghan rug pattern (We were fanning ourselves too! How DOES she do it). The suicide belt comes with an iPhone pouch, hidden make-up kit, bottled water holder and a panic button (just in case someone has a last minute change of heart and wants to be saved – cute!).

We’ve also noted from our research your old style belts tended to come apart after being worn once out on the town. What are we, Primark? So Stella has come up with a much more durable design that can be worn right through the season. This reaffirms your sustainability, ethical and premium credentials.

The Tora Bora Pop-Up Restaurant 

Pop-up is back and badder than ever before! In homage to your years spent in hiding in a mountain wilderness, we’ll create a one-week only Tora Bora dining experience by dumping  2,000 tonnes of rocks on a group of creatives and food, style and fashion writers in Shoreditch (Potters Bar is already booked up by the Zionists that week for their Seven Day War reenactment) for an experiential campaign to celebrate those glory years.

Teaming up with food alchemists Bompas and Parr we’ll serve a heritage menu of edible dirt and shrapnel, served in the dark. For an extra £50k the digital guys have put their heads together and come up with a plan to seed out a live stream to ‘share the darkness’.

If any journalist, blogger or consumer attempts to make a phone call, Facebook status update, tweet or speaks, cries or moves we cluster bomb the entire Shoreditch area. Again, we think this will be for great viral content and potentially a record number of Facebook ‘likes’ – which is what it’s ALL about in 2012!

Float an Iceburqa Down the Thames

Everyone loves ice sculptures, right. What is a PR campaign without one! That;s why we are going to float a giant burqa down the Thames with a giant Jihadist clinging onto it all the way up to Parliament. This is our way of saying: watch out, we are coming to get you.

We’ve also arranged with our Cult-cha team a post-stunt event:  the iconic iceburqa to be transported to uber cool gallery White Cube to be turned into ice cubes at an Osama video retrospective attended by Sadie Frost, Peaches Geldolf, Rhys Ifans, Geoff Hurst, Normski, ex-cast members of TOWIE and Dean Gaffney.

Content distribution and social media strategy

For a global terrorist network no one is going to take you seriously if you keep seeding out your updates via a single VHS video tape. While we admire the 80’s retro approach, lets give it a makeover. Kelly Hoppen is going to reinterpret your rock interiors to make the backdrop a bit more ‘shi-shi’ to appeal to a wider female and gay-friendly audience. On that note, lose the beard.

The Digital Guys have created their own social platform so you can engage with your followers: Faceburqa. A place where al-Queda members and Jihadists can catch-up, talk about their future plans in a secure area, share anti-Zionist material, farewell videos, Instagram pics of their hideouts, Spotify track listings and Farmville updates.

Osama Bin Llama

Everyone knows you for that long beard. Sooo 2001. Hairy is out, furry is in.  That’s why the guys in planning set about giving your organisation a quirky, cute, friendly face that will engage with adults and children alike: Osama Bin Llama.

For reasons we can’t explain but will justify later when we come to write our awards entry, we’ve created an animated Llama with a Peruvian accent who shares your quirky view on overthrowing Christian-Zionist occupation of the holy lands, but in a much more cheery, engaging manner.

Giles in our ‘Creative Lab’ has also stipulated that Osama likes golf, Angel Delight, watching Eastenders and drives a Smart Car. We did ask him why exactly and Giles stripped to his pants, doused himself in latte which he threatened to light and screamed ‘BECAUSE HE DOES!’ before going into a rocking foetal position under our fussball table. That’s good enough for us. Such. A Genius.

Budgets and KPIs

Budgets are attached but only a ballpark figure to the nearest million. KPIs will be discussed upon appointment.

Confidentiality and speak soon!

So as you’ve probably gathered we are phasing you out in the rebrand. While you’ve stressed confidentiality and we are given to believe this is a sensitive issue on your part. Your secret is safe with us and we haven’t spoke to anyone about this brief outside our all-agency meetings and client meetings.

However, we must also stress that we have spent a lot of time on this and are sensitive about these ideas being shared. Given these ideas and creative approaches are utterly unique and we take our genius very seriously we have also CC’d in a number of governmental and legal departments to enusre that should you undertake them independently.

Ma’a salama!

Norman Monkey The Brand January 12, 2011

Posted by normanmonkey in Consumer PR.
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If only I could apply the same determination, dediciation and focus to my personal life as I do in my professional (which has of late, it must be conceded, not permitted for much of a personal life), then I’d be Aristotle Onassis. I’d also not be awaiting a letter from the DVLA informing me how much I owe for not paying my road tax and I’d also have a white carpet that, thanks to red wine, didn’t look like the Marquis de Sade’s bed sheet.

PR is all about problem solving. Make something famous, talked about, loved, even if it’s inferior to what else is on the market. My god, if I knew the answer to that I wouldn’t have been reduced to signing up to Match.com in the summer. On occasion, such as this evening, there is cause for an ebullient mood because I believe I may have cracked a very difficult brief. On other occasions problem solving often comes about from creating a problem that didn’t before exist and selling the problem in at the same time as the solution (lets call that the smallpox vaccination approach to marketing – the brand giveth the pox and the brand taketh away).  Then there’s the other times where a client has a genuine problem, mired in the shit, and it’s your job to work out how to extricate them if not smelling of roses, then almost certainly not smelling of shit.

So far I am managing to make a living out of this, but it is starting to occur to me that maybe I should hire myself as a client because outside the office I am dans le merde (is that even correct?). It’s the only logical solution to get myself out of the constant minefield of buff envelopes, ex-girlfriends who complained about my lack of free time (Village East and QPR and the post-trauma and fatigue of both is as much a factor as anything work related) and red wine stains that set in.  It’s only a matter of time that I spill red wine on the unopened buff envelopes containing despairing complaints from exes that I compound all my flaws in one.

If I were a client I may suggest a total overhaul in my comms strategy and make myself more accessible. Answering the phone, let alone being available for face to face interaction would be a start. Another would be to open the aforementioned buff envelopes. Early on in the proceedings the DVLA were sending me polite reminders but now there’s an angry red aspect to their communications and by which time its all too late to pick up the hints (the awkward irony should not be lost that I also lead campaigns for a leading motor brand reminding other drivers of exactly this kind of thing). As for the red wine it’s all about spatial awareness in as much as remembering firstly not to place a full bottle of Barolo on the carpet and secondly not to knock it flying whilst dancing like a tool to Bowie of a Friday night. If I had the budget, there;s definitely the case for a total brand overhaul and some third party partnerships with mineral water, the V&A and football teams that haven’t gone 11 years without a win in the FA Cup.

It was also revealed at work today whilst exercising my professional capacity into purchasing behaviour (people don’t want to be observed purchasing the cheapest if in aspirational surroundings)  that even though I required a white wine to remove the red stain I steadfastly refused to be seen buying a bottle of Blossom Hill white wine in Sainsbury’s in Cobham. At least, when everything else is unravelling due to my own ineptitude, its surely reassuring to know that I still have principles that are upheld. Even a stained carpet deserves to be doused with a bit of the good stuff and I was happy to help out with the leftovers.

A sentiment enough to send a sensitive soul to Beachey Head