Thursday, 18 February 2010

Max ‘Marmite’ Clifford, by Trevor Morris Visiting Professor of Public Relations, University of Westminster

Fireworks on Monday night at a panel debate entitled ‘Celebrity Brands – Desire, Dollars and Danger?’ held at the Regent Street Campus of the University of Westminster and with a bustling drinks reception hosted by the PRCA.

A sell out audience of 350 people saw Max Clifford prove he is Mr Marmite.
Clifford polarised the audience by taking several phone calls whilst on stage –he claimed one was from Simon Cowell, though some think it was a classic Clifford set up. When criticised from the floor for his ‘rudeness’ Clifford replied along the lines of ‘I’m not being paid for this, but my clients pay me a lot of money.’

Also on the panel, and not being paid but not on the phone, were ad guru Trevor Beattie, Julian Linley, former editor of Heat, me as chair, and PR guru Mark Borkowski. Max Marmite seemed determined to try and wind up Mark. He claimed that celebrities ‘get me - or if they can’t afford me, then they’ll get someone like Mark.’ Mark’s response was to say that he would refuse Clifford’s clients, preferring to represent people with real talent.

When the audience weren’t being told by Max Marmite what big egos celebrities have, they were treated to a discussion of whether celebrities have actually made us more socially tolerant or simply given the false impression that anyone can become rich - this at a time when the gap between the rich and poor is getting wider.

The rather exotic Shelley von Strunckel asked if our obsession with celebrity was filling in the gap left by the decline in religion. The panel thought not, saying celebrity had always been with us and always would be.

Perhaps the most worrying point raised was about the increasing celebrification of politics, with the most recent fashion being for public emoting.

And perhaps the most astute observation was that Max Marmite is now a bigger celebrity than some of his clients.

Monday, 1 February 2010

Actions Speak Louder Than Words

Well, we put our money where our mouth was. We intervened against the NLA.

For a good eighteen months now, their plans to start taxing the receipt and forwarding of URLs have caused a row, with words being traded, meetings held, 'consultations' undertaken. The end result? They ploughed ahead pretty much regardless.

Last week in PR Week, NLA MD David Pugh had a little go at us. He said we'd not taken part in his 'consultation'. And he said we'd 'gestured from the touchlines'.

Let's put aside the fact that on the nine occasions when he and I met formally, we were clear and consistent in our opposition to his plans. And the fact that we facilitated him meeting direct with our members to learn their views. Both of which in my view make it pretty clear that we took part in his consultation. If 'consultation' is the right word.

Well, if were were ever on it, we are certainly now OFF the touchline. We're on the field, intervening in defence of the right to link to content freely made available already by the publishers. On the field, and ready -to continue David's theme- to scrum down.

And the reason why is simple. The NLA's plans have no basis in law in our view; are unreasonable; are restrictive. Actually, are self-defeating for a newspaper model built on the work of PR professionals, and centred on advertising.

All of these points were made clear to the NLA when they asked their questions. They just happened not to like the answers they received. So now we end up in the Tribunal.... Engage!