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.