When Is Bad Publicity Good Publicity?

Posted filed under Advertising, Broadcast, crisis management, Marketing, Media, Media Relations, Other.

Any publicity is good publicity.  Those of us in the PR and marketing industry, and several individuals and companies, would disagree.  Ask the CEO who can no longer get a job for insider trading or the attorney who had to move to another state, just to get a job.

You could also ask Jesse James how his motorcycles have been selling this year.

Often, however, there is one industry that seems to be able to walk this fine line, and walk it well.  In the entertainment industry, it seems that the more “bad” PR a television program, film or celebrity generates, the more the media covers it and the more we want to see it for ourselves.

This morning, I couldn’t help but consider this when CNN covered the new MTV series “Skins.” The story concerned the Parents Television Council’s appeal to Congress that the show is too racy and borders on violating laws in the scenes it shows with minors.

The result so far?  Taco Bell has pulled it’s advertising from the show.

Here’s the issue with your claim, PTC: you probably just did more for “Skins” than MTV’s marketing budget has done in the past two months.  “Skins” has been marketed as a racy show on a network already known for pushing the envelope for and with teens.

Who wants to bet that all of this publicity in TV Guide and the New York Times about “Skins” being “bad for teens” makes more teens tune-in to the next episode?  I, for one, would put money on it.  When you tell a teenager that they shouldn’t watch something, chances are that they will want to watch it more now than they ever did before.  Often, controversy just raises awareness, which is the exact opposite of the PTC’s goal in this case.

Will MTV tone it down now?  Maybe a little.  MTV faced a similar controversy two years ago with the launch of it’s current hit “Jersey Shore.” The result of that controversy?  “Jersey Shore” is now a pop culture phenomenon.

I may not be a teenager anymore, but I will admit that “Skins” is sitting on my DVR unwatched.  Now, after all the media coverage, you can bet I will find time to watch it.

This wonderful post was written by

Andrea Bogos Trapani is partner at Identity, responsible for the growth and management of the firm’s media relations and marketing practice area. Andrea specializes in public relations, media relations and marketing strategies.

10 comments
Meghan O'Brien Edwards
Meghan O'Brien Edwards

I think you brought up a great point, Leisa. As a parent, I believe it is my job to engage with my children on what they are watching and discuss what is good, or inappropriate, in the content. Granted, it's on a totally different level, but for toddlers to be watching cartoons in which the characters call each other names like "stupid" or "loser" (and FYI, that happens in episodes of Charlie Brown) it's important to be an active voice to your children on what is right and what is wrong. So maybe a message that could come out of the PTC's outrage is that it got parents more aware of the program. In that case, if the parents were like you, Leisa, and were able to start a dialogue with their kids about it, maybe to an extent, the PTC's concern was lifted a bit.

Eric Weidner
Eric Weidner

I agree that not all publicity is good publicity. In the entertainment world, yes, any publicity is GREAT publicity. Getting the names of artists, TV shows, and movies out in the open, whether having great things said or bad things said about it, helps that artist, show, or movie go further in sales and viewage. I never liked Eminem as a rap artist, I thought he was a cornt version of the homeless man who stands on the corner begging for change. But as reports and reviews disclosed how racy and border-line gritty he was with his music, it encouraged me and drew my fasination towards his music. I feel that publicity can be used in a number of ways. In some industries negative publicity works, and in others it just ruins the value of the product/service. If I was a plastic surgeon, I wouldn't want reports to get out that restalign was bad for skin, publicity like that can eventually ruin a business and in turn, close the doors.

Leisa
Leisa

I'm chiming in as the parent of two teens who watch Jersey and last night for the first time, Skins. The benefit of watching these shows together is that you can discuss how utterly stupid the people are. In my opinion, Skins was way over-advertised even before PTC- making the teens really want to watch. The show seemed very contrived and un-"real". Not impressed. Dueces!

Meghan O'Brien Edwards
Meghan O'Brien Edwards

Thank you for sharing your thoughts, Ashleigh. The PTC definitely needs to develop a new strategy for these kinds of issues. The more they speak out against something, the more press and generally, the more interest they raise. I think this presents a good case study on why every type of communication issue needs to be addressed on an individual basis. Sometimes we know that letting things die down makes the issue (and the interest) fade from the public faster. In this case, that may have been the way to go.

Ashleigh Chatel
Ashleigh Chatel

Unfortunately, I believe it’s true for this industry. Bad publicity seems to bode fairly well for the entertainment business. I am not a big TV watcher, but the more I hear about something (good or bad) it intrigues me. If anything the PTC could advocate against these messages since it seems this attention is counteractive.

Nikki Stephan
Nikki Stephan

Great feedback, Eric! Your Eminem example probably holds true for many people. You may not like something (such as a show or music artist), but the more attention it receives from the media/public, the more drawn you are to giving it your attention.

Nikki Stephan
Nikki Stephan

I agree with you. I really wish Jersey Shore would go away, though! :/

Ashleigh Chatel
Ashleigh Chatel

I agree, I think these shows may get the attention but how does that reflect on us? (not to get too philosophical) I don’t understand the reality obsession these days.

Nikki Stephan
Nikki Stephan

That's a good question. There's something about reality shows with a misfit factor that draw people in. I don't watch Skins or Jersey Shore, but I can think of a few times where I caught myself watching that Toddlers and Tiaras show on TLC. I think it's a horrible show and I would never put my daughter (if I had one) on display like that, yet it's a show that can easily suck you in because you're watching out of disbelief. Maybe that's the same case for people who do watch shows like Skins, but I think many are entertained by the drama and explicitness of these types of show..even if some of the reality shows are scripted. .

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