The recent commentary about the utterly awful Coles ‘Downtown’ campaign certainly has displayed Social Media at its best (worst). The whole debacle is a classic example of how PR firms are able to put a positive spin on anything, even a negative campaign against Coles by, well, people. For those who don’t know, the ad features a pile of celebrity chefs, singing Downtown so out of tune and off key that Petula Clark would be spinning in her grave if she was dead. As it is, if she heard the song she might wish she was dead. Typically Facebook pages have been established to complain about the ads, but people who start complaint pages on sites such as Facebook aren't social media 'experts', such as those at PR companies, so they don't know what they're talking about. Or so we’re told, by the experts themselves, who decry anyone using the same tools that they use - if you're not working for a PR firm then you simply do not know what you're doing and shouldn't be using sites such as Facebook, Twitter, GoogleBuzz or the like.
As if any, and I mean ANY, PR firm is going to feedback anything negative to a major client such as Coles. Or Telstra. In those cases what the client is told that as long as people are talking about the brand, then it’s a plus. It’s the Oscar Wilde syndrome: “The only thing worse than being talked about is not being talked about.” Indeed the official word from the head of Coles PR, in response to the negative campaign is, "The fact is that we have created a fun campaign that people are talking about and if that's the case then it's a good ad." Proof and pudding anyone? You can hate me all you want, just keep my name and brand in the public eye. There is no bad publicity other than no publicity. If you think I’m joking just look at how Curtis Stone and his $10 dinner deals, that in reality cost around $30+ each, was spun. Once the ACCC published the fact that, to make any of the meals you'd be spending far more than $10, Coles replied that the core ingredients only cost under $10, the rest is assumed that you already have, such as fresh herbs, and the meat was usually the lowest grade cat food mixed with pig fat and sawdust mince that was on sale that week. We tried one of the Stone Under $10 Dinners once – it was lovely, and all up, to buy everything, from Coles, that was on the card, it cost me $35. Hardly under $10, or perhaps Curtis is so rich now he’s forgotten what $10 looks like.
"Bash it, Curtis."
Woolies was the winner there, dragging out the original celebrity chef, Margaret Fulton, to whip out some of her own cheapie recipes - just when we all thought Maggie was dead too, here she comes, like Oliver Cromwell, riding over the bridge to show that whippersnapper how things are really done. It's times like these that I wish Bernard King was still around, if only to tell a lot of those 'celebrity chefs' to simply get stuffed. Imagine Masterchef with Bernard? That'd be a ratings killer - and they could use ole Ernie Sigley as the host.
"This shit costs $10 alone!"
I’m not a fan of social media ‘experts’ if only because they push their own barrel. I find I can’t even have a conversation with them anymore as they tend to want to sell me something – ANYTHING. And I’m not really buying. Plus they’re worse than University philosophy students in that they firmly believe that if you’re not one of them, then you have no idea what you’re talking about. The truth is that any PR company worth its salt can put a positive spin on anything – hell, if Hitler was alive and working today he’d have a pile of PR companies all over the world telling everyone what a good guy he really is, and how he’s just trying to unite Europe. And therein lies the key – PR companies are whores – they’ll sell anything, fiddle with the figures, spin more than Senna did in the wet and basically ignore anything that goes against what they say. Goering would be proud of some of the people I know who work for PR firms these days.
I’d rather some companies spend less on a firm telling me how good they are and a bit more on things such as, ooooohhhh, customer service perhaps?