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Is there still (was there ever) no such thing as bad PR?

Is there still (was there ever) no such thing as bad PR?

Those responsible for various recent super injunctions might well be asking themselves this question.

And I suspect that a “certain Premiership football player” will have no doubt whatsoever that there is such a thing as bad PR.

There certainly appears to be such a thing as bad PR advice from lawyers. Social networks have made the law look like an ass. And super injunctions appear to have much in common with badly made terrorist bombs – as likely to blow up in their makers’ faces as to achieve their intended objective.

This topic has been covered extensively elsewhere and I wouldn’t normally have added to the noise, were it not for a blast from the past reminding me that there has always been such a thing as bad PR.

A famous* advertising creative bod from the early nineties appeared, retweeted, in my Twitter feed earlier today.

(*famous = big news in Toy Town)

And a brilliantly executed but poorly planned PR stunt by said creative came flooding back to me.

Back in the early nineties – I can’t remember which year – I attended the British Television Advertising Awards (BTAA) as the token BBH account manager on a table full of BBH creatives. An honour indeed.

It was a black tie dinner.

I think, but I can’t be sure, that Angus Deayton (oh the irony in the context of this post) was the master of ceremonies.

Awards dinner tradition dictates that most “creatives” do their best, within the boundaries set by a secret code of unwritten rules known only to them, to laterally interpret the definition of “black tie”.

But the blast-from-the-past, famous creative had gone a little further. He was not I hasten to add an employee of BBH.

The gongs at the BTAA come in the form of arrows. Gold, silver and bronze arrows.

And said famous creative had obviously been nominated in a number of categories and was clearly confident, overly confident as it turned out, of heading home with an Agincourt’s sufficiency of arrows.

His over-confidence had led him to eschew the lateral interpretation of black tie in favour of a beautifully made Lincoln green Robin Hood outfit, complete with an empty quiver to hold the anticipated clutch of awards.

He looked like a tool.

Those that knew him (I didn’t) reckoned that this was entirely in character.

Everybody, and I mean everybody, the great and the good of the London advertising scene, was laughing at him. Most behind his back. Some to his face.

No-one was laughing with him.

And he won fuck all.

The best part of twenty years later when his name appeared on Twitter this was the crystal clear, spontaneous and indelible association that it called to mind. His “clever” PR stunt has forever branded him as an idiot.

When highly memorable, negative episodes like this become indelibly associated with a brand or a person, there most definitely is, and there most definitely always has been, such a thing as bad PR.

Ask Cheryl Cole.

Also known as “That Brit singer that got fired from American X-Factor before it even started.”

For someone who has been looking to build a career in the States, I struggle to see a “no such thing as bad PR” angle to that particular story. Or am I wrong?

Although I guess it could have been worse…


  1. Nice post, Phil. (That guy does sound like an eejit!)

    The phrase “there is no such thing as bad PR” is one of these stupid throw away lines that usually appears in the red tops, attributed to some two-bit media pundit who’s been called to comment on whether the latest celebrity scandal will harm said celebrity’s television career / advertising campaign.

    It’s one of those lines that stuck in public consciousness and is frankly bollocks.

    Take it from someone who’s spent a significant portion of their career doing their damnedest to their keep client’s bad news out of the press, or managing the fallout when a bad news story is unavoidable.

    P.S. “heading home with an Agincourt’s sufficiency of arrows.” < Great line!! 😉


  2. As Allan says, more often than not it’s the amateurs who say there’s no such thing as bad PR because they’re coming from the mistaken belief that “well, if they’re talking about you, then that must be good yeah?”

    If you’re in it for the long haul, there can very much be bad PR.

    But having said that, in this digital age, while there can be bad PR there’s never been quicker or better ways of fixing that via Twitter, blogging, reaching out online and so on.

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