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7 June 19

Weekly Media Trends (7 June 19)

Trends > 7 June 19

Borkowski Weekly Media Trends: #TrumpStuntWatch | Tory leadership | Raheem Sterling blunder | Champions League streaker

Borkowski Weekly Media Trends

Donald Trump's State Visit has dominated proceedings this week but we've also seen the next steps in the Tory leadership contest and two examples: one triumphant, one disastrous of attempted reputation building in the football world.

#TrumpStuntWatch: 
Wit wins over anger but nothing dented the President’s pigheaded self-assurance
President Donald Trump was in town this week for his contentious State Visit and despite his confident dismissal of the very idea that anyone would protest his presence, chatter was dominated by the thousands who took to the streets to protest the decision to roll out the red carpet for an orange buffoon.
 
As he enjoyed what was described by our founder Mark Borkowski as “a PR gift”, a raft of protest stunts bubbled around the main event, with the most bombastic gaining the most traction. The protest veteran Trump Baby battled for attention with a plucky debutant - a sixteen-foot farting robot on a golden toilet.
 
In the fight for the spotlight – size certainly does matter: giant phallic messages mown into fields on the Stanstead flight path jostled with looming Led By Donkeys’ billboards - revealing what Boris really thinks of Trump and dispelling myths about his approval rating. Any good Brit should be able to pride themselves on being able to insult an American so well that they don’t realise that they’ve even been criticised until months latter – but on this occasion our quiet, biting sarcasm perhaps deserted us.
 
A nice small-scale stunt came in the form of women dressed as characters from The Handmaids Tale: visually striking, poignant and made a specific political point. And our old friend Alison Jackson had some fun with one of her storied lookalikes.
 
We’ve been critical of ‘milkshaking’ before in these trends and the tide does seem to have turned against this kind of direct action after some disgraceful scenes of intimidation and even physical violence against Trump supporters, behaviour completely contrary to the values those protesting Trump should be espousing. 
 
Jeremy Corbyn also proved ineffective, with his boycott of the state banquet and protest speech the following day critiqued in most quarters as both unstatesmanlike and tedious, but then again nothing really put a dent in his armour of total self-belief and lack of self-awareness. Trump's, that is.

 
Tory leadership cultural preferences: what they should have said

Today The Times ran a fun piece about the Tory leadership candidates’ cultural lives (except Dominic Raab, whose lack of participation suggests a cultural knowledge akin to Malcolm Tucker’s infamous Star Wars analogy).
 
Answers ranged from the intriguing to the disappointing: Jeremy Hunt is a great Latin dancer but reads Kissinger, they all like Game of Thrones, Sajid Javid likes It’s a Wonderful Life but reads Ayn Rand… it’s an inconsistent mix of universal zeitgeist and crusty old Tory stereotypes.

But what would the ideal answers have been to woo Tory voters of all ages and demographics?

We asked our Arts & Entertainment team to weigh in:

Book: Pick two; one heart-bleedingly patriotic and another to show that your patriotism doesn’t mean you’re racist. We’d go for a quintessential rags-to-riches tale like Nicholas Nickleby or David Copperfield: demonstrating social mobility without suggesting that the government should have a role in it. Then something culturally diverse which also avoids aping Jenna Maroney in 30 Rock claiming her favourite book was The Quran…so maybe something by Kazuo Ishiguro who is a unique mix of famous, edgy, British and foreign.

Film: Go for something which appeals to both film snobs who’ve watched the entire Battleship Potemkin and people who think that the Rambo series is a metaphor. To achieve this, pick genre films but rule out anything that will make you seem psychotic: horror, psychological thriller or gross out comedy (sadly eliminating The Exorcist, Silence of the Lambs or Bridesmaids), which leaves open options such as Toy Story, Little Miss Sunshine or, if you want to appeal to blokey blokes, Mad Max Fury Road or Black Panther.

TV: In The Times piece they all missed a trick. Game of Thrones’ ending was crap and anyone who doesn’t acknowledge that clearly either hasn’t watched it or hasn’t watched anything else. Stick to other classics: The Sopranos, Breaking Bad, The Wire, Mad Men, West Wing (if you want to appeal to moderates).

Stage: Both Hamilton and Cursed Child are probably too liberal in origin for the Tory base, whereas something as heavy as Shakespeare would be alienating to any readership except the Times’. Jeremy Hunt picking ‘anything by Jez Butterworth or David Hare’ was solid in this respect, and if you wanted to pick a musical you could also throw-in Matilda or Come From Away without provoking outrage.

Music: Politicians slip up at this one either by trying to be too cool or not trying hard enough and coming across excruciatingly lame. Too cool: Lizzo, Dave and Billie Eilish. Too lame: Matt Hancock’s praise of Ed Sheeran and Jess Glynne came across as painfully basic. You might just get away with George Ezra, Dua Lipa or Lewis Capaldi if you’re going contemporary. If not, Classic FM or Scala Radio are both solid touchpoints even for those who find classical music alienating so Hunt did not badly there too.
 
And lastly on the theme that throws the politician against the cultural symbol, play this brilliant game and try to work out if you can tell which right wing paragon said what – Raab or  Amerocam Psycho's Patrick Bateman.

 
Sterling gets hospital pass from PR blunder
A cautionary tale from the world of sport this week. A PR agency working for England star Raheem Sterling sent out a press release announcing that their client had been chosen to captain the national team ahead of their UEFA National League semi-final against The Netherlands on Thursday evening. This, despite there being no confirmation from the Football Association or England manager Gareth Southgate.

Apart from anything else, the rumour of Sterling captaining the team despite the country’s two regular captains also featuring in the wider squad threatened to reveal England’s line-up (and therefore likely tactics) for the match.

After an underwhelming performance at the World Cup last summer, Sterling is in a good place, currently regarded as one of England’s best players. But he’s also had to build his reputation around a torrent of attacks by the tabloid media including criticism for how he spends his admittedly astronomical wages, and criticism for displaying a tattoo of an M16 assault rifle on his shin - which he then revealed was a tribute to his father who was shot dead in Kingston, Jamaica.

Current PR norms provide two options for footballers; either play it completely safe, or aggressively pursue sponsorship deals. There is little creative room for much else.

Sterling’s ability to win the nation’s respect and admiration despite his status as a tabloid panto villain shows that he’s much, much more than a clothes horse, but he was failed by a short-termist strategy that couldn’t see a bigger picture than the captain’s armband. Football is changing, as is the role of its stars; PR must change with it.


Could Champions League streaker reignite a vintage stunt?

The act of disrupting sports events, politics or concerts seems to have reached a point of diminishing returns.

Two instances this year come to mind: footballer Jack Grealish getting punched by a fan and the naked Brexit demonstration: both were moments of madness whose messages did not last long in the memory.

Neither apply to last week’s notorious Champions League Final streak.
A scantily dressed voluptuous woman burst onto the pitch, making it to the centre circle before being apprehended rather sheepishly.

With the audience is millions of sports fans, mostly men-who-watch-football, the safe bet was that she would pick up traction…and a lot of it.

Compounded by a pretty lethargic match, she received headlines worldwide and gained 500k Instagram followers in 24 hours, rising to over 2m.

Instagram have allegedly banned her account for suspicious follower activity since…but the promotional power of the prank doesn’t end there: She was promoting her boyfriend’s website Vitaly Uncensored – a platform run by an internet prankster who recently quit YouTube to create an X-rated prank hub featuring content that wouldn’t make it pass YouTubes filters.

This pay-to-view site – according to Google Trends data – has since driven thousands of new subscriptions. Vitaly merged the old school stuntiness of a ‘streak’ with the titillation on which he hopes to build the new site. Right or wrong, it’s telling that in an age where streakers aren’t usually show on camera, even the broadcaster and cameracrew couldn’t divert their attention…
 

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