Magazine article Marketing

Raymond Snoddy on Media: Was TV Coverage Right for Madeleine?

Magazine article Marketing

Raymond Snoddy on Media: Was TV Coverage Right for Madeleine?

Article excerpt

The 'marketing' of the Madeleine McCann tragedy is at last starting to ease up, but it has been a remarkable case study of media mobilisation.

The decision by the McCanns to wind down the campaign after a trip to Morocco, and spend some time grieving in private, is the right one. And after more than five weeks of sustained media activity, it is a blessed relief. The stories were getting terribly thin and strained, and the danger of attracting nutters and criminals was increasing.

Last week, things reached a new low when The Times led a page with fearless investigative journalism proving beyond a shadow of a doubt that two Portuguese policemen had had a two-hour lunch and appeared to be enjoying themselves.

More seriously, there was also a call from a mobile phone, registered in Argentina, by someone who claimed to know Madeleine's whereabouts. But he didn't get back in touch and the caller is much more likely to have been a petty criminal sniffing the reward.

So it was definitely time to let go.

The events of the past five weeks have, however, demonstrated how a small number of people can get a piece of information round the world and sustain a campaign day after day. Although not yet successful in terms of the only objective that really matters, the Madeleine McCann recognition index must be in the stratosphere.

Even the Pope entered proceedings. And one last media coup is being planned - trying to persuade Google to replace the 'double o' on its homepage with Madeleine's eyes on 22 June to mark the 50th day since her disappearance.

For Gerry and Kate McCann, confronted with a silent and apparently immobile Portuguese police force, the high-profile campaign was absolutely the right thing to do. The cost was the creation of a cruel celebrity which has been self-reinforcing, and the question now is whether the media should have been so compliant in this particular game.

The rolling TV news coverage, often showing nothing, quickly became an embarrassment.

There was also the spectacle of top presenters being despatched from London in order to interview the reporters on the ground, but being able to add little, if anything, to the story.

While everyone hopes that, against the odds, Madeleine will be found alive and well, it is time for a few bold questions about this media circus. …

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