Magazine article Marketing

Raymond Snoddy on Media: Spread of Foot-in-Mouth Is on Wane

Magazine article Marketing

Raymond Snoddy on Media: Spread of Foot-in-Mouth Is on Wane

Article excerpt

At long last the contagion of dodgy TV programmes, phoney phone lines and hyped-up press releases seems to have blown itself out, or at least has been contained. So far the cull has been remarkably modest Paul Corley of GMTV has been the only executive to fall, although more might yet be dispatched.

Now it's time for the Edinburgh Television Festival and The Media Society to debate endlessly the issue of trust in television and stage mock trials.

Was it all an elaborate, silly-season press story? Shouldn't they, in biblical parlance, pay more attention to removing the beams from their own eyes rather than concentrate on the motes in the eyes of others?

There are lessons to be learned, but the latest outbreak of the infection, Paul Watson's documentary Malcolm and Barbara: Love's Farewell, about an Alzheimer's sufferer and his wife, seems to have been very mild indeed - an indication that the worst is over.

Michael Grade's zero-tolerance policy toward deliberate deceit in ITV programmes is of course a good thing and obviously the right approach, but calling in the lawyers to handle an independent inquiry over the true meaning of an ambiguous phrase in a press release hints at a medieval church dispute. 'Barbara strokes Malcolm's head as he passes away' at least suggests an evolving process. It does not say Malcolm 'passed away'.

Watson, despite his distinguished reputation as a documentary maker, is not exactly shy about promoting his programmes. He certainly did not intervene immediately to correct any false impression created in the minds of the press that what was being shown was the moment of death. He is also smart enough to know the gulf in news values between the second moment of death ever shown on British TV and a man slipping into a coma from which he never recovers and dies three days later.

So lesson number one is that if the marketing of a programme gets out of hand, for any reason, misleading impressions have to be corrected as quickly as possible.

It should enter the marketing canon as the Fincham Flaw. BBC One controller Peter Fincham knew the afternoon after his disastrous press conference that the Queen had been made to look more grumpy than normal, but let the papers go ahead as if nothing had happened. It is not a mistake he is likely to make again.

In future the marketing of programmes will have to eschew trade hype and be judged by the same standards as the programme itself. …

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