Jeremy Lee on Media: No News Is Not Good News

Article excerpt

By using a PR hoax to fool other outlets The Sun undermined its own credibility as a news source.

When The Sun announced the launch of its own fragrance last week, reporters generally took the story at face value, swiftly filing their copy before returning to feed the greedy master that is today's news machine.

They dutifully reported that The Sun had teamed up with perfumer Roja (born 'Rodger') Dove to create a scent called Buzz, which was, we were told, being exclusively sold at Harrods for pounds 59 a bottle. Many outlets even chose to reproduce the quote that the perfume 'seeks to bottle the concept of pure entertainment', and the gushing nonsense that claimed it was inspired by the style of Sarah Jessica-Parker, the charisma of Sophia Loren and the charm of Cheryl Cole. 'Each ingredient combines to create feelings of premieres, debuts and red-carpet moments,' we were breathlessly informed.

The launch was supported by a marketing campaign that comprised two scented six-sheet posters outside Harrods, planned and bought with remarkable skill by Sun owner News International's media agency Mindshare, which may be considering submitting the work for an IPA Effectiveness Award.

The Sun producing a premium perfume? Surely not? Well quite. Obviously the brand extension and subsequent story was utter tosh and the whiff of a rat, rather than Cheryl Cole's charm, should have been overwhelming.

Yet such is the state of some news journalism; it has an obsession with keeping things 'fresh', occasionally at the expense of professional integrity and pretty much all else of value.

In fairness, most readers would have viewed this morsel of quirky 'news' as, at best, mildly intriguing, and, while it may have been picked up and turned into online chatter (or should that be buzz?) by a few bloggers, ultimately, nobody was harmed by this hoax.

Fast-forward one week and the real reason for The Sun's PR stunt becomes apparent to the public - the paper has replaced its Saturday TV Mag with an entertainment title, featuring TV and showbusiness stories as well as celebrity interviews. It's called Buzz - geddit?

As marketing teasers go, it's certainly no prize-winner, but it's not the worst ever seen. Aside from providing grist to the mill of commentators concerned about the future of journalism, it might just about have elicited a groan from those consumers who had noticed the story the week before.

The Sun's marketing director, Barnaby Dawe, who was responsible for the teaser campaign, can therefore be forgiven for giving himself a pat on the back for coming up with a wheeze that temporarily fooled some people in the ephemeral world of online news. …

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