The X Factor's manufactured publicity is a well-oiled machine
The annual hype fest of The X Factor is back dominating TV screens and front pages.
Ian Monk: "Like it or loathe it, it's the perfect counterbalance to other events in the news."
As ratings wobble inexorably downwards, a tidal wave of manufactured publicity carries Simon, Sharon, Nicole, Louis, Gary and their wannabee hordes to the crest of headline billing across multimedia platforms.
It’s the perfect counterbalance to the unfolding agony of Syria, the preening pomposity of politicians strutting their self-justifying stuff at party conferences, the endless grimness of ageing celebrities denying sexual misconduct in another century.
The X Factor publicity machine supplies sex and drugs in digestible quantities for the front pages of tabloids and for endless dissection across social media. Only rock ’n’ roll is absent in the stories about contestants who rely largely on other people’s music to fulfil their dreams.
Like it or loathe it – and an increasing number of people appear now to be falling into the pit of apathy between the two Marmite extremes – Simon Cowell's talent show is powered by one of the smartest, most tuned-in PR operations of the age.
Smart, savvy publicists, operating around a hard core of ex-newspaper journalists, run the press operation like an old-style newsroom. Except that it works to the 24/7 beat of the rolling news channels and all-night social media addicts.
Rolling storyboards and news schedules are created and handed to grateful recipients against a timeline designed to build the weekly hype to drive maximum engagement.
Few in the media will admit to the level of control that the publicity machine believes it exerts over content, timings and prominence of publication of its stories.
But there is little doubt about who feels the most in charge of the news agenda during the months when The X Factor dominates chunks of it.
Part of the genius of the brand's publicity leviathan lies in the way it has filled the tabloid void in the still-tentative days of post-Leveson privacy considerations.
Cowell fathers an as yet-unborn child with the still-married wife of one of his best friends, a couple who have their own young child.
A suitable case for some privacy and media restraint, M’lud? Well, maybe not if it provides exposure during the brand's key promotional window.
Instead of scowls and injunctions, cue leaks about amicable divorce, pictures of the couple publicly caressing for carefully positioned paparazzi, and heartwarming insights into Cowell's joy at becoming a father.
One of his exes speaks out about her shock – and gives another super-charged blast of publicity to The X Factor. So too does a carefully controlled interview with Nicole Scherzinger about her break-up with Lewis Hamilton.
In the curiously happy clappy world of X Factor dreams and PR, no-one seems really to get hurt.
Whatever the reality, it is a bandwagon that suits everyone. The best PR show in town? It’s a yes from me.
Ian Monk is founder of Ian Monk Associates and a former executive at the Daily Mail and The Sun
This article was first published on prweek.com
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