Tuesday, 23 December 2014

There must be an Angel

Patsy and Eddie living it large The Telegraph
As a feminist who believes that PR works, I've had a wake-up call this month. After earning a daily crust from the world of public relations for the past many years, I have made my peace with those who criticise the industry as being nothing more than posh girls pushing products you never knew you wanted. I've seen work that rescues hostages, raises millions of dollars for charity, puts dull but important businesses on the map, creates thousands of jobs.

But the Christmas 2014 Victoria's Secret PR campaign has proved that even twenty years after Edina and Patsy ridiculed sexist publicity stunt PR,  it's still possible to get media coverage for a brand which makes Hooters look feminist.

Sheeran can't decide whether he's thrilled or terrified  breakingnews. ie
Unless you've been living in a cave,  you will have found it impossible to avoid the endless articles written by otherwise intelligent, mainly female, journalists who have taken up the Victoria's Secret PR department on their invitation to try becoming a Victoria's Secret 'Angel' - their star models -  for a day to promote the fact that for the first time their Christmas show was going to be held in London rather than in the US. Even the FT covered it. Most of the articles talked about the extensive workouts the Angels do before shows and the thrill of putting on the wings like grown up Barbies.  The highest honour goes the model selected to wear the multi-million dollar bejeweled bikini down the runway  Each time I turned to yet another of these articles I found myself thinking the same thing - Victoria's Secret must have got themselves a new PR firm.

For any readers unfamiliar with how the PR machine works...you know that feeling when something or someone you have previously only been vaguely aware of suddenly seems to be everywhere? You think maybe it's you? You just started thinking about it and suddenly you're more aware of it? Nope. It's PR. And so it was for me with Victoria's Secret.  If I gave the brand any thought in the microscopic part of my brain dealing with possible future underwear purchases,  it would have been that it's another underwear brand - somewhere in the mix with Elle Macpherson Intimates and Agent Provocateur.  What you buy yourself when you just can't convince yourself M&S cuts it.   That's it.  And then you read one of these articles and you think " If the Times/FT/Telegraph think it's worth dedicating pages to this and sending one of their reporters to cover it, it must be important.  Perhaps I should review my thinking and take this brand seriously?".

Normally I'd congratulate any brand who is clearly so good at their PR. Perhaps they employ the best story pitcher in the business.  Or  the lure of putting on those wings is just too much for these editors to resist. Maybe it's just one of those inexplicable things in the world.  Like why Angus Steakhouses stay in business. Or how you grow seedless grapes

From left: Robert Crampton shot by Romas Foord; Doutzen Kroes on the Vitoria’s Secret Fashion show catwalk earlier this month. Photos by Romas Foord, Getty Images
Robert Crampton and an Angel.  Times/Getty. 
But I still don't get it.  These are smart writers with serious credentials and they seem to have taken collective leave of their senses.  Robert Crampton bucked the trend with an article in The Times which he wrote up after attending the show (Sheeran and Taylor Swift also performed) and used it to write a thoughtful piece about male feminists.

The original Angels 
If we're really going to be so recidivist about how we PR things, let's at least use humour and lose the wings.  Good morning Angels.