How the PR industry manages the media

JOE BENNETT
Last updated 10:34 11/05/2011

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Joe Bennett

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OPINION: The staff of Myths R Us has gathered in the boardroom amid a forest of rubber plants. Flunkies ghost about the room dispensing the most delicate of delicacies, the petitest of petits fours and crystal beakers of the pinkest champagne.

The CEO rises to his feet. He is 59 but he wears the uniform of the creative that he once was - the jeans, the open-neck shirt, the expensive sneakers. Spotlights sparkle on the fluoro band that throttles his greying pony-tail.

He waits till all have a drink in hand, even old Dogbreath the head of accounts, then he raises his glass for silence.

Ladies and gentlemen, there are times when one has no choice but to celebrate. And now is such a time. For in the long and glorious history of the public relations industry, I doubt that success has ever come to an agency as it has come to ours.

"Ladies and gentlemen I propose a toast to Myths R Us."

"To Myths R Us," says the room. Glasses tilt and within a couple of seconds, according to Dogbreath's appalled computation, approximately $3000 worth of Bollinger Rose slides untasted past a hundred epiglottises and begins its journey to the urinals of inevitability. Though Dogbreath, who hasn't a line of poetry in his soul, doesn't put it to himself in quite those words.

"My friends and colleagues," continues the CEO. "Before I address the main event, I would like to highlight two other areas of outstanding work. Demelza, Ronnie, fantastic performance on the royal wedding. You managed to make a couple of billion people care about two people they don't know.

"Yes, yes, I realise that a lot of the spade work had already been done. We've had the Windsor account for ever. Not that it was the Windsor account when we got it. The King who walked in to grandpa's office in 1914 was a Saxe-Coburg-Gotha. Grandpa knew at once he would have to rebrand.

"But the wedding was a faultless example of the use of emotion. If you can make the punters feel something, anything, then you numb the enemy. And we all know what the enemy is, don't we?"

"Critical thought," shouts the gathering happily, except old Dogbreath who is worrying about an invoice he has just sent to Pakistan more in hope than expectation.

"I also have a note from the Pope thanking us for our work on the canonisation of his predecessor. To quote from the letter: 'At the beatification ceremony the weeping of a quite spectacular nature was. From now the saintmaking a shoo-in will be.' His holiness may have something to learn about English syntax but he's in a similar game to our own and he knows good PR when he sees it. And of course he especially understands the value of belief in the endless battle against."

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"Critical thought," choruses the gathering once more.

"Which brings us to the big one. It is rare that an agency celebrates the closure of an account. But in the PR schools of tomorrow I have no doubt that our work on 'The Bogeyman' will be cited as a classic. A classic of simplicity, of emotion, of belief and in particular of visual imagery."

"And economy," mutters Dogbreath.

"Indeed so, you old tightwad," says the CEO smiling. "Our only expense was for half a dozen clips of videotape. But what clips. Is there anyone on the planet who hasn't seen them? I loved the one of the old bird traipsing down through the boulders, staff in hand, like a robed antichrist. Who cares that he actually spent most of his time holed up in a suburban bunker watching telly? And as for him kneeling to aim the AK47, did we reverse the film or was he actually left-handed? Either way it made him look sinister."

"Very clever," says Dogbreath, but no-one else gets the joke.

"Television has to have pictures," continues the CEO. "By releasing so few clips it meant they had to show them time and time over for a decade.

"The effect is impossible to exaggerate. Our client became the thing under the bed, the incarnation of evil, the beast, the bogeyman of bogeymen. It didn't matter what he might or might not have done. Perception is everything. Belief and dread haunted the Western mind. And all thanks to PR. Ladies and gentlemen, we made a myth. To us."

"To us!" And Dogbreath watches in horror as another $3000 of fizz goes south.

- © Fairfax NZ News

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