Last week the news broke that journalist and author, Grace Dent had apparently become the latest victim of trolling when Mufadal Jiwaji, an employee at Hill & Knowlton (which represents Dent), posted some rather tasteless comments on Twitter regarding her appearance.
Here at Lava we were rather shocked by the tweet. It looked like Jiwaji was heading for the chop after such an audacious remark about one of his clients.
However, despite the initial outrage, the spat seemed to blow over within a few days, with Dent brushing the remarks off as just a ‘small war of words’.
Jiwaji kept his job, Dent’s reputation remained intact, the world continued as normal…
This got us thinking about the changing climate of bad press. Can people really get away with saying whatever they want? Is courting controversy now seen as a good thing?
Only the other week a campaign by animal rights charity PETA, which linked eating meat pies to obesity and an early death, was slammed by the National Obesity Forum (NOF).
The controversial billboard advert, which featured a coffin-shaped pie with the slogan ‘Not ready to meat your maker?’, was criticised by the NOF, with spokesperson Tam Fry commenting: “We want to do all we can to lessen obesity but I do not think it appropriate at all to draw attention to it in this manner”.
Despite this, the advert still ran and received widespread coverage in the media. Some also saw Grace Dent’s trolling incident as a subtle ploy to promote her new job at the Independent and London Evening Standard.
Whether sexually explicit, socially incorrect or blatantly tasteless, while controversy is nothing new, is our perception of it in the media changing? Are we less likely to be outraged by it? Are we so over-saturated with content these days that only the really shocking campaigns get our attention?
The purpose of any good PR campaign should be to engage the audience, but with falling newspaper sales and rise of social media activity are more brands turning to controversial measures to get their message out there – whether the campaign gets used or not?
Controversy is good in the sense that it makes the audience sit up and listen, however it can also bring the company’s integrity into question. Coverage is great, but if campaigns with shock value end up cheapening the brand, will they then find it hard to regain that sincerity once it’s lost?