Wednesday, 17 November 2010

The PR machine behind X-Factor

A number of seasoned X-Factor watchers, you know, the type who plan their Autumn Saturday nights around the show have become slightly jaded with this year's edition. The format itself is starting to be a touch formulaic, the judges a bit to prone to sit on the fence, but it is the accompanying behind the scenes soap opera that is really annoying even the most ardent supporters of Simon Cowell.

Previously, the...ahem...talent show, and the performances of those on the show, seemed to be the priority. This year it's different. The back stories and back stabbing has taken centre stage almost to the point that what happens on Saturday night is hardly relevant. The briefings against some of the contestants have been almost political in their intensity. There is no doubt Simon Cowell's PR machine has gone to another level with the tabloid papers being fed a succession of juicy tidbits, throughout the week not just into the weekend papers, to build anticipation for the following week's show.

I would guess that running an analysis of social media activity (blogs, Twitter, Facebook) would be pretty revealing as to the popularity of any or all of the contestants. This could then inform the show's PR team who needs propping up with extra PR, or who needs bringing down a peg or two. By consistently feeding interest it ensures a constant conversation is buzzing on social media as well as by the water cooler. As with most things Simon Cowell does it is very clever.

There is a danger though which goes back to the jaded feeling I mentioned at the beginning. Publicity is an essential part of building a brand - and has been at the heart of Simon Cowell's various successes - however when people start to feel they are being duped a backlash can be very quick in coming.

So far the PR team behind the programme has got it right but if they push things too far this series, next year could well see a Big Brother style crash in ratings that would be irreversible.    

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