This is a quote we’ve often heard, and it essentially means that all types of publicity is somehow beneficial, even the supposedly bad stuff. In this blog I’m going to be writing my opinion on the subject, and my fiancee unit is going to be writing her opposing opinion (you can read hers here, please do). This is equally because it is a fascinating subject and because we couldn’t figure out who was going to do it in the first place.
My opinion on the quote is that, for the most part and in the vast majority of cases, it’s true. There is very, very rarely ever bad publicity, and this is mostly because humans are strange creatures. From a psychological standpoint, most people are curious, curious creatures. Drama, fights, violence, bad writing, whatever it is, people like hearing about that sort of stuff. We’re ingrained with a gossipy sort of nature, and all that stuff that breaks the boring everyday nonsense is extremely welcome.
The first thing we want to look at is how we define “bad publicity.” Sure, there’s plenty of bad news, but it’s how it affects the person or people involved that affects what we call “publicity.” There’s a very distinct difference between news and publicity — and news and publicity do not always go hand in hand. In most cases it’s quite the opposite.
Consider Twilight. I bet some of you only heard about it because you heard everyone talking about how horrible it was, right? I’m one of those people. So I went out to go read the books and watch the first movie (which was fantastic as a comedy) to see what all the fuss was about. After finishing, I had to agree with the general consensus that it was literary trash, but hold on — holy crap. I realized that I had gone and given my money to the author. Because of bad publicity, the person at the center of it was getting money from me when I would have never considered it otherwise, even if all I heard was bad stuff.
This is also the reason we can have shows like Here Comes Honey Boo Boo (or most other things on TLC these days, for that matter). How many of you are hearing about this show for the first time? It’s a horrible-looking show, ain’t it? But you just gave their site a page view; you’re helping them along. That’s how it works. And these people are making big bucks with their own TV show. Seems pretty beneficial to me. Literally right this second as I’m writing this, a friend of mine has informed me that a top story on Yahoo! News is Honey Boo Boo getting a makeover. Seriously important stuff, folks!
Here’s the thing: people eat this stuff up. ‘Bad publicity’ is how a lot of people enter the spotlight. When someone is making the news for doing some horrible thing, people say, Wow, that’s terrible! What’s that guy’s name again? I’m going to look him up. Oh, he makes music apparently. Hey, this is actually pretty catchy… It doesn’t happen like that in all cases, but when you put someone in the spotlight, regardless of the reason, people are going to pay attention. The worse the news, the more attention they get. Then what happens? People look past the horrible news and become a follower or consumer of their stuff. The bad news doesn’t last forever, but new fans can last much longer.
Here’s another one. Consider Chris Brown, the super charming fellow that hit the news big time for beating up then-girlfriend and fellow R&B singer Rihanna. All over the news, pictures of Rihanna’s face, people in an uproar, how dare he, what a sick human being, etc, etc. So obviously, since this was such a terrible thing, I would expect that many of his devout followers would stop listening to his music and he’d lose money and fall out of the spotlight, right? Actually, a grand total of absolutely nothing happened. Andy Kellman said of the subject, “A fairly substantial backlash resulted in Brown’s songs being pulled from rotation on several radio stations. Ultimately, however, it had little bearing on the progress of his music and acting careers.” Brown kept making music, and his albums kept topping the charts. When the drama happened, it was the first time I had ever heard of him, and you know what? I know I wasn’t the only one, and I don’t think it’d be a stretch to assume that some people who just found out about him are now loyal listeners.
That’s how humans work. The psychology defies logic. One would think that bad news would get people to steer clear, but the opposite ends up happening. It’s a culture thing as much as it is psychological, I suppose. For someone to truly fail, they would have to be completely ignored, but that’s never how it works. Controversial news gets ratings, and ratings get money. A famous singer does something bad, new people find his music. An author does something terrible, people hear about their book for the first time. And the worse the news, the more people find out.
There are certain cases where careers have been ruined and criminals imprisoned, but it was rarely ever due to publicity. There are some exceptions, but I conclude that in the vast majority of cases, there’s no such thing as bad publicity.