Is all publicity good publicity?

Is all publicity good publicity?

The digitisation of all media has forced the news to operate in cycles that are there for a moment, and the next moment not. To catch up with these trends, and thanks to the human instinct of milking every cow we are offered, many theories, concepts and methodologies from the instantaneous yet appealing nature of these media platforms have arisen. One of the most ridiculously unbelievable examples of this is the Streisand effect- the Streisand effect is a phenomenon whereby an attempt to hide, remove or censor a piece of information has the unintended consequence of publicizing the information more widely, usually facilitated by the Internet, named after American entertainer Barbra Streisand, whose 2003 attempt to suppress photographs of her residence in Malibu, California, inadvertently drew further public attention to it. The question which remains 16 years since is, how did this help the PR for Barbara Streisand?


In September 2019, Peleton, an exercise equipment company, released an ad showing a husband gifting his wife a stationary exercise cycle for the holidays, at which she is elated. The wife then vlogs her fitness journey over a year, and the ad cuts to the next holiday season with the wife exclaiming “A year ago, I didn’t realise how much this would change me”. While one sore thumb which stuck out was the female lead’s face as looking more fearful rather than excited, triggering a response from the audience that the ad was reminiscent of Black Mirror and “kind of dystopian”, it also garnered criticism of being sexist and tone-deaf. Soon after this, a 9% drop in Peleton sales was recorded, although the company continues to stand by the ad and disagrees with any relationship between the ad and the drop. Soon enough, people began questioning if this was all a publicity stunt- many factors such as the relatively unknown nature of the company corroborated this. Although many choose to disagree: if Peloton had meant to create a viral video, says Yakov Bart, an associate professor of marketing at Northeastern University, the company likely would have posted the video to social media sites and invested in its promotion to spread it as quickly and as widely as possible. If that had been the case, Bart says, the (intended) backlash would have picked up almost immediately after the video went online. “That’s not what we see here,” he says. The ad began airing on TV on Nov. 4, and was posted to YouTube on Nov. 21, but didn’t gain traction until this week—news reports about the backlash were published on Dec. 3 and 4.”


What the main takeaway from the PeletonGate would be- no matter if the controversy was purposeful or accidental, is any publicity good publicity? Will we take absolutely and every PR move/debacle in our stride and maximise it?


Sharanya Mathur

sharanya mathur

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