Some PR Agencies do the stupidest things...

>> Thursday, 10 September 2009

Yes, that title was a reference to 'Kids do the funniest things'. Here's why...

I've written before about having recieved shoddily directed e-mail proposals from pr companies. Whilst some pr agencies are clearly working hard, and the numbers who appear to have actually read The Potty Diaries before getting in touch is definitely on the increase, there are others whose approaches simply beggar belief. For all the attention that has been paid to what I actually write, I suspect that some of these companies have simply pulled their nearest work-experience intern out of the post room and said 'Here, find some parent bloggers, let's see how much free coverage you can get from them. There's a lollipop in it for you if you can get anyone to mention this turkey...'

Anyone at all familiar with this blog might have picked up on the fact that the well-being of children - primarily my own, but essentially all - is top of my list of priorites. Christ, I put my career on hold because I felt my children (disclaimer: that's my children, not yours, your neighbours, or anyone else's, just mine, no judgement here on other people's choices) would be better off having me at home.

So I was somewhat nonplussed to get the following e-mail into my inbox.

'I wanted to drop you a quick note to say that we are working on a new family TV show called 'xxxxxxxxxxxxx'. (I've deleted the name here because I don't feel like giving them free publicity).

'It's a really lovely concept as kids are put in grown up situations and are secretly filmed to see how they react... I saw your blog and I wondered if you might be interested in receiving more info on the show to feature on there. We have lots of fun content and clips, interviews by kids etc that we could send you.'

I checked, and the children they are referring to are 3 - 6 years old. Have I entered some kind of a parallel universe here? Where on my blog does it suggest that I might be interested in this? Am I the only person to whom this seems a just a tad exploitative and more than a little inappropriate? Putting children in 'grown up situations' and secretly filming them?

For some reason this seems so much grubbier to me than family-shot home videos sent in to be given a cheesy voice-over and used as part of a compilation. Don't get me wrong, I dislike those programmes too, but that's because I'm a tv snob and it's just not my cup of tea. In this case however, it's the 'professionalism' of this approach which leaves a bad taste in my mouth.

Most of my working life was spent in the agency world, and for some reason the following scenario comes to mind. Some media execs are sitting round a table, sipping their cappucinos & Red Bull, and the big banana is pacing around the room...

"Come on, people. We've got that slot on Saturday night to fill. Those softies at the animal cruelty lobby won't let us use any more film of dogs water skiing, and the Japanese have stopped sending us shots of guys eating maggots for fun. What cheap crap can we sling in there?"

"Well, boss, it's probably mad, but..."

"No idea too crazy. We're all mad here, right? You know, like that slogan on my door? 'You don't have to be mad to work here but it helps'? I'm sooo wacky... Come on, spit it out..."

"Well, I had this idea. We take some kids - "

"How old?"

"Uuummmm - 7 - 10?"

"No, younger, got to get them younger and cuter."

"3 - 6, then."

"Yep, like it, go on..."

"And we put them in funny situations - "

"Funny situations? Been done before, seen that, got the video..."

"No, boss, this time it's different. This time we make them do things that adults normally have to do..."

"I'm listening, go on."

"And we see how they react."

"That's it?"

"Well, yes. Oh, and we film them too, of course. Secretly."

"And...?"

"And... we use that bloke to present it?"

"OK. Let me get this clear. You're saying, we'll take a load of kids, and get their gullible parents to sign release forms for nothing other than the possibility they might get to see little Lola on the telly. We put the kids somewhere they feel safe and are enjoying themselves, manipulate the situation so things get a bit out of control, force them to make possibly uncomfortable adult decisons because for some reason the adults who are supposed to be in charge can't do it, and film them secretly to see how they react?"

"Yeeessss. Um. When you put it like that -"

"Brilliant. Bloody brilliant. TV gold. Let's do it."


See my point?

24 comments:

Mud in the City 10 September 2009 at 11:44  

So we're not going to see Boy 1 and Boy 2 on on TV any time soon?

(I'd have thought the front trotting would be a ratings winner)

Insomniac Mummy 10 September 2009 at 11:53  

Hmmm, sounds like bilge (TV show not your post).

Don't think I could purposefully embarass my kids like that.

Liz@Violet Posy 10 September 2009 at 12:15  

Oh dear god... What are they thinking of??

zooarchaeologist 10 September 2009 at 12:29  

I got that PR approach too- had the same reaction. Unbelievable really as it has no relevance to me, unless perhaps they want to pay me lots of money and get me to star in it. Now im a good blogger and I dont take any cash but for this one there wasn't even an offer of cash! I would have thought they would need to promote it with lots and lots of cash. I wont be watching either, far too cringe worthy!

nappy valley girl 10 September 2009 at 13:42  

I had that email too. It really is incredibly crass of them.

PRs have got to start realising that targeting bloggers is NOT like sending a blanket press release to thousands of journalists and hoping they get a tiny mention somewhere. Blogs are personal, and they need to think very carefully before they approach.

Expat mum 10 September 2009 at 14:09  

Ooh I can't wait to see the people who actually DO want to put their children in that situation.

Iota 10 September 2009 at 14:33  

I was approached too. I felt very uneasy - "children in adult situations" smacks to me of the kind of thing we usually protect children from. The description was of them running a cafe or similar. Um. There's a good reason we don't put our children in situations beyond their abilities and control. It probably isn't a very nice feeling for them. And, perhaps I'm being thick, but I don't think it would make it any better to find out afterwards that it was all a big joke and that everyone is laughing at them.

I was also a bit irritated by the approach that started "I hope you are well". Um, no. I'm being treated for breast cancer. You'd only have had to read a very few posts to know that.

And then when I declined, I got a reply saying "Could you let me know the title of your blog, so I can cross it off my list?" The title of my blog? So when you said in your original approach "I saw your blog" - perhaps that wasn't strictly true...

I can now see why bloggers get very irritated with PR people (I've joined the ranks of the approached, now I'm on the Tots 100 list!)

It really is just like being cold-called from one of those centres where you can hear all the other conversations in the background, and they drop your name in every sentence to try and make it personal. That's fine, if that's what they're about. But I thought PR was all about targeted approaches, intelligent approaches, bla di bla.

Part of me thought I should write a polite reply pointing out all of the above, and I really did think about doing that. I decided not to, because well, I'm just a blog on a list. I'm sure they wouldn't appreciate me telling them how to do their job. I mean, I'm a stay at home mum. I'm nearly twice the age of some of them (they have their pictures on their website). What would I know?

Iota 10 September 2009 at 14:33  

Oooh, sorry. Big long comment.

Hullaballoo 10 September 2009 at 14:50  

Yuck! I am glad I wasn't appraoched, what parasites.

Nicola 10 September 2009 at 14:56  

Great post!!! Laughed aloud at the 'agency meeting' been there - had that conversation. But now I am completely intrigued...what sort of adult situation? Grocery shopping at Tescos and reaching the checkout to realise you have left your purse at home? Cooking dinner whilst multi-tasking and realising there are only burnt offerings to indulge everyone with AGAIN? How ridiculous. I can't bare the thought of CU and JD being taken advantage of in that way, in the name of adult entertainment. What a bunch of wankers (pardon my french...seems we're all at it in my house right now)

London City Mum 10 September 2009 at 16:37  

Why not turn it around and suggest to them putting fully grown adults in small children situations, eg:
- on the toilet when there is no loo paper and only item nearby is face sponge
- patting friendly dog which then jumps up and licks face so hard person falls over
- drawing pictures at the table and then realising ink has gone through the paper and stained wood underneath and is non-washable...

They could call it Big Brother ;-)

Iota 10 September 2009 at 16:43  

London City Mum - LOVE the idea.

Single Parent Dad 10 September 2009 at 18:35  

I got that pitch too. Didn't read it much past will be presented by.

I would have love to have been in the room when Channel 5 approved the pitch for Blind Dates. A show where dates are conducted in the dark. I would have been compelled to chip in with a 'we really have hit rock bottom'.

Potty Mummy 10 September 2009 at 18:48  

Mud, possibly it would be - but he'll have to wait to be 18 for his moment of fame...

IM, thanks for the clarification!

Liz, money, I suspect (this type of tv is very cheap to make).

ZooA, sorry, a PR agency PAY a parent blogger? What kind of madness is that?

NVG - 'crass'. Perfect.

EPM, car crash tv, don't you agree?

Iota, don't apologise, great comment, and it's a shame most pr agencies don't take the time to read them. As for writing back on this one? Don't bother - I doubt it would make any difference.

HB - 'parasites' - another word I should have used!

Nicola, check out Iota's comment for the situation details. And somehow I knew you of all people would get the agency conversation!

LCM, excellent idea. Do you work in television??

Potty Mummy 10 September 2009 at 20:54  

SPD, are you serious? Does that show exist? I'm clearly spending far too much time in front of the computer. Or not, perhaps...

Paradise Lost In Translation 10 September 2009 at 21:33  

It's all been said, unbelievable, crass, insulting even to be asked. Another example of cheap, degrading,demeaning & ultimately cruel tv, which tho I can't stand it, as an adult you can at least make a choice about it. But what parent tho wd choose to put their child in a show like that & have them humiliated?

A 11 September 2009 at 07:21  

The sad thing is some parent will do it.

-A Modern Mother

Erica Douglas 11 September 2009 at 08:50  

I got that one too. I just don't get what's entertaining about putting really little kids in uncomfortable situations. I don't want to be melodramatic but surely that could be damaging longterm on confidence? What kind of parent wants to watch their 'really little' children struggle in adult situation, it's bad enough when you *are* an adult.

As you say a cheap and tacky idea.

whistlejacket 11 September 2009 at 10:25  

The pitch for that show has just made me feel a bit depressed. Secretly fiming 3-6 year olds for national TV giving them no choice about it? Sadly a lot of people would probably go for it and watch it too. My blog's not high profile enough to get these sort of pitches and I'm grateful too! The insincerity of some them must drive you mad.

Potty Mummy 11 September 2009 at 11:58  

Paradise, I have no idea, but they're out there, apparantly.

A - scarily, some already have.

ED, just what I was thinking.

WJ,it does, although some of them are well thought out and relevant. Those that aren't; I just hit 'delete' usually - but I couldn't let this one pass without comment. I haven't contacted them directly however, so it will be interesting if they pick up any of this chatter and get in touch...

nixdminx 12 September 2009 at 09:17  

This reminds me years ago when I worked in PR I was asked to procure a lady with breast cancer to appear on daytime tv to go up against a woman wanting IVF so there could be a debate and the audience could decide who was more worthy. I hung up the phone and never worked with the show again.

Potty Mummy 12 September 2009 at 20:13  

Nixdminx, unbelievable! (Although, sadly, also far too believable).

Rachel M. 13 September 2009 at 03:18  

Wow I see the reality child television has hit London in full force! And I thought Jon & Kate + 8 was bad. Filming children potty training and showing full side nudity of the girls as they stand. Sure it may not "show anything" but the entire film crew just saw your kids running around naked and all for the sake of "showing" everything there is to know about child rearing. Oh, there's the confessional at the end where the parents sit on a couch and discuss their potty training techniques and why it needs to be shown on the show. Along with Kate saying she took photos of their first poo in the toilet - because they were so proud and someday might want to see that milestone. Too much information, I really could care less if someone takes photos of poo but to broadcast it on television is ridiculous.

Lisa @ Boondock Ramblings 16 September 2009 at 14:05  

How much are they offering for kids to do....

I mean. That's awful! Just awful!

:-)

(I'm serious. That is awful and those people are idiots!)

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