#BRANDFAIL OF THE WEEK: The BBC / TopGear / Clarkson ‘Fracas’

The BBC are having something of an annus horriblus. The mishandling of the Saville story. A hostile relationship with the ConDem administration (who seem increasingly keen on clipping their wings). I could go on. But the much covered Clarkson ‘fracas’? Well, they say a principle isn’t a principle until it costs you money. And boy, is this one costing…

Pulling two filmedTopGear episodes from global schedules (and cancelling the final episode of the season before it went production), in my view, was a huge mistake. This helped tip the media scales in Clarkson’s favour fuelling his UKIP style, me vs. them namby pamby rhetoric. It added to the growing view that the BBC is run by legions of faceless managers. The only thing missing was Ian Fletcher a la W1A popping out and giving a rambling statement on the importance of ‘values’…

Despite taking the right action in suspending him for the alleged physical abuse, they seem to be losing the media battle. Were I advising Auntie’s finest, I’d have recommended:

  • Suspending Clarkson until the ‘fracas’ could be investigated and the appropriate action taken
  • Broadcasting the two filmed episodes at home and away (most of the projected revenue losses lie in the international division and may run into tens of millions)
  • Keep that British stiff upper lip and ensure ‘the show must go on’. Film the final episode in the series with either:
    • A celebrity guest host from the world of racing (guest hosts didn’t do HIGNFY any harm after Angus Deayton’s prostitute / drug scandal back in the day)
    • Recall a former Top Gear presenter off of the 80’s. Everyone loves a little retro and it could’ve been a televisual giggle
    • Bring back a popular star in the reasonably priced car to hold the fort
    • Let the Stig step in, and give him a computerised voice (with clear distinction from a Mr. S. Hawking)
    • If he’s not off filming, let Gambon himself take the helm. His stature could carry any sinking ship. And he does have a corner in his name, after all.

Whichever presenter option they went with (and this is where they really missed a trick), milk it for all it’s worth. Given the heightened interest / hugely engaged fan base, it was a golden opportunity to feed their PR, CRM and social programmes with content as quick as they ruddy well could. With such an engaged following, irrespective of Clarkson’s perceived popularity, they could’ve used this to their advantage, regained lost ground and acted to bolster their reputation AND boost viewing figures.

Instead, they’ve let Clarkson, a petition and a hostile press continue to give them a kicking. Rather than look strong in the face of the ‘fracas’, they seem week, outmaneuvered and outgunned by the mouth almighty himself. Clarkson. That said, whilst future contract negotiations for Top Gear presenters are on hold, Clarkson would do well to remember than not all talent that leaves the Beeb’s hallowed halls do as well over on ITV, Sky or Five. At least for now, no single star is bigger than the Beeb. And on that bombshell, I’m off for a gin…

Iain G. Morrison is a senior marketer in the third sector. And thinks Snickers totally nailed it… 


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About igmorrison

Modern day marketing comms man. If you want to know more about me, visit: www.linkedin.com/in/igmorrison find me on twitter @igmorrison or just leave me a comment.

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