Saturday, April 04, 2009

Is PR all porkies?

Some people associate the PR and marketing professions with lying. Those who work in them generally tend not to, of course. I would like to make use of an unusual analogy to explain how this popular misconception might have come about.

Take the Sydney Opera House. One would be tempted to compare the architectural competition that Eugene Goosens organised in 1955 to Satan asking his host of fallen angels to come up with the best design for Hell's landmark igloo.

Sydney - and by implication Australia - needed a literally concrete piece of communication that would convince the whole world what a cultured place it had become. It wasn't even originally intended as an opera house, more as a new permanent home for the Sydney Symphony Orchestra, but the name eventually settled on was of course to become a critical part of the payload of implied poshness.

It's a technique that has been used time and time again, the Guggenheim in Bilbao being one of the more successful (and perhaps least affected) examples. You might argue that Dubai has made a right mess of it though by sticking up too many would-be icons with the result that they have effectively canceled each other out.

But in this pioneering antipodean instance it has worked a treat. Just when one feels like dismissing the whole lot of them as a bunch of beer-swilling, ball-batting vulgarians, into one's mind pops this iconic piece of architecture...this beacon of higher cultural aspiration.

It's been so successful in fact that the Aussies haven't felt the need to indulge in any further architectural innovations in the fifty years that have since elapsed. The Opera House was duly deployed as the official symbol of the 2000 Olympic Games; a sporting event.

That's what branding is for - to support our ability to make our own minds up about stuff. Would you call that lying?

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