Al Gore was doing so well up until Live Earth. He was the celebrity – the former Vice President of the United States with an Oscar-winning documentary being shown all over the world to teach us all about the effects of climate change.
We were listening, the politicians were listening, the businessmen were listening and this very clever man was at the centre of a global movement for personal, corporate and national environmental responsibility.
So I assume it was naivety that made him jump on the global concert idea when Kevin Wall suggested it. What neither Gore nor Wall appreciated was that the media, always looking for a spin, would pick up on the fact that an awful lot of carbon footprints will make their mark on a series of global concerts, however green you try to be and however many electric cars you carry your artists around in.
But the real boob was the selection of the celebrities. Some high profile performers – Sting, particularly – have worked for years to save the rainforest and therefore have total credibility when it comes to being spokespeople for the issue.
But Duran Duran, back for the second weekend at Wembley following the Diana concert? Sarah Brightman flying specially to China? And, of course, Madge with her private jet – come on! Celebrity endorsements are fine, but they have to be from celebrities who actually know what they’re talking about in the first place.
However, the real killers for me were the comedians. We can live with Chris Rock’s gratuitous swearing if it relates to the cause – which it didn’t – but far worse was the claptrap spouted throughout by BBC presenters Jonathan Ross and Russell Brand. Ross squirmed as it was made clear that he had no idea if his own domestic waste was recycled. I don’t believe we have celebrity burn-out regarding causes yet – but it is essential for celebrities who represent a cause to be knowledgeable and sincere.
There are many smart ways of getting over social awareness messages to the public – Bono’s ‘Red’ campaign being one of the best. Perhaps we in the PR industry should put our heads together to come up with something new, where the cause and its spokespeople can be taken more seriously.
Lynne Franks (l) founded Lynne Franks PR (now part of Ketchum) and now runs SEED, the women’s enterprise support network.