The trouble is that Rodney Marsh, Janice Dickinson, PR’s own Lynne Franks et al achieved their professional eminence in the last century BC – Before Celebrity.
Outrageously gifted footballer, supermodel and PR genius – each seems to have felt a belated yearning to join the new age of celebrity in which exhibitionists seek riches comparable to those earned by stars blessed with genuine talent.
Sitting alongside the required sex-factor telly totty, they chomp their squealing way through indigestible bugs and get involved in bogus squabbles about sexism. Millions of viewers tune in and the jungle adventures of this odd bunch cover acres of newsprint. Celebrity magazines go into overdrive. Smart agents and PR advisers generate fat fees and percentages from the media spotlight. Janice Dickinson gets a book serialisation in the Daily Mail, in which she drools lasciviously over ancient love affairs with Warren Beattie, Jack Nicholson, Mick Jagger and so on. For Rodney Marsh, the jungle may lead to a well-deserved rehabilitation as a witty and perceptive telly pundit after his sacking for an unfortunate but relatively harmless tsunami joke a year ago. Lynne is too canny to have exposed herself to such public gaze without a strategy.
In general, though, whatever the contestants and their advisers seek from participation, they should not expect it to create any commercial brand longevity. With the exception of the cleverly managed Myleene Klass, previous contestants have sunk back into the pit of oblivion.
Very often, contestants’ personal problems have been exacerbated by continued media obsession with their lives. The cost of taking part in I’m a Celebrity was highlighted by the News of the World last weekend. On successive spreads, the tabloid exposed Sophie Anderton as ‘a £10k hooker’ and ‘a coke dealer’ and Kerry Katona as ‘on the brink of bankruptcy after blowing a fortune on cocaine, booze and flash cars’. A further five pages were devoted to the antics of this year’s contestants.
The moral is clear: those who the media seek to make celebrities, the media can – if not carefully managed – ultimately destroy. Signing up for the televised ‘rumble in the jungle’ destroys forever clients’ right to privacy. Modern celebrity is largely for the shameless and the media will continue to try to shame their icons long after the cameras have stopped rolling and the fees have dried up.
Ian Monk is founder of Ian Monk Associates and was formerly a senior newspaper executive at the Daily Mail and The Sun