When a beauty contest can command the type of viewing figures that
Miss World did, it has to be doing something right, says Quentin Bell,
founder of the Quentin Bell Organisation.
What do PR consultants most often search for? A unique vehicle with
which to carry their clients’ messages, that’s what - and in many cases
this might involve creating a controversy to grab the headlines.
No worries in this regard with Miss World, of course. But also ponder on
this. How many superbrands do you know that, exiled from the UK, make a
stunning comeback ten years later on a tropical island-and command a 1.5
billion television audience? I can’t think of one-and it’s the PC police
of middle-England, and their counterparts worldwide, that are culpable
for its absence.
To ban the contestants from walking on stage in stilletoes and a
swimsuit is one thing, but to replace this with video footage of the
girls frolicking in the sea is even worse as you argue that it is far
Paradoxically, what the organisers have done in trying to make the
contest more PC has arguably made it less so.
The PC brigade confuse sex with sexism. For the 1.5 billion that tuned
in, sex is still pleasurable. And not just for the men. Judging from the
delight in the faces of the contestants themselves, females are not
adverse to parading on a platform and frolicking on the foreshore in
order to vie for a crown. So who are we to interfere?
It beats me, because apart from Miss Israel and the viewers there were
lots of winners. Channel 5 has gained from the sexism debate, which will
be good branding for them and a conduit to new advertisers. It’s been
brilliant for the Seychelles as a destination.
Acres of footage showed the beauty of the holiday island and Air
Seychelles promotion offered free trips, and there were copious
endorsements from the contestants themselves. All in all, how many
opportunities are there to get such key messages across to billions of
It wasn’t bad news for the charismatic master of ceremonies Ronan
Keating, or the copious Sophie Dahl and the styleless Jacques Villeneuve
as judges either.
But Eric and Julia Morely are the true winners. They knew that the
controversy would help them with their campaign to repatriate the
money-spinner to its homeland next year. I hope they’ll succeed.
Confound the prudes!