The arrival of Channel 5 seemed a very long time in the coming,
rather like a steam train dragging itself to the top of a tall hill -
more of a distant rumble than a piercing scream. And then, just when the
brow of the hill was in sight, a brash Intercity 125 hurtled past in the
shape of the 1997 election campaign with a huge dollop of sleaze
clinging like grim death to the axles.
Such was the climate that the nascent channel was being borne into - a
mixture of apathy and ignorance, and following in the slipstream of some
rather juicy stories of politicians being naughty.
So what sort of media launch is going to beat that? Spice, and loads of
it - five Spice, all Spice, total Spice, everywhere Spice.
The answer was clear but the question nagging at the nerves of the PR
team must have been ’will Spice triumph over sleaze?’ Will the feisty
five (yes, we got the pun on Channel 5) and the first ad (being for
Chanel No 5) be strong enough to wrench the media’s attention away from
cash for questions or snogs in the park?
At this year’s Brit Awards in February the Spice Girls proved without a
doubt that they have become just about the hottest thing on the planet
so the answer is, of course, yes.
When they blasted their way on to the front pages again all sections of
the media went weak-kneed. As the girls set up their familiar residence
in the British press, even the ’politically correct’ Guardian
surrendered its front page, to say nothing of the Daily Telegraph.
Admittedly, electioneering was halted over the Easter weekend and
Channel 5, thanks to the Spice Girls, filled the gap, more than amply
some would say.
It was a tryst made in heaven for money, not love, and lots of it
because Scary, Sporty, Posh, Baby and Ginger know that Channel 5 will
still be here next year, and the year after, and they probably won’t
But now the PR challenge must be to maintain interest and ensure that
the bang of the launch does not revert to a distant rumble - a threat
that becomes all too real judging by the fall in viewing figures
following the launch.
Arguments about whether we need another channel are irrelevant, it’s
here, it extends choice and it increases competition. The task ahead for
all concerned is to build an audience and the key here is clever
programming and the communication of this.
An on-going relationship with the Spice girls has been hinted at but,
spice, as all good cooks know, eventually loses its pungency and too
much of it can dull the palate.