Is there such a thing as bad publicity?

I work in the Global Marketing team at Nokia. We produce Global-level marketing assets and suchlike, but sometimes we get surprised by things that happen on a local level. One such example was last week when a campaign was launched in UK to star in a bedroom scene with Pamela Anderson – all shot in HD on the Nokia N8.

It certainly earned media, generating a lot of tweets and even more Facebook links. And it did something that is quite hard to achieve for a marketing project: it earned mainstream (tabloid) press from Brixton to Brooklyn.

The response was mostly quite negative. Comments such as: “absolutely unbelieveable. Nokia cant get to such low standards… a Porn star to promote a flagship product of Nokia.. something is seriously wrong at nokia” were unfortunately quite common.

So it may have been in bad taste. Certainly it is not the kind of marketing people expect from Nokia, but that means it disrupted expectations, which is not a bad thing. Also, in fairness, it did get the point across that the Nokia N8 has a fantastic home-video camera.

I personally agree with many of the commenters that it’s a bad choice of actress. It doesn’t sit well with me, and is inconsistent with some of the global campaign work we’ve been doing (more on that coming soon)

But I could be wrong, and this may have actually done little long-term damage and actually done a great job of getting us into the papers at just the right time before Nokia World.

I guess time will tell if this kind of stunt actually helps or hinders our marketing efforts.

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13 thoughts on “Is there such a thing as bad publicity?

  1. Ms. Jen says:

    Not all publicity is good publicity. And there are a number of reasons why filming a bedroom scene is in bad taste for a major corporation, many layers of bad taste & choice.

    I live in the land of silicon beach ball boobs on drugged out skinny chicks who all endeavor to upgrade their former careers as strippers or ‘promo’ girls (read escorts) into either a career in film or as a trophy ‘wife’ to a Huntington or Newport Beach man of ‘means’.

    Frankly, the glorification of porn is very 1997, which is why when I saw the tweets about Pam Anderson and a Nokia film, I thought, “Oh G-d, how lame.” Then I tweeted asking where the N8 film with a nude Nikki Sixx was going to be… which only my LA based friends got & laughed at.

    [Nikki is the bass player, founder, and actual brains of Motley Crue, and if we want to get crude & bedroom-y: he has great thighs (real ones, not silicon enchanced). Tommy Lee is just a dude with a big dick who beats on shit for a living: drums, sister, ex-girlfriends, wife(s), etc.]

    [/LA gossip moment over.]

    Sex may sell, but leave it to the folks in the Valley – the silicon valley – the San Fernando Valley.

  2. dagood says:

    @Ms Jen

    – I agree, as hopefully was clear from the post.

    Many people at Nokia felt the same, and were not at all impressed with the choice of “representative”.

    I think that, despite the short term spike in attention, this sort of thing will stop people believing in Nokia, which will be hugely detrimental. Instead we’ll attract a much more shallow form of interest. Let’s hope it was just an aberration.

  3. Ms. Jen says:

    Hi DaGood!

    I think one the things that must be both great and difficult in the role of Global marketing is the internet, in the sense that one can push out a brand with a scope not even imagined in the era of TV but at the same time what may be funny/amusing/winning over to one group/sub-culture can be seen as insulting to another.

    In this case, I wonder how the meeting went with whoever approved this ‘film’…

    “Dude, she’s hot and of Finnish ancestry! It’s a win-win!”


    “Come on! Don’t be a puritan, nobody will be offended, and the fanboys will love it.”

    “uhh… isn’t she old enough to be some of the fanboys’ mom?”

    “Don’t worry, we can bill her as a super hot MILF!”

    (In my fictional world of corporate marketing, the folks who would approve such things are always ex-frat boys with more bravado then sense.)


  4. dagood says:

    @Ms Jen


    Was that a scene from the upcoming TV show “Sad Men”?

  5. Really, really good to read your opinion on this particular campaign. I was talking about this earlier with some friends and – actress aside – the key take away for me was the way the story spread across the globe. UK messaging, yes. But reaching a global audience.

    As the web spreads ever further every day, differentiating between what’s local and what’s global – in the English language market at least – becomes even more difficult.

    Good post.

  6. dagood says:

    Great point Mr Whatley! (as always)

    When something goes on the Worldwide Web it is inherently global. Content in English is obviously even more immediately shareable.

    The choice of Pamela Anderson made a decent campaign about film making *much* more conversational. But as Ms Jen pointed out, a win for one sub-culture can be an Epic Fail to another.

    The challenge is getting that balance right, as it may be impossible to be both very edgy and very safe.

    Maybe instead you just have to aim for being completely, undeniably awesome 😉

  7. Now that’s something I can definitely get onboard with 🙂

  8. Ms. Jen says:

    What I didn’t bring up in my two earlier posts in addition to what you and James fleshed out the global internet part, is that while in the UK this might be seen as funny or ironic or sexy but given Nokia’s current push into both the Middle East and Emerging Markets of India & Indonesia that this could move beyond epicfail and into cultural offense.

    But even in non-formal/conservative cultures, this might give offense or at least a good eye roll & an “Oh, Please!” to women who might think that Nokia is presenting women as objects. Which in the US market may be the opposite of what the company wishes to achieve since a large majority of purchasing decisions, including electronics, are made by women 25-54.

    All questions of cross-cultural awareness in marketing aside, I go back to my first comment, which is why did the local marketers in question think that Pam Anderson is edgy?

  9. Ms. Jen says:

    Hi, it is me again. Sorry about all my comments, but I sat up last night, when I should have been sleeping, thinking about this whole thing and having a debate with myself.

    To further parse out what James & you commented on, now with the Internet and Google Translate all local marketing campaigns and materials on the web are global.

    So the big question(s) for folks like the Nokia global marketing team and others is how does one train the local teams to pull off an awesome campaign that is also thinking about the global possibilities and communicate between the local and global teams when everyone is very busy?

  10. Jussi-Pekka says:

    @Ms. Jen The communication between local and global are something I’m working with and it is not easy to get people understand that there is no borders in internet and everything is global. I have been using these to phrases to get our guys on both levels to think these kind things: “Think global, act local” and “Think local, act global”.

  11. Ms. Jen says:

    Hi @JP! I hope all is well.

    Maybe an internal version of the Marketing Academy that James (@whatleydude) has been participating in would be a great way to train, discuss the best practices, increase cross-cultural awareness & campaigns, reward excellence, etc.


  12. Jussi-Pekka says:

    Hi Ms Jen ;D

    Yes, training is always needed and we have this kind of courses, but more is always needed.

  13. Ms. Jen says:

    Ha! JP, come on, admit it, when you heard about what Whatley is doing in the Marketing Academy, didn’t it sound like fun? Just a little?


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