Chinese Democracy: the finest PR campaign never performed

Today sees the release of Chinese Democracy, Guns ‘N’ Roses’ first album since 1994. If you don’t know the back story to the album best catch yourself up with Wikipedia. Suffice to say I was 9 when they started recording the album and even I’m holding my breath in anticipation.

cool AxlThe last anyone knew Chinese Democracy had cost $13 million, Axl Rose was the only original member of the band left and the world should have forgotten about the album long ago. Add that to their last album, the atrocious ‘The Spaghetti Incident’, going down like a lead balloon and Axl Rose should be clawing for fame on Celebrity Big Brother. He managed to stick around though due to a series of leaks, celebrity cameos, corporate backings and stunts which any PRO would be proud of.

In 1996 just as the band started recording CD Slash left the band in a blaze of sour grapes shortly followed by bassist duff. Losing a member has been enough to kill better bands (see: Blur, The Libertines) especially if that member is a rock god but G’N’R just called in Brian May, Nine Inch Nails, then Dave Navarro making headlines every time. (even Shaquille O’Neal had a go)

Around 2000 people started to suspect that maybe CD wasn’t ever to be released, one rumour said it was called Chinese Democracy because just like Chinese democracy it didn’t exist. The mere fact, that the album had taken so long(eased along by the odd comment from Axl’s ‘friends’) it started generating buzz and rumours from no where, the album had accidently created the type of word of mouth campaign agencies spend thousands creating.

When coverage in Rolling Stone dried up an album track leaked, followed by another completely different version of the same song. The internet lit up for two weeks with argument and suddenly everyone wanted to know when the album was due again, the campaign went viral.fat axl

Rumours started circulating that Axl was a nut so Guns ‘n’  Roses went out on tour playing bizarre snippets of songs then cancelling gigs to work on the album further fuelling rumours.

Other bands even started getting in on the act, in 2003 The Offspring released a press statement claiming they’d named their new album (Splinter) Chinese Democracy because they were bored of waiting, they relented when Axl threatened a lawsuit.

Finally came January of this year and after multiple song leaks the album was handed to the record company (an act which usually garners no attention) and a million headlines were made.

In March G’N’R received corporate backing as Dr. Pepper promised to give every person in America a free can of Dr.Pepper if the album was released this year. They’re following through to their credit.

A string of events ranging from the idiot to the bizarre largely caused by Axl’s massive ego generated a PR campaign which resulted in one of the most anticipated albums ever. Did anyone even notice the actual PR campaign?

 

History’s Greatest PR Guy

On my way home from Wolfstar tonight I was drafting one of my many grad scheme applications and came across my favourite question so far (yes I have favourites). The question was If I had a table at a top London restaurant who, if I could have anyone, would I choose to invite?

The question reminded me of a recent post by Stuart Bruce about his favourite communicators, especially Cicero.

My pick for favourite dinner guest is Voltaire. This is partly because Voltaire, like Cicero, was a great Orator. He may even have been the wittiest person ever to live which would make him alot of fun over steak. He could also, however, summarise the greatest theories ever created in 12 words (a handy skill in writing a news release), was the master of the catchphrase (‘all is for the best in the best of all possible worlds’) and had a massive imagination (Micromegas is possibly the first science fiction story). In short Voltaire was a damn good PR guy and you could learn more in an evening listening to Voltaire than in years at a PR agency. Think about it:

Imagine having the man who said “I may disagree with what you say, but I will defend to the death your right to say it”on the phone selling you a storyVoltaire

How about brainstorming with a man who was exiled from France for  being too witty?

A new media specialist on the team? Voltaire specialised in writing pamphlets, still a new medium in French politics.

If Voltaire were alive today he would be in PR. Cicero would be in public affairs but I think Voltaire would dive straight into consumer; he took shots at everything he could so he’d yearn for the variety of consumer and would undoubtedly devote himself to pushing every brand to it’s limit.

That’s my first proper post thanks for joining me and I hope you come back for more.

P.S.
I also thought about any other historical figures I could picture in the industry and I came up Casanova, it takes some serious reputation management to seduce nuns and still emerge the good guy.

The Welcome Post

So being as I’m the new boy I should probably introduce myself:

Hi, I’m Paul Crouch, you may know me from my admittedly rather abstract post on the Wolfstar blog (I’m going to try to keep it simpler than that, honest). I’m planning to blog more on PR, but as with every other blogger there’ll probably be a few idol thoughts thrown in.

In real life I’m a recent grad pursuing a career in PR. I graduated from Durham in June and, after time out to get chased by fighting bulls, went on to spend a month on work experience at Frank PR before beginning my current placement with Wolfstar.

As Wolfstar is pretty good at social media it seemed liked I should probably fix up and get into the more practical side of the digital world, the result of which is this blog. I do have other reasons: in case I ever have a novel PR thought I should probably have some where to record it, I can drone on about film/ music/ Yak Skiing all I like and no one will complain, Jed will stop telling me to blog but Overall I’m just hoping this will help me stay on top of the whole social media circus.