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A panel of 8 public relations professionals brought together by UK marketing industry magazine 'PR Week' have declared that the 'McLibel' case and campaign was 7th out of a Top 20 of the most effective public relations 'consumer facing' campaigns (mostly UK based) of all time.  

In fact, this conclusion is even more remarkable when you consider that the McLibel campaign is virtually unique on their list in that the success of the campaign involved no PR firms, no marketing budget, no backing from any large organisation or institution, and was up against maybe the world's largest and most successful marketing organisation - the McDonald's Corporation. Indeed McDonald's spent up to $15m on the McLibel trial to try to suppress criticisms of the company, which nevertherless mushroomed all around the world.

Of course, such a 'Top 20' is a load of meaningless hype. But the success of the McLibel publicity and campaign, recognised by the PR industry hacks from PR Week, is a testament to the power of the truth against corporate propaganda and media complicity. It is also a testament to the efforts and determination of thousands of activists who during the case stepped up their opposition to the company and all that it stands for.

Dave Morris McLibel Defendant

29/03/02 . David Ward . Guardian . UK  
Never mind the Sex Pistols, here's the spin  

Labour yesterday won the ultimate tribute to the power of its spin when a team of public relations professionals hailed the brutal effectiveness of its publicity onslaught in the past two general elections.

In a piece of hype typical of their industry, the panel of eight, brought together by PR Week magazine, praised the offensive masterminded by Peter Mandelson as the most effective public relations campaign of all time.

Labour's media management, with slogans such as A Better Britain and Britain Deserves Better, shot it to pole position in a top 20 which included Oxfam, the Pope, the Sex Pistols and Rubik's Cube, the puzzle that drove some of us nuts in the 70s.

It is a measure of Labour's soaraway success in the poll that it came 17 places ahead of the Wonderbra "hello boys" campaign, which eight years ago had elderly men in Morris Minors crashing into each other all over Britain.

The panel, which included the PR luminaries Lynne Franks, Mark Borkowski, head of Borkowski PR, and Trevor Beattie, chairman of TBWA, said that in the 1990s New Labour created a brand which "sought to shed the image of a spendthrift, inflationary and union-dominated party, and create one that suggested it was in touch with the people".

"Even now, people criticise it as spin and no substance - that's the best measure of its success," said Mr Beattie.

The Conservatives can draw some consolation from the fact that they slipped into 16th place with their 1979 election campaign featuring Margaret Thatcher and billboards proclaiming "Labour isn't working".

The panel considered only what it described as "consumer facing" campaigns and had the sense to rule out on moral grounds last September's attack on New York's twin towers. "If we are debating impact, surely some would argue we must consider September 11 as the biggest publicity stunt of all time," said one panellist.

The team also ruled out Joseph Goebbels, Hitler's propaganda chief, on the same grounds.

At number two was Richard Branson. "The brand is Branson - there's no one better," said Mr Beattie.

The panel acknowledged Mr Branson's "At least I tried" philosophy, and added: "Any business disappointments or personal failures seem to endear him to the public further."

Tate Modern came third, its "integrated communications launch" having reached "media outlets of which other art institutions can only dream".

The panel's admiration for the antics of the Sex Pistols ("Malcolm McLaren's legacy is awesome") shot the punk band into fifth place, just behind Oxfam which "changed the concept of charity from institutional benevolence to one of mutual self-help".

Greenpeace was praised for its campaign against GM foods, Calvin Klein for getting men interested in underwear and grooming, and Coca-Cola for its self-promotion in the second world war.

The Pope and Bono earned their 14th place for their efforts to eradicate world debt. British Gas's Sid was honoured, as were the suffragettes who won the vote despite being posh.

A campaign which made most observers feel distinctly queasy zipped into 11th place: the 1999 stunt by a Birmingham radio station to find a couple willing to marry after a blind date. "This was a comment on marriage and it should have been entered for the Turner prize." The marriage did not last. But the PR panel's memory lingers on.

Top 20

  1. The Labour Party since the mid-1990s.
  2. Sir Richard Branson
  3. The opening of Tate Modern in London
  4. Oxfam
  5. Malcolm McLaren, the brains behind the Sex Pistols
  6. Coca Cola
  7. Greenpeace and its campaign against genetically modified food.
  8. Calvin Klein
  9. The "McLibel" trial
  10. The revival of Perrier
  11. The wedding of two strangers brought together in 1999 by Birmingham radio station BRMB.
  12. The "Brylcreem Boy" competition
  13. The "Tell Sid" campaign for British Gas privatisation in the 1980s.
  14. The campaign to cancel the developing world's debt
  15. The women's suffragette movement
  16. The "Labour Isn't Working" campaign by the Conservative Party.
  17. The Rubik's Cube
  18. The "Hello Boys" campaign for the Wonderbra featuring supermodel Eva Herzigova.
  19. The launch of Sony's PlayStation 2 in the UK
  20. Trivial Pursuit

And another Guardian article concludes that  

" And what is bad news for some is good news for others, as McDonald's found out to its cost. The panellists said the defendants in the "McLibel" court case, dubbed "the biggest corporate PR disaster in history", had an "awesome" PR success with their case against the fast food giant. They made it to number nine on the list. "  

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