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A Nasty Piece of Work: Gossip Girl’s All Press is Good Press Strategy

It’s 2006, and Hollywood is in the Golden Age of teen T.V. Shows such as The OC, Veronica Mars, and Dawson's Creek are all successful, and coming to a close. It was time for the next big thing to captivate audiences, and in January of 2007, they had just that when The C.W network greenlit the development of Gossip Girl.

The show was to center around the fabulously glamorous lives of a clique of New York’s rich and elite. The series served as an escapist fantasy from the financial crisis of the time and became and remained a cultural phenomenon. However, the show’s risque content sparked controversy, especially among concerned parents’ organizations, and critics worried about exposing a teen audience to explicit content. Critics slammed the show; the Boston Herald described it as “Every parent’s nightmare.” The Parents Television Council stated the show was “Reckless and irresponsible”, and the New York Post reviewed it as a “Nasty piece of work.” Most productions would take offense to these reviews, try to shield themselves from negative press, and hope the public wouldn’t listen to the critics. Gossip Girl, however, believes there is no such thing as bad press…

You Know You Love Me

Gossip Girl took the bad reviews of the critics and turned them into campaign slogans. Displayed on R-rated posters, the Very Bad, Nightmare, Nasty, Inappropriate ad campaign featured characters in compromising situations featuring a negative review on each poster. The campaign took advantage of the Forbidden Fruit effect, people’s tendency to want what they are told they shouldn’t have. Emphasizing society’s thoughts about the show, the campaign dared teens to challenge social norms of what they should and shouldn’t want, compelling them to tune in every week and indulge in a guilty pleasure.

The act of using bad press to bolster your image is not exclusive to Gossip Girl or even television productions. When Taco Bell was sued for their meat quality in 2011, they took the allegations and created videos that listed every single ingredient in their ground beef, and emphasized the quality of their ingredients. The result was Taco Bell improving its reputation in customers’ eyes as a transparent and honest company.

XOXO, Gossip Girl

Gossip Girl has demonstrated that all press can be good press when you’re able to acknowledge the negative reviews and turn it on its head, however, this may not work for every sticky situation. Krispy Kreme, for instance, introduced Krispy Kreme Klub Wednesday which had an unfortunate acronym the event was advertised under. Customers called Krispy Kreme out for their racist language, and the organization later issued an apology for the oversight.

All press is not necessarily good press, but it can be an asset if an organization can rise above the allegations. However, if they aren’t careful negative press can call into question an organization’s reputation, and cause customers to be turned away by an organization’s lack of credibility, and care. Remember not all organizations can turn being called “reckless and irresponsible” into a compliment.


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