Why Kim Kardashian should not get all huffy with Sir Martin Sorrell

Even for those of us who don’t really know Kim Kardashian or care much for the several gossip sites churning out endless pictures of the near-naked celebrity, Kim and the Kardashian clan have managed an extraordinary social media marketing strategy and beguiled millions of social media fans. Even the family cat has its own Facebook page. For the Kardashian sisters (thanks Ford for telling us there is more than one) to be exploring legal options over the ‘leaked’ ad that showed the three sisters bound and gagged in the trunk of a Ford Figo, is nothing less than incongruous with their marketing tactics.


The ad, created by WPP-owned JWT India, was apparently never approved by Ford or even intended to be released to a wider audience. But the Kardashians are reported to be hopping mad. Even more worryingly, Sir Martin Sorrell’s JWT India has sacked the staffers responsible for this offensive ad.

The advert was understandably deemed disgraceful because it emerged out of India and is mired in the political overtones of how the government is trying to deal with sex crimes following the high profile rape case in New Delhi. The issue however is not just about decency (it is no secret that Indian advertising has never been politically correct and borrows heavily from satire). Or how quickly Ford and the advertising agency responsible issued apologies following a social media backlash. And this is also not a PR disaster for Ford. The issue here however is one of how constantly connected online communities share ideas and flash information.

Never before has this chasm between the digitally natives and those of us who are digital immigrants (including the Kardashians and Sorrell, who owns some top-of-the-range digital agencies and digital expertise) been wider. How do you control a generation from engaging with technology or change the way it engages with digital?

How do you teach a generation to wait for the seal of approval before it sets out to share its news with its global audience?

At Adweek Europe recently, when the editor of The Evening Standard, Sarah Sands took the stage with The Sun’s Gordon Smart to discuss ‘No News is Terrible News’ there was again little debate about how billions of connected people are managing to shake the status quo of our world. How corporations, how governments, or even our bosses – all contained in a vertical structure– are trying to control the society, but how over two billion digitally connected people are upsetting that system by trying to be immediate. The poor sod at the Evening Standard who tweeted the embargoed budget during Osborne’s speech has been suspended.

I also know of journalist friends (digital immigrants of course) who try and ‘save’ their stories for print editions by not discussing with the rest of their colleagues for fear of it ‘leaking’ online first. I’ve done it myself. Then there are stories that are ‘leaked’ online for fear of appearing front-page next day.

Some of us might still be fearful of this connected world, but not our children. For them it will be a world of possibilities. A world that can create celebrities, conversations and even currencies. It is about the new world order.

A world that conceived the Kardashians. I find it astonishing that for a celebrity that has compelled millions of social media fans to follow her every move and has built her brand through Twitter and Facebook could be exploring legal options over a ‘leaked’ ad online. C’mon Kim, cut Sir Martin some slack.


About singhspeak

Views on marketing, advertising, and sometimes politics

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