Since time immemorial we have trusted our televisions implicitly.  We’ve given the magical little box pride of place in the heart of our family homes, letting it pump out little bits of information/ celebratory dirge/ David Attenborough masterpieces (delete where appropriate) on a daily basis.   The American’s trusted the calming tones of Edward R Murrow so much that he was able to land a punch at McCarthyism.  We Brits – so trusting are we – that when welcoming the Beeb into the living room, we decided to call it ‘Aunty’.

But it has occurred to me that you cannot trust the talking wallpaper as far as you can throw an LCD flat screen.  Look at the evidence:  We can’t trust the commercial business model for starters. Some factions of the press wouldn’t have us trust the BBC Trust (clue is in the name).  But two things happened recently that have caused me to look differently at my television set:

  • Simon Cowell, DEADLOCK! and the Twins: Storm in a tea-cup perhaps, but bottom line is the country can’t trust the judges anymore (perhaps they never did but the facade is shattered, at least).
  • Last night’s Spooks: I won’t spoil it for you, but once again the people at Kudos showcased their mastery in pulling the rug from under the audience,  setting it alight, then dumping it in the Thames.

Square Eyes will be the least of our problems if we can’t even trust the televisual box anymore.  Or will it?

We talk about trust.  A lot.  For companies and brands it is a necessity.  For PRs – helping companies to build trust is in our blood.  But after the bombshell of last night’s Spooks followed by watching Good Night and Good Luck on iPlayer – I started thinking that for consumer campaigns maybe dis-Trust can play an equally important role.

Bear with me.  Spooks succeeds because it goes against convention.  You don’t trust the script writers to play safe and on some level there is an expectation that they’ll boil your favourite character alive.  It’s this tension that gets you to sit on the edge of the sofa.  Arguably the same can be said of the X-Factor.  Cowell is an old school PR genius – he knows how to play the audience.  By creating a bit of drama he guaranteed column inches galore.

So when coming up with campaigns to excite consumers I think we could learn a lot from these tactics: push boundaries, explore the unexpected, embrace the chaos.  As far as I can tell a bit of dis-Trust – in safe hands – could go a long way.

@LukeMackay

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