Kate and Gerry McCann: Not a sign of doubt about their innocence

From The Times
September 22, 2007

Our correspondent looks at the baleful influence of the marketing men

Matthew Parris

(This is a snippet from this article)

Marketing politics, marketing personality, marketing toothpaste, marketing a football club: they’re all converging on the same game of market positioning, the trick of finding out where your audience would like you to be, and locating yourself there. The electorate are unnerved by too much of this. It starts them asking what you’re really for, and where the real you is to be found. They do not look to political leadership for a mirror image of themselves alone.

Beneath the many polished surfaces of modern Britain, beneath the appeal of the slick, professional crafting of brands, narratives and messages, there is an aching hunger for authenticity. The immune system of this nation is developing antibodies to mere marketing. The whole priesthood and its methods are beginning to trigger an allergic reaction. And the people least likely to warn us that this is happening in the market are the very people we hire to tell us about markets: the marketing priesthood.

Look what they’ve done to Kate and Gerry McCann. Here were two people deserving of the most intense public sympathy. On a superficial level they got it – by the media bucketload. Yet did you not sense from an early stage an undertone of irritation at the couple? I’ve sensed it everywhere I go: not a sign of doubt about their innocence, which most of us take for granted, but a feeling, nevertheless, that they in some way invited trouble – though we banish the thought as brutal and wrong.

Which it is. So why the ungenerosity? I believe it is because Kate and Gerry McCann have allowed an impression to arise that they and their advisers are marketing their own tragedy. Where we would have expected to see parents distracted and disorganised by grief, we have seen a professionally run campaign to find out what the media want, and give it to them.

This has been done for a most defensible reason: to enlist the entire European public as amateur detectives in the search for Madeleine. But now her parents have ended up looking like film stars in a Hollywood weepy. Do those who have contrived this, or the couple themselves, have any inkling of the damage that professional marketing has done to this family’s image?

Kate and Gerry looking like filmstars in a Hollywood weepy :'(

Look at the damage we've done to this family's image!