Review of 2018

I can’t imagine that too many people will be looking back on 2018 with any degree of fondness.

On the political front, the never ending Brexit saga has moved from tragedy to farce and has also demonstrated that the current crop of UK politicians are a fairly mediocre and uninspiring bunch. As if that wasn’t enough, I hope I am not alone in being troubled by the worldwide growth of the extreme right.

It’s been another difficult year for the media with local newspapers in particular struggling just to survive. The sale of Johnston Press, one of the largest regional newspaper publishers in the UK, demonstrated the problems caused by falling circulations and declining advertising revenues.  It was also distressing to see journalists being demonised, and in some cases brutally murdered, by political leaders.

In the public sector the age of austerity still seems to be with us. For those working in the sector, including PR professionals, it means the ongoing stress of being under pressure to achieve more with less.        .

Anyway, enough of this doom and gloom. Here are some of my highlights of 2018…

Best Campaign of the Year – Cancer Research UK’s controversial “OB_S__Y” campaign divided opinion, with some critics accusing it of fat shaming. However there can be little doubt that CRUK achieved their objective of increasing public awareness of the link between obesity and cancer.

Worst Campaign of the Year – Presumably Boris Johnson thought that it would help his campaign for the keys to No10 to have a BBC documentary crew follow him around the globe during his stint as Foreign Secretary. Instead Inside the Foreign Office portrayed Boris as being gaffe prone and out of his depth. Who could possibly have predicted that?

Surprise of the Year – Pleasant surprise of the year was Primal Scream headlining a gig at the V&A. The cynics who had questioned the V&A’s decision to open a branch of the museum in Dundee were proved wrong. The V&A Dundee opened in September and has been a huge success. It’s a good example of how cultural institutions can play a positive role in regenerating our cities.

Film of the Year – Not exactly a vintage year for movies in my opinion. I’m afraid that the fantasy and sci-fi films that seem to be omnipresent don’t really appeal to me. I enjoyed Spielberg’s The Post and Paul Schrader’s under rated First Reformed, but my favourite film of 2018 was I Tonya. Margot Robbie and Alison Janney were both superb in the improbable but true story about deadly rivalry in Olympic ice skating.

TV Highlight of the Year – There was a lot of good quality TV drama this year. Trust was superb, as was Black Earth Rising. My choice as TV highlight of 2018 is The Assassination of Gianni Versace which benefited from an excellent performance by Darren Criss.

TV Disappointment of the Year – While the BBC and Channel Four both continue to produce top notch drama, ITV seems to be struggling badly in this area. Their much hyped Strangers  turned out to be a turgid mess which wasted a good cast.

Media of the Year – In an era of “fake news”, it’s comforting to know that we can still rely on Private Eye to tell us what’s really happening in the world. Their mix of bitchy gossip, cartoons and schoolboy humour obviously hasn’t altered much over the decades, but why change a winning formula?

Best PR of the Year – Inspired by the movie “Three Billboards Outside Ebbing, Missouri”, campaigners for the victims of the Grenfell Tower fire drove three large billboards  through central London in order to keep their cause in the public consciousness. It generated a great deal of media attention and helped to keep pressure on the relevant authorities.

Worst PR of the Year – Walking out of a TV interview because you don’t like the question is never a good idea. Yet that is exactly what Jeff Fairburn, boss of Persimmon Homes, did when a BBC reporter asked about his £75m pay packet. Fairburn was soon out of a job as Persimmon shareholders were concerned about the “negative impact” on the reputation of the firm.

Hero of the Year – Who would have thought that the most insightful and perceptive commentary on the Brexit crisis would come from…Danny Dyer? His expletive ridden rant live on ITV about David Cameron, “he’s in Europe with his trotters up, yeah where is the geezer?”, was absolutely priceless. The fact that Cameron later claimed that he had never heard of Danny Dyer just made Dyer even more popular.

Villain of the Year – I know that he’s an easy and obvious target, but it has to be US President Donald Trump. The way in which he has bent the truth and continually encouraged his supporters to think of the media as the enemy is deeply troubling and sets a very dangerous example for other politicians across the globe.

Sporting Highlight of the Year – Europe’s golfers won back the Ryder Cup with an emphatic win over the USA in France. Success for an all Europe team coupled with the failure of Team USA to “make America great again” showed that sport can often reflect politics.

Sporting Failure of the Year – With Chelsea fans shouting racist abuse and Celtic fans continually firing off flares at away games, there seems little doubt that racism and hooliganism are both on the rise in football. Clubs, managers and players need to look closely at themselves and make sure that their own actions don’t encourage or provoke the thugs.

Finally, I wish you all a Merry Christmas and a Happy New Year.



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