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PR firms praise
Janet's breast stunt

While millions of television viewers remain aghast at Janet Jackson’s unexpected breast exposure during the Super Bowl halftime show, some ad agencies are trying to figure out how to top the stunt.

The Jackson episode was “extremely successful,” says one executive, according to Advertising Age, the industry magazine.

“We love stunts at our agency, and she opened the door for more people to take risks,” said James LaForce, partner in the New York public relations agency LaForce & Stevens, according to the periodical.

“It raises the bar for all of us,” he added.

The reputations of CBS and the National Football League have taken a beating, but most in the PR field think Janet Jackson, as a “product” in her own right, came out just fine, Advertising Age says.

LaForce thinks few will forget the incident, which upstaged an exciting football game and the commercials, which have become a Super Bowl institution.

In the four days following the event, Jackson received twice as many mentions in the press as the commercials, according to the Washington D.C.-based research firm CARMA International.

What’s more, only weeks ahead of her first album release in three years, Jackson broke the all-time search engine record. One of her singles was released Feb. 2, the day after the Super Bowl, reported Advertising Age, citing janet-jackson.com.

Jackson also will star as singer Lena Horne in an upcoming ABC special and is planning a world tour, the industry magazine said.

“It is the ultimate stunt. I don’t see any downside for her,” said Andy Morris, principal at the New York PR firm Andy Morris & Co., according to Ad Age. “It fits perfectly with the new CD that’s about sex.”

At least one firm is asking, however, whether such a stunt can backfire.

“It has absolutely changed a lot of things about how we do stunts,” said Howard Rubenstein, president of Rubenstein & Associates. “Right now we are asking ourselves: Can it backfire in any way? Can anyone be injured, will it insult anyone, does it make fun of people with a defect, is it over the edge sexually? Now PR people will have to be very cautious.”

Rubenstein, once a representative for Michael Jackson, is urging his staff to be cautious, fearing the possibility of being barred by the media.

Janet Jackson did not show up for an originally scheduled performance at the Grammy’s Sunday night.

Peter Himler, managing director at Burson-Marsteller, thinks pulling off such stunts is shortsighted.

“So many firms are about creating short-term PR or publicity or buzz and forget that the best way to build your brand is to produce a quality product,” he said, according to Ad Age.

One PR executive said the stunt came off as a desperate act, leaving the public feeling manipulated.

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