I was recently browsing through the options on IMDb and found it’s possible to make lists. Although it’s not a new feature, I had not tried it yet. So, to test it out I made a selection of some of the most interesting movies and TV shows about our industry.
Advertising agencies and political campaigns have often been recurring topics in the film industry. However, PR agencies do not seem to play a big part. And if we are, our work tends to be presented from the ‘dark side’, which appears to be the interesting angle for scriptwriters. From this point of view we can find some stories around communications directors, consultants or managers, that represents athletes and celebrities (Jerry Maguire, People I Know), or defending delicate business interests (Thank You for Smoking, The Insider) or trying to divert attention to the public from scandals (Wag the Dog).
On the other hand, there are also interesting film examples about the importance of communications inside companies (Smoking Room), its influence on public opinion (The Queen, All the President’s Men …) or fine cases of the importance of the spokesperson media training (Frost/Nixon).
1) The Candidate (1972) Film about the election campaign of a candidate for the Senate, serving as a pretext to show the inner workings of American politics and political marketing.
2) Wag the Dog (1997) After being caught red-handed in a scandalous situation days before his reelection, the President of the United States decides to make up a conflict to divert attention from the press and media. One of his advisers contacts a Hollywood producer to create a smokescreen: a war in Albania that the president can heroically end before the television cameras.
3) Thank You For Smoking (2005) Nick Naylor, a lobbyist and spokesperson for big tobacco companies, makes his living defending the rights of smokers and manufacturers, taking on those who wish to ban smoking. Nick begins a public relations offensive, spinning away the dangers of cigarettes on TV shows and hiring a Hollywood agent to promote smoking in movies.
4) The Joneses (2009) An American model family moves to a new city, and soon becomes adored (and envied) by the entire neighbourhood. It’s actually a marketing strategy to introduce a number of luxury goods in the neighbourhood.
5) 99 Francs (2007) Octave works as a creative in a prestigious advertising agency in Paris. When he is tired of having to submit and argue his ideas to his clients, mediocre marketing managers, he decides to put all his eggs into one basket to get fired and receive a juicy retirement.
6) The Ides of March (2011) A young idealist starts working as communications director for a promising Democrat party candidate running for election. During the campaign, he sees just how nasty things can get for those desperate to achieve political success.
7) Smoking Room (2002) The Spanish branch of an American company is forced to ban smoking in its offices. Those who want to smoke during working hours must do so outside in the street. Ramirez, one of the employees, starts gathering signatures to use an unoccupied office as a smoking room.
8) The Queen(2006) This film outlines the political events that occurred after the death of Princess Diana. It focuses primarily on discussions between Queen Elizabeth II and Prime Minister Tony Blair to reach an agreement on the popular request for a period of national mourning and about the public reactions to the silence of the royal family.
9) Frost/Nixon (2008) Interview, by the recently deceased journalist David Frost, with President Nixon in 1977 regarding his mandate and the Watergate scandal after three years in silence. This interview is a great example of the need for spokesperson training.
10) Mad Men (2007) No list about the communications industry is complete without this gem of a drama series about one of New York’s most prestigious ad agencies at the beginning of the 1960s. The series might be based on a time long-gone, but there are many tips and tricks on the subtle (yet invaluable) art of storytelling that are truly timeless.
Special mention: The Devil Wears Prada (2006) Meryl Streep’s remarkable performance in this iconic film deserves a spot on this list as it gives us a glimpse into the other side of PR. It is interesting to see how hectic life can be for journalists on the daily as they work on news stories after news stories. With an imperious editor watching over it all, no wonder journalists always seem stretched for time!
If you, like me, are feeling inspired and all fired up to sharpen your PR skills further, why not check out our blog on how to build ace media relationships that stand the test of time? We can’t guarantee these tips will work if you’re face to face with Miranda Priestley however…