Regardless of whether you’re an admirer of Daniel Craig in a pair of ill-fitted budgie smugglers, still consider Roger Moore the smoothest around, or are of the growing opinion that the latest installment of Bond – Spectre – is a stain on the cinematic legend’s name, truth is that the Bond franchise continues to be a massive box office hit.
Spectre has already trumped Harry Potter as the highest grossing movie, in terms of UK first week takings, of all time, having bagged a cool £40million. That being despite the sizable volume of negative industry and press commentary, including from past Bond favourite, Pierce Brosnan, the film has already received.
For, despite continuing to portray women in a light that would’ve barely passed as acceptable even 20 to 30 years ago, Bond is built on a model of proven success. Audiences know what they want, that being a winning formula of action scenes, clichéd cat-carrying villains, Bond girls, shiny gadgets and an (un)healthy dose of misogyny.
Many will argue that the franchise is nothing if not predictable, having changed little over the past 50 years. Admittedly, whilst the tide of change may not be at breakneck speed, I would argue that Bond is indeed changing, just enough to move with the times – if only for the purposes of political correctness – stay topical and yet subtle enough to continue to appeal to its legion of loyal and demanding fans.
This notion of gradual and easy-to-digest change got me thinking of the synergies with PR – particularly within ethical healthcare, with its strict regulatory restrictions and risk aversion – and the lessens we can learn from a brand that has withstood the test of time.
Clients don’t always want, or need, to be ‘dazzled’.
The German philosopher and sociologist Theodor W. Adorno argued that in a world of homogenised culture, people don’t really want things that are new. The Bond franchise is a trademark example of this. How many great ideas, those out-of-the-ordinary, and of which we’re proud to unveil to our clients, have been rejected on the grounds that they would be too difficult to approve or secure internal backing, despite being praised as genuinely creative? Perhaps this is more of a healthcare affliction, but the principles remain the same: go strong, go bold, go creatively, but don’t be a pioneer for the sake of being a pioneer.
Stick to what works, for now, but be flexible to move with the times.
The most obvious example of this from a Bond perspective – which has definitely still got a long way to go – is the role of the Bond girl. Gone are the days of being given provocative, pornographically-suggestive names (I.E. Pussy Galore and Dr Holly Goodhead) and used solely for the purposes of romping on a moving locomotive. Whilst the latter continues to hold true, they now feature more prominently in scenes outside of the bedroom and are used to better inform the plot. With that said, however, Bond is unlikely to be invited to join The Sydney Feminists any time soon.
The same applies to PR, our core aim remains the same as it always has, to engage and influence audiences. What has changed – some more exaggerated than others – is the channels we use, the data insights that guide us and the approaches that we employ.
Whilst ethical healthcare is increasingly embracing new channels, especially social, as a platform for engaging audiences, we are still some way off being fully functional and in line with the likes of consumer (health) and tech PR.
How long, I wonder – much like the Bond girl – before a total overhaul is necessary in our communications approach? Before Instagram, Pinterest, Reddit and the like form sizable components of every RFP?
That, I would imagine, depends on how much change audiences and clients are willing to enforce, accept and embrace. In the case of Bond, and ethical healthcare, this may take some time yet…