The American Idol publicity machine is much like a runaway freight train. It barges its way onto the front pages of entertainment magazines, television talk shows and gossip websites like no other entertainment franchise. So it is no wonder that recent rumblings of how former Idol judge and executive producer Simon Cowell uses search engine optimization (SEO) to control his image may not be simply the stuff of celebrity conspiracy theory.
The New York Daily News ran a piece online last week which accused Cowell of hiring UK SEO super firm Reputation Management Consultants to assist in yielding positive search engine results when innocent Googlers look up Cowell online. The Daily News claims that said searches for Cowell pull up 20 or so pages of positive stories about Simon Cowell such as “Wayne Newton writes fan letter to Simon Cowell.” Critics of Cowell say that they have a nearly impossible time finding their biting pieces about the judge we loved to hate online.
Hans Ebert, a former music industry exec who served time at EMI and Universal, says his blog entitled “Why “˜American Idol’ is Better Off Without Simon Cowell” has all but vanished from cyberspace. The blog, published August 5th, ripped Cowell a new one by stating he is the “Sarah Palin of music.” Ebert discovered not long after publishing the critique that his blog had been “de-activated” by WordPress, the host of his blog. 12 hours later, the blog was reinstated; Ebert did some digging and found a trail that led right to Reputation Management Consultants, who are known to represent several UK celebrities in their London office. Not surprisingly, Cowell’s peeps have told the press that the accusation is pure hogwash and the paranoiac stuff of Internet nerds with nothing better to do.
This story doesn’t seem totally out of the realm of believability to us, as we know what a powerful PR tool SEO had become. Cowell wouldn’t be the first (or the last) brand to manipulate SEO to conjure up nothing but good stuff in a search tied to his name. It does bring up questions about how SEO can be used for personality marketing and what the future of SEO may look like for folks with the right amount of money and connections to make it work for them.
But what say you, dear readers? Is this Cowell SEO story a glimpse of things to come with brand management? Or is the story itself another cog in Cowell’s hard-working PR machine? Let’s dish about it in the comments section below!