Epic PR fail or triumph: No more Page 3

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Bigoted, sexist, immoral and distasteful. Over the years the Sun’s decision to use topless models between pages two and four has come in line for serious criticism. So why does the paper still insist on promoting such images?
There has always been a fine line between controversial marketing exercise and bad taste. But this has rarely been more apparent than this month. After a lengthy campaign it seemed the No More Page 3 movement had finally scored a victory, with word on Fleet Street suggesting the national daily was about to pull its glamour content and finally move with the times. As we all now know, though, that hasn’t happened, with girls, sans bra, still ‘decorating’ the inside of the tabloid.
To call the move eyebrow-raising would be an understatement, especially when this was followed by the Sun’s head of PR tweeting pictures of scantily clad ladies at some of the biggest critics of the practice. Yet there are two sides to every story, and whilst in this instance you may not agree with the second, it’s worth noting for obvious reasons. So, although public opinion was swaying in favour of removing the third page’s divisive imagery, the powers that be clearly disagreed, launching into a move that has been branded a clear publicity stunt.
Irrespective of your opinion, though, the decision is likely to have achieved results. We’re still waiting for January’s Audit Bureau of Circulation figures to be compiled and released, but the smart money is on a boost to sales both on the day Page 3 didn’t appear in its usual format (suggesting the campaign had worked), and the following morning, when things returned to business as usual. With the former winning over those in support of the ban, and the latter aimed at putting the concerns of regular readers to rest, editors could well have managed to get their product into two wildly different sets of hands in 24-hours.
Where do we draw the line, then, and at what point should people decide to side with the majority rather than risk alienating and putting people off? It’s hard to tell in this case. The Sun’s circulation may be in decline, but at just under 2million per issue it remains the most read print daily. Clearly that demographic won’t be put off by topless pictures, otherwise they wouldn’t buy into the publication in the first place. But then one look at Twitter and other social sites suggests the move has been a PR fail for the paper in the eyes of most Britons that don’t purchase a copy.
Perhaps the real question is- would non-readers turn into readers simply with the removal of Page 3 as once was? Or would these non-readers remain so due to the perspectives and opinions the Sun and its writer’s spout seven days a week? If the latter is true, then realistically the final decision was a logical one; don’t rock the boat unless you have strong evidence to show it needs rocking. Like we said, two sides to every tale; food for thought next time you’re trying to judge risk against possible benefits before that next campaign.
So, what do you think- should the Sun have dropped its Page 3 tradition in light of widespread pressure? Or, from a business perspective at least, was this the only sensible answer to the quandary of what to do? Let us know your thoughts via the comments form below.