Opinion: Rather Sir Bob and Bono than a boy band

Nick Cater, a consultant and writer: catercharity@yahoo.co.uk

What's the first thing that comes to mind when reading about the Make Poverty History campaign's plans to put more distance between itself and its celebrity supporters because they don't always follow the MPH party line? Baby and bathwater? Sour grapes? Or, for the celebs themselves, the shame of feeling used after a one-night stand?

Not only is Comic Relief out of favour, presumably because Richard Curtis devilishly knows all the best tunes and those who play them, but, to quote the front page of last week's Third Sector, "celebrities will not feature as much as before in the year-long campaign's final months". After Live 8 helped put the campaign on the global media map, making the G8 Gleneagles summit a target not a trifle, you might wonder what more MPH expects all these rock stars to do.

Of course, MPH activists are furious that their vital messages got simplified in the mix, and bitter that their less-than-enthusiastic G8 verdict lost out to Bob Geldof's snappy "ten out of ten for aid and eight out of ten for debt" scorecard.

But what did they expect, and why was the campaign not better prepared?

Without a contract, script or recorded endorsements, anyone in the public eye can instantly become a public liability. Bob and Bono both have the advantage of knowing the issues of poverty, aid, trade and debt fairly well. Perhaps MPH should be grateful - many charities make do with inane soap stars or instantly forgettable boy bands.

A long time ago, while working with the inspiring and infuriating Geldof on SportAid's 132-country, $50m, 20 million-participant Run the World effort for Africa and children, my limited experience of celebrities led me to some no doubt erroneous conclusions about how useful these media magnets prove to be.

Try this. Many sportspeople are so inarticulate that it is lucky their training schedules prevent too many embarrassing chats on the sofa. A lot of actors are useless without a script and full-time ego massage, and it sometimes seems that anyone connected with the music business takes too many drugs to make much sense. All politicians, meanwhile, will abuse your cause for their own survival.

All untrue, of course, but it does leave one group underexploited. My advice is this: ask intelligent young actresses to endorse your cause and tempt the tabloids with all those issues they usually ignore.

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