It’s not often we find ourselves discussing the Prince of Darkness at The Right Agency but we came across a story earlier this week that made us reconsider the old ‘there’s no such thing as bad publicity’ debate.
Step forward John Michael Osbourne, or Ozzy Osbourne to you and me. 37 years ago, on January 20th, 1982, Ozzy made the sort of mistake that could easily have ended his career (and, potentially, his life) when, during a gig in Iowa, he bit the head off what he thought was a fake bat which had been thrown onstage by a fan.
Unfortunately, the bat was very much real.
After a trip to a medical centre for some rabies shots and despite a heartfelt apology, Osbourne was threatened with jail time and swiftly banned from numerous venues across the world. All in all, probably not what his PR team had been hoping for.
What they hadn’t predicted was that his wide-eyed, ‘what have I done?!’, heart-on-sleeve approach to life was a big part of what his fans loved about him. It made him appear authentic and, against all odds, relatable, something which was proved beyond doubt as his popularity and reputation remained intact throughout the ‘80s and ‘90s, and peaked in 2002 with the launch of his own TV show. The Osbournes was a ground breaking, fly-on-the-wall show that pushed Ozzy’s personality to the fore and quickly became a worldwide hit.
Since then, he’s continued to be one of the most bankable stars in the world and, to celebrate 37 years since ‘Batgate’, he’s even had the audacity to release a bat toy with a detachable head to commemorate it. And, despite retailing for $40, they’re already sold out!
So, well played Ozzy. By conventional measures, a walking PR disaster. But, by wearing his heart on his sleeve, he’s provided an excellent example of the PR benefits that can be gleaned by owning your mistakes and turning them to your advantage.