The Reality TV Rich List

How we created mass media coverage Current TV’s fame season


As retained agency for Current TV (Sky Channel 183 and Virgin Channel 155), Taylor Herring was assigned to enhance the standard programme publicity campaign for their May season, Desperately Seeking Fame, with a creative news story that attracted national mainstream press coverage.

The brief required an idea that would pay back to the key themes addressed within the programming season, which examined the public obsession with fame and explored the impact of the reality TV genre.

The news story was an opportunity to secure a placement for the Desperately Seeking Fame season within the tabloid and showbiz pages, the core source of news and gossip for reality TV viewers.

The idea…

The Reality TV genre has become prolific across both terrestrial and digital television, so we needed a story that gave Current TV a presence within the tabloid TV pages, whilst concurrently elevating the season above its competitors and endowing it with a credible, authoritative identity.

We also wanted a story that would celebrate the impact of Reality TV over the past decade, and deliver sizeable feature coverage. Having concluded that so many of today’s biggest celebrities have emerged via Reality TV, we wanted to measure which reality star truly had achieved the greatest success, and from there, the Reality TV Rich List was born.

The story and season was timed to capitalise on the surge of media coverage around the finals of Britain’s Got Talent and The Apprentice and the return of Big Brother. We were confident that, if we could produce a chart run down of the 25 highest earning stars, this would prove an accessible means of securing break-out news and feature interest.


To ensure the list was accurate and authentic, we enlisted the services of an established media analyst (who had contributed to media features geared around celebrity incomes in the past), who, through conversations with talent agents, publicity representatives, production companies, accountants and journalists, was able to compile a run down of 25 famous faces.

This was delivered to Taylor Herring with paragraphs summarising how each individual had achieved their wealth (usually through music deals, magazine and newspaper buy ups, book deals, tours, spin off TV shows and personal appearance fees), to add weight to the findings.

The completed list was then converted into a news release, with heavy Current TV branding to ensure that they took ownership of the Reality TV Rich List staple. Current’s Director of Programming, James Du Bern, was quoted in the finished release as means of relating the results back to the channel and the programme at hand.

A few days ahead of the story being issued, the press release was seeded with Press Association and other news wire services including Reuters and World Entertainment News Network, and key features writers were targeted across national newspapers to ensure that the story was already on the entertainment radar before it was officially sold in.

In addition, having secured the services of a Reality TV commentator Jean Ritchie (who has written four books on Big Brother), we alerted broadcast forward planners to the story and began to schedule regional interviews for Jean, and look to secure news items on national TV shows.

Measurement and Evaluation

On Thursday 29th May, the story was issued under embargo to all national newspapers and all major online outlets, supported by an aggressive call round.

The following morning (the day of transmission) we had secured 65 separate websites, all crediting (and many linking to) Current TV and Desperately Seeking Fame. Key outlets secured include BBC Entertainment News, Sky News, Yahoo! and MSN.

Meanwhile, newspaper coverage was secured within The Sun (double page spread within TV Biz section), Daily Record (double page spread), Daily Star (full page) Daily Mail (news story), and Daily Sport (full page), with an additional story within The London Lite later that day.

The story was also successful in reaching newspaper websites including The Sun Online, Daily Mirror Online, Metro Online, Daily Mail Online, and The Daily Telegraph Online, London Lite, as well as a fully credited commentary piece (with a link back to the Current TV website) on Media Guardian.

BBC Breakfast, having been alerted to the story earlier in the week, devoted a ten minute news item to the Rich List, using interviews with Big Brother contestant Craig Phillips and former Heat editor Mark Frith. GMTV also included the story in their ‘And Finally’ section, with a link back to the Rich List on their website.

Jean Ritchie also participated in seven regional radio interviews, reaching over 500,000 listeners discussing the survey findings and ensuring that Current TV were affiliated with the story.

Online coverage continued to mount throughout the day, with stories appearing on Digital Spy, Now Online and Marie Claire Online, all key to reaching the Reality TV audience.

Across print and broadcast online, the campaign reached 10 million people, while news stories over the weekend discussing the winner of Britain’s Got Talent referenced the Rich List in relation to previous winner Paul Potts. The online campaign meanwhile generated a further 265 Million unique views.