X Factor coverage gets another boost by Simon Cowell’s controversial Jedward decision

Since Lucie Jones left The X Factor last Sunday (8 November), there has been an outcry with people complaining that Simon Cowell should have got rid of twins John and Edward Grimes, popularly known as Jedward, when he had the chance. Research commissioned by PRmoment shows that if Cowell made his decision based on which contestant is generating the most publicity, he made the right choice.

Research supplied by Echo Sonar

The number of online articles on all the remaining contestants, and Lucie Jones, are much less than on Jedward. In fact, in order to match the amount of publicity generated online by the twins, you have to combine mentions of all the other contestants put together. Although, not surprisingly, there has been a considerable peak in Jedward coverage following last Sunday’s show.

However, if Cowell is looking to generate positive publicity for the show, it looks like he made the wrong decision. Just 11 per cent of Jedward stories are positive, which compares unfavourably with the 26 per cent of positive stories that the other contestants generate on average. There has also been a considerable backlash against Cowell, as his decision contradicted his previous comments. At mailonline on 11 November, one story wrote that Cowell “once described [Jedward] as 'vile creatures' and declared he would leave the country if they won The X Factor. “

The story summarises many others’ views when it continues: “as Simon Cowell must know better than most, nothing generates ratings like a good controversy. So it is perhaps unsurprising that his U-turn to vote for the Irish twins known as 'Jedward' has been condemned by viewers as a fix. ITV chiefs last night said they had received an astonishing 3,000 complaints amid suspicions that Cowell knew the public had voted against Lucie Jones when he forced the 'deadlock'. “

A story at bbc.co.uk on 9 November, also describes how Cowell’s decision prompted the public to complain to ITV: “ ITV's X Factor message boards have been flooded with support for Jones, 18, who was a 16/1 outsider to leave the show. One wrote that Cowell had deferred the decision because ‘he will make more money out of the twins being on the show‘.“

The public may complain about Cowell making decisions for commercial reasons, but X Factor has always been an extremely commercial programme. His decision has hardly been a great surprise to those working in PR. As Sandi Goddard, managing director of PR and MarCom firm Goddard Delaney, says, “Jedward have greater commercial value, they will keep the little girls (and boys) watching and voting. Think about it, how much PR have you seen around Lucie and most of the other acts, particularly the girls, over the past months?”

Research supplied by Echo Sonar 

Gareth Dimelow, senior creative strategist at marketing agency Jack Morton Worldwide and writer of the pop vulture blog also believes that as the creator, executive producer and record label owner behind The X Factor, Cowell is entitled to do whatever he likes: “It's his venture and ultimately, he'll make whatever decision is likely to net his property the most publicity. It's also extremely unlikely that Cowell didn't know which way the 'deadlock' vote would go when he deferred to the public's decision.”

Dimelow believes that The X-Factor has always been a pantomime, with heroes and villains, tragedy and comedy, plus a handful of colourful performances, but that before now, it also had a semblance of integrity in the form of Simon's plain-speaking honesty. He adds: “Sadly, by choosing the novelty act rather than the singer, Simon aligned himself with the viewers who vote 'ironically' for Jedward to irritate the powers that be. In doing so, he's shown that he's no longer committed to the concept or the format. Maybe he just got tired of looking for a Leona in a sea of Brooksteins."


PRmoment asked Echo Sonar to analyse all UK online media coverage of Jedward versus the other remaining X Factor contestants and Lucie Jones. The research period was from 28 October to 10 November 2009. Metrics included share of voice, daily trend and tonality.




If you enjoyed this article, you can subscribe for free to our twice weekly event and subscriber alerts.

Currently, every new subscriber will receive three of our favourite reports about the public relations sector.

PR Masterclass: The Agency Growth Forum PRmoment Awards Winners 2023 Media Point PRCA CIPR Creative Moment ESG Awards