Wednesday, March 30, 2022

TV CRITIC's NOTEBOOK. Netflix South Africa's botched Bridgerton Affair and its lack of Indian representation - a media perspective.

by Thinus Ferreira

Dear reader, 

If you've been looking for actual, you know, reporting on what happened there and who said what at Netflix South Africa's quite tacky "A Bridgerton Affair" of this past Friday, you'll struggle to find it.

It's by design. 

Netflix apparently doesn't and didn't want actual "old school" legacy media there, preferring to deal mostly with influencers who might take pretty pictures and drink, opting instead to cut out any communication to a lot of media that would, and used to, cover media engagements in the past.

With even Nigerians and Kenyans flown to Johannesburg to attend the tacky let's-play-dress-up event where Africans got dolled up in old English outfits, Netflix neglected to do basic communication and PR with a lot of South African media who were neither told beforehand it would take place, nor got word, a press release, photos, or even as much as a scandal sheet from Netflix after.

But it's not just a lot of legacy media that Marang Setshawelo, Netflix's publicity director in Amsterdam, and Netflix's South African-used PR companies like DNA Brand Architects and Eclipse Communications are apparently choosing to ignore. 

Besides the terrible and almost non-existent PR, Netflix SA's criticised A Bridgerton Affair event is now also getting slammed by furious South African Indians, media and influencers for its shocking exclusion of adequate representation of Indians.

Over the weekend South African Indians have noted Netflix's bizarre and cringe-decision to apparently exclude them as guests although the second season of Bridgerton - that the hashtagged-event of Netflix's "A Bridgerton Affair" was supposed to promote - features two South Asian lead guest stars for the second season, Simone Ashley and Charithra Chandranwho.

Just like Netflix apparently didn't want actual media at the event that was hosted by former Miss Universe Zozibini Tunzi and didn't want to bother to communicate with them either before or afterwards, Netflix doesn't now want to talk about the flack it is getting for its lack of Indian representation and its exclusionary guests list for A Bridgerton Affair.

South Africa has the largest Indian population outside of India but couldn't invite a single prominent South African Indian to Netflix SA's launch party for the second season of the show, Alyssa Pillay noted.

"Your PR team didn't know that the second season of Bridgerton had two Indian female leads," said The South African Desi. "And if they did, you failed in acknowledging any Indian female of your country."

"Despite being the platform that the Kandasamys released on, you couldn't even invite one member of that cast to be in attendance," The South African Desi continued, noting that "You have failed us Netflix SA".

Selina Naidoo also slammed Netflix South Africa, writing "Yet again Indians were excluded from another brand event", and saying "I do want to thank the brands and people at the table who are inclusive and are brave enough to speak out when there is no representation and inclusivity".

The flurry of comments criticising Netflix SA and its A Bridgerton Affair ranges from people saying "the number of thoughts I have on the lack of representation at this event are far too many to count", and "extremely disappointed at the representation and the organisers of this event", to "Do better Netflix SA - would love to know which PR and events company was in charge of this fail" and "I love how Bridgerton season 2 is all about Indian representation and yet South Africa fails to understand the assignment once again".

"Netflix SA, please have you PR people actually watch season 2 of Bridgerton and find out what and who it was all about! There is a sheer and blatant lack of diversity yet again," said another, with Miss Dhanusha saying "Imagine hosting A Bridgerton Affair which has two South Indian actresses as the leads and only having like 2 Indians at your event."

It was also laughably sad to notice how Netflix had to pay - with a very, very badly done advertorial - to place something about A Bridgerton Affair in this past Sunday's edition of The Sunday Times newspaper.

Either Netflix SA and its PR companies didn't invite or didn't want to invite even a reporter from The Sunday Times, or the Sunday Times didn't think A Bridgerton Affair was newsworthy enough to cover for this past Sunday's newspaper.

That's exactly what you get when you don't grow and maintain long-term media relationships where you talk to and build up trust and real relationships with reporters, who you know you can invite and who you know will still do what they do, but will likely cover your event with actual real reporting.  

Netflix's ugly mess with A Bridgerton Affair in South Africa is reminiscent of its botched media launch event for Happiness Ever After last year that also had media just shaking their heads in silence, and where Netflix and its PR companies squandered untold opportunities  - again not bothering to even remotely trying to communicate adequately to try and promote the film by reaching out to publications and reporters either beforehand for the media event, with absolutely no communication afterwards or what was said there.

Personally, I don't care about A Bridgerton Affair and wouldn't have been able to attend even if I were invited (I was covering a film festival in another city all week last week). 

However, Netflix SA and its PR companies couldn't bother to communicate that it would happen, didn't want to send an invitation, and there was nothing afterwards to several journalists whose job it is to cover Netflix and television and streaming services in South Africa. 

Even if Netflix South Africa or a PR company just said beforehand that A Bridgerton Affair would happen, picked up a phone, sent an email or did the bare minimum to alert the media, other media and publications and reporters - including me - would still have tried to cover it even if they were not physically present or attending.

Over the weekend and earlier this week I heard from several media whose sentiment on Netflix and A Bridgerton Affair ranged from very angry and angry, to disappointed and disintered. They don't understand. Some don't care anymore. 

Several are struggling to figure out why Netflix SA PR and publicity bosses are so carelessly lazy and seemingly incompetent when it comes to communciation. They vent to me. 

Meanwhile, Netflix SA and its PR companies keep hugging and air-kissing influencers and other panderers, perhaps wondering why Netflix struggles to get credibility and earned media for its South African media events and truthful reviews and opinions from people on their PR lists - but not really properly engaging with them.

Media and influencers not paying for an experience, who want to attend "things" mostly because there's liquor and the chance for drinking and a goodie bag and who don't really care for the content or reporting out to their readers and viewers and listeners about what they see and ask and hear, are always going to disappoint you.

More than anything; more than proper, real media coverage, the main aim of these sorts are to be invited to more things, continuing to force a content brand like Netflix SA to rather buy a badly-done advertorial in a broadsheet because it can't bargain on actual journalists to cover a media event because of a lack of media liaison relationships.

It's really way past due for Netflix South Africa, its PR bosses and public relations companies in this country to get a grip on actual media communication and interaction, proper media liaison and understanding and improving its inadequate approach around issues of inclusion, exclusion and diversity.