Jaffa Cakes and the New PR

4 01 2011

As I type Jaffa Cakes is a trending topic in the UK on Twitter. Why? Well mainly because as ‘cakes’ rather than enhanced biscuits they are exempt from the UK 20% VAT rate that comes into force today.

The manufacturer McVities classed its Jaffa Cakes as cakes, but in 1991 this was challenged by UK Customs and Excise and the case ended up in court.  McVities argued that Jaffa Cakes were miniature cakes showing that biscuits would normally be expected to go soft when stale, whereas cakes would be expected to go hard, something that an out of date Jaffa is inclined to do.   The court ruled that the Jaffa Cake is a cake and therefore VAT free.

What has that got to do with PR (new or old) I hear you cry.  Well PR has always used news hooks and the VAT hike to 20% is a on of today’s headlines.  The social web picks up on quirky stories particularly where there is a contentious debate at the core e.g. Jaffa; cake or biscuit?  There is no doubt that if a product trends on twitter it will shift a few packs from the shelves, particularly if there is a price advantage central to the news story.

So have McVities done anything to fuel the social media debate?  Actually although there is a well followed Facebook page, the biscuit, sorry cake, manufacturer has been surprisingly quiet on the subject.   I think they’ve missed a trick.  There was plenty that they could have done; they could published details of their 1991 legal arguments on Facebook,  engaged in debate using the (apparently dormant) twitter account or simply issued a press release that would have fueled the debate both off and on-line.

The PR industry has always known how to make the most of a news story.  The new PR means that you need to be ready to do that not just through conventional media but through social channels.  That you way you can have your cake…








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