Banking Ms Burqua - Will Max bank Ms Burqua?

Banking Ms Burqua - Will Max bank Ms Burqua?, by Maria Nguyen - 2nd December 2005
(Credit: B&T)

Mediaman director, Greg Tingle, was interviewed by B&T's Maria Nguyen and quoted in the front page news article

With drug busts all the rage with the model set, a small stint in a Bali prison won't keep the brands from Michelle Leslie's door, particularly with Australia's slickest spruiker on the scene.

From underwear model to burqua-wearing Muslim and now convicted drug user, Michelle Leslie has polarised public opinion since her arrest and release from a three-month stint in a Bali jail for possessing two ecstasy tablets. Now back in Sydney, Leslie is looking to rebuild her life and her career with the help of celebrity spruiker Max Markson.

This week B&T spoke to Markson and other industry experts about how they would manage Leslie’s image and “brand”.

According to Markson, public sympathy could pave the way for product endorsements and a career in television.

“There is definitely demand for her in the market place. There’s no doubt in my mind she will continue modelling and be involved in endorsements, do fashion shoots or break into television if she wants,” Markson said. “I’ve had emails saying ‘good on you’ and I had a lot of phone calls from companies wanting her to endorse products, but selling her story to the media is not on the table.”

The director of Markson Sparks, who is no stranger to controversy himself, manages household names such as Hayley Lewis, Susie Maroney, Richard Wilkins, Cover Girl Cosmetics and Nudie Juice. However, despite media reports, Markson wouldn’t confirm he was representing Leslie, except to say he’s had “meetings” with her and to “watch this space”.

Max Markson
Director Markson Sparks

Clients include Hayley Lewis, Susie Maroney, Richard Wilkins, Ross Symonds, Cover Girl Cosmetics, Nudie Juice and various charities.

[Despite media reports, Markson isn’t confirming he represents Leslie, except to say he’s had “meetings” with her and to “watch this space”]

There is definitely demand for her in the marketplace. There’s no doubt in my mind she will continue modelling and be involved in endorsements, do fashion shoots or break into television if she wants. There’s a lot of public sympathy and this will lead to companies wanting to use her.

The news conference created a lot of sympathy for her and I’ve had emails today saying good on you and I had a lot of phone calls from companies wanting her to endorse products [he wouldn’t name names] but selling her story to the media is not on the table. There was enormous backlash when this was mooted earlier, now it’s just time for her to move on.

I look at Kate Moss’ situation—she had her problems, sponsors dropped her and now she’s been picked up by Virgin Mobile and she’s on the cover of American Vanity Fair. Michelle will absolutely be able to do the same. She’s got a second chance at life but now she’s just taking a break and she’ll get back on the horse when she’s ready to. She’s very keen on charity work right now.

Prue Macsween
Director Verve Communications

Clients include Westfield Shopping Centres, Sydney Olympic Park, Donna Hay, Sky News and IMB.

I think up until the press conference, her PR was handled really badly. I felt a lot of it looked contrived [but] the decision to arrest the public unrest with the press conference was a masterstroke and not before time.

As to whether she’s a bankable brand, I’m not sure if she’s turned it around enough. If I were advising my clients, I wouldn’t want them to be associated with a known drug user. I’m not naïve enough to think other models and celebs are not taking drugs but if you have someone being caught and there’s a groundswell of public opinion, it could distract from my brand and associate the brand with negative attributes.

I’d suggest she do a lot of charity work if she’s really a reformed drug user—it could be seen as cynical but if she wants to make amends I’d encourage her to be doing something about educating young people about the dangers of drug taking. And if she is a true Muslim I’d like to see her practicing that faith and keeping her head down because there’s still a lot of resentment that she had a lot of money to help her, whereas Corby is sitting in jail because she had a less privileged background.

If she keeps her nose clean, does feel-good charity things then time will help. She will have a second coming, she’s a beautiful girl and she’s not a dumbbell. The Australian public are very forgiving and at the end of the day who can ignore a beautiful face? She won’t be selling Sutton’s Holden but there may be a brand out there that fits in with her journey.

I wouldn’t be surprised if [Max Markson] put her up to [buying a puppy and getting snapped for the Daily Telegraph ’ s page 3 story on Nov 29]. Are we going to see her kissing babies next, sitting on Santa’s lap (laughs)? It’s going to be fascinating how it goes, good luck to her. We all make mistakes, and it would be cruel if she had to pay for the rest of her life.

Dianne Davis
Director Davis & Associates Strategic Marketing

Clients include Commonwealth Bank, St George Bank, KPMG, Mortgage Choice, Deloitte Consulting and Aus tralian Graduate School of Management.

I don’t think her PR was handled as well as it could’ve been. They should have held the press conference sooner to communicate two key messages. One, that she has no intention of selling her story for money as this has caused a lot of angst, and two, to communicate who she is, her brand attributes. She’s quite appealing and not just beautiful. She now has a brand she never had and also notoriety. She can be marketed in lots of interesting ways—endorsements for products with edgier attributes because she’s young, appealing, and has an edginess and compassion about her. She’s not a wholesome white bread kind of girl and the challenge now is getting the right attributes.

I don’t want to see her opening shopping centres but she could be a high profile personality on reality TV, do the talk circuit, product placement and endorsements.

The negative attributes she needs to dispel are the perception she is greedy and the perception she got away easy as she was connected to money. She needs to recount what she went through, the hell of living in a small cockroach-infested jail cell with 13 other women in the stultifying heat.

Look at others like Shane Warne. Is he a damaged brand? Michelle will not have universal appeal but will appeal to certain segments, such as the 18 to 25 year olds who may see her as somebody they can relate to. And lets not get away from the fact she is gorgeous.

Greg Tingle
Director Media Man

Tingle represents Kym Illman, founder and director of Messages on Hold. Tingle worked with Max Markson to recruit Shane Warne as the face of Messages on Hold.

I think it’s always easier if somebody tells the truth. Don’t prostitute your story just to make a dollar from it. As happens though, with people that get themselves into these sorts of situations, their name starts to become a brand but she needs consistency with her story and to re-educate the Australian public about what the facts are. The general person on the street is very confused about what is fact and fiction. There’s a lot of misinformation at the moment—there’s her side of the story, the Govt’s story, then there’s the truth and the blurs.

If she is getting an offer for her story, it wouldn’t be wrong to accept some sort of payment in the form of expenses but it could be a tricky situation to accept a straight-out payment.

Leslie needs to take a little bit of time out, relax, regroup and work out what the ‘true story’ is and how much of it she wants to release to the public and the media.

Just like the Douglas Wood case: at first he had public sympathy and that started to turn on him with the reported $400,000 deal he did with Ten, which put a bad taste in people’s mouths as he was seen to be cashing in. Leslie wouldn’t want to make the same mistake.

Media websites


Markson Sparks!

Messages On Hold



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Kym Ilman

Max Markson

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