BAFTA’s prestigious offices in Piccadilly hosted an unusual gathering last week as academics, broadcasters, fans and performers gathered to mark 60 years of Eurovision, an event watched by nearly twice as many people as the Super Bowl.
The conference, organised by the European Broadcasting Union, looked at the cultural, technological and political impacts of the event, and reminded us all that yes, you can get a PHD in Eurovision.
On behalf of The Drum, Carat's Jerry Daykin took the opportunity to interview last year’s winner, and the reigning queen of Eurovision, Conchita Wurst on her experiences since winning, how social media has impacted her and what the opportunity for brands and marketers is around the show.
JD: How has your life been for the past year? One interview after another? It must be crazy.
CW: I’ve been talking a lot, which I love as I have a lot of opinions. I’ve had so many invitations and I was allowed to experience so many great things over the last year, it’s just overwhelming. It hasn’t sunk in yet what I’ve actually experienced.
JD: And for your own social media in particular, how has that helped you tell your story and communicate with people?
CW: It’s very important. It’s such a fast way to get and also send information, and it’s such a lovely way of connecting with those people, the most important ones when it comes to career, the fans. Without my supporters all over the world I wouldn’t be here and no one would be interested in me, so it’s everything, an unbelievably important tool.
JD: So how do you manage that? Do you get time to read a lot of what they say to you?
CW: Well I do read as much as I can, I do have people helping in this kind of area. I have a stylist, I have someone doing with my promotion, so of course I have someone helping me with social media or else it would just be too much and there’s no time. Of course, I try to get as many Tweets and Instagram pictures, I ‘like’, and I look at it so I really try to get into it and not lose that connection, because as I say it is an easy way to stay connected.
JD: Is there a bad side to that? Have you had people being rude to you and saying horrible things?
CW: Well, even if… I really have a very impolite way to deal with it, I just don’t care.
JD: In terms of how much it’s blown up, Google reported that in the months after Eurovision last year you were searched for more than Beyoncé. When you went into it did you realise how big it was, how much it would change your life?
CW: No, because I went into this competition because I’m such a Eurovision fan. I really wanted to be in it badly and I’d tried for so many years. I was bothering the Austrian broadcaster so hard that they just said ‘send the bearded lady and get over it’. My manager and I really saw this event from two sides: First, fulfilling my dreams, being able to stand on this ridiculously huge stage and giving the performance of my lifetime; And on the other side, in a very business kind of way because no one knew me, but with this we can reach so many people.
JD: At the Consumer Electronics Show in Las Vegas this year there was a life size picture of you advertising Parrot Headphones, which must have surprised the Americans. How has it been for you, working with a big brand, have you found that a positive experience?
CW: You know really I have to be completely honest I don’t think about anything or anybody else except me when I make those decisions. I was like ‘oh my god, I’d love to be in a Commercial, I’d love to do that, and of course these headphones are great let’s do it’ and only after that I realised this is going to be printed in American magazines and they actually sell their product all over the world. This is the way I went into it - quite naïve, though of course I have my whole team in the background seeing numbers and facts, which is good that I have them.
JD: So one of the things we see is that marketers, especially in the UK, are nervous about getting involved with Eurovision because it has a funny reputation – some people love it, some people hate it. What would you say to marketers thinking of sponsoring the Eurovision or being part of it?
CW: Well I think it has the same reputation everywhere, it’s the same with Austria. We haven’t won for 48 years and so last year no one was staying home to have a party, but this year obviously everybody’s totally into it.
I think that’s not depending on a country, but people should really understand what a great opportunity it is and what a beautiful message the biggest music event in the world sends out. Everybody is allowed to come as they are, do whatever they want on stage. That’s great, and at the end of the day it’s really so many people joining one event by doing what they love the most, making music.
This year's Eurovision Song Contest will be screened on BBC1 tonight at 8pm.