The BBC and publisher HarperCollins were in court on Monday for the start of a legal battle over an autobiography which is said to reveal the real identity of The Stig. HarperCollins is keen to go ahead with publishing despite claims from the BBC that this would breach contractual and confidentiality agreements.
The amount of publicity created by discussion over The Stig’s real identity has been quite incredible and shows the power of intrigue in terms of advertising. This has been a very successful tactic - whether intentional or otherwise - from Batman in the movies to graffiti artist Banksy and the speculation just adds more and more value over time. Hence the BBC’s need to keep The Stig’s identity under wraps. Just look at the publicity created when ‘The Stig’ appeared on Top Gear with Jeremy Clarkson and took off his helmet to reveal Michael Schumacher. In Jeremy Clarkson’s words, "As a television moment, it's up there with Neil Armstrong walking on the... corpse of JR Ewing." Whether you agree or not, the newspaper and press coverage was enormous but it was more of a publicity stunt than anything else and a BBC spokesperson later commented, "You have to bear in mind that Top Gear is an entertainment programme. We never reveal who or what The Stig is.” It highlights a dilemma in business in terms of using very blatant and open publicity, versus a different approach which relies more on word-of-mouth and revealing less information in order to create a more ‘exclusive’ feel to a product or business.
The identity of the original Stig was revealed as Perry McCarthy - who wore black overalls rather than the white now synonymous with the infamous test-driver. The BBC needed to find a replacement but for Perry it led to more adventures in terms of motivational and after-dinner speaking and making the most of his comedic talents. America’s Sunday Express touted Perry as a “comedian locked inside a racing drivers’ body”. Perry has had quite a journey having started with nothing and then lost it all. He worked hard for a long time to appear on Top Gear and as Damon Hill says, “I have constant admiration how he turns a no hope situation into some sort of triumph.”
So it is speculated that only a select few currently know who The Stig is, including TV executives as well as James May, Jeremy Clarkson and Richard Hammond, but this may be about to change. We will keep you updated…
Copyright Speakers Corner 2016