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"The only thing worse than being talked about is not being talked about."

As the saying goes, there's "no such thing as bad publicity". The reasoning is that even if people are trying to raise a big stink about how some work is immoral, incorrect, offensive, or corrupting the youth of the world, they're just giving it attention, increasing how well-known it is, arousing people's natural curiosity as to why this so offensive, and making the work into Forbidden Fruit.

In real life, there is such a thing as bad publicity: For example, if it turns out a car model or another product has a flaw that endangers the lives of everyone who uses them, and this is highly publicized, the amount of people buying it is going to steeply drop. A little Never Live It Down can severely devastate anyone's entire life.... Forever. This trope refers to a something that gains popularity because Moral Guardians draw attention to it. Strangely, the Moral Guardians never seem to learn from the fact that they're doing a good job of making their objects of hate more popular, thus, Free Advertising.

Also, on the Internet, it is usually the never live it down-ed (usually bad) aspects of a product that undergoes discussion and Memetic Mutation, and thus extra advertising.

Whether or not the author of the work purposely made it controversial in order to invoke this phenomenon varies. A work is Rated "M" for Money when this is done intentionally. However, this can backfire if relied on too much. While the Moral Guardians are a great way to bring attention to a work, it still has to be genuinely good. If it isn't, then controversy or no controversy, critics are still going to pan it, and the people who spend money on it are going to let others know that it's not worth it. Books, DVD's, or video games can still be returned, ticket refunds can still be given partway through a movie or show, radios can still be turned off, etc.

The creator and works also tend to suffer from Seinfeld Is Unfunny. No matter how shocking the creator or works are at first, eventually time will wear away at the shock value, and it just becomes routine and expected. Even Moral Guardians will eventually get bored attacking the same thing over and over. "Oh, look, (insert creator here) has released another extremely offensive and totally controversial (insert media type here). How shocking."

This trope isn't just limited to Moral Guardians. Hatedoms have had this happen. As mentioned with the Control Alt Delete theorem later on the page, because people can be so Foe Yay about works they claim to hate, people often find out about it from the Hatedom or Hate Dumb and either experience Critical Backlash or even if they don't like it...still gave it sales or views. Similar to how people find out about something from the Fandom or Fan Dumb.

Compare Attention Whore, Forbidden Fruit, Rated "M" for Money, Sex Sells, Overshadowed by Controversy. Content Warnings can be both a cause and effect of this. For when this happens but without the Moral Guardians, see Streisand Effect. See Bile Fascination for when the same thing happens due to rumors of the bad quality of a work. When there is an ostensible moral against something that looks appealing anyway, then it's Do Not Do This Cool Thing.

A form of Attack Backfire. In some cases, it may also be a Sleeper Hit.

Wikipedia has an article on this philosophy, going by the French phrase succés de scandale (success from scandal).

Examples of No Such Thing as Bad Publicity include:

Anime and Manga

  • Although it was nearly cancelled for it, the Pokémon anime first gained popularity internationally after the infamous seizure-inducing episode, Computer Soldier Porygon. There were a lot of downsides though--the Japanese studio had to hack up any sequence of Pikachu's electricity from previous episodes, which was sold for the international release, thus making a lot of the action sequences get extremely choppy. The Japanese show toned down special effects from that point forward and banned the episode, as well as effectively banning Porygon from ever appearing again in the show (despite the whole incident technically being the fault of Ash's Pikachu...). Several American TV affiliates also refused to carry the show initially, though they quickly reversed their position when it took off. So while it got a lot of free press, the show still suffered for the backlash early on.
  • Wedding Peach Abridged actively cultivates this; in order to generate interest from people who haven't seen Wedding Peach, their promos specifically point out the amount of hate that the show has gotten from the media and fans of other series.
  • How many people would have known about some franchises (Anime and non-anime) were it not for the fact that they were dubbed by 4Kids? Perhaps the most famous example is One Piece.
    • Although One Piece is more of a subversion. Plenty of people in the West have heard of the series due to its Macekre-ing by 4Kids, but significantly fewer have actually watched/read it, leading to a strange situation in which One Piece is staggeringly popular in Japan, moreso than Naruto and Bleach combined, but in the West, the reverse is true. This is probably because the One Piece dub's particular brand of badness wasn't very interesting — rather than being scandalous or obscene like most of the examples on this list, it did the exact opposite and censored out everything remotely controversial.
  • Elfen Lied's notorious R-Rated Opening was one of the many reasons why it got a lot of attention. It even was unable to air in major markets due to many other reasons, and it only has one commercial. It does not mean that it was unable to sell and be adored by fans despite being partially fueled by this.
  • Kodomo no Jikan might not have gotten so much media attention if Seven Seas Entertainment had not publicly announced that it would cease distributing it in the USA because of its questionable Lolicon content.


  • Comedian Jasper Carrot's single Funky Moped became an unlikely chart success when the BBC banned its very rude Magic Roundabout themed B Side, though it had been something of a sleeper hit already; Carrott claims in his memoirs that it was some weeks before anyone at Broadcasting House actually thought to listen to the B-Side.
  • Andy Kaufman deliberately worked to shock and surprise people with his work and, especially when he started wrestling women, a lot of bad publicity resulted — which he minded far less than those around him did, since it proved he evoked the honest reactions from his audiences that he wanted. It added up over time and ultimately his mainstream success beyond Taxi proved fleeting, since most people came to see him as a lunatic.
    • There's a good chance that he would have made a comeback if he had lived longer. It should be noted, though, that Andy Dick has pursued a similar strategy, and has also suffered from bad publicity overdose.
  • By now you surely already know that Charlie Sheen got booed during his first presentation of his comedy show, how did you found out Charlie Sheen had a comedy show?

Comic Books

  • The Far Side was a little-known comic strip when the now-legendary Cow Tools cartoon was published early in its run, sparking a frenzy of debate and discussion as to what "Cow Tools" really meant. Cartoonist Gary Larson was mortified by the response, and was forced to write a press release explaining the cartoon, but the attention attracted by "Cow Tools" actually increased interest in The Far Side and probably boosted Larson's circulation.

 "So, in summary, I drew a really weird, obtuse cartoon that no one understood and wasn't funny and therefore I went on to even greater success and recognition. Yeah- I like this country."(Gary Larson, The Prehistory of The Far Side)

  • In Preacher (Comic Book), Arseface's manager puts out increasingly offensive statements that he attributes to Arseface in order to get Arseface's single higher in the charts, leading to angry protests and demands to "Ban The Arse" while pushing up sales further and further. Eventually, he bugs out with all the money, leaving Arseface penniless.
  • In recent years, comic book writers and editors have taken to deliberately antagonizing readers in an attempt to invoke this trope. The most notable example is Joe Quesada, who has publicly stated that he has fun rubbing One More Day in the readers' faces.
  • DC's Ian Sattlet on the universal reaction to Lian Harper's death in Cry For Justice: "I'm happy it upset people because it means that the story had some weight and emotion."
  • King Features fired Bobby London as the artist on the Popeye comic strip (which were reprinted in paperback as "Mondo Popeye") after they rejected a storyline in which Olive tries to return a Cabbage Patch Bluto, equating it as a metaphor on abortion.
  • An issue of Life With Archie: The Married Life fell under controversy from news outlets and parent groups, for depicting the wedding of Archie's Straight Gay friend, Kevin Keller. It went on to sell out at several retailers.


  • A series of commercials for seem to have been designed on this principle. If nothing else, they were certainly memorable!
  • Priceline had a series of ads featuring William Shatner talking about how he used the service, until it was revealed that he never actually had. He's still their spokesperson today, as a hammy 70s-movie-style character called "The Negotiator".
  • NOM tried to invoke this trope when The Colbert Report parodied their anti-gay "A storm is coming" ad as "Homostorm". NOM's response? "Thank you Stephen for playing our ad in full on national television — for free." Of course, when the thing in question is quite possibly the funniest advert created in modern times, being presented to the very people who would take it as such (Colbert viewers), it wasn't exactly good publicity either.
  • A 2010 Dominoes Pizza campaign has the company admitting their pizza tasted like cardboard so they changed the formula of the sauce and crust.


  • The Passion of the Christ was a huge hit for three reasons. 1. The result of its promotion by conservative churches and their youth groups. Many of them even bought large lots of tickets and sent busloads of the faithful to theaters. 2. Because the media couldn't shut up over the controversy of the film's ultra-violence. 3. The additional boost of publicity given after a number of Mel Gibson anti-semitic rants. And 4. The trope being invoked in France. Mel Gibson persuaded local newspapers to print an article about how the film was "too hot for France!" despite the fact that French cinemas had been very interested in carrying the film since its announcement.
    • Pretty much every single movie that has been attacked by the Church became popular enough to be considered a blockbuster. The most Egregious example would be El crimen del padre Amaro, a Mexican film about a Catholic priest who falls in love with a girl and decides to ignore his vows of celibacy, which actually turned overnight from a small, low-profile film into a massive blockbuster!
  • The Last Temptation of Christ was destined to be an obscure arthouse/independent film, until word got out that there was a sex scene involving Jesus and Mary Magdalene (though it was clear that, given the plot of the film, this was All Just a Dream AND the same leaks pointed out that Jesus and Mary were married in the dream at the time). The Religious Right went nuts with protests, generating the kind of publicity Last Temptation's producers could've never afforded, otherwise; turning it into a modest hit and a cult classic.
    • This got parodied in an episode of Father Ted, where Ted and Dougal get ordered to protest against a banned film, "The Passion of St. Tibulus", that, through a loophole, is being shown on Craggy Island. Their (pathetic) protest generates so much publicity that by the end, it's the most popular film in the cinema's history and people are even coming from abroad specifically to see it.
    • In France, some fanatics BURNED DOWN a theater. Thirteen people were wounded, and a lot of French extremely shocked.
    • Similarly, fanatics burned copies of the book on which the movie is based outside theaters in Greece. This, of course, required them to purchase a copy.
  • Basic Instinct: People were protesting in the streets because Sharon Stone uncrosses her legs. It is really the only reason why the film is known, and the so-called controversy helped it along.
  • Showgirls is about as well known for the scandal surrounding its NC-17 rating as it is for being a critical and box-office disaster. In a slight inversion of this trope, no major studio has attempted a mass release of an NC-17 film since its epic flop, and its taken numerous DVD releases for the film to show a profit, regardless of the cult success.
  • After The Dark Knight wrapped up filming, Heath Ledger, who was cast as antagonist The Joker, tragically died from medication overdose. This ended up causing a surge of additional popularity for the then-upcoming film and, along with an exception performance, ultimately led to him receiving a posthumous Oscar for a role that might have otherwise been consigned to the Sci Fi Ghetto..
  • Parodied in Matinee, when SF B-movie producer Lawrence Woolsey (John Goodman) hires two guys to pose as Moral Guardians and picket the opening of his new film.
  • The Da Vinci Code, as with the book below, had tons of this. People actually protested outside theaters, even though the Vatican themselves never officially commented on it. The movie made out well. Then came Angels and Demons, the prequel. The Vatican had learned their lesson, and beyond quietly refusing the film makers any access to their sites, kept a tighter leash on the priests who did complain the first time. It still went on to make well over its production budget, but nowhere near the scale as the first with the controversy.
  • Fahrenheit 9/11, anyone?
    • Michael Moore even begged the protestors to keep doing it on The Daily Show.
    • In Sicko, the owner of a anti-Moore-movie site had to shut the site down to deal with payments for his wife's illness; so, naturally, Moore invoked this trope by giving the site owner a huge pile of money so that he could afford to reopen the website and continue providing inadvertent publicity. The additional publicity of Moore giving money to someone who became broke because of health related costs while protesting a film that protests health care costs turned the Irony Up to Eleven.
  • "Frankly, my dear, I don't give a damn." The backlash against that line from the Legion of Decency and other religious groups is probably what helped to make Gone with the Wind, after inflation, the highest-grossing film ever made to this day.
  • The 74 films on the Video Nasties list. Nobody save Quentin Tarantino would know these obscure, ultra-low budget independent Italian and American grindhouse horror films existed were it not for Mary Whitehouse's (totally false) allegations that these were despicable, immoral, Gorntastic shlockfests responsible for the corruption of Britain's children and the BBFC's subsequent banning of them.
  • Averted, in part, with Brokeback Mountain — at one point the studio actually complained that Christian groups weren't protesting the film.
  • At some point, some people started going to see Avatar just to see the "overrated" film people kept complaining about.
  • Caligula would have come and gone in two weeks had it been left to succeed or fail on its nonexistent merits. It became successful, and something of a cult classic, solely because of the protests that it sparked.
  • Invoked by Mark Cuban over the controversy surrounding his film Redacted. Lots of political pundits were mighty pissed about the movie's alleged Demonization of U.S. Marines, to which Cuban -who produced the movie- responded by sarcastically thanking them for all the free publicity. However, Redacted did so poorly at the box office that it technically doesn't exist anymore.
  • Had it not been for his Loophole Abuse with German law and his antics (criticising other directors such as Michael Bay and Eli Roth as being "Retards" and boxing matches) making himself one of the most hated people in the history of film, director Uwe Boll probably would have been forgotten by the end of the year had people not had such a Bile Fascination with his movies.
  • A pair of news stories involving Drive — one involving a moviegoer suing the studio for false advertising and another about a golf spectator being inspired by the film to throw a hot dog at Tiger Woods — helped the film, which was starting to drop theatres heavily, stick around for longer in some markets. A few markets even brought the film back and had stronger results than its first run due to the publicity.
  • Michael Bay is one of the most hated people on the internet, even on this very wiki people had to prevent pages for his movies from being excessively vandalized and slandered. Hasn't hurt his popularity. He makes so much more money than the "good" filmmakers.
  • Cuties was perhaps the most controversial Netflix film ever released, the company's stock even suffering as a result of it with the state of Texas indicting them for distributing child pornography (which went nowhere). And it went on to become one of Netflix's most viewed films because of all the noise it made.
  • When Black Panther and Captain Marvel were released, rumours circulated that black people were physically attacking white people for seeing "their movie" and there was a lot of online controversy regarding Captain Marvel‍'‍s alleged SJW/feminist agenda. Now at the centre of every story about the film industry, both grossed over a billion USD in very little time.
  • In late 2019, Martin Scorsese infamously attacked the Marvel Cinematic Universe, denouncing the movies as "not cinema" while also admitting that he'd never even watched one of the movies. In 2021, MCU director James Gunn opined that Scorsese had only done this to try and promote his own movie The Irishman which, like many 2019 films, had been rather overshadowed in terms of marketing by the juggernaut that was Avengers: Endgame. Whether or not that was Scorsese's intent, it certainly made a lot more people aware of The Irishman.


  • The Da Vinci Code is an excellent example. If not for all its controversial aspects, it probably wouldn't be nearly as well known as it is.
    • Holy Blood, Holy Grail, a "non-fiction" book based on similar ideas got a lot of publicity and sales when the authors sued Dan Brown for plagiarism, even though they lost the case.
      • Of course, they lost because they claimed their book was non-fiction, because you can't plagiarize facts. If they had claimed they made the whole thing up, they likely would have won.
    • During a television special on The Da Vinci Code, one of the authors of Holy Blood, Holy Grail willingly and deliberately provided a lot of information on both books and was actually pretty informative. It seems the authors didn't care so much about having Dan Brown using similar ideas to them because it got them a lot more publicity and opportunities to appear on television to advertise their book. Very smart!
  • Harry Potter. While a great deal of its fame and popularity is deserved (it's reasonably well-written and interesting), it owes at least some of its success to the Moral Guardians who can't shut up about how it's corrupting children.
    • Also occurs in-story in The Order of the Phoenix with Umbridge's ban of Harry's Quibbler interview. As Hermione points out, "If there was one thing she could have done to ensure everyone would read [his] article it was banning it." (This is almost certainly a deliberate in-joke by Rowling, who had heard a lot of this sort of argument after the first four volumes.)
  • Mein Kampf, Hitler's famous screed, is banned in Germany. Despite this, it still makes the bestsellers list there almost every year. Note that the book itself cannot make it to the bestseller list, given that it wasn't openly sold in its entirety in Germany for nearly 60 years now. The Bavarian state has the copyright for that book that will expire in 2015 (70 years after Hitler's death) and tightly controls reprinting and selling of uncommented or complete copies in Germany. The only openly available prints outside of the Internet are either old, commented or cut.
  • Al Franken wrote a book called "Lies and the Lying Liars Who Tell Them: A Fair and Balanced Look at the Right". Fox News, which has a well-known and long-running grudge with Franken, immediately sued for use of the "Fair and Balanced" tagline, in an attempt to prevent the book from being published. As a result, a lot of people bought the book just to see what all the hubbub was about.
    • The lawsuit was particularly telling on a number of grounds in and of itself: Fox News did not draw complaints about the portrayals of their anchors (though, to be fair, the book was not yet published at the time), and the suit was for all intents laughed out of court, with the judge essentially telling Fox News that their complaint was entirely baseless. Franken did not miss the opportunity to include that information in the re-publication of his book.
  • Chilean writer Isabel Allende once says something to the effect of (paraphrasing) "My books have been banned by several parent associations and Christian groups, and thanks to them, their sales have increased."
  • His Dark Materials tried this and failed. The author, Philip Pullman, wanted the series to offend lots of people, but the Moral Guardians were too busy criticizing Harry Potter. To quote:

 "I've been surprised by how little criticism I've got. Harry Potter's been taking all the flak... Meanwhile, I've been flying under the radar, saying things that are far more subversive than anything poor old Harry has said. My books are about killing God."

    • The Film of the Book was more successful at drawing fire, but this didn't lead to any notable box office assistance.
  • Oprah praised the book A Million Little Pieces and gave it her bookclub sticker. Then came the reveal that the author had made up a good portion of the book, which he was selling as a non-fiction memoir. The publicity his book got from having Oprah rake him over the coals was amazing, and sales still went on, because everyone wanted to know what pissed off Oprah. The writer may never be able to sell another book, but he probably won't need to.
    • Actually Frey has a second book coming out, called I Am Number Four. With a film adaptation that was made at the same time.
  • Most of the works on this list have aroused a lot of controversy, but how many have provoked national leaders to call for the execution of the writer? Ask Salman Rushdie, author of The Satanic Verses. After the book's publication, Ayatollah Khomeini issued a fatwa calling on all Muslims to kill Rushdie and his publishers. The book's Japanese translator was killed, the Italian, Norwegian and Turkish translators were attacked, and Rushdie himself had to be put under police protection. Most people would never have heard of the book if not for the fatwa.
    • And indeed most people outside the Muslim world would not have heard of a fatwa if not for the book. This sometimes leads to Small Reference Pools.
  • The Catcher in The Rye. If it weren't for all the censorship over the swear words, teenage prostitution and teen drinking, it would not have sold so well, nor would it have found its way into required reading curriculum. Mark David Chapman holding a copy as he killed John Lennon didn't hurt either.
  • Older Than Television example: The novella The Great God Pan published in 1890 (and again in 1894) by Arthur Machen, was decried by the Victorian era press for its immoral and sexual content (for example, a character's "seizures" are actually revealed to be orgasmic convulsions). It went on to become a best-seller of the time period.
  • Mark Twain once wrote to his editor: "Apparently, the Concord library has condemned Huck as 'trash and only suitable for the slums.' This will sell us another five thousand copies for sure!"
  • In-story example: In Andrew Clements' Frindle, Nick's teacher expresses outraged disapproval at his creation of a new word for 'pen', spreading it far further than it would have otherwise. Turns out she's quite Genre Savvy and was playing up the villain in order to do precisely that.
  • Kaavya Viswanathan's debut novel, How Opal Mehta Got Kissed, Got Wild, and Got a Life, had already generated quite a bit of publicity at the time of its 2006 release, due to the author being 19 and having written it during her freshman year at Harvard. However, things completely blew up four weeks later when the Harvard Crimson reported that over 40 passages in the book had been plagiarized from two other novels by Megan McCafferty. Sales of the book skyrocketed, but the whole thing ended just a few days later when Viswanathan's publisher recalled the book from stores. After that happened, people were selling it on eBay for $80! (The controversy couldn't have hurt McCafferty, either, as she had just released a third book at almost the same time the first two were suddenly back in the spotlight.)
  • While Twilight had some praise back in its day that led to some of its success, the movies and books also owe their success to their Hatedom and Hate Dumb, too. A lot of people who never would have heard of the books or seen the movies actually went to read/watch them because they were so angry about it.
  • Johnny Got His Gun, a rather famous anti-war novel, endured this. Published in the mid-30s, it was pulled from publication when America entered World War II; Dalton Trumbo infamously reported people who wrote to him, desperately hoping he had spare copies that he might be willing to part with, to the FBI for "hindering the war effort", as the novel was embraced by the US Isolationist movement in the early years of the war (while Trumbo was anti-war, he hated the Nazis and thought that they needed to be stopped). Trumbo's own legal problems due to his left wing views only added to the book's mystique; it was brought back into print and adapted into a movie by Trumbo during the height of the Vietnam War. But the movie flopped, and the novel itself largely faded into view until Metallica bought the rights to the movie version and re-edited it to create the video for "One" (which was about the novel), their first music video ever. This revived interest in the novel and the movie, though in a bit of irony, Metallica sat on the movie rights for nearly two decades, adding to its infamy due to the fact that many fans considered "One" to be the preferred version of "Johnny Got His Gun", due to the film being seen as being too longwinded for its own good.

Live Action TV

  • Married... with Children experienced this in 1989, courtesy of the attempts of Bloomfield Hills, Michigan homemaker Terry Rakolta to boycott the show and get it cancelled. The show itself made reference to her efforts in one episode featuring a television show made about the Bundys' lives, which got immediately cancelled because "Some woman in Michigan didn't like it".
  • Are You Afraid of the Dark?, Goosebumps, Doctor Who, or any other series deemed too "scary" for children, despite many actually being written for children.
  • "Down with this sort of thing!" "Careful now!" Due to a quirk of law, "The Passion of St. Tibulus" (a parody of The Last Temptation of Christ) a film banned by the pope is being shown on Craggy Island, and Bishop Brennan orders Ted and Dougal to protest at the cinema. Soon, people are coming over from the mainland to see it, and the poster is modified as "the film they tried to ban," with pictures of the protest.
    • "They're even coming from Gdansk to see the film."
    • This trope can be seen in action during the episode, where the attention of passers by is drawn by the protest and they subsequently go in to watch the film.
  • In Bones, Booth arranged for a struggling rap artist to be sent to jail for the murder they were investigating if he cooperated, explaining to a confused Brennan that whenever a rapper goes to jail, their sales go up.
  • Jerry Springer is fond of mentioning that according to TV Guide, he has the worst show on television. After all, it's a Guilty Pleasure.
  • Gossip Girl used negative reviews in billboard ads, generally criticizing it for being excessively sleazy, all accompanied by Fetish Fuel stills.
    • Unsurprisingly the stills are more racey than anything in the show.
  • Police Camera Action: the series returned after a 5-year Hiatus, and the media hype over the drink-drive incident died down. It's still in production now. It seems this show has become a Karma Houdini, which is a rare feat.
  • Deadliest Warrior. For the uninitiated, the show takes two armies/warrior cultures/real life commanders/crime syndicates, tests the weapons to decide which would win in a fight. They seem to love this trope. Matchups fitting the trope include Mafia vs. Yakuza, SS vs. Viet Cong (Yeah, THAT SS), IRA vs Taliban (actually BANNED in Britain), Somali Pirate vs. Medellin Cartel, and arguably Jesse James vs. Al Capone.
  • In-Universe. An episode of Law & Order, based on the Puff Daddy/Jennifer Lopez shooting incident, sees a rapper put on trial for a murder he knows his movie star girlfriend committed. Why did he keep quiet all through his trial? Because his CD sales were going into orbit.
  • ANYTHING done by/involving/remotely related to a "Reality TV Star." Here's (unfortunately) looking at you, Tila Tequila.
    • Jersey Shore owes most of its success. Despite some advertisers actually taking away their ads and Abercrombie even asking The Situation not to wear their clothes, the show is still growing strong. This is especially true about Snooki, who is often called ugly and over-tanned but still got a book deal recently.
  • The slightly infamous Snuggie blankets are banking on this in commercials aired in late 2010, saying to effect, "No matter what channel you're watching, you just can't help but hear about the Snuggie!"
  • More recently, The X Factor fell into this territory — as this link proves. Despite an ongoing Ofcom investigation and pressure from the Moral Guardians, it's not stopped the publicity hype machine and Bile Fascination.
  • Arrested Development featured an in-universe example at the end of its second season. Maeby produces an American remake of a French film about cousins dating. A religious group (led by the girlfriend of Maeby's cousin George-Michael) protests the film and turns it into a hit.


  • Many forms of popular music in the 20th century were largely built on controversy. Ragtime, blues, jazz, swing, rock and roll and it's sub-genres, heavy metal and punk, and their sub-genres, and gangster rap. Some received considerably larger backlashes than others, but they were all aided by the claims that they had marked the downfall of society.
  • Pop stars that are hugely popular among teen and tween girls, particularly in recent years, have received lots of free publicity both from criticisms for their highly sexual images being inappropriate for their fan base, and from their obsessive Hate Dumbs.
  • Erykah Badu brought her name back into the spotlight with the video for her song "Window Seat", in which she strips entirely naked and mimes being shot. At Dealey Plaza, no less! She later received a fine.
  • Madonna probably wouldn't have sold as well if she didn't constantly piss people off by doing things like setting crosses on fire, making out with a black saint, and masturbating on stage.
  • ACDC owes their rise to accusations of Satanism on account of their songs like "Highway To Hell"
  • After Destiny's Child changed members and Beyonce developed a Hatedom, they rose in popularity and Survivor outsold their previous efforts. Matthew Knowles even says "There's no such thing as bad publicity" in her Driven special.
  • Lady Gaga's sales skyrocketed after Fred Phelps called for a boycott of her as well as attacks from other less extreme homophobes.
  • Eminem's enormous popularity was fueled by the amount of people protesting him (especially at the Grammies) constantly. He got hate from both sides of the political spectrum; the bible thumping Christians on the right and from gay rights groups like GLAAD and feminist groups on the left for his supposedly homophobic lyrics and for songs like "Kim" and "Stan" being accused of promoting violence against women, respectively. And he knows it; he said at an awards show that "Every time a critic pans me, I sell more records so I really want to thank you people."
    • In an inversion, this is largely considered the reason he got snubbed of the Grammy for Album of the Year in 2000 (the first time a hardcore rap album was nominated for it) losing to Steely Dan. The Academy would have done anything to avoid the controversy of having to actually give him the award in the midst of the protests.
  • While not a bad album per se, Amy Winehouse's Back To Black might not have sold so well if it weren't for her highly publicized drug addiction.
  • Emo was gaining some popularity among teenagers in Mexico. Then, some people in Queretaro decided to "recover" the "plaza de armas" where they were known to spend time... with violence. This sparked a huge scandal, causing the number of teenage emos... to double, since now, everybody and their mother knew what emo was.
  • Speaking of Emo, this trope is more or less the point of the Fall Out Boy song, "I Don't Care." It's chorus contains the line, "I don't care what you think, as long as it's about me."
  • The Scorpions album Virgin Killer, infamous for its cover art containing an artistically nude 10 year old girl, became one of the biggest pages on Wikipedia the moment the Internet Watch Foundation had it banned.
  • Billy Joel's "Only the Good Die Young".

 "When I wrote 'Only the Good Die Young', the point of the song wasn't so much anti-Catholic as pro-lust", Joel told Performing Songwriter magazine. "The minute they banned it, the album started shooting up the charts."

  • Timothy was deliberately written with the most gruesome topic they could think of because the record label would not promote whatever song was written. It worked, somewhat.
  • Sales of TLC's 1996 album CrazySexyCool broke records after Left Eye landed in jail for burning down her on-and-off boyfriend's house.
  • Marilyn Manson is the master of this trope. Not so evident anymore since they're not quite as shocking as they once were, but in their heyday in the mid and late 90's, they received a lot of free advertising from Christian groups protesting their "blasphemous" lyrics. They reached their peak for using this trope after the Columbine High School massacre in Littleton, Colorado in 1999. Manson's music was blamed for inciting the shooters in the massacre to commit their actions, giving them tons of free publicity from the news media.
  • Relax by Frankie Goes to Hollywood initially peaked at number 6 in the singles chart. It was subsequently banned by the BBC (and its videos didn't fare much better) shortly after its release and hit number one on five consecutive occasions. Even the Beeb itself has poked fun at this in more recent broadcasts.
  • Justin Bieber owes a good portion to his popularity to his obsessive Hatedom and Hate Dumb.
    • Similarly, Rebecca Black's "Friday" wouldn't have become such a hit if not for the people linking to the video just to show others how bad it is.
  • Michael Jackson, in The Eighties, deliberately cultivated bizarre publicity for himself by becoming a Reclusive Artist and offering made-up stories to the tabloid press that claimed he 1) regularly slept in a hyperbaric chamber in order to live to 150 and 2) wanted to buy the skeletal remains of Joseph Merrick, the "Elephant Man". This and The Tyson Zone applying to his real life by that point (this was the era of Bubbles the chimp, etc.) encouraged further wacky stories to circulate. Jackson, for his part, painted himself as a helpless victim of the tabloid press — but it all kept him in the public eye. The public perception of him as a first-class weirdo turned on him in The Nineties, especially after he was first accused of child molestation.
  • The shambolic live broadcast of the BRIT Awards in 1989, which was poorly organized and hosted by Mick Fleetwood and Samantha Fox (neither of whom had much experience as television presenters) has been described as the most important thing that ever happened to the awards, renewing the public's interest in this show that was "prepared to take live risks".
  • The Parents Music Resource Center (PMRC) did this for almost every band that they protested during the 80s, though WASP were the ones that benefited the most, as they're record sales doubled soon after Tipper Gore did her rant about how the band's initials supposedly stood for "We Are Sexual Perverts".
    • The PMRC also helped lots of musicians through their successful push to have "Parental Advisory" stickers, nicknamed "Tipper Stickers" on music albums, which helped let people know exactly which albums were cool and had the Forbidden Fruit.
  • The original cover for The Beatles 1966 U.S. album "Yesterday...And Today" featured the group posing in butcher aprons with cuts of bloodied meat and dismembered baby dolls. They affected the photo in protest of how Capitol records was distributing their songs in America. After a backlash of initial protest, the boys made a second cover, posing quietly around a steamer trunk. Some album sleeves with the "butcher" cover that had not left the press shop yet had the new cover photo pasted over.
    • John Lennon's off-the-record quote that the Beatles were "more popular than Jesus" sparked even louder outrage, especially among the Bible Belt. His clarification and apology did little to appease the extreme fundamentalists.
  • Most fans of For Lovers Only know Joe Jonas' "Just In Love" because of accusations of plagiarism in the clip. It's likely that the accusations helped people from both fandoms find the other, even if it was through hatred.
  • Alice Cooper who invented "shock rock" and shot his album sales through the roof with his violent stage shows that consisted of "executing" himself on stage and other crazy antics.
    • During a 1969 concert in Toronto, Alice Cooper picked up a chicken someone had thrown onstage and tossed it back into the audience, thinking since the bird had wings, it would fly. Instead, it plummeted into the audience, who promptly tore it to shreds. This story quickly mutated into a rumor that he'd actually bitten the head of the chicken himself. Cooper received a phone call from Frank Zappa asking if he'd done so. When he replied that he hadn't, Zappa said, "Well, don't tell anybody you didn't do it!"
  • Britney Spears, she has run the gauntlet on bad press, hyper visual controversies, media over exposure, Moral Guardians getting moody with her, image issues, negative backlash after she became more then a recyclable pop princess and became a sexual being and strong woman. None of these issues have stopped her from flourishing and outliving certain members of her contemporaries who have not shone so brightly, or had as many issues, controversies and general negativity aimed at them...and some of them quit.
  • Though completely unintentional, Jennifer Hudson got a ton of publicity from her mother, brother, and nephew being murdered. It made her into a huge Woobie and most likely has contributed to her success.

Professional Wrestling

  • To this day, Vince Russo defends the work he did as head writer in WCW (which included such things as a stable of wrestlers whose names were mostly dick jokes and putting the World Championship on David Arquette) by saying "It got people talking about us!" Never mind that most of the talk was about how ridiculous and embarrassing it was.
    • ...nor did it get them watching...
    • ..and that in the end, all the talk was for naught, since the company went under less than two years after Russo's initial hiring, and most of the things Russo likes to take credit for are now considered Dethroning Moments of Suck.
  • Seemingly also Eric Bischoff's modus operandi, as highlighted by his autobiography "Controversy Creates Cash."


  • Howard Stern's career could be considered a Trope Definer for this trope. Stern's shock material has continuously had Moral Guardians up in arms, and as such, they've only continuously ensured that his endeavors continue to have high publicity by their very public and direct attempts to censor him.

Video Games

  • The first Resistance game enjoyed increased sales after the Church of England, and a Mancunian Member of Parliament, complained about the inclusion of Manchester Cathedral in the game.
  • Acclaim proved that this trope by itself doesn't work. They tried to do this trope intentionally to cover up the fact that they hadn't made any good games since 2000. They had one contest where people would change their names to "Turok", or pay people to advertise on relatives' gravestones. Finally they turned a Dave Mirra game into Dave Mirra BMX XXX; after Dave Mirra sued, they simply called it BMX XXX. Acclaim finally went into bankruptcy in 2004.
  • While Rockstar does make legitimately good games, they also thrive on generating controversy and thus get huge publicity from it. Jack Thompson may have done more for Rockstar's sales than their entire marketing department.
    • Grand Theft Auto III, Grand Theft Auto Vice City, and Manhunt all received boosts in sales from the controversy their violent content generated but got even more after they were accused of inspiring copy cat crimes.
    • Grand Theft Auto San Andreas on the other hand, encountered mix results of this. By the time it came out the series' shock value had gone down, but got a huge new boost after the discovery of the "Hot Coffee" sex mini game mod. While the game did get tons of publicity for this, it also led to a huge recall of the game which ended up costing Rockstar tens of millions of dollars.
    • Bully received tons of complaints before its release for the belief it that it had the player take on the role of a bully or that it was even a Columbine simulator. While this turned out to not be true, Rockstar didn't do much to dispel the rumors. After the game came out, and it turned out and it turned out the Moral Guardians had overreacted, as the game has no killing, no guns, and no blood, they decided the needed something else to complain about, so they got angry the game's option of kissing other boys. Bully wasn't a breakthrough but enjoyed relative success because of this.
  • Mass Effect was helped by Fox News airing a long segment on the sex scenes, in which they included the trailer for the game.
  • Nintendo's unveiling of the Wii's name caused a lot of fuss and low jokes all over the internet, but it sure made people aware of the system easily. Even the press representative joked about it. Yahtzee would later point out that "we soon forgot that Nintendo named a console after a bodily fluid".
    • In a subversion, it would appear that the opposite happened to the PlayStation 3, which was initially the worst selling of the big three consoles. It took a while to claw back the ground it lost to the Wii and the Xbox 360 after a series of embarrassing media gaffes (The Giant Enemy Crab, "Riiiiiiiidge Raaaaaacer!!!", the (scrapped) boomerang controller, and Ken Kutagari's claim that people would pay any price for a Playstation because it's a Playstation, among the more memorable), combined with a lack of decent games on launch and an outrageous price.
  • Final Fantasy XI forums now have a new unwritten rule: "Stop making threads about Pandemonium Warden (which takes at least a full day to beat) when it shows up in a new news outlet."
  • The downloadable Play Station 3 game Fat Princess is about soldiers from red and blue teams rescuing their princess, who is being held in the enemy team's castle. The enemy team, for their part, can feed said princess cake to make her harder to carry. A blogger ranted about it, and was trolled (the definition of a troll including anyone who disagreed with her at all). The trolled post currently has over a thousand comments. The end result is that several blogs made fun of the initial blogger, and several others linked her in support. The blog got a lot of new readers, and several gamers vowed to buy several extra copies of the game just to piss the blogger off. In other words, both sides of the debate benefited.
  • Inversion: Majesco exploited the frenzy surrounding PETA's Darker and Edgier Cooking Mama rip-off by issuing a Take That message to them supposedly written by Mama herself... which is also a completely not thinly-veiled press release for Cooking Mama World Kitchen, which (obviously for the series) is completely clean unlike that madness of a Flash game that the animal rights group just unleashed.
  • Similar to the Cooking Mama example above, Edmund McMillen, the creator of Meat Boy, intentionally made sockpuppet accounts on the PETA forums to endorse his game. Eventually, Super Tofu Boy was made, creating one of the best publicity stunts for a game that would have otherwise slipped past the mainstream gaming radar.
  • In Brazil, when the government prohibited the selling of Everlast, Counter-Strike, and Grand Theft Auto Vice City on any shop or their availability in Lan Houses Country-wide for their unquestionable violence, the demand of those games almost doubled.
  • In-universe example: In The World Ends With You, Eiji Oji runs a blog called "F Everything" that gets 100,000 hits per day. Subverted in that the "F" actually stands for "Fabulous," making his blog the exact opposite of what you most likely thought it was about.
  • CNN ran a story about the hentai game Rapelay, making people who have never hear of the game to Google it and warez copies.
    • A case where it very much WAS bad publicity, since none of those people actually PAID for the game, and CNN's intentionally stirred-up moral outrage had nasty repercussions throughout the entire industry when someone started yelling at the UN about how much Japan sucks. Not surprisingly, the makers of Rapelay were pissed.
  • Another in-universe example: Although how well-known you are in the game world of The Elder Scrolls: Oblivion is divided into Fame (good deeds) and Infamy (criminal deeds), e.g. the access to Heaven Stones is regulated by the sum of both (Renown), so that both Lawful Good and Chaotic Evil characters get those cool innate powers they grant.
  • Dead Space 2's "Your Mom Hates This" ad campaign, which proudly and shamelessly combines this with Rated "M" for Money by showing five moms clips from the game and recording their shocked reactions.
  • Deus Ex Human Revolution had a beta that was leaked by a disgruntled employee. Reports say that it cost the studio quite a bit of money. However, the payoff was that many who hated the direction the game was going in had decided to pre-order it.
  • Postal 2 was the target of Computer Gaming World's first-ever zero-star rating, with the reviewer going so far as to say that the game was the worst product ever sold "until someone boxes up syphilis". The line in question was then reproduced on the back of the box for the Fudge Pack rerelease.
  • In Ace Attorney, with the publicity of being involved in a murder case, the Gatewater Hotel eventually gets a theme park made with its name.
  • Doom received some free publicity for it's violent content but especially after the Columbine High School shootings, when the media got a hold of the fact that the shooters were fans of the game, and reported (falsely) that one of them had used the game's level mod feature to design levels that resembled the school.
  • Big Rigs Over the Road Racing, a game infamous for being pre-alpha and having the having the lowest score for a game on Metacritic sold 20,000 copies.

Web Comics

  • The Control Alt Delete Theorem, as seen in Dueling Analogs.
  • Several people discovered Exterminatus Now after it was featured in Something Awful's Awful Link Of The Day, even despite them showing possibly the most atypical strip in the archives [1].
  • Mike Krahulik and Jerry Holkins, of Penny Arcade, have more or less made their business on proving this notion wrong. There is such a thing as bad publicity, and Gabe & Tycho know exactly how to dish it out.
    • Plus, look at any time they've butted heads with someone (most recently being Gamestop, over Penny Arcade's positively appalling claim that someone OTHER than Gamestop would be selling On The Rain Slick Precipice of Darkness! The nerve!). They just walk away and succeed without help.
      • Speaking of On the Rain-Slick Precipice of Darkness, advertisements for the first episode proudly featured quotes from a particularly loathsome troll who denounced the game, along with Penny Arcade in general.
    • When people still paid any attention to him, Jack Thompson did this for the PA guys time and time again. The biggest was undoubtedly when Thompson sent out a press release to any media camp that would listen and the WA state governor that he had requested the Seattle police to look into harassment charges (made especially funny when he claimed a $10,000 check given to charity in his name was assault of some kind), as well as a list of other petty things. He forgot to send anything to the police. There was back-and-forth between Thompson and PA (mainly headed by Gabe for the most part), with Thompson constantly crying out he was the victim, and nobody believing him. PA came out on top, and Thompson only brought his douchebaggery ways to the attention of the Florida State Bar.
    • Paul Christoforo very firmly believes in this trope. After being a complete prick to a customer and Mike, only backing down and apologizing after figuring out who Mike is, he seems to think that he's going to spin a career out of this. And that's just the tip of the iceberg...
  • The only reason anyone knows about Sonichu is because of its author's exploits around the internet, many of them having severely damaged the man's credibility. The author himself, on the other hand, stands firmly by this trope, and believes himself to have a loyal fanbase of over a billion readers judging by the number of hits his Youtube videos receive.
  • Mentioned in-story in Freefall, by Sam.
  • Discussed and Lampshaded in this Something Positive strip.

Western Animation

  • South Park rode into success by using this strategy for its first few seasons but toned it down a little after that. While still having no shortage of crude humor, the show switched more toward social and political satire.
  • Family Guy seems to go out of its way to invoke this about themselves. Special credit has to go to the Season 8 finale "Partial Terms of Endearment", an episode which examined the abortion debate, which was banned from being shown on Fox. Indeed what gets people who haven't seen it interested is the fact that Fox didn't air it, rather than its content.
  • Durward Kirby, co-star of Candid Camera in the early 1960s, once threatened to sue Jay Ward Inc for parodying his name in Rocky and Bullwinkle (with a Nice Hat called the "Kirward Derby"). Ward's response? "Please sue us, we love the publicity." Kirby dropped it because his case wasn't strong enough.
  • Code Monkeys In-universe. The episode, "The Story of 420", pokes fun at this happening with video games. First Lady Nancy Reagan forces Game-a-Vision to put warning labels on all of their games stating "Playing this game increases the likelihood that you will engage in drug use and deviant sex". While Larrity objects at first, he's then extremely happy as the labels cause their game sales to skyrocket to the point where Reagan then has to reverse the move and ban them from having the labels on their games.
  • Arguably, My Little Pony: Friendship Is Magic would never have found its popularity with older fans, particularly on the internet, had it not been for these two articles. Both articles decry the show for various reasons, which prompted the /co/ board on 4chan to see if really was so bad, causing it to take off in online popularity.
  • Netflix original cartoons don't tend to have great marketing and She-Ra and the Princesses of Power was no exception. But the creators' infamous statement that their show would have much better LGBT representation than Voltron: Legendary Defender, combined with Melendy Britt, voice of She-Ra in the original She-Ra: Princess of Power, agreeing with fans of the original who were displeased at the many changes[2] made a lot of people interested in what all the fuss was about.

Real Life

  • Older Than Feudalism. Roman historian Livy wrote that the consul Marcus Manlius Capitolinus (died 384 BC) "preferred notoriety to respectability".
    • In 1595, French author Montaigne wrote in his Essais: "Trogus Pompeius says of Herostratus, and Titus Livius of Manlius Capitolinus, that they were more ambitious of a great reputation than of a good one. This is very common; we are more solicitous that men speak of us, than how they speak: and it is enough for us that our names are often mentioned, be it after what manner it will.".
  • Herostratus was a man, who in 356 BC, set fire to the Temple of Artemis at Ephesus, one of the Seven Wonders of the World, solely because he wanted to be remembered. The Ephesian authorities not only executed him, but attempted to condemn him to a legacy of obscurity by erasing his name from all their records, and making it a crime to mention his name on penalty of death. It didn't work out.
  • From a letter by painter Thomas Buchanan Read: "The small beer poets and ginger pop painters have always been industrious in abusing me into notice, and I am indebted to them, but shall not pay them back in kind, it being far more generous to let them remain in their well-earned obscurity."
  • Subverted by painter Salvador Dali, who once said: "What matters is that people talk about me, even if it's good!"
  • Probably the reason for Kanye West's shenanigans at the VMAs. He just wanted attention.
    • It's far more likely that he did it because he was drunk and really did think that Beyonce's video was better — all of his actions after the fact support that more than the Attention Whore theory since he's locked himself in his studio and has only been seen sporadically since the incident.
    • It's more likely he ended up giving Taylor Swift more publicity. Although she was already popular and successful, quite a few people admitted afterward that they hadn't known who she was until after the incident.
  • Ray Comfort's claim that the banana is undeniable proof of God's creation of the universe has been thoroughly crushed, both for the fact that modern bananas are a result of human cultivation and the Accidental Innuendo. He's since made the claim that his public humiliation has only served to let more people know about the Gospel... and that he knew that bananas were cultivated by humans all along. Suuuuure you did.
    • Not only did he probably not know ahead of time, but even if he did, it would be seen as dishonest manipulation by most Christians, creationist or no. So either way you slice it, he just made things worse — sabotaging his own cause and annoying people on his own side as well.
  • Some suspect this was the idea behind the abortive Ashley Madison transit ad campaign in Toronto. The online dating site aimed at adulterers had offered the transit commission unprecedented amounts of money for the ad space and promised to stave off a coming fare hike, but of course the organization turned them down, citing concerns over "family values", resulting in a storm of controversy over free speech and such. It's quite likely the reason so much money was offered was they knew they were counting on never having to make good on it and getting their advertising free from the local news instead.
  • Sanford Wallace, the self-titled "Spam King" (e-mail, not meat product) was a firm believer in this. In the end, though, his spam "empire" has been smashed into little bits, and except for occasionally being targeted by lawsuits that mostly fade into obscurity fairly quickly he's mostly a non-entity on the internet.
  • Anna Chapman, the Russian spy who lived in Britain, who was a well-known example of The Pirates Who Don't Do Anything, seems to be heading this way. Now she's heading into Memetic Mutation status, and possibly Popcultural Osmosis, but Your Mileage May Vary on this.
  • After the US government got angry at Wikileaks for leaking the government's top secrets, giving it mass media coverage, Wikileaks is higher in the Google Suggestions pool than Wikipedia, which has been around and popular for years. Now a very large portion of Internet users know the USA's top secrets. Let's not forget that in order to be that shallow in the Google Suggestions pool, it must have been searched by Google users a whole lot of times. Before the publicity, it was not too well-known. But, after the media coverage, there are now over 300 mirrors, meaning that this will stay on the Internet... forever. Oops?
  • The No Cussing Club had a lot of publicity, but because of all the hatemail and Anonymous attacks, it got even more. Now the founder boasts not giving up despite being the most cyberbullied kid in the world. He even released a book and a DVD about it.
  • Those who subscribe to the "She outed herself" theory of the Traci Lords underage porn scandal (which includes pretty much adult performer and director active at the time) believe this was much of the motivation behind the initial outing: Lords wanted to ride the controversy into a mainstream film career. If that truly was the case (it's still unknown who actually leaked Lords' actual age), mission accomplished. Lords has had a respectable non-porn career.
  • Budding author Jacqueline Howett, author of Greek Seaman, threw a fit upon getting a review that critiqued her grammar. The review, and her completely unfounded, myopic, and immature comments can be found here: In one of her comments she states that she's been getting an increase in sales due to the blog having gone viral.
  • It's a common practice for companies — usually ones who can't even hope to pony up the cash to land an ad slot — to submit a racy/morally offensive/questionable ad to the Super Bowl, causing them to get rejected — and thus landing them the publicity that comes with getting rejected from the largest stage of the commercial world. The abovementioned Ashley Madison has pulled this stunt.
  • Lulzsect. Even if half the world wants their asses in a basket right now, their hacking has put them on the map.
  • PETA. If they're not trying to turn children against their parents with nightmarish pamplets depicting parents happily disemboweling animals or throwing the corpses of euthanized animals on the doorstep of businesses, they're posing nude on the street or writing a will dedicating their bodies to be barbecued in a public venue. Infamy just means the message is getting out there! Really! Even though, if you described half of these shock stunts to a neutral party unfamiliar with them, they'd have no bloody idea what message that's supposed to be.
  • In politics, this is known as "shifting the Overton Window". Political positions that are "unthinkable" become more accepted by being discussed in the media.
  • This is the reason you do not feed the trolls, ever.
  • In April 2012, the National Organization for Marriage (NOM[4]) began a boycott of Starbucks for its company statement affirming approval of same-sex marriage, the main issue NOM opposes. It seems to have backfired. This was parodied by a Huffington Post article in which Microsoft and Apple request a similar boycott.
  • The UK courts have recently ordered major Internet Service Providers to block access to the file sharing search engine The Pirate Bay by May 30th 2012. Soon after the first ISP implemented the block it was reported that The Pirate Bay had actually seen the number of visits increase by several million. Many of these extra visitors are assumed to be people who hadn't heard about the site until it was reported in the news, while some others are visitors who are just trying to circumvent the block.
  1. not only is the strip in question a guest strip drawn by Lothar's girlfriend, but as the authors themselves said, the comic "doesn't do bedroom scenes"
  2. mainly those relating to race and sexual representation
  3. if you want to know, the actual statement is: "Mario often takes the appearance of certain animals and objects in his games. These have included a frog, a penguin, a balloon and even a metallic version of himself. These lighthearted and whimsical transformations give Mario different abilities and make his games fun to play. The different forms Mario takes make no statement beyond the games themselves."
  4. No, not like the sound of eating something yummy