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12/02/2009 - par Mark Tungate (tungateinparis@hotmail.fr)

I was sitting in a restaurant the other day that reminded me of a 21st century version of a 1980s theme restaurant. Back in the day, you would find yourself eating in a replica of a New Orleans paddle steamer or a Mexican bodega. The modern Parisian version is called Derrière (69, rue des Gravilliers, IVe arrondissement), and it resembles the apartment of a wealthy architect. There's a ping-pong table, shelves lined with vinyl discs, a model of a T-Rex and lots of mismatched designer furniture.

My companion wanted to take a picture of this kitsch clutter for her blog. «Ah, no,» said the manager. «We're not looking for publicity.» Fair enough, I thought – interesting strategy. Except that this week, I came across a four-page spread about the place in Elle magazine. For a restaurant that's adopted a strategy of discretion, this would seem somewhat unwise. Of course, the restaurant doesn't give a jot about discretion. It is simply controlling its image.

In the age of citizen journalism, such tactics are null and void. The people's press will publish and be damned. Instead of being selective, brands must learn to connect with bloggers. Fashion brands – of which our restaurant is a metaphor – are the shyest about doing this, because they are the most concerned about their image.

Needless to say, my companion wrote about the experience on her blog. We hear the restaurant's owner disliked her review. Consider it a minor victory for citizen journalism.

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