#PRinHistory: Public Indecency Has Its Benefits

Public Indecency

A female body part that no one bats an eye at on the Venus de Milo became the subject of rabid controversy when Janet Jackson revealed hers on national television – yes, I’m talking about Nipplegate, during the Super Bowl of 2004. Still shrouded in mythos, no one has ever quite owned up to causing the, er, titillating incident (famously classified as a “wardrobe malfunction”), and after fines, lawsuits, and much wringing of hands, the PR disaster has been mostly put behind us.

HOWEVER, this PR firestorm led to some unanticipated, quite positive side effects for other companies, and ultimately, for us. Do you know what television event gave video recorder TiVo a 35,000 subscriber boost? Nipplegate, for sure.1 And the quest to obtain a video replay of the event was part of the reason why YouTube co-founder Jawed Karim was inspired to start his now-giant of a company (Seriously, YouTube!!).2

The NFL’s Super Bowl Halftime Show eventually recovered (to the point that Maroon 5’s Adam Levine famously strutted around the stage shirtless this year), Justin Timberlake got invited back, and Janet Jackson – to counteract the hate she was subject to after the event – has gained an “Appreciation Day.”3 We’ve gained YouTube – thanks Justin and Janet (and possibly MTV). Not as many of us TiVo, but that was definitely good while it lasted – it dragged out that half-second exposure into a couple of dumbfounded (okay, maybe three or four) replays.


  1. “The Top 10 PR Disasters in History.” The National, The National, 12 Apr. 2017, www.thenational.ae/business/the-top-10-pr-disasters-in-history-1.51976.
  2. Waters, Michael. “Super Bowl Flashback: The Forgotten Details of Janet Jackson’s ‘Nipplegate’.” The Hollywood Reporter, The Hollywood Reporter, 4 Feb. 2018, www.hollywoodreporter.com/news/hollywood-flashback-what-happened-justin-timberlake-janet-jacksons-2004-super-bowl-halftime-show-1080688.
  3. Johns, Gibson. “Twitter Is Celebrating Janet Jackson Appreciation Day on Super Bowl Sunday.” AOL.com, AOL, 3 Feb. 2019, www.aol.com/article/entertainment

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