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Moment that mattered: The 2012 Olympics opening ceremony

File photo dated 28/07/2012 of Fireworks mark the opening of the London Olympic Games 2012 Opening Ceremony at the Olympic Stadium, London.

Danny Boyle did a stunning job on the opening ceremonies. It was one of those moments when the cliché was true: the world was watching. Probably quite confused at times – why were there giant trampoline beds everywhere? – but watching nonetheless.

The big moment for me was that split second in the video shot in Buckingham Palace when the Queen turned round to talk to James Bond and you realised it was actually her – not a lookalike, but the actual head of state, playing along for the occasion. It was fascinating from a PR perspective: in that moment she could have done Brand Windsor more good than in a decade’s worth of official duties. It was a stunt that genuinely attached her to her subjects. It caught us off guard but I defy anyone who says they didn’t cheer with delight when they saw her joining in. If you can create a stunt that makes everyone in the country whoop simultaneously, then you’ve found the PR.

I reckon the Queen was aware of the trajectory that the royal family has been travelling on since William and Kate’s wedding. That was the first step in the journey that got us to her appearing to dive out of a helicopter with James Bond. We have fallen in love with the royal family again and it is because they seem accessible and authentic. Authenticity should never be underestimated, particularly not in the UK, whose population has a bullshit radar like no other country on earth.

Ten years ago a stunt like the Bond skit was unthinkable – the only way for the Queen to be part of such a huge event would be making a stage-managed, wooden speech from the royal box. But things have changed dramatically since then. The emergence of social media has made it possible for us all to make our joys and displeasures immediately known to a wide audience. It has removed some social divides and led to the killing of some sacred cows. Traditional one-way communication is being repaced with two-way relationships, and PR has stopped being counted in column inches and started being judged by the way it builds these relationships. In the past, the royal family banked on its detachment, but it seems to understand it must be more accessible in this new era.

The Queen’s participation was a calculated gamble. Luxury branding has a code all of its own. A luxury brand can too easily undermine itself. But it was a gamble that paid off magnificently: anybody who saw that film and that helicopter jump will be telling people about it for the rest of their lives.

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