Monthly Archives: November 2007

It might be the Sunday papers…

st.jpg…but is anybody reading?

Ask anyone who knows something about anything and they’ll tell you that the Sunday Times is influential, that it has significant reach into high-end demographics, that it drives recommendation and purchasing decisions…blah de blah de blah.

Well, it’s a myth.  Like dragons.  And let me slay this one once and for all.

I was featured in the Sunday Times yesterday (as was my family).  Not just a little mention either.  The first two words of the article were my name, the next one my age and the next four my occupation.  It then went on to discuss our life here in France…or at least the bit of it related to the rental of our holiday properties.  And there was a picture.  I was even quoted as using the word “caboodle”.

I don’t know about you, but if I saw someone I knew featured in the Sunday Times, I’d probably give ‘em a call.  Or send an email, or a text:  “Saw your ugly mug in the Sunday Papers…nearly hurled my cornflakes…”  That sort of thing.

Twenty-four hours on from the article’s appearance and what have we had?  One call.  From the Mother-in-Law.  And she gets to stay here for free.

My only conclusion – based on an admittedly small research study – is that the Sunday Times exerts no influence whatsoever over its readership.

Actually, that’s not my only conclusion.  Others might be that I have no friends that read the Sunday Times.  Or, more simply, that I have no friends.  But my Facebook profile tells a different story (OK, so this might be a slight flaw in my otherwise rock-solid argument).  I also recognise that the Property section comes fairly well down the Sunday Times hierarchy.  But surely it trumps Travel and Appointments? 

I’m also concluding that the purchase of the Sunday Times is purely a habit.  In the same way that I flick the kettle on upon entering any kitchen, a decent proportion of the UK population searches out a newsagent and buys the Sunday Times every weekend.  Both are largely a waste of energy.

Extrapolating my bitterness argument, I’m also going to conclude that old media is well and truly dead.  Indeed, the only positive result that will come out of the article will be due to this blog post, confident as I am that it has greater reach (and if anyone would like to sign up to my new training course: “How to extend the influence of traditional media coverage through the creative use of social media” than please drop me a note).

I said “caboodle” for Christ’s sake.  Surely that’s good for something?

Facebook application

I had an idea for a Facebook application in the pub last night, but I’m not sure if it already exists.  I suspect not, for possibly obvious reasons.  Perhaps someone might let me know?

It’s really simple.  I’d like there to be an application which tells me which of my friends have spent the most time looking at my Facebook profile.  And perhaps which bits of it they spent most time looking at.  Like pictures.  That’d be interesting. 

Of course, I’d also like to be the only person in the world allowed to load it.  Or I’d like to at least be able to bar selected friends from loading it.  Particularly the lookers.

I’m feeling the back of my hand

“Anymore of your cheek sonny and you’ll feel the back of my hand…” 

Funny little phrase that.  I’d have thought “the front of my clenched fist” might’ve been a better deterrent, but there you go. 

Of course “the back of my hand” has a double meaning.  There’s the corporal punishment for children one as described above and then there’s the one about knowing something (generally a physical location) particularly well.  “I know Soho like the back of my hand”, as someone might utter.

I came across a website called backofmyhand.com earlier today.  It was mentioned at the bottom of a Hotmail I received from a friend (sorry, a “Windows Live Hotmail”).  Not surprising really, as it turns out that it’s a Microsoft owned website – out of the Windows Live team and all based on Virtual Earth (bit of disclosure here – I’ve done a bit of work for Microsoft over the years.  I’m not at the moment though – and I’ve never worked with the Windows Live people).

Actually, I think the fact that it’s a Microsoft site has been its problem, as I can’t imagine it gets any great focus alongside the other Live properties.  The fact that the latest additions to the site seemed to have been made back in March this year seem to endorse the fact.  It’s a shame, because I think it’s a brilliant idea (which probably means it’s being done somewhere else even better…probably based on Google Maps).

Basically, this is how it works.  If you know a particular area like the back of your hand, you can pinpoint it and places of interest on the map with a little description.  It can be as broad or as specific as you like.  So, you might do “brilliant boozers in Barnet” or, equally, “Speed cameras in Stockport” or “Nice things to do on the Isle of Wight”.  You can search the site on location or interest.  It’s cool – and could be really useful if it was populated well.  Problem is, there are only 107 entries on the whole site!  Shame.  I wonder if they’d sell it to me?

worldcup3.jpgHere are another couple of links for the fellow cycling nuts out there.  In a follow-up to my slightly odd Rapha post below and some bike porn surfing this afternoon, I think I might have found my dream bike brand, Witcomb Cycles in Deptford. Witcomb has been custom-making bike frames since 1949 and is now the only bespoke framebuilder left in London.  Just beautiful bikes – check out the lugs on that.

I found the Witcomb website from a link of the site of the Tweed Cycling Club, which is also based in south-east London.  Tweed CC eschews the technology and modernity that has overcome modern road cycling.  The website’s a joy to read – take this for example:

“Why spend a king’s ransom on the latest titanium confection when any weight advantage will be rendered irrelevant by a cheese-and-pickle sandwich and thermos of soup?”

Quite.

Simply brilliant brand

rapha-dm.jpgI received a lovely piece of direct mail yesterday.  And it’s not often that those words pass my lips (or my fingers).

Here’s a picture of it.  It’s from one of my favourite brands - Rapha - which makes fantastic, top quality cycling clothing.  So it’s a bit of a niche thing.  But I’m into my niches. 

Rapha’s very much an aspirational brand for me (I’m into my cycling at the moment, too).  In fact, it’s completely aspirational as I don’t own a single piece of Rapha kit!  It’s quite pricey…but you just know it’s going to be worth the money.  I spoke to a bloke once who’d tried on one of Rapha’s jackets.  He said that on the peg it all looked a little odd – long arms and back, zip off centre – but when you put it on and sat on a bike it was just perfect.  Then his eyes glazed over.  It’s that sort of stuff.

Is this sounding a bit sad?

It’s just that Rapha hits so many spots with me that I can’t think of another brand with which I have the same sort of relationship.  I can remember quite vividly the first time I read about the company – an article in Management Today a few years back.  I visit the company’s website and drool regularly.  And now I’ve got a lovely little A5 booklet I can tuck under my pillow.

Everything about the brand is understated.  The clothing itself, obviously (none of your day-glo lycra here) but everything else reflects that too.  The website’s great.  It captures the passion that some of us (and I’m by no means as bad as it gets) have for cycling with some fantastic editorial content and images.  The DM piece is exactly the same (as you’d expect).  The first 18 of its 31 pages contain some brilliant photos and an article written by Tim Krabbe, a Dutch novelist well-known in cycling circles for his classic book The Rider.  Only then are a few of the products presented.  Cool.  It even smells great.

The fella who founded Rapha, Simon Mottram, used to be a brand consultant, so you might expect him to get it right.  But he’s also a fanatical cyclist, which I think is just as important.  Honestly, I’m racking my brain and I can’t think of another brand that’s so compelling.  Well, to me, at least.  It’s obviously an individual thing based on personality and passions – I’d love to know if anyone else has a similar relationship with any other brands?

Anyway, if anyone’s wondering what to get me for Christmas…

Speaking of Guinness

13547guinness-toucan-posters.jpgThere’s a new Guinness TV ad out – always worth a watch.  You can do so here on the Media Guardian website. 

According to the Guardian, it’s the most expensive TV ad Guinness has ever put together.  Surely not?  I reckon that dancing fella cost a pretty penny…

The ad’s OK but not my all-time favourite.  I liked the old bloke swimming across the harbour.

I reckon they’ll be telling us it was done in one take next, like that Honda one (my backside!  Tyres rolling uphill..?)

PS: I started this post 90 minutes ago.  That’s YouTube for you.

I’ll have a Guinness, Peggy…

gordon-ramsay1.jpg…and a glass of Jacob’s Creek for the little lady.

Disturbing news from this week’s Economist.  The EU has recently granted approval to the Audiovisual Media Services Directive which removes many of the current restrictions placed on television product placement (which up to now has been illegal in many European countries).

I can understand the rationale.  Product placement in TV shows isn’t illegal in the US, and the television industry over there earns $1.5 billion a year from it.  And of course, showing US TV shows in Europe – product placement and all – isn’t illegal (though many wish it was).  So you can see why European broadcasters want a piece of the action.

I can’t stand product placement.  Some of the stuff in films has become so blatant (for example that utterly crap bit of Casino Royale where James Bond has to drive the Ford Mondeo) that I find it a real intrusion on the film itself.  That’ll teach me for watching such dross, I suppose.  But the idea of product placement in TV shows does worry me. 

Many of the current style of TV shows would naturally suit themselves to product placement.  In fact, two of the shows I watched last night would suit themselves perfectly.  Sarah Beeny’s property one…”Lovely fixtures and fittings…it’s amazing what IKEA turns out these days…” and Ramsay’s Kitchen Nightmares…”Nice pan Gordon”…”Yes, it’s one of my own fuckers.  Fucking lovely.  Better than that fucking Tefal shite that Oliver punts.  Mockney twat.”

Doesn’t bode well, does it?

Even worse, as The Economist points out, is the chance that governments might enter the fray.  One of the product placement companies quoted in the article “is in talks with several European government agencies about using television to promote not products, but behaviour.”

The new series of Spooks…(Sir) Harry Pearce: “Adam, there’s a splinter group of renegade Cornishmen loose on the streets of London armed with any number of jumbo pasties.  If we don’t reach them soon, this could lead to an outbreak of obesity the likes of which this country’s never seen.  I want you to get over there now.  Don’t forget to fasten your seatbelt.”

And of course I can’t ever read anything about product placement without thinking about this bit in Wayne’s World.  Genius.

Me and my bicycle

logoredcopy.jpgVia Davies, I’ve just joined new niche social network Me and My Bicycle.  It’s been started by Ben Ayers who writes the New Media Curious blog. 

Funnily enough, just after signing up I noticed on Ben’s page a message about the site nearing a hundred members and that, “the hundredth member when they do show up is in for a treat. Haven’t thought about what they get yet apart from the glory and being able to tell their grandchildren etc etc etc…but it will be pretty fookin good.”

And guess what?  I’m the hundredth member!

I’m quite into my cycling at the moment.  The countryside round here is fantastic for getting out on the bike…which is just as well, as next May I’m organising a charity bike ride from London to St Emilion and need to get considerably fitter if I’m going to make it…

Best of luck to Ben with the network.  I share his interest in niche audiences, so it’ll be interesting to see how this one develops (and, as it does, how quickly commercial organisations become interested).

Is that a mirror in your pocket?

billsteve_1.jpgIt’s just I can see myself in your knickers.

One of my all-time favourite chat-up lines.  In theory at least.  I’ve never had the balls to use it.  And of course I wouldn’t now, being a married man (hello love).

Chat-up lines are designed as conversation starters though, aren’t they?  Make ‘em laugh…get them in a conversation…see where it leads.  If they don’t kick off a conversation, they’ve failed.  It’s a bit like social media.  In fact (Swiss Toni voice), “social media is very much like chatting up a beautiful woman…”

See those two fellas above having a conversation?  I wonder what they’re saying?

“It’s like this big!”

“Whoa!  But I’d have to like hold it in my hand like this, open up my mouth real wide…”

Talking about an early iPhone prototype, no doubt. 

I don’t suppose those two have to fish around for too long to spark a conversation.  It’s more difficult when you’re a business and you want to strike one up with an individual, or audience, that you don’t know terribly well (and let’s face it, most businesses don’t).

You need a decent conversation starter.  Doing a bit more these days in the area of “conversational marketing”, I’ve been putting some thought into what makes a good conversation starter.  And if you believe that conversations are central to the new world of marketing and communications, pondering on conversation starters is a fantastic way of highlighting the difference between “old” and “new” PR.  Because most of what companies shove out as PR is about as far from kicking off a decent chat as you can get.

Think about the great conversations that you’ve had.  How did they start?  Probably with a brilliant question.  Or a forthright opinion.  Or a piece of honest feedback.  Or a good joke.  Or maybe even a chat-up line.  Great conversation starters are thought-provoking, controversial, funny, divisive, sincere, candid, direct, contentious.  Now how much PR pushed out these days is any of those things?  Not much.  It’s all very bland.

The new world demands that we provoke a reaction – an emotional reaction - because that’s the only way we’ll be able to enter into a conversation.  And let’s not be afraid to provoke both negative and positive reactions (though on balance, obviously, we’d prefer that the positive ones came out on top).  Negative reactions can be very useful…because you very quickly learn what the audience doesn’t like and can change your behaviour accordingly. 

Let’s forget about trying to please all of the audience all of the time.  Hell, let’s forget about pleasing all of the audience some of the time, or even some of the audience all of the time.  Pleasing some of the audience some of the time is enough, as long as we listen to those that we’ve pissed off.

Facebook weekend

london-bridge.jpgI had to do a bit of work over the weekend – something of a rush job for a client of mine.  As I was online, I logged into Facebook.  It’s extraordinary…somehow, it manages to recreate in an online environment the exact same feeling you get when you go into the office on a Sunday to catch up.  In comparison to the working week, it’s weirdly quiet…just a few weekend workers like myself floating around.  Tells you almost all you need to know about where and how people are using Facebook.

Yes, we all know it can be huge time-waster - particularly in the honeymoon phase when you’re gathering friends and catching up with old contacts – but should it be banned from the workplace?  Not as far as I’m concerned.  At least, not more than any other website or internet resource.  If people are going to muck around online, they’ll do it anyway.

What I reckon needs to change are management practices.  I was involved in a piece of work a few years ago for MicrosoftDr Carsten Sorensen of the London School of Economics (a top boffin, if you’re ever in need, and great fun too)  produced a paper identifying the changes needed in UK management practices if the brave new world of mobile and remote working was ever going to come to fruition. 

Central to these was the need to change from the current culture of management by sight to management by outcome (or words to that effect…the doc’s actual terminology escapes me).  Basically, he identified that British organisations, in the main, are hotbeds of “presenteeism” – i.e. if you’re seen to be at work you must be working and if you’re not, well, you’re not. 

Obviously this attitude is entirely outdated.  OK, so when you manned a machine in a factory, being there meant you were doing your job.  But these days, how many people can spend a day in the office and actually achieve very little?  Hell, I’ve done it myself on many occasions.  But it’s stuff like the internet  – as a distraction for those people in the office – that becomes the target as “costing UK business billions of pounds in lost productivity…”  But, like I say, if people want to be distracted, they’ll find the distractions.  Christ, a few years back, my team and I spent the best part of a day turning our island of desks into a snow-covered mountain range, complete with cable car.

The good doctor’s conclusion was that, if mobile and remote working is going to succeed, we need to change to a culture of management by outcome, i.e. if people have specific results that they have to achieve, their performance and effectiveness is measured on these results rather than their attendance.  Which makes a lot of sense.

So I’m thinking, why should management by outcome just relate to mobile workers?  If all workers were managed in this way, it wouldn’t matter whether they were office-based, mobile, home workers or a mixture of all of these.  They’d just have specific things to do and as long as they did them, they could spend the rest of their time doing whatever they fancied.  Like going home early.  Or taking a long lunch.  Or mucking around with Facebook.

I’m a freelance and I work (mainly) from home.  So I’m a huge advocate of working to a set of very specific tasks and, when they’re done, doing something else rather than sit at my desk because it’s not yet 5.30pm.  If all businesses managed their people in a similar way, the debates about people wasting time at work would quickly disappear (as would those people who don’t get through their task lists as efficiently as they should…)

Adios Alonso

hamiltonalonso1806_468x330.jpgTo misquote The Italian Job, one of my favourite films, “It’s a long way back to Spain.  And it’s that way.”

So, Fernando Alonso has left McLaren.  They must be delighted.  He’s a top driver, no doubt, but demonstrated this season that he’s got the temperament of a three year old.  Sure, as a two time world champion turning up at one of the best teams he’d have expected to be quick – and he was.  But because his rookie team mate turned up and blew him away over the early part of the season he threw his toys right out of his very fast pram.

“The team aren’t giving us equal treatment,” he bleated.  Did he expect sympathy?  Sorry son.  You’re paid millions of pounds and you’re driving one of the fastest cars on the grid.  Just get on with the job.  But he couldn’t stop moaning and has talked his way into an almost certainly inferior bit of kit for next season.  Pillock.

Everyone’s talking about where Alonso will turn up next.  I’m more interested in who’s going to get the second McLaren seat.  Ron Dennis has always said that he’ll have two top drivers in his team, rather than a number one and number two.  But is that the right thing to do?  After all, this season Alonso and Hamilton scored 218 points between them – the Ferrari drivers only 204.  But it was Raikkonen who walked off with the title.  McLaren hasn’t won a drivers’ title since ’99.  Perhaps it’s time for a clear team leader? I think so. 

Ron, in case you’re reading.  I’ll happily play second fiddle to Hamilton in 2008.  I absolutely promise not to outshine him.

Follow

Get every new post delivered to your Inbox.

Join 1,930 other followers