Monthly Archives: April 2009

Editor’s blog: Hello, Darling, want a new motor?

Well, Darling, I can’t say I’m overwhelmed. Encouraged by the success of the vehicle scrapping scheme in Germany and France, Darling has taken the plunge (after a lot of pushing from Peter Mandelson) and has just announced a 2,000 incentive for scrapping an old vehicle. This isn’t a great idea. And I don’t maintain this simply because my old clunker is only nine years old and therefore won’t be eligible for a two grand voucher off a new set of wheels.

Already there are likely lads asking if they buy an old banger for 50 quid, will they be able to trade it in against a brand new set of wheels? The answer is almost certain to be no. Not even the Treasury is that daft. No, really.

But why should the car industry be favoured over any other area of manufacturing? We don’t have a huge indigenous car industry here anymore. It’s a fiscal stimulus to get a bit more VAT in. Why not allow punters to trade in their old DFS sofa for some homemade organic hemp furniture? Surely the Hon. Kirstie Allsopp would approve.

The other industry that will be reaching for its tin hat is the scrap metal business. There is likely to be such a huge amount of old steel coming into the recycling market that all their margins will be shot to pieces. But I suppose the real disadvantage of this scheme is likely to be that all the profits from any increase in sales of new cars will go abroad. It’ll be the Germans of BMW and Mercedes and the Japanese owners of Toyota and Honda who get all the benefit. A little help may be directed towards the desperate and beleaguered Jaguar Land Rover, but any profit from that is going to India.

I defer to MT’s old friend and dotty entrepreneur Ling Valentine in this: ‘It makes no logical sense to crush a perfectly good, 10-year old car just as an excuse to buy a new one. It’s an environmental crime, based on greed. All the dealers and manufacturers can see are taxpayers’ pound notes up for grabs. Dealers and speculators are said to be buying old bangers and registering them in friends and family names simply to take advantage of a windfall. What will happen to the 70,000 used cars currently for sale at less then 2,000 in AutoTrader? This scheme stinks, and the effect it has had on freezing sales this year can be attributed to a greedy industry headed by desperate people. Very few genuine owners of 10-year old cars will trade in against a new car, it just doesn’t happen. These industry heads should resign for causing a self-inflicted sales-confidence catastrophe’. You tell ‘em, Ling.

In parallel with this is the government scheme to encourage the purchase of green i.e. electric cars. There is, however, a big problem with these vehicles as they are available at the moment. Never mind that they simply change the carbon spewing venue from the exhaust pipe to the power station. They are too small, too slow and too expensive. You can barely fit Noddy and Big Ears into a GWhiz, however much it looks like their set of wheels. Electric cars have environmentally very unfriendly batteries and when fully loaded with a family of 4 or 5, plus luggage, their juice supply is unlikely to get you further than the end of the street.

Read more on Editor’s blog: Hello, Darling, want a new motor?…

Amy, your rankings have been changed.

Yesterday afternoon I received a lovely email from one of those Facebook application things, telling me that my ‘compare people’ ratings had changed, and that whilst I was still number 1 amongst my friends in terms of best sense of humour (of course!) and I’d gained a few places and now was the 3rd cutest (HELL yeah!) some of my ‘rankings’ had dropped and I was now only the 8th most outgoing, and I’d lost 2 places to become only the 3rd most powerful, disappointing… So many thanks to the ‘compare people’ application for making me doubt my ability to socialise and the perceived power I hold over my social networking pals!

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Digital marketers capitalise on Susan Boyle phenomenon

In less than a week
Britain’s Got Talent contestant Susan
Boyle has become an international hit, racking up YouTube views now well over 50
million. Thanks to the immediacy of digital advertising, some clever marketers
are already advertising around Susan’s success. It’s an excellent example of the
speed of online advertising, matching brands to relevant content and the
inventiveness of search marketers. Below is a results page from Google with
sponsored listings around the search term “susan boyle” and a similar YouTube
results page. Click on each image to view it full size.

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Advertising and sex

A few years back, I read an article in The Spectator. It was by Madsen Pirie, the chairman of The Adam Smith Institute. He was writing about the phenomenon that, in the UK, girls were passing more exams than boys.

He was interested in the reason behind this. Some people thought it was because more girls were being allowed to take exams at higher level.

Madsen Pirie said this wasn’t the answer. Some people thought it was proof that girls have always been more intelligent, but until now they hadn’t been allowed to show it.

Madsen Pirie said this wasn’t the answer either. He said everyone was looking in the wrong place for the answer. The reason girls were passing more exams than boys wasn’t actually to do with girls’ intelligence at all.

It was to do with the exams themselves. At about the time when girls began passing more exams than boys, exams had changed. The examination authorities had begun giving 50% of the marks for the course work, done in the year leading up to the exam.

Previously, 100% of the marks had been for the final exam itself. Course work hadn’t counted for anything. This suited boys, who would do as little as possible all year, and cram like crazy in the last weeks before the exam.

Then it changed, and 50% of the marks were given for course work, this suited girls. Who would work steadily and conscientiously all year. So that, by the time of the final exam, they would already have more marks than the boys.

And, however hard the boys crammed for the final exam, it was only worth 50% of the marks. Madsen Pirie then interviewed a Cambridge don on the difference between male and female undergraduates.

He said that, generally speaking, the girls were better on the detail, but fuzzy on the big picture. The boys were better on the big picture but sloppy on the detail. He said his two best students were a male and a female, and they would both get ‘firsts’.

How does this work in advertising terms? Years ago Amanda Walsh, our CEO at the time, asked me why there were fewer women in the creative department than other departments.

She wanted to know if I thought it was just old fashioned sexism. I said I didn’t think so. The creative department is basically a big playground. Lots of time spent telling jokes, playing games, reading comics or books, watching reels or YouTube, basically (what looks like) time-wasting.

None of this is a problem as long as, by the deadline, you’ve managed to turn it into a great idea. Great ideas don’t happen slowly, incrementally, and conscientiously.

They tend to happen as a result of a short, intense period of cramming information and then a sudden explosion of creativity. More the way boys approach exams than the way girls do.

Account handling, on the other hand, requires exactly the opposite values. Constant attention to detail, an intuitive ability to read situations and feelings. conscientious application that ensures everything possible has been done as it needs to be.

In short, the account handling department gives a lot more marks for course work than the creative department does.

Read more on Advertising and sex…

Plumbing, poetry, pirates and…people?

Last Friday’s Digital Britain Summit at The British Library was themed as an event to discuss the ‘plumbing’ (ie broadband infrastructure) and ‘poetry’ (ie the content) – this is Lord (Stephen) Carter’s very own analogy. Its importance to the Government was on show for all to witness: four senior government ministers, including the Prime Minister, Gordon Brown. He, Culture Secretary Andy Burnham and Business Secretary Lord (Peter) Mandelson all made key note speeches and the author of the Digital Britain project himself, Lord Carter, was a panelist.

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Susan Boyle is bigger than Bush, Obama and Palin!

It’s true. According to Visible Measures, the unexpected star of Britain’s Got Talent has received 47.7 million online views and 125,000+ comments. This trounces views of the Bush vs Shoes incident (33.2m views), Tina Fey’s impression of Sarah Palin (34.2m) and Obama’s victory night speech (18.5m). What’s it all mean for the future of light entertainment? For a start, it’s further evidence of our insatiable appetite for the plucky underdog – John Sergeant, Paul Potts et al. It probably also points to our desire for a new shared visual experience. After all, very few of us watch the same TV programme at the same time these days – it’s all Sky+ and iPlayer. Nowadays isn’t it all about gathering round a colleague’s computer and reliving the same clip together? It’s the modern day equivalent of sitting in front of the wireless – collectively enjoying a piece of entertainment and then critiquing as a group. Of course, it might just mean that we’re a bunch of shameless voyeurs with too much time on our hands!

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The difference between a creative pitch, and a pitch with creative

Mike Gold had pretty much managed to talk London Transport Advertising into giving us their account. He just had to take the client to lunch to finalise the details. He said it would help if we could convince him of our design credentials.

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Is it game over for London’s Sport magazine?

The future of the free weekly men’s magazine Sport hangs in the balance today following news that its French parent company, Sport Media & Strategie, has gone into administration.

We’re told the last issue of the magazine, which employs 24 people, was distributed on 3 April and the company is now “rethinking its business model”.

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We’re all asking the wrong question

I was doing a speech once, to clients, about creativity in advertising. I wanted to make the point that creativity in our field isn’t like any other field.

So I showed them a slide of a particular chair. It was an upright chair with a brass-finished, square-section tubular frame and a blue velour seat and back. I explained that the chair had been designed by Hans Hoffstedder, the German furniture designer.

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Digital Britain…kindly brought to you by advertising (part 2)

Over the last few months I’ve written a number of blogs about the Digital Britain project, the Government’s blueprint for the UK’s digital economy. This kicked off last November with a blog arguing that the internet will help the UK economy out of its current recession, followed in late January with the first in the series of ‘Digital Britain…kindly brought to you by advertising’ blogs (this is the second!) which highlighted the Government’s underplaying of the role and value of advertising to the digital economy in its interim report. In late February, I talked of the ‘green shoots of opportunity’ and the Government’s failure – in its interim report – to recognise the UK as one of the best places in the world to do ‘digital business’.

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