Monthly Archives: September 2009

Gaga gets it! And puts online consumers first.

gaga kermit dressI’ve noticed that I generally start a blog post apologising for the many celebrity references, and not talkingovertly about advertising, but I guess brands can actually learn a lot from the rich and famous, who are of course brands in themselves, and digitally some of the most forward-thinking there are. Step forward Lady Gaga, a current obsession of a couple of IABers, not just because she has good music and clothes, but also because she’s a fan of… online video! In a recent interview with Newsweek, Gaga spoke about the structure and look of her performances, which are tailored to suit the online viewer:

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Editor’s blog: You get what you pay for

I see Gordon Brown has been attempting to ‘hang with the yoof’ again. The PM yesterday gave an interview to Radio 1 Xtra (whatever that is – another example of the creeping ubiquity of the Beeb) in which he said he would be willing to take a salary cut in order to mitigate the effects of the recession. He went further and noted gravely that he was ‘not in this job for the money’. We all know this to be the case because he’s a dutiful son of the manse, wedded to public service. But in some odd way I wish he actually was into the wedge.

I’m not saying he should be as keen on the shekels as Tony and Cherie, but you get my drift. Brown does the job because – although it’s turned out to be the worst bed of nettles and thorns imaginable – he has stretched every sinew of his being for the last 30 years to get it, and God knows what else he’s cut out for. Managing Dunfermline Athletic, perhaps.

The Tories, by the way, are no better on this subject: they’ve said they will cut ministerial salaries by 25% if they win power and David Cameron has, as usual, gone one further by stating he would be willing to do the PM ‘s job for ‘half the money, twice the money or no money’. (That would cause someone of his family means a lot less pain than most others, of course)

It’s hard to know where to start with one’s many objections to this idiocy. Firstly, a salary of one hundred and ninety four grand for being in charge of the collective destiny of 57 million people, as well as being responsible for an annual expenditure budget of many hundreds of billions and trying to ease us all out of this current mess is not excessive. Terry Leahy wouldn’t do it for such a sum; neither would an averagely successful barrister or moderately productive surgeon with a bit of private practice on the side.

The idea that the job should go to the lowest bidder in some sort of insane reverse auction is a nonsense. There are plenty of nutjobs out there who’d do it for nothing. Being willing to offer one’s service gratis instantly devalues the offerer. Nothing will come from nothing.

Secondly, the piss-poor quality of the current batch of ministers (who’d give a job to Bob Ainsworth unless he came with a DSS subsidy attached?) shows that, if anything, they should get more money. What kind of effect does anyone think a 25% pay cut has on that job holder’s morale? About how much discretionary effort they are willing to put in, and what they believe is their own worth? What does it say about the intrinsic worth of the position? The salary should be a reflection of how extremely important these jobs are. But we’d rather expend vast amounts of energy vilifying the political class as venal trouserers of our hard-earned cash.

This moronic hair-shirtism just has to stop. The line that it’s the love of filthy lucre that has led to our undoing, so it has to be shunned, is not going to help us. It’s one thing to be mildly revolted by all those wretched investment bankers with their vampire squid funnels all clambering back on the gravy train. But being worse off isn’t fun. It’s not desirable and it’s not clever. You’ve only got to observe the wretched existences of those subjects ‘on the sick’ in this week’s Channel 4 documentary ‘Benefit Busters’ to be reminded of this. Engaging in an empty PR exercise in outdoing each other on puritanical salary reduction doesn’t get anyone anywhere.

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Editor’s blog: A summer of MPV agony

There comes a sad moment in every bloke’s life when he has to consider buying an MPV. It happens to women as well, but they rarely get so depressed about it. With the arrival 3 months ago of my third child, that bloke is me. Just to rub some peroxide in the wound, our motoring correspondent lined up a couple of beauts for me to test: a Fiat Multipla and Citroen Grand Picasso. You can see the results here.

I now have the bit between my teeth, and have continued my researches further. With the global car industry up on bricks, now ought to be a good time to get in after a bargain. First up in early Summer was the Mazda 5. The 5 is a bit of a dark horse – not that common, and slightly odd with its rear sliding doors, but I’ve always rather liked Mazdas.

No, the main problem with the Mazda came with the effect it had on The Wife, who was sitting in the back between the baby seats (keeping juvenile rebellion to an acceptable level). As we swayed up the M40, headed for the in-laws place in Cheshire, there was that gruesome muffled sound of puking into a bag as motion sickness kicked in. Thank god the toddler was asleep, otherwise it would have been, ‘What’s in bag, mummy? Mummy. I want it!’ This unwanted effect must be something to do with the higher centres of gravity in MPVs than conventional cars. But I’m afraid it put the Mazda out of the race.

Next up for the test was the Volkswagen Touran. Many are unkind about the Touran, regarding it as one step up the acceptability ladder from the hapless Vauxhall Zafira. ‘Ah! A Touran,’ said a friend, as I drove past trying not to be noticed. ‘The car they forget to style.’ It seemed a pretty blameless, bland ride to me – not bad to drive, fairly roomy with loads of weird storage areas for paraphernalia. But the most extraordinary thing about the Touran was its eco-friendly and frugal BlueMotion engine. After a week’s going here and there and clocking up a good few miles conducting life’s banalities, the petrol gauge had hardly moved. With a litre now over 1.10 again, that has to be good news.

One solution for a man in my predicament might be a sizeable four-wheel drive – a sort of South of the River Chelsea tractor. You may get spat upon by militant cyclists, and burn through more fuel than a Sherman tank, but they have the space and the kids get a great view from way up there in the air. While Sorrento is a delightful spot on the Amalfi Riviera, a Kia Sorento is a Korean four-wheel drive about which that laureate of the tarmac Jeremy Clarkson once wrote: ‘It’s automotive KFC, a light bulb with reclining seats, a consumer good with the personality of a caravan site and the desirability of herpes.’ I think that’s a trifle harsh, but a week spent with one didn’t leave any of us loved up at all. I’d imagine most Sorento drivers yearn to be able to afford a Range Rover.

There is an argument that MPVs and four-wheel drives are a modern nonsense, and all a family needs is an old-fashioned estate with a decent boot. A proper car, not a tarted-up van. The last time I’d driven a BMW 5 series Touring a decade ago I remember thinking it was so good it did just about everything a car ought to. It was just a near-faultless piece of design and engineering. The 535 diesel still is. Very fast, smooth, drives like a dream. The only hitch here, of course, is that the model I tested costs upwards to 45K. Almost four years’ school fees. A pipe dream, then.

So I went away on holiday to Italy a trifle disillusioned. I’d booked an estate with Hertz and slightly to my annoyance was given a Ford C-Max instead. And do you know what? It’s surprisingly good. Honest, classless, modest in its lack of pretension but full of virtues. It didn’t drive like a bread van, so Mrs G wasn’t sick in the back and it even had a great CD player. I may well have a sniff around for one.

Fords are clearly the answer – a close friend has just improbably swapped his Porsche for a four year old Focus due to an imminent arrival. It’s good to know I’m not enduring this alone.

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Madonna must have listened…

As a firm follower of celebrity and pop-lovin’ sites, I’ve been waiting with baited breath for the release of Madonna’s full-length video for her latest release, ‘Celebration’. Not because I like the song, but because for the past week her people have been releasing video ‘teasers’, tempting us with 15-second clips of what we believed to be highlights of the final version.What I found interesting about the end product – aside from all of Madonna’s totally unnecessary dry-humping of walls – was that Paul Oakenfold was nowhere to be found. Last week’s ‘Paul Oakenfold teaser’ showed scenes of the DJ doing what could only be described as granddad dancing, which were promptly ripped to pieces across the celebrity-obsessed blogs of the world wide web, with sites such as popjustice and Holy Moly ridiculing his final-song-at-a-wedding-esque moves. Just goes to show that DJs should never dance.

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