Monthly Archives: October 2009

Much to celebrate at Media Week Awards

MediaWeek Awards

Last
night’s Media Week Awards at the Grosvenor proved yet again that no one parties
like the media fraternity.

While other
‘big’ awards have been, well, rather less big this year, Media Week’s annual bash
was as large and as vibrant as ever, with more than 1,300 attendees representing
media owners, agencies and clients.

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Editor’s blog: Lemonade brews up storm State-side

An unexpected row has blown up in the US state of Maine over Fentiman’s Victorian lemonade. This botanically-brewed tipple has caused consternation because although its blameless ingredients include lemons, ginger and herbal extracts, there is a little sting in the tail. Apparently a Maine schoolboy who was having a glass noticed with horror that the beverage contained 0.5% alcohol.

Rather than rejoicing and telling all his friends, he took the offending ‘hooch’ off to his principal’s office – whereupon all hell broke loose. The police and the state attorney general are now involved and two pressure groups in the substance abuse area are calling for it to be banned. Someone called Clare Desrosiers from the Aroostook Substance Abuse Coalition said: ‘To me, it is sold in what looks like a liquor bottle.’

‘I think it’s quite amusing, really,’ said Eldon Robson, Fentimans’ managing director and master brewer, when interviewed by The Guardian (all publicity is good publicity, right?). ‘Maine is of course where our Puritanical forefathers went because Britain was not strict enough. And it has been said that Puritans are people who are always worried that someone, somewhere might be having fun.’

I’ve written before about the coming whirlwind that is heading for UK booze producers. Having already shown an appetite for prohibition in America, they are further down the road to demonising alcohol than we are in the UK. Two years ago, the mother of a 16-year-old boy from Virginia was sent to jail for allowing booze to be consumed at his birthday party.

Although one can be amused by the OTT reaction to a devil’s brew lemonade in the States, the effects of alcohol on the young are one of the principal reasons the anti-booze lobby is gaining strength. The fact that 20% of 11-15 year olds in the UK are consuming booze at least once a week isn’t anything to be proud of.

So, in the long run, Robson is onto a great thing with his range of adult soft drinks. One of the age-old problems is that the non-alcoholic niche is still so poorly served in pubs. Most mixers taste terrible on their own as they come from cheap concentrate; a Virgin Mary is usually a bottle of ageing Schweppes tomato juice with a bit of white pepper thrown in (how difficult can it be to get a tetrapak of V8 juice behind the bar?). As for the Nab Labs (non or low alcohol beers), they taste like god knows what.

But the tiny Hexam-based Fentiman’s – with its 15 employees and a turnover of £4 million – is a cool brand with some excellent products: their ginger beer is infinitely superior to Old Jamaica and they have a new rose lemonade flavoured with petals from Bulgaria. And no need for Nurofen the following morning.

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Love as violence

R.D. Laing was an unconventional psychologist. One of the thing’s he talked about was ‘love as violence’.

That is what we do to our children. Because we want what’s best for them, we go beyond simply loving them. We equip them to survive in the world. To us it looks like love.

Looked at from another side, it’s actually damage. One instance he gave concerned Indian beggars. India was a very poor country. Millions were starving to death.

So, when a beggar had a child, she had to consider how it would survive. Because nearly everyone in India lived in poverty, no one gave money to beggars. Not unless they had a seriously good reason to beg.

An obvious, and major, disability that prevented them working. Otherwise, they’d definitely starve. That was the world of the beggar.

So, if a child was born without a deformity, it was a serious problem. If you really loved your child, you gave them what they needed to survive. A withered arm or leg, a crushed foot, or blindness. That way they should be able to make a living as a beggar.

This is love as violence. How the world appears depends on where we see it from. Because that’s the only world we know. R.D.Laing said that, in the West, we do the same thing to our children. But we do it mentally.

We couldn’t see a healthy, fully-formed mind as a possibility. No more than the Indian beggars could recognise a healthy, full-formed body.

In their world, they see a deformed body as suited to survival. In our world, we see a deformed mind as suited to survival. So we train and shape our children from the moment they’re born.

We send them to schools to learn to do everything exactly as we did. Exactly as everyone else does. We break and shape that fully-formed, healthy mind until it fits our preconception.

Until it’s suited to survive. We commit love as violence just as the beggar does.

This is R.D.laing’s view of what we do to our children. And yet what choice do we have? We can’t know any world outside what we know.

So what do we do? I don’t have the answer.

But I do have the question. And that’s a good start point. To do what we think is right, while being able to hold the possibility that it may be wrong.

Not to go on auto-pilot. Not to knee-jerk into the fastest possible answer. But to constantly be in the enquiry.

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Education, education, education (part two)

A few weeks ago I wrote about the importance of informing and educating consumers about the internet. This followed a revamp of the IAB’s website – www.youronlinechoices.co.uk – aimed at helping internet users understand online behavioural advertising, how it works and how to switch it off if they want to. Today the IAB, in partnership with business law firm Olswang, has published new research confirming that consumers need (and want) more information and education about online privacy and the practice of behavioural advertising.

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Digital creativity dead?

Of course it’s not, but the digital creative industry can be as quiet as a corpse sometimes. This year I’ve seen absolutely blinding digital creativity in web design, interactive rich media, even in the copy used for search ads. Actual creative genius resides in digital – but sometimes, digital creatives can be so polite amidst the marketing rabble!

The IAB has Creative Showcase, which highlights the best of the best and there’s Creative Review, which is ace. Plus I’m sure creative agencies highlight their best creative to clients and internally, but if we’re to continue proving this medium I honestly believe digital creatives need to become collective uber show-offs of the highest order. And there doesn’t always need to be an award at the end of it.

Print, outdoor and TV ads sometimes end up in art galleries. Why not digital? Some digital creativity is beautiful! A stunning, interactive work of art. There are barely any digital creative blogs/sites either, yet campaigns are going live daily. Digital’s very nature makes it mass broadcast but on a personal level – so while it’s hitting the mark with its target consumers, it needs that extra push in the marketing industry to get it noticed. Here’s my push of a simple, but beautiful and clearly messaged pre-roll ad for the RAF edited specifically for online and run across WebTVEnterprise’s network. Click on the image to watch it:

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Editor’s blog: What to make of Warren Buffett?

It’s hard to know what to make of Warren Buffet. He is deeply weird. And last night’s BBC documentary presented by Evan Davis made the old boy from Omaha appear even odder. For a man who is the second richest in the world, his genuine folksiness is quite bizarre: he lives in the same modest house he bought decades back, he loves burgers, steaks and cherry coke, shunning vegetables. He swears that Dale Carnegie’s gruesome ‘How to win friends…’ changed his life. He answers his own phone but doesn’t have a Bloomberg terminal or even a mobile phone.

The temptation at the moment is to contrast what Buffet does with the activities of all those evil investment bakers. Buffett goes for ‘long term value’ by investing in real companies that produce real goods and services (even if, like Coca Cola, you could argue that they rot kids’ teeth and make people fat). Investment bankers are mere frenetic gamblers fiddling, like Faustus, with dangerous arcane financial devices of no social use whatsoever. He creates, they just churn. He’s the acceptable old style face of capitalism – in for the long term – whereas they are the vampire squids of unacceptability, ready to suck on anything they can get their fangs into for ten minutes. And we love him because he got Goldman Sachs by the short and curlies, when they badly needed $5 billion he had kicking around as loose change.

This is all very well, but the truth is the business and financial world has moved on since Buffett’s visionary days. He’s also apparently not averse to the odd punt on derivatives. And he picks the odd bummer, getting into oil at the top of the market last year and even taking a very unwise punt on a pair of Irish banks. So he may be conservative but he isn’t infallible.

There is another potential criticism of Buffett. He’s famously averse to backing innovation – anything that is a start-up with no proven track record. He prefers mature business that have shown they are viable but where he detects oodles of steady, long term value. You could argue that having the stomach to back creativity and get behind new ideas is vital to capitalism’s survival. It’s also very hard to do because winners are tough to pick.

One thing it’s hard to fault him on is his philanthropy. He refuses steadfastly to indulge his kids, who will get nothing when he passes. (His daughter Susie explained how she asked for an extension to her kitchen so she could fit a table for two in it. He refused. This strikes me as plain unreasonable and mean. At his worst he can come over as a crusty old bore, even if he does utter the odd memorable witticism.)

He’s terrible at spending money and is going to leave the lot to Bill Gates’ charitable foundation. But Buffett dislikes the vanity of having his name on anything. As he himself has said: ‘I don’t have a problem with guilt about money. The way I see it is that my money represents an enormous number of claim checks on society. It’s like I have these little pieces of paper that I can turn into consumption. If I wanted to, I could hire 10,000 people to do nothing but paint my picture every day for the rest of my life. And the GDP would go up. But the utility of the product would be zilch, and I would be keeping those 10,000 people from doing AIDS research, or teaching, or nursing. I don’t do that though. I don’t use very many of those claim checks. There’s nothing material I want very much. And I’m going to give virtually all of those claim checks to charity when I die.’

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What use is advertising?

Akio Morita was the founder of Sony. Apparently how he got started was that, after the war, he
bought several dozen wire-recorders from the US army.

These were an early form of tape recorder. When he bought them he didn’t know what he was going to do
with them.

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What’s your poison?

For malicious virus writers it’s virtually anything that’s
breaking news. Most recently it’s been Google search results for the hype-rumoured
death of rapper Kanye West and the managerial status of Harry Redknapp at Spurs, but in
the past we’ve seen everyone from Michael Jackson to Barack Obama succumb to
their wicked ways. Of course, their real tour-de-force was purporting to offer
anti-virus software which was actually a virus in itself!

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Why art schools shouldn’t become universities

At my daughter’s school, the deputy head master asked her what she wanted to study at A level. She said she wanted to take Art, and Design-Technology, and Drama.

He said, “Ah yes, all the loser subjects.” That’s the view of the educational establishment.

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Channel 4 / YouTube deal confirms Andy Duncan is still in the game

Channel 4’s departing chief executive Andy Duncan has no plans to go quietly at the end of this year, as proved by last week’s announcement of a ground-breaking content tie-up between the broadcaster and YouTube.

By the time Duncan is carrying the last of his belongings from the shiny building in Victoria, internet users should be able to view a selection of ad-funded C4 content, including Skins and Hollyoaks, via Google’s video site for free.

The move could be a significant development towards generating digital revenues for both C4 and YouTube.

The non-exclusive, three year deal allows C4 to keep control of its own advertising sales, and some non-C4 content to boot, while reportedly giving the broadcaster the larger share of revenue.

Martin McNulty from internet marketing agency TrafficBroker agrees the partnership has the potential to be very interesting for C4, noting it “opens the broadcaster up to a much bigger advertising market, that is liquid”. He suggests that if traditional content providers can tap into the auction-type ad sales model that has already made adwords a success for Google, it could be a major break through.

Just as significantly, the deal is also the first real sign that exiting Duncan has a list of ‘unfinished business’ concerning commercial partnership which he has every intention of completing.

Last month, he told me he hoped to be able to announce “two or three commercial partnerships” before he steps down as CEO, and refused to rule out a tie-up with BBC Worldwide.

The deal, already dismissed by most as being dead in the water, gained renewed credibility yesterday when Culture Secretary Ben Bradshaw called talks between Channel 4 and BBC Worldwide “encouraging.”

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