Monthly Archives: February 2010

Who is advertising for?

When I was on holiday in Umbria, I visited Assisi.

As you drive into town, there’s the biggest Church you
ever saw.

It’s called the Basilica of Santa Maria degli Angeli.

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Editor’s blog: Bullying? Listen up, you dozy dolts

I’m going to tell you a few home truths about bullying, so you’d better listen and listen good.

Look, just pay attention, will you. Yes, you – sitting there at your keyboard. You know full well who I mean. That headline alone should have made even dozy dolts like you start to concentrate. And I’m warning you now: by the time you’ve finished reading this article, I’m going to test you on its contents. Woe betide you if you haven’t been concentrating. Yes, I’m going to come right through this screen and clip you round the earhole.

Nasty, aren’t I? Unattractive, and unlikely to to influence you, or win your admiration and friendship. In fact, I wouldn’t be surprised if you never returned to this blog ever again if I carried on in that vein.

And that’s the biggest problem with bullying: it simply doesn’t work as a tool for motivating people to do what you want them to do. Bullies may get quick wins in which they exert their will over others. But in the long term, this method of managing others and running organisations is completely self-defeating. The most dysfunctional systems are those run by fear and coercion. It doesn’t work because fear doesn’t bring out the best in people – whether they be working a till in a supermarket or playing central defence for Manchester United. It just makes them tell those above them in the pecking order what they think they wish to hear. You don’t have to be a dictator to be decisive.

The Daily Mail yesterday did its best to portray Christine Pratt, disgraced founder of the National Bullying helpline, as a serial whinger, cashing in on the victim culture. This kind of story really is meat and drink for that newspaper – particularly since it gets to bash Brown at the same time. Quoting Truman’s ‘If you can’t stand the heat…’ opinion, it went on to attack the Human Rights Act of 1998: ‘Its critics have seen it as a charter for ambulance chasing, petty litigation and the growth of the health and safety leviathan. Now it is Mr Brown’s turn to feel its clammy grip.’

But what is it about politics that seems to attract the thuggish, and foster the ‘bullying culture?’ Is it the power, the desperation, the sense of self-importance? Because, in case you have any residual doubt, politics really is pretty nasty. ‘The Thick Of It’ isn’t just the figment of some comedian’s imagination. It’s a muscle and whip game. A game in which you get your henchmen to tell vile off-the–record tales about those with whom you are supposed to stand shoulder to shoulder (ask Alistair Darling).

Having said all this, and having made my liberal and enlightened stance clear… There are always going to be those more sensitive souls, around whom you must tread as if you were tiptoeing on eggs. Those for whom energetic encouragement is interpreted as unreasonable coercion. Many blameless businesses, both large and small, have found themselves on the end of disastrous litigation by put-upon shrinking violets who rise up to conduct a bit of passive-aggression of their own – often with calamitous results.

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Tender frenzy: a return to confidence?

Media agencies have to commit significant resource and out-of-hours working to defending existing business and winning new clients through competitive pitches.

Currently you have to have some sympathy for business teams at sellers of OOH media, it’s tender frenzy.

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It may not be wrong, it may be inappropriate

I follow Seth Godin on Twitter.

Every day he posts really thought provoking articles.

This is one of my favourites.

I like binary thinking.

I like things simple, even over-simplified.

It’s not always right.

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Editor’s blog: Don’t bank on City types opting for MI6

A report suggests bankers are quitting the City for the Secret Service. But personally, I can’t quite see it.

A mysterious ‘exclusive’ in the London Evening Standard claims that ‘a growing number of bankers have quit the City to join MI6’. In an interview with a man known as ‘John’, who was ‘speaking in a small room in the bowels of the Foreign office, down a labyrinth of little-used corridors’, we learn that ‘bankers often have good interpersonal skills and expertise at developing relationships – a key skill for MI6 officers’. Building trusting relationships and then betraying them via acts of blackmail is, indeed, something the two professions have in common.

It’s hard to know which end of this coy recruitment drive to approach first. Me, I can’t quite visualise those Goldman Sachs and JP Morgan squid-like types seeing the error of their bonus-loving ways, and giving it all up for £28k and a Vauxhall Corsa in which to inconspicuously skulk around the mosques and youth centres of Luton and Beeston.

I have to say I’m not sure this new recruitment drive is working. I live a stone’s throw away from the MI6 building at Vauxhall Cross, and am often passing as the troops clock in or out (I’ve taught my toddler son to hum the 007 theme sotto voce as we push past in the buggy). I can assure you that they’re a pretty nondescript, joyless bunch, with not a Church brogue or decent, well-cut suit in sight.

But they are opening up to the world and embracing diversity. Apparently they’re now prepared to consider previously radicalised individuals, providing they’ve ‘renounced their previous views’.

I’m also impressed that they are willing to employ individuals who have lived a bit. After all, Philby, Burgess and Maclean were all fond of a drop and didn’t mind who they slept with. On their website, there’s a cosy little Q&A where they assure potential recruits that you can still be considered even if you’ve dabbled in illicit substances. ‘Question: In my past, I’ve taken recreational drugs. Can I still apply? Answer: Yes, but you must be prepared to stop using them completely. We are unable to accept applications from anyone who has used Class A drugs (ecstasy, cocaine, etc) in the last 12 months, or Class B/C drugs (amphetamines, cannabis, etc) within the last 6 months.’ This condition is, I imagine, going to count out quite a few City-based masters of the Universe.

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We don’t know we don’t know

In the islands hundreds of miles off the coast of Australia
there’s a primitive people.

The religion of these natives is called ‘Cargo Cult’.

They worship aeroplanes, the pilots, and the goods they
bring.

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Engagement wanted: are you trying hard enough?

Many a media guru, blogger and member of the digerati believe we are firmly in the age of word-of-mouth and of trying to establish conversations with customers.

I am deeply cynical of those who forecast the death of traditional media and its powers of influence. If the one-to-many broadcast era is over, why do people still pay for linear information and entertainment? Why do brands targeting a mass-market prosper using the interruptive advertising model?

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New IAB research identifies key trends for mobile

Yesterday we released our latest research project which looks in-depth at the effectiveness of running advertising campaigns across mobile and online.

Working with Nationwide we ran a campaign simultaneously over the mobile operator sites of 3, O2, Orange, T mobile and Vodafone, and the mobile and web portals of MSN and Sky. We worked with research agency Brand Driver to look at the opinions of 900 people, 300 saw just the online ads, 300 just the mobile ads and 300 both.

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Farce-book? Is Google Buzz set to become new social networking king?

Today the ‘Buzz’ is all Google as their brand new social status feature makes its debut. It’s automatically integrated into the already highly successful Gmail – so you don’t even have to set it up; you’re already following the people you email and chat with. If your web mail is elsewhere it’s slightly trickier. However, they do offer the option to assimilate Twitter – probably with a view to eventually squishing it! Okay, here’s the geeky bit… you can even access it on your mobile and see what people are ‘Buzzing’ about nearby and call-up Google Maps to see geo-tagged Buzz posts.So, is it really the future of social networking? Well, on functionality alone it has a big thumbs up. It’s about more than just status updates – you can include full- sized photos and watch videos ‘in update’. But do you really want this level of integration in your life? You can restrict who sees what, but there’s always the danger that you’re going to say something that someone else doesn’t want to hear. Also, friends could get jealous because they can see who you email and chat with most. Of course, if you’re happy mixing business with pleasure then this isn’t a problem. The big challenge is getting people to actually switch. There seems to be a growing disaffection with Facebook over privacy issues, so maybe now is the perfect time for Buzz to move in for the kill.

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Editor’s blog: The not-so-beautiful game

Football is a monkey’s lunch of a business. And it’s drinking deep in Last Chance Saloon.

There have been some pretty badly-run operations down the years – British Leyland during the 70s, the South Sea Company in 1720, the Light Brigade in the Crimea… Following the great bubble burst of 2008, there are many on the brink at the moment – but nobody is drinking deeper and more fulsomely in the last chance saloon than the ‘business’ that is English football.

The national sport has had it very good for quite a while – luxuriating in buckets of telly cash, despite costs going through the roof. But it’s all turning very nasty now. The American wise-guys who bought Manchester United and Liverpool on the never-never have become hate figures among their customers – the fans – and are feeling the pinch when it comes to refinancing. Further down the feeding trough are the runts unable to get their snouts into the swill. No fewer than three UK clubs were in court yesterday – Portsmouth, Cardiff and Southend – trying to escape the inevitable, as those to whom they owe money seek winding-up orders.

Take my own club West Ham, recently acquired from the feckless Icelanders by a couple of porn barons, Gold and Sullivan. The Hammers are truly in the stuck: they’ve got debts of £110 million, and they’re performing like the band from The Muppets on the pitch. It’d be LOL if it weren’t ETMYW (Enough To Make You Weep).

This week, in an extraordinary piece of megaphone management, Sullivan engaged in a lengthy outburst (via the News of the Screws) at the organisation he has just taken over, demanding across the board wage cuts of 25%. This is not an M&A modus operandi we’d normally recommend at MT, but it’s certainly made the players listen as they ease their high-spec Bentleys and Lincoln Navigators into Upton Park (or whatever they call it these days). Sullivan noted: ‘Everywhere you look there is excess. Everyone is overpaid for the job they do. There are 110 mobile phones being paid for by the club, and you have minor people with Blackberry phones and other types.’ And there was more: ‘We had a player liaison officer who just drove a few of the players around and he was paid £50,000 a year.’ (One can only imagine what the player liaison officer does at Chelsea – offer to take Ms Peroncell from one gorgeous Surrey ranch-style mansion to the next, perhaps.)

Football has become a game big on greedy excess but low on fiscal and emotional intelligence. The dimness starts early, and from the bottom. I cannot think of a sport where the intellectual and educational achievements of the average practitioner are more lowly.

Maybe it’s of no consequence that the average Premiership footballer makes Peter Andre sound like Socrates (and I don’t mean the legendary chain-smoking doctor who wore the number six shirt for Brazil). What’s the point of bothering with GCSEs with the possibility of a John Terry-sized £150k per week waiting at the end of the player’s tunnel? But it has a profound effect on the culture. So when an oddball like the university-educated Graeme Le Saux takes to the pitch (no doubt after reading The Guardian from cover to cover in the dressing room) his opponents abuse and bare their buttocks at him, because that level of intellect meant he had to be a ‘poof’.

Sorry, but it’s a rough monkey’s lunch of a business, which is now in its decadent phase. And like ancient Rome, it will crumble to bits, the victim of its own vulgar excess. It’s enough to make you nostalgic for the old-fashioned moronic face of footie, as encapsulated in Peter Cook’s portrayal of legendary manager Alan Latchley. As he noted, ‘Football… she’s a cruel mistress. She’s more than a mistress. She’s a wife, she’s a mother, she’s a daughter, she’s an errant child. She can make you laugh, she make you cry. She can bring tears me eyes. She can bring blood to me shoulders.’

But I’ll still be glued to Sky Sports this weekend – an unkickable habit.

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