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Does Rupert Heseltine have the look of success?

interviewing Haymarket’s chairman Rupert Heseltine this week, which touched
upon life after the recession, The Times paywall and the future of publishing,
no less, there’s one comment I’m hearing more than any other: ‘doesn’t he look
like his dad?’

You can
only imagine what it’s been like growing up in the shadow of Tarzan himself, Lord
Heseltine, but Rupert made it clear he’s fairly well used to it by now.

“It [Michael’s
presence] has been there ever since school really,” he says. “He’s my father,
so I kind of just got on with it. It’s what you know.”

imposing former deputy prime minister, most recently seen deployed by the BBC
to praise the “integrity of the Lib Dems” for “facing up to the fact that in
Government they have to make decisions”, is quite an act to follow.

By all
accounts he’d made his first million by the age of 30, before turning his hand
to politics and earning the epithet of ‘the most famous politician to
never become prime minister’.

junior admitted it had been “a bit daunting” when he first came to work for him in
1994, but added: “I’ve worked closely with him for 10 years, so I hope a lot of
those ethics and the values that he has, and his belief in the company, has
rubbed off on me.”

All modest
stuff, but with his two computer screens and 20 years in the business, he
clearly brings his own toys to the party, and as he noted himself: “He’s the
entrepreneurial starter, I’m now the second generation taking it through to the
next stage.”

Clearly my
brief foray onto the 7th floor was slightly precarious, I didn’t want it to
become a PR puff piece… I think I just about got away with it
(let me know if you disagree).

I should
say Rupert exerted no pressure regarding copy or proof requests, which is more
than I can say for half the media leaders I’ve interviewed this year. The
underlying message was loud and clear; Haymarket is looking forward.

This echoes
with what we’ve been experiencing internally over the last few months too. Buildings
in glorious Hammersmith have been redecorated with a lick of paint, new pictures hang on the walls –
Engine’s Robin Wight is the first and last thing many of us now see – and the
company Christmas party returned with a bang; the first time in three years.

Are the dog
days really over? Let’s hope so.

Just what is Facebook’s “best before” date?

At SMX London earlier this year there was a social media panel on the final day taking lots of questions. One question was along the lines of “which social network will we be discussing this time next year – apart from Facebook, obviously”. The 64 thousand dollar question? Or the 500 million user question?

The answers were quite interesting, all were cautious, and there was no “Facebook, obviously”. It seems like Facebook has been around for ever, but it was only launched in 2004 and for many, Facebook is integral to their life – and they are heavy users. In January 2010 Facebook had a UK adult population reach of 51%, and the average person visited twice a day – for almost 30 minutes a time.

But even Facebook’s ubiquity and air of permanence was not enough to convince any of the panel that Facebook’s existence – in the medium to long term – was a guaranteed certainty. Indeed, when you look at the state of MySpace, which was THE social network just a couple of years ago, you see their point. And AOL’s $850 million investment Bebo was just sold for a “fraction” of its cost (estimates put the sale at around $10m-20m).

Don’t get me wrong – you most probably do need a Facebook presence, even more so now that some audiences think that Facebook IS the internet (so heavy is their usage), but you should check the “best before” date before making long term investments in any social media platform.


We have a copywriter at the office who’s is a bit of a hypochondriac.
The great thing about hypochondriacs is they are marketer’s dream.
They are high-involvement consumers.
They watch out for new products, read about them, try them out, and talk about them.
This means, if you’re smart, you can use their minds to do most of the work for you.
For instance, winter is just starting.
And colds and flu are on peoples’ minds.
Especially on hypochondriacs’ minds.
This copywriter recommended First Defence to me.
He said he’d used it, and found it worked.
First Defence is a very clever marketing idea.
It’s a spray you squirt up your nose at the very first sign of a cold.
That probably means a sneeze.
Now, whether or not it works is a separate issue.
Here’s why I think it’s clever marketing thinking.
It understands how the human mind works and capitalizes on that.
Look at it this way.
For a moment assume that First Defence doesn’t actually do anything.
We know that humans sneeze a lot of the time.
Especially in the city.
Sometimes it might be smoke or pollution.
Sometimes it might be dust.
Anything irritating the nose.
In the summer, unless we have hay fever, we don’t think anything of it.
We sneeze, maybe once or twice, and forget it.
But now take the same sneeze in winter.
Now the weather is cold and we’re cold.
Now maybe those sneezes are the first signs of a cold.
So we take First Defence as soon as we sneeze.
And if those are just dust sneezes, like in summer, we don’t sneeze anymore.
And we think it worked.
So First Defence gets the credit.
Now of course, we know First Defence does have some medical properties.
So sometimes it might actually work.
But the great positioning is that you must use it ‘at the first signs’ of a cold.
So supposing you sneeze and wait until you can go to the shops to buy it.
And supposing it doesn’t work.
Well it’s your fault, you waited too long.
In that case, if it doesn’t work, you can’t blame the product.
You didn’t use it soon enough.
But, in order to use it soon enough you have to buy it before you need it.
Put another way, you have to buy it whether you need it or not.
How great is that as a piece of marketing?
You have to buy it whether you need it or not.
So here’s the great marketing.
If it works on a sneeze that wasn’t a cold, it didn’t really work.
But it gets the credit.
If it didn’t work on a genuine sneeze, you didn’t use it soon enough.
So it doesn’t get the blame.
And, for it to work, you have to buy it in case you think you may need it at some time in the future.
And it all depends on being advertised in winter, when everyone is expecting any sneeze to be the first signs of a cold or flu.
And prepared to do anything to stop it.
That’s clever marketing.
To let the season, the news media, consumers’ conversations, and the environment be your advertising.
To let the context do the work for you.

That’s smart media.
That’s free media.


I loved the movie, Social Network.
When I came out of the cinema I was buzzing.
But my son was down.
He said he found it depressing, the way Mark Zuckerberg had screwed his friend, and fellow Facebook founder, Eduardo Saverin.
I hadn’t seen it that way.
What I saw was a movie about what it takes to be successful.
It takes a willingness to go through, or crawl over, any barriers.
Like a tank.
Zuckerberg was willing to do that, Saverin wasn’t.
Zuckerberg wanted to go fast, Saverin didn’t.
So Zuckerberg went ahead without Saverin.
Saverin got left behind.
He feels he got screwed.
But the alternative was for Zuckerberg to slow down to the speed Saverin wanted to go at.
Which would, at best, have been a much, much smaller success.
So Zuckerberg sidelined Saverin.
He cut him adrift.
I thought the film had a happy-ish ending.
After the lawsuit, Saverin walked away with a billion dollars.
That’s a thousand – million dollars.
All for a twenty grand investment.
Who wouldn’t be happy with that kind of return?
“You give me twenty grand now, and later on I’ll force you out of the company, but you’ll get a billion dollars. What do you say, are you in?”
Any one of us would have bitten Zuckerberg’s arm off.
What I liked about the film was that it wasn’t about right or wrong.
It wasn’t the normal melodramatic Hollywood good guys and bad guys.
It was all about getting a result.
And it was about what you are prepared to do to get that result.
It was about what works and what doesn’t work.
Which isn’t synonymous with right and wrong.
Isaac Newton is remembered as one of the most brilliant people in history.
His great rival was Robert Hooke.
Hooke was one of the most important scientists and mathematicians of The Enlightenment.
But today Hooke is almost forgotten.
We don’t even know what he looked like.
Why is that?
Why aren’t there any pictures of Hooke?
Apparently he once accused Newton of stealing some of his ideas.
Newton never forgot or forgave.
Newton succeeded Robert Hooke as Chairman of The Royal Society.
He had all the examples of Hooke’s work destroyed.
He had all the portraits of Hooke destroyed.
As far as he could, he erased Robert Hooke from history.
Gottfried Leibniz was one of the great philosophers and mathematicians of The Enlightenment.
He invented calculus.
He published it before Newton, and his system was superior.
When Newton later published his system, Leibniz accused him of plagiarism.
Newton never forgot or forgave.
He used his influence to have Leibniz ostracised and ridiculed.
Leibniz died a pauper.
No one knows where Hooke or Leibniz are buried.
But everyone knows where Newton is buried: Westminster Abbey.
It isn’t that there isn’t any such thing as right and wrong.
It’s that they have nothing to do with getting a result.
It’s like expecting the morally superior team to win in a football match.
It’s irrelevant.
Who wins the match is the team that scores more goals.
However they score more goals.
And moaning about the result afterwards won’t change anything.
After World War Two, Hermann Goering was being tried at Nuremberg.
When he was found guilty, he was asked if he had anything to say.
He said “What is the point? The victor always makes the rules.”
Then he swallowed a cyanide capsule and died.
He understood it’s a waste of time debating right and wrong.
It’s over.
You lost.
End of story.
New Yorkers understand this.
It’s summed up by a cartoon in New Yorker magazine.
A patient is lying on the psychiatrist’s couch.
He’s obviously just finished unburdening himself to the psychiatrist.
Divulging his deepest, darkest secrets
His fears, his regrets, his missed opportunities, his thwarted intentions, his unfulfilled expectations.
The psychiatrist simply looks up and uses an old New York expression.

He says “Yeah, yeah, yeah: “Coulda – Woulda – Shoulda”.”

5 Tips for Improved Facebook Brand Pages

Smirnoff Facebook PageEarlier this year I co-authored the IAB and Microsoft’s Search & Social Media report with the delightful Amy Kean. Included in this I wrote about brands considering social network pages instead of microsites. Benefits include strong SEO performance and potentially improved user experience because people inherently know how to use the likes of Facebook.

Over the weekend I conducted a sweep of over fifty brand Facebook pages. A minority like Sainsbury’s, Debenhams and other retail, FMCG and electronic brands have clearly thought out pages that have obviously received a fair amount of invested time and money. The majority however looked like they need a little helping hand.

Why does your brand have a Facebook page?

Having a presence in Facebook is good, but if you’re going to have one, it’s critical to have an objective and then invest in it to make sure there’s a reason for people to visit and something to do when they get there. I’ve jotted down some thoughts below on how to get more out of Facebook pages (which could be applied to other social networks).

A non-exhaustive list of tips, but a list of tips nonetheless…

  • 1. Enclosed environment: almost every brand I looked at had a number of links to content that open in a new window taking people away from Facebook to the main brand site or microsites. This feels like an unnecessary step and a slightly disjointed experience – opening new windows in this way is distinctly frowned upon on normal websites. The biggest problem with this is that many brands have two or three core activities on their pages, but I only got as far as the first before being taken away. It would be fantastic for brands to view Facebook pages as a more enclosed space. If you want people to see or do something, do they need to leave Facebook to do it? Facebook pages don’t have to replace microsites completely, but they can be their own unique property rather than a simple advert for the microsite content.
  • 2. Video content: plonking a TV ad on a Facebook page, does not good content make. Yet, a large number of the brand pages I saw had the big budget TV ad as the centre piece of a Facebook landing page. Placing a short information blast built for a paid placement felt like a wasted opportunity, particularly as some brands had far more compelling content buried elsewhere. Jaeger, H&M and Marks & Spencer are three of many brands using custom online video on their main sites to showcase products. This custom made video content can easily be used on a Facebook page too. Ford does this well with interactive video on its Facebook page.
  • 3. Regular incentives: some brands like Desigual offer the opportunity to join a membership/reward scheme, but it requires the user to go elsewhere. Part of the reason Dell has done so well in social media is because it rewards people who engage with the brand right there and then. Not every brand needs to offer discounts, but most brands can offer something helpful, interesting, funny or engaging. Like any content property, if you want to keep people interested, you have to deliver something worthwhile on a regular basis.
  • 4. Clear messaging: the Facebook environment is simple, but too often I found it hard to find out what I was meant to do on a brand’s page. Aside from the odd ‘click to like’ I rarely found an immediate and clear call to action. I didn’t know what I was supposed to do, and I was purposely looking. Skittles does a good job of this with their ‘Mob the Rainbow’ campaign with very clear, plain English steps. Desigual does well on this front too with their ‘Happy Hunters’ campaign steps.
  • 5. Interaction: lots of brands like Genius Bread want people’s ideas and interaction, but rarely is it possible to do this in Facebook. Not being able to interact in Facebook seems like a contradiction given Facebook’s main purpose. If you’re objective is to improve customer service, your Facebook page could be used as an interactive destination for help. I’m not saying all brands need to chat with their customers in social networks – I’d actually be wary of many brands doing this – but why not encourage the sharing of ideas in Facebook itself? Starburst’s ‘Contradictionary’ tool, while more a fun activity than a serious interaction, does this particularly nicely.

As with anything, Facebook pages are only worth doing if you’re going to do them properly, but there’s a particularly exciting tool here for brands. Unfortunately some pages I reviewed were fairly half-hearted and confusing, which may actually be more damaging for a brand than good. A shame when brands’ microsites were generally extremely good.

The good news is, this can easily be rectified. Facebook pages often ask brands to think and act like an online publisher or fan site operator, the challenge is understanding what skills are needed to deliver this, to keep your audience interested and ultimately deliver sales.

Hopefully these tips helped a bit, if you have any other ideas please share them below…

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Do advertisers want to be in Times paywall club?

Hollywood’s take on the relentless rise of Facebook in The Social
Network is set to pass a milestone of its own this week, when UK box office
takings top £10 million.

It’s still got some way to go to push 2009 blockbuster Avatar (£90m), but
double-digit millions is good going for any film in little old Blighty.

Fiction or not, the fact that David Fincher’s simple and rather contrived plot
makes a plausible story says something about the value people place – or at
least imagine others place – on being seen to be in the right club.
The desire to be part of the right crowd is presented as the driving force
behind Facebook’s real-life founder Mark Zuckerberg, and it got me thinking
about News International’s paywall experiment.

It’s been less than three weeks since News
International offered the first hint as to the impact its online subscription
strategy is having on sites for the Times and Sunday Times
, and plenty of
questions remain.

Understandably there’s been frustration at the lack of transparency regarding
the actual number of paying subscribers.

Many have
highlighted the likely loss of traffic across the sites since the move, falling
back on Nielsen estimates that visits to the Times’ stories have fallen around
90% since the paywall was erected.

Analysis has also focused on NI’s
potential digital revenues
, or rather lack of them, due to the various
discount offers and sampler exercises currently in operation.

One area less explored is News International’s underlying attempts to
convert readers not only into paying customers, but ultimately signed-up
members; making them part of the club.

Times readers become part of the club

Katie Vanneck, chief marketing officer at News International, is keen
to move the focus away from traffic volume in favour of quality of audience
engagement and the ability to “develop an emotional connection with them”.

The CMO believes a deeper knowledge of the digital reader is essential to get
brand advertisers to truly embrace the digital space. It’s certainly true that
up to now much online spend has largely been driven by search, classifieds and
direct response.

“If you think about what you need to believe that digital provides the right
environment for your brand campaign, you need a very different type of
experience and platform to the high-traffic, search, information-led one,” said

“If you take that back and see what we are delivering with the Times as a multichannel
subscriptions product, and therefore our digital subscribers, then we are
delivering Times people… we’re delivering the right customers, who are the
right profile and in the UK.”

Nigel Gwilliam, digital director of ad agency body IPA, is mindful of the size
of the task the publisher has taken on. “A media owner offering an advertiser
stronger reader engagement, closer ties to their brand and more creative
solutions is a good thing,” he said.

“But can this provide the entire basis of a commercial operation? Tailored
partnerships do carry a premium but they are labour intensive to sell and to

Whether a much reduced, digital readership pool can continue to shape the news
agenda in the open economy also remains to be seen. [Comments
made by The Guardian’s Alan Rusbridger about the splintering fourth estate last
provide plenty of food for thought.]

The internet has certainly commodified the business of newspapers and the danger
of the Times serving an increasingly compact audience were highlighted by
digital evangelist Clay Shirky
in one of the most comprehensive, and
ultimately damning, accounts of the paywall to-date.

“The Times has stopped being a newspaper, in the sense of a generally available
and omnibus account of the news of the day, broadly read in the community,” he
said. “Instead, it is becoming a newsletter, an outlet supported by, and
speaking to, a specific and relatively coherent and compact audience.”

But it is worth remembering that throughout The Times’ 225 years of publishing,
it has never positioned itself as a mass market title, yet has maintained influence. In 2009, circulation averaged 522,000 and readership 1.8m, far from
blanket exposure in a country with an adult population in excess of 50m.

As Andrew Mullins, managing director of the Independent Print, noted at the
recent launch of 20p spin-off ‘i’: “It’s easy to assume that there’s a huge
amount of people currently buying newspapers and you have to force your way in.
Actually 91% of UK
adults don’t read a quality newspaper at all.”

Historically, this has never stopped The Times from being able to shape the
news agenda, or deterred advertisers – who currently account for about half of
the title’s total revenues. So is it possible The Times can retain its hold of
C-suite readers online for advertisers?

Stefan Bardega, digital managing partner at the UK’s largest media agency MediaCom,
believes it might be, but is currently frustrated with what NI has given him by
way of ammunition for clients.

Advertisers need more proof that engagement boosts sales

“We’re being told plenty of quantitative measures about how dwell time has
shot-up since the paywall, but we now need them to help prove the link between
increased engagement and brand impact, or better still, purchase intent.

“Our own research has shown brand awareness and purchase intent increases
rapidly as dwell time increases, but we need more research in this area.

“We’re currently using the wrong metrics to sell. If they are serious about
unlocking brand budgets they need to prove the value of such increased site

News International’s willingness to sacrifice the transient reader online in
favour of a more engaged customer does mirror wider trends already being
pursued by most national print editions.

Over the last two years, as marketing budgets have been pared back, there’s
been a dramatic reduction in the number of bulk copies and free give-away
covermounts in the quality sector, long-known to be the crack-cocaine of

The artificial and short-term highs they provide have largely been dropped in
favour of ‘locking readers in’ via other services. Home delivery schemes, like
the one rolled-out
by the Guardian earlier this month
, are a great example of this.

The Independent runs a similar scheme, as does the Daily Mail, and once locked
in, readers part with rich data in return for a raft of exclusive offers and
membership perks.

The Times has invested heavily here too, with its ‘Times+’ package offering a
range of free and paid for events, exclusive offers and access to exclusive

Some 35,000 people are said to have attended a Times + event in the last year,
which range from the opportunity for like-minded people to meet members of the
England cricket team before the Ashes, to free art exhibitions at the Saatchi

“One in three of our digital customers have engaged with The Times +
proposition, which is phenomenal,” said Vanneck. “You will not see in any other
industry, membership [of that scale] getting to a third of customers so

She added: “There’s so much content in it, it’s about the customer choosing and
personalising what is relevant to them, and represents the best reward to them
for the fact that they’re a subscriber to The Times and Sunday Times, whatever
platform they want to subscribe on.”

As a newspaper, The Times has always been famous for its esteemed letters page
– a backbone of customer engagement and a reflection of a community talking to
itself. Such communication has increased online, and, according to Vanneck,
readers are now more than twice as likely to comment since the paywall has been

“Our subscribers now see themselves as members of something that they really
value and that they really engage with,” she said. “We’re seeing a much, much
healthier engaged audience.”

So it’s readers as digital members then: doomed newsletter economics or what
brand advertisers have been waiting for?


My wife is an art director.
Recently she went to The Marketing Forum.
Being a creative, she expected to be bored by lots of case histories, graphs, charts, numbers.
But one client told an amazingly creative story about the birth of a brand.
It started when he was working in Belgium.
Every day he had to try to sell margarine (butter-flavoured spread) to people who didn’t want it.
It was dispiriting work.
To cheer himself up, every day he went to the same pastry shop and ate a delicious chocolate pastry.
Eventually it became clear to him.
“I don’t like margarine.
I do like chocolate.
I’m in the wrong game.”
Doing what you love is always the best idea.
So he quit his job and began working on perfecting a delicious, rich, chocolate pudding.
He worked on it until he had it exactly right.
Now he needed marketing.
He needed a positioning, a name, packaging, a brand in fact.
So he went to see an agency and asked if they could do that for him.
They said leave it with us.
So he waited.
And he waited.
Three weeks later they hadn’t contacted him, so he called them.
They said “We-ell…. You’d better come in, we’ve got something to show you.”
He went to see them.
They said, “We’ve got some bad news we’re afraid. It looks like someone else has already done it.”
His jaw dropped.
They said “Yes, unfortunately, virtually the same product, same positioning, everything. We’ve managed to get hold of some pictures.
If you promise not to let it leave this room, we’ll show you.”
He nodded.
They said “You wanted a stylish, classy chocolate pudding, deliciously gooey, yet premium? Look, theirs is called Gu.
It’s got the German umlaut (two little dots) over the letter U, so it looks like a smiley face. And it rhymes with ‘goo’ so it’s fun but classy.
A bit like Haagen Dazs.”
The client’s face fell, he said, “I can’t believe it. That’s a great name.”
They said “Yes, and look at the packaging: it’s dark, rich, elegant. Indulgent and chocolaty, but also stylish.”
The client said “This is terrible. How advanced are they.”
They said “Their sales force is ready to start selling it in. We’re worried because we think they’ll be very successful.”
The client said “What do you mean: you think they’ll be successful. Of course they’ll be successful. It’s a brilliant product, a brilliant name, a brilliant pack design. It’s exactly what I wanted dammit.”
And he sat back, depressed, thinking about all the success he could have had if only he’d got that idea first.
Then the account man smiled and said “Well if you really mean that I may have some good news for you.”
The client said, “What?”
The account man said “I made that story up. No one has actually done anything. This is our presentation to you: the name, the packaging, everything.
If you want it you can have it.”
The client said he felt as if the sun came out.
Instead of the usual shuffling, and humming and hawing he just took everything as it stood and went with it.
Isn’t that great.
We never want anything so much as when we can’t have it.
So instead of selling the client an idea in a way that lets him think he’s got all the time in the world to fiddle with every tiny unimportant detail, they let him see what’s really important.
How will he feel if he sees a competitor has done it?
If he’s been beaten to market.
He won’t quibble about the serif on the typeface.
He won’t worry that the background colour isn’t exactly 100% perfect.
He’ll just wish to God he’d done it.
What a great lesson.
Show the client the idea in a situation where he would give anything to have done it.
But it’s too late, someone else got there first.
It’s like a nightmare.
Then wake him up and tell him it was just a dream, and he’s still got a chance to do it himself.
Instead of suspicion and hesitation, he’ll feel gratitude and eagerness.
He’ll be concentrating on the 95% that’s right.
Not holding everything up for the tiny 5% that isn’t.
We’ll have a client that wants to move things forward, not hold things back.

By the way, the name of the client who told that story was James Averdieck.
And he’s just sold that brand for £35 million.

GroupM to forecast 4% lift in UK ad spend for 2011

Crystal Ball
It’s coming
to that time of the year again when crystal balls are dusted off and the
world’s media powerhouses pool their internal insights to give us their best
predictions for the coming year.

yourself out there as an industry forecaster can be a thankless task at the
best of times, but following the worst advertising recession in living memory,
muddied by apparent global decoupling, a banking crisis and the relentless
onset of all things digital, and it’s proved to be a treacherous business indeed.

Not one
analyst or agency expected the country’s advertising market to rebound like it has
over the past 12 months.

December, media’s leading forecasters, WPP’s GroupM and Publicis Groupe’s ZenithOptimedia, unveiled near
identical advertising outlooks for 2010, with a muted ‘0% growth’ tipped for
the UK.

forward 12 months and both have proved, thankfully, far removed from reality.
For once, the media operations run by Sir Martin Sorrell and Maurice Levy stand
accused of not being anywhere near bullish enough.According
to sources, GroupM is soon set to reveal that ad spend in the UK is set to
hit around 7% growth in 2010. Zenith’s figures are likely to concur.

Of course,
the media leaders are not alone in being totally thrown by the recession. And
what these predictions still provide is a reliable snapshot of the prevailing mood at the time of publication.

This time
last year, many a magazine was closed (!), media plan shelved or restructure
ordered on the basis that 2010 was going to be yet another brutally tough year. I
wonder how many would have survived if we’d known we were looking at a +7?

For what it’s worth, GroupM is expected to forecast another rise in the region
of 4% for UK ad spend in 2011, according to sources, while Zenith’s is likely to be closer to 3%. Growth is expected to be led by digital and outdoor – with hikes in the region of 8% and 6%

TV spend is likely to be tipped at around 4% while radio spend is set to
tumble by more than 50% year-on-year as the Government’s much reduced COI
spend begins to take its toll.

Let’s hope next year is another 7% better than expected, somehow I doubt it.

Beatles For Sale

I love The Beatles. I really, really do. And it’s not simply because of their glorious music. It’s all the other stuff too. To me they exist in a visual way through film, animation and print. But crucially through the groundbreaking album sleeves that parallel the sublime tracks within. The tangible artifact that accompanies the intangible experience.

So after 30 years of ‘Sue Me Sue You Blues’, The Beatles are finally on Apple. As I write the Fabs occupy nine places on the iTunes top 10 rock chart [well done Mr. Blunt for being in such exalted company]

Apple have done them proud. The site is clean and stylishly minimal. But the thing I find interesting is not that the ‘experience’ of owning an album has been replaced by a download [I’m still in mourning], it’s that these digital albums cost more than the physical copies. The ‘Red’ and ‘Blue’ albums retail at £17.99 each and you’ll have to shell out £125 to own a digital box set. Why a ‘box’ to house the collected works any way? Why not a digital Semolina Pilchard?

Magic & Sparkle?

It’s always an interesting time of year for TV ads. Advertisers pull out the stops and dedicate a large proportion of budget to claim their share of the nation’s Christmas.

Am I the only one to be underwhelmed by the M&S offering?

The company isn’t slow to display the clothes it’s selling this Christmas, ably shown off by the familiar M&S models. True, M&S has picked up on the burgeoning popularity of the stand up comedy circuit and has incorporated a witty dance routine by said models and Peter Kay – probably the most popular comedian if you can’t get Michael McIntyre. The music is good, very good. However the ad wanes after repetition. Online you get extra interest where you can watch individual interviews and behind the scenes footage. But, at a time when I’m most responsive to good cheer, I still have to ask – where is the magic the season demands?

Actually I can tell you where I think you’ll find it.

Just tune in to the Littlewoods ad.

A company that exists only online has created a mysterious and magical world where all the action takes place in a snow globe. You won’t find it on its main site, however. You’ll need to go to its blog, and unlike M&S, there are no extras.