Friday, 18 December 2009

X Factor, ITV and Simon Cowell

So the winner of the X Factor, Joe McElderry, is now filling the tabloids with headlines and suprisingly fighting this year for the Christmas no 1. However he is not the real winner of the X Factor, no he should not fool himself. On current X Factor run rate he will have as much chance of playing in butlins holiday camps in two years time as he does playing Las Vegas. There are two real winners from this yeas X Factor the first being ITV themselves.

ITV has had a terrible time of it over the last few years. It has seen revenues decline and decline and it took over 7 months to find a new chairman with many drop outs despite an astronomical salary on offer. However its new Chairman, ex Asda boss Archie Norman, must be now looking forward to his Christmas turkey thanks to the success of this year’s X Factor. The reason behind all of this, as with everything, is money and in this case advertising revenue.

The final of the X Factor in the UK this year was expected to generate £20 million of ad revenues for ITV, yes £20 million just for the final. Spot rates for the final were an alleged £250,000. Overall the X Factor is expected to have generated over £100 million for ITV this year.

However whichever way you look at it the overall winner always has been and always will be the man on the end with the waxed chest. Yes the big winner is always Simon Cowell. Cowell’s appearance fee’s alone for the series are estimated around the £5m mark. He is also the major owner of the format and gets paid for that and through his production company Syco he is also paid for production fees. This adds another estimated £2million. So his personal take home from this year’s X Factor is estimated at £7million. However this is small potatoes compared to his US deal where he is lead judge on American Idol. This is a reputed $125 million (£75m) for the next two series.

This of course is just part of the his total incomes, add in Britain’s Got Talent and the little matter of all the revenue from the acts now signed to his record label and I start to get lost at the potential income. All I do know is that the other day the entire top 10 were either acts that were signed to Cowell or had appeared on X Factor within the last few weeks. With that sort of power it looks like X Factor will be here for a long while yet. So have a good Christmas dear readers, Mr Cowell definitely will.

Friday, 27 November 2009

Who owns the brand?

This week i was asked by one of Archant's divisions to give a presentation to the some of the marketing team of a major printer manufaturer. They were looking at how they could use digital marketing methods to increase customer contact and response.  During the debate a theme that has become very prominant across many industries came to light, that being giving your consumers a voice in your business.

In recent months we have seen both British Gas and Eon create customer panels to help them seem more open and to put custmers needs at the heart of the business. Asda in October extended its customer panel and gave members direct influence on buying decisions which is a brave move.

Letting customers tell you more about what they think about your business is never easy from an internal point of view as you might hear things you and your board may not want to. However, as i pointed out the the print company, if a person has stuck their neck out and gained approval for spend, often in the hundred of thousands mark, they are already a beliver, These people  have already put their respective necks on the line with your products and so could become valuable brand evangelists in their own right and should be seen as an asset not a liability.

So from consumer panels to simple messgae boards bringing your consumers more into your own business can bring far greater rewards than the oft percieved risks.

Friday, 13 November 2009

The PR Stunt

November is traditionally the time of the year when many of that poor breed we call marketers have to start thinking about next years budgets. In these troubled times, even those fortunate enough to have 7 and even 8 figure marketing budgets are being forced to think of new, innovative and lets face it, cheaper ways to make their brands stand out.

As I have said many times before and in many different forums, this is no bad thing. It is very easy for marketers to rely on the same plans year after year and not really think about what they could do that is new and would create a real buzz and noise in their target marketplaces for their brands. One proven way of doing this is the PR stunt but the problem with such stunts is that they can go spectacularly right and just as easily go spectacularly wrong.

Let’s take one that went right. This year saw the best ever example of the PR stunt from our cousins down under. Tourism Queensland created the “best job in the world”. This was in effect a global tourism campaign disguised as a recruitment drive. The buzz that followed this piece of genius meant that hundreds of media organisations from around the world covered the story generating more than £40m worth of worldwide media coverage. In the end 34,000 people applied and one lucky chap from Hampshire got the job.

Now lets remember one that went wrong, or right depending how mean you are feeling. Richard Branson has spent a lifetime practising the art of the PR stunt and most have been very successful. Admittedly him waterskiing or standing on plane wings have become a little tired in recent years. So I was mildly amused when his attempts in 2007 to promote Virgin America by bungee jumping cum abseiling down a Las Vegas Casino from the roof. Unfortunately for Branson half way down he slammed into the side of the building, ripped his trousers and was gently let down the rest of the way where he quickly removed himself to the hotel without speaking to the press. Of course all of this was in the full glare of press and TV and created lots of the intended coverage but arguably of the wrong kind.

So if you get it right you can get massive amounts of positive brand coverage for little outlay. However if you get it wrong it can go very wrong. This problem has been exacerbated by the rise of social media online with thousands of passionate people happy to tear your brand reputation to shreds via Twitter, Blogs, Facebook et al.

There are few rules for PR stunts but If you are thinking try to think whether what you are planning will entertain and make people talk both online and offline. Most importantly be honest and make sure the brand is remembered as much as the stunt. Oh and try not loose your trousers in the process.

Thursday, 22 October 2009

The Guardian, Trafigura and the right to publish

Last week a colleague sent me a link to a story on the media guardian site the likes of which I have never in over 14 years of working in the media. The key extract of which can be read below:

“Today's published Commons order papers contain a question to be answered by a minister later this week. The Guardian is prevented from identifying the MP who has asked the question, what the question is, which minister might answer it, or where the question is to be found.” “Legal obstacles, which cannot be identified, involve proceedings, which cannot be mentioned, on behalf of a client who must remain secret.”

As you can imagine having read that I like thousands of other were intrigued as to what it was all about.

It turns out that British oil trader Trafigura had been hit by a lawsuit by 30,000 Africans claiming that they have been affected by the alleged dumping of toxic waste on the Ivory Coast. Trafigura reacted by hiring libel layers Carter Ruck who slapped injunctions on every media outfit to stop them reporting this.

An MP, Paul Farrelly, then tabled a question in Parliament about this injunction and Carter Rock responded to all threatening with action if anyone covered this question. This goes against hundreds of years of press freedom to report what MP’s say.

Luckily the editor of The Guardian Alan Rusbridger is not only a very clever journalist he also has an excellent understanding of social media. Having signed off the baffling story on the guardian website on the Monday night he personally tweeted on twitter the following: "Now Guardian prevented from reporting parliament for unreportable reasons. Did John Wilkes live in vain?"

Within hours twitter and the blogsphere had gone mental. By the Tuesday morning and a front page lead, the web was in melt down and by lunchtime Carter Ruck and Trafigura had caved in.

Unfortunately for Carter Ruck the internet is a whole new world. Following Rusbringers tweet, a follower of his Richard Wilson put two and two together and searched the parliament website where details of all questions are held. He then saw what it was, did some further web searches and tweeted the whole lot. This was then picked up, passed on and on and the rest is social history.

It was the speed of this that was astonishing. Wilson had made his comments by 9 o’clock and by 10 the well known political blogger Guido Fawkes had blogged on it. By 10am on Tuesday morning even Lib Dem leader Nick Clegg tweeted the following: "Very interested concerned about this #trafigura / Guardian story the LibDems are planning to take action on this."

This is the best example yet of the growing gap between those that understand old and new media and communication. Today the modern consumer is completely empowered by digital and social media with a wealth of knowledge at their fingertips and a desire to know what is being kept from them. Brands and publishers should take note of something that as Rusbridger himself says will no doubt become an MBA case study in the future.

Friday, 25 September 2009

Product Placement

A few months ago I wrote in my column in the Eastern Daily Press newspaper about the digital Britain report from the then culture secretary Andy Burnham. He has since been replaced and a lot of his initiatives are slowly being undone by his successor Ben Bradshaw. For example six months ago Burnham said that lifting a ban on product placement in TV programmes raised "very serious concerns ... blurring the boundaries between advertising and editorial" – following a three-month consultation.

Six months is of course a lifetime in modern politics. So I was not that surprised when Bradshaw has now come out and said that he accepts lifting the ban and unveiled a new consultation process. The reason given for this is that “the climate has changed”. Now I know its now autumn but it has not changed that much.

The reality is that this is no surprise. I have written about product placement many times, my favourite being Bond films which are the kings of product placement. If you have the DVD there is a good drinking game around how many times an obvious placement is seen, from an Omega Watch to the classic Aston Martin.

Product placement is now also the norm on America television. Tune into American Idol and you will see Cowell and his American counterparts all drinking Coca Cola with the cup prominent on the jury’s desk. The thing is, because we get so many American shows here in the UK it is happening in the UK already. Most American shows use product placement to earn a bit of extra cash and so when they are shown here, as they largely are, we see it.

There has also long been a market in UK television in giving product for free to be used as props. This has always been a way of getting around the ban on placement and for brand owners, as you did not have to pay to have your label in shot just give free samples, it has been cheaper.

So now they are looking at finally catching up with the rest of the world, will we see Carlsberg in the taps of the Rovers Return? Probably. However it’s not the great money spinner you might think. An early estimate puts the value of product placement to the commercial television market at around £100m a year. This is nothing compared to a total TV ad revenue of nearly £3bn a year.

The problem is that the placement will no doubt still have to be subtle which means it not in your face and so cannot command a premium price. However ITV in the first half of 2009 made a pre-tax loss of £105m and all commercial broadcasters would welcome any new source of revenue.

Friday, 28 August 2009

RIP The Londonpaper

For anyone who does not live in London, the announced closure of the News International afternoon freesheet thelondonpaper will not mean much. However for anyone living in London, or who goes to London regularly, the closure will see the end of a product that will be genuinely missed.

The title was launched in 2006 in direct competition to Associated's afternoon freesheet London Lite. This heralded the much media discussed "freesheet wars" and also mountains of wasted newsprint. The circulation of thelondonpaper alone is over 500,000 copies a day and add that to the morning Metro and the Lite and you have way over 1.2m free newspapers being taken to recycling centres daily.

When I was Director of marketing for our London newspaper division, one of my favourite sights was seeing tubes full of school kids reading free newspapers. Ok they may not have bought them but it proved to me that the touted "print is dead" theory is of course rubbish. Print is and will not be dead as that showed. Those kids wanted to read it because it was free, put into their hands so they did not have to go out of their way, and it gave them content in a style that they wanted, celebrity focused with light news digests.

The title had some great concepts, from a column from a different reader every day, to having regular columnist sch as gay about town pushing equality in the capital. Some commentators have said that the closure is no great loss as there was no quality content of note in the title. This i believe is missing the point. The title created a readership from nothing and was well read. Unfortunately that readership does not come cheaply.

The paper has over 60 staff excluding all hose who hand it out daily. That 500k print run is not cheap to say the least and news int announced that it had made a pre tax loss of £12.9m in this year alone.

Questions remain as to whether the London Lite will follow or now it is the only afternoon title it will improve its revenues and consolidate its position. Although i hope that Associated will take advantage of its new sole position and gain enough revenues to secure a long term future for the Lite especially now they have sold the Standard. The freesheet wars have been a brave and costly adventure but certainly it proved if only to me that our appetite to read is not diminished - just in a format we want.

Tuesday, 18 August 2009

Downing Street and Twitter

Twitter is still managing to achieve more column inches in press coverage than you would expect and many commentators are now praying for the next big thing to finally come along. Just most press agencies go straight to Facebook to lift any photos they can when investigating an individual. So most are now following as many people as possible so they have access to any Tweet that can be quickly used as an unofficial quote.

Politicians especially love this and now you can follow tweets from Number 10, The Foreign Office, the local government department and any number of MP's who want to be seen as "down with the kids". The quality of these understandably vary and so now the government has released a 20 page strategy paper on how to write for Twitter. This has been created by the majestically titles head of corporate digital channels at Lord Mandelson's Department for Business and taking over the world.

To be fair to the paper those companies who are currently paying a lot of money to agencies to advise them on the use of twitter as a marketing could save a lot by finding this on the web. In it it advises correctly that any postings should come from humans rather than dull RSS feeds. That they should be timely and regular at least two per day. They should also be credible and used to present worthwhile information.

Most interesting however is his point about it being used as a minute by minute guide for potential "crisis content". Although this is just a guide once again we have the prospect of Twitter becoming the news service by which people find out first about major crisis updates. If that does happen not only will it close out many users but it will also truly give cause for concern to all traditional news outlets whatever their media base.

Thursday, 6 August 2009

what we think of morgan stanley

You may or may not have seen the swathes of media coverage regarding some 15 year old's view of the world written when he did some summer work at Morgan Stanley. If you have not then you can see the full report here:

Whether you agree with what he has written or not what has been most interesting is the way the media, us included, has jumped all over this report. Like all reports of this nature it is always worth stepping back and remembering that this is one 15 year old's year and may not necessarily reflect the entire world.

However for an amusing take on this you should read the below and the response from your average 31 year old which i do agree with!

Thursday, 30 July 2009

Brew Dog Tokyo beer

The biggest marketing event of last week so the announcement of the launch of the "UK's Strongest beer" from Scottish independent brewery Bew Dog. It has relaunched its Tokyo beer at a new high of 18.2% ABV. They saw it celebrates success but the launch as gained a back lash from many alcohol charities calling the launch irresponsible and wrong. The charities have of course missed the point. This launch has nothing to do with selling a few bottles of beer and everything to do with gaining profile for Brew Dog.

As a small independent brewery they operate in a market dominated by massive drinks conglomerates. These guys have marketing budgets in the multi millions which they happily spend on high profile tv campaigns, pub promos and supermarket promotions. So how do you compete with that if you are a small producer working on a small budget in Scotland. In the case of Brew Dog you think smart.

I first became aware of the brand when the two blokes who run it were on the BBC series Oz and James drink Britain. Rather than meeting Oz Clarke and James May in their brewery they met them in a Glasgow park and drank their beer out of brown paper bags as it was illegal to drink their in public. All very cool, all very publicity stunt. With the launch of Tokyo they have done it again. No millions spent but acres of publicity in national and trade press.

This is a great example that you don't have to have a lot of money to create a buzz you do however have to think creatively and that's no bad thing.

Thursday, 23 July 2009

Politics and the art of direct mail

Today i shall be taking my constitutional right and voting in the Norwich North by-election. Although i know i could have already done this through the power of the postal vote, i actually enjoy the ceremony of going to a polling station standing in a box in a school hall and dropping my vote into a box. In my own mind it helps me believe that my vote counts, although that's probably just me.

This by-election, forced by the resignation of the previous mp Ian Gibson, has gained a lot of media coverage due to it being used as a gauge for the next general election that will happen within the next year. Lucky me, two trips to the booth in the space of 12 months! This has meant nice glossy shots of Norwich on the national news and the parties throwing the big wigs into the fray in an attempt to pick up votes. Last night i even had the surprise of having Theresa May and David Cameron himself at my house which is not your average Wednesday night. They did not seem to mind the fact that i had muddy knees as i had been planting Kale a few minutes before they turned up.

What has surprised me in this by-election is the vast quantity of direct mail that has been pushed through my door. In one day alone this week i had 12 pieces of mail including 5 from labour and all of dubious quality. To their credit Anglia TV has picked up on this and and had interviews last night with local postmen who are looking forward to the campaign finishing so they can stop delivering all this stuff, and that excludes all the leaflets that volunteers are wandering around posting through peoples doors.

This must have been a bonanza for the local printers and my pick of the worst has to be the half page in one labour leaflet headed "Chris and Kate are a lovely couple" and the postcard featuring a picture of the Conservative candidate thanking me even if she does not get in????

I am hoping that this deluge is due to the viewed importance of the by-election and is not a sign of things to come. I hope this country does not start to slip down the route of American politics where millions of dollars are spent on television campaigns by all slides slurring each other. Talking to colleagues the mountain of mail has had the opposite effect it intended and has actually stopped people reading. The recent live debate on BBC with the candidates gave much more of an insight into the people who could represent us in parliament, their personalities and views. America has always done that well as seen in the Obamah/McCain debates which i thought were compulsive viewing. Direct mail is an art and done well is a proven marketing tool, this by-election has shown me that all parties have had no artists on their teams.

Friday, 17 July 2009

Extending the o2 brand

So far, and with a little help from Michael Jackson, the mobile operator O2 has done well with its branding exercises. Lets face it, the spend of many millions to brand the millennium stadium to the O2 was seen by many, apart from the sponsorship head of AEG, to be a potential bum deal. However since it opened its doors the venue has attracted the biggest names in music and hence gained worldwide branding for O2. Jackson would have been the icing on the cake so far, but it was not to be.

O2 has now decide to extend its brand into a new sector and one which made me double take. The operator has now announced that as well as being able to offer you an iPhone they are now moving into the finance sector with pre-paid Visa cards. This new move is in conjunction with NatWest and in essence comes in the form of two pre paid visa cards. The cash manager is aimed at adults who want to keep a close eye on what they spend. The second offering is called Load and Go and is targeted at teenagers from 13 up. The cards are set to be launched with a huge marketing spend including a partnership with Hollyoaks.

Although this may seem a strange move you have to put this into context. This is the first of a range of mobile banking services and they are not the only operator looking at this. Despite the corporate messaging about customer trust and loyalty what this really about it controlling how we spend money. Using our mobiles to pay for things, a common practice in Japan, is not widespread in the UK due to operator concern about bill size. Imagine your mobile bill coming in with the cost of a fridge on it. However imagine if you could link your phone with a pre-paid card which you could use like an Oyster card. You can already see this wireless activity in the Barclaycard ad with the guy going home in the waterslide. This summer will see wireless VISA cards launched in the UK and readers appearing in high street retailers.

The two things we keep closest to us is our wallets and our mobiles. This seemingly strange tie up is just the first of many that will see banks, handset manufacturers and mobile operators trying different ways of creating simple ways for us to spend money. Not only will these pre-paid cards give O2 a new business in a profitable sector it will also allow them to trial new payment methods and give them a head start on the trail for the holy grail of mobile payment systems - one that works.

Thursday, 9 July 2009

Take an offline holiday

Today i have had one of the most interesting days i have had for a long time at a mobile working party meeting in London. I came away buzzing with lots of thoughts and theories that unfortunately stopped me from catching some sleep on the train on the way back to Norwich but one point of discussion keeps coming back to me.

On the train on the way back i sat reading emails from work on my Blackberry and then checking my personal email on my iPhone while checking out the linkedin profiles of some of my fellow working party members. The concept of "always on" is of course nothing new and the curse of the "crackberry" is well known. However how far will this go with the huge expected growth in the sales and use of smartphones. When everyone is permanently connected to the web by a device in their pocket how do we as a society switch off so to speak.

One potential outcome could be a move in holidays where people pay to to go somewhere where they cannot get access to the web. Where Centre Parcs has made a reputation for banning cars and high end hotel chains run TV campaigns pushing the fact that they are adults only how long will it be before one promotes itself as a blackberry free zone. Although many business people would think this will never happen, if they ask their partners i suspect they would get a very different response.......

Wednesday, 8 July 2009

loose your job with twitter

As we have already seen in the press this week, posting things online can get you in trouble. So in the week the world has seen the incoming head of MI5 in his Speedo's courtesy of his wife posting pictures all over Facebook we also have the problem with Twitter. It seems that no matter how many examples of personal information accessed by people who shouldn't see it, in this digital age people still don't get it. Eight years ago it was all about people writing emails that then get forwarded onto people who pass them on and suddenly the whole office and world know what you have been upto. Then came Myspace and then Facebook and once again the world has seen no end of examples of embarrassing photos being shared around. So now its Twitter's turn and especially people sending Tweets about their own job and bosses - a dangerous combination.

It seems that the technology changes but the lessons are just not learnt. In simple terms if you would not want your mother or boss to read or see it, don't put it in the digital world as its very easy to get around as the link below proves.

So for 30 ways to loose your job using Twitter use the link below and enjoy:

Monday, 6 July 2009

Wimbledon and the art of sponsorship

Yesterday i, like many millions across the world, sat watching the mens finals at Wimbledon. The game itself was far better than most imagined although at the end i noticed the weirdest thing.

Those with sharp eyes may also have noticed this, but having just lost the final, Roddick moved to his chair, sat down and held his face in his hands as you would expect a man whose dreams had just been shattered would do. However the very next thing he did was put his expensive looking watch on. He then got up and acknowledged the crowd, waving his watch wearing arm aloft. Now if i had just lost the final after over 4 hours of exhausting tennis the last thing i would think of would be to slip my watch on straight after the game. In fact i would not have brought the watch out to court with me, i probably would have left it in the locker.

The difference between Roddick and i, apart from the £430k he earned yesterday, is that i am not sponsored by a watch company. Roddick had to make sure that shots of me waving to the crowd had to include my sponsors watch. As the camera panned back to Federer who had changed ready for the presentation, he too had miraculously slipped his watch on ready for the coming photo opps.

This was an oh so subtle yet very clear reminder of the power of sponsorship in modern sport.

Friday, 3 July 2009

McDonalds goes quality (again)

Having spent a few months watching ads of happy families grow a garden McDonalds is now launching a new campaign to push its good food message. The latest version is to tell us all how McDonalds burgers are made from 100% beef from British and Irish farms.

This is all part of the ongoing campaign from McDonalds as it tries to persuade us all that they make healthy food. Everyone has their own view on the pros and cons of fast food. I myself have always been in the everything in moderation camp and so have no particular axe to grind. I do find myself through feeling more and more empathy with the poor marketing head having to come up with more and more cute campaigns to show the general public how good McDonalds actually are.

Its not an easy job but at least they are making a better job of it than KFC with its terrible latest ad trying to prove a similar point. I have yet to see a KFC that even closely resembles one seen in the latest ad but would be happy to have my mind changed. Mind you i would put a good bet there is a dartboard somewhere in McDonalds head office with Morgan Spurlock's picture on it

Wednesday, 1 July 2009

mobile growth and mobile ad revenue

The delay in posting is due to a long needed break in the wilderness of the beaches of Northumberland. Since my return however i have spending time looking at the growth of the mobile market and here are some interesting facts.

There are now 4 billion mobile phones in the world today. Compare that with the total number of televisions (1.5 billion) and personal computers (1.1 billion) and you can see why the mobile internet will be the next big digital boom.

In the worldwide emerging markets the mobile phone is often the first way individuals access not only voice calls but also the internet, news and personal music compared with computers, papers and walkmans in the West.

Mobile advertising revenue in the Euro market is forecast to be a staggering 1.3 billion euros by 2012.

Finally recent research has shown that those with smartphones now use them to access the Internet in their leisure time rather then PC's particularly while watching tv. This is caused by the immediacy of always having the phone with you and convenience of not having to boot up and log in etc.

All this starts to point at how we will use mobile technology to access the internet more and more. This will bring and increasing number of both challenges and opportunities to content providers and marketeers alike.

Thursday, 18 June 2009

lies damned lies and online statistics

When i first started in digital media everybody talked in hits, this then moved to page impressions and then to unique visitors and there is has stayed for a number of years. The common theme to this is quoting the largest possible number to business owners or advertisers. However that number has never truly reflected the engagement with an online offering.

The problem with online traffic is that is is now vast, think of the page impressions Facebook alone generates. But what is the value of those impressions? This growth combined with the recssion has caused the decline in the channel sell of online inventory reducing ad rates significantly.

Simon Waldman from Guardian Media Group has recently openden the loyalty debate once again. In simple terms if you have 100 people visit your site every day and spend an hour on it you have 100 monthly unique visitors. If you have 100 people visiting your site for 2 mins every day for a month you have 3,000 monthly uniques. One is clearly a bigger number but which in effect is more valuable to the site owner and the advertiser?

Right now we are all still chasing U/V's but it was not long ago it was page views and i suspect we will see another change in the next couple of years.

Friday, 12 June 2009

explorer 8 versus chrome battle of the tv ads

Microsoft and Google are now using TV ads to push their respective new browsers Explorer 8 and Chrome. For those who have not seen these ads, and they are not on in the UK yet, these clearly show the releative positioing of the two options.

For my money Google just win it on creative merit. What do you think??



Iphone and the Tube Strike

As i have written on here before i am in the middle of a trial of an iphone and have become a complete convert. However despite my almost evangelical zeal for the phone i did manage to become every so slightly annoyed with it while in London on Wenesdays tube strike.

On the train on the way to London i knew that the strike was on and that the inevitable would happen and all the buses and cabs would be packed. So resigned to walking an hour from Liverpool Street to Covent Garden for a meeting i planned to route into my iphone. Having found the route functions on the phone it duly plotted a course which i could take by foot, car or public transport. I then thought that it would take me GPS style to my destination. Unfortunately it did not seem to do that

To be fair the GPS did always tell me where i was and the mapping was very good however there was one thing that beat it. When i got to the station i was handed a map, an old school printed map. It was the map that i used to get to covent garden not the iphone.

Despite this slight knockback in my affections it still remains an amazing bit of kit and the slight disappointment with the mapping was not so bad when i used Streetview on the way back. Certainly with the announcement of a compass in the new version the mapping and GPS will only get better and the rumoured tie up with Tom Tom will strengthen Apple's position in the smartphone marketplace.

Tuesday, 9 June 2009

Flogos of desire

Although the property market looks like it is starting to turn itself around in a similar style to the Exxon Valdiz, my marketing options for are limited due to budgets. This is a reality for most marketeers as we have to look to make more effective use of the budgets available to us whatever industry we work in.

I am long enough in the tooth to remember the last recession and having to work with tight budgets and i am a firm believer in how this can be a good thing. Since the last recession the media options for marketeers has increased exponentially giving more ways to spend your budget. Unfortunately this makes it harder both to get your message across to a confused and media swamped consumer base and also harder to justify which areas to spend on. This current recession has taught many marketeers the back to basic principles of spending on things that can deliver results and more importantly that can prove they are delivering. The whole PPC market and indeed online advertising world is based on this.

Despite this however i still occasionally see items of desire and Flogos are just that. Flogos are promotional logos made from a combination of soap and gas normally helium. When inflated they float up to heights of 5,000 feet and last for 30 to 40 minutes before dissolving into thin air. Mercedes, Disney and McDonald's have supposedly already used them send their names up in lights.

Yes its a fad and yes a little bit silly but sitting here in Norwich the thought of hundreds of branded flogos flying over the city does bring a smile to my face.

To see them in action go here:

Friday, 5 June 2009

Norwich Union to Aviva its all in a name

Norwich Union has now re-branded its UK sites to its new worldwide brand Aviva. This is another step on the journey as it re-brands all its various worldwide brands under the single Aviva moniker. As part of this it is attempting to manage a common approach to managing all its online assets worldwide. This encompasses 28 countries and more than 50 million customers. The online re-brand is probably one of the most important parts of this re-brand due to the high use of the internet for insurance purposes from research to purchase.

The big problem Aviva will have is the change of domains. No doubt behind the scenes there will have been lots of people with Gant charts, visio drawings and scraps of paper trying to make sure every page has been migrated, the right re-directs all all in place and fingers crossed. I also suspect that to counter act any negative effect of changing the main domain with natural search Aviva will have considerably upped its PPC activity against core terms to negate any potential traffic loss.

Changes pages within a website, if you use the correct re-directs normally has a minimal impact on your natural rankings. However changing your domain can have serious implications if not thought through. The best example i have ever read regarding this is when econsultancy, a site targeted at digital marketeers especially search engine specialists, moved from to as part of a major relaunch of its site. It took 10 weeks for all their positions to come back so i hope NU sorry Aviva do not suffer the same fate.

If you want to read about the econsulatcncy migration and SEO nightmare this is well worth a read:

Thursday, 4 June 2009

Hay Literary Festival and the Sony EReader

In the Welsh county of Powys there is a small town that has two claims to fame. Firstly it has over 30 bookshops and secondly, because of that, it is the home of the world famous Hay-on-Wye Literary festival. At the festival, which finished last Sunday, you can wander between tents listening to a range of speakers from Stephen Fry to Desmond Tutu, Jeremy Clarkson in one tent and Harry Hill next to Bill Clinton in another. The festival is such big news now that its main sponsor is the Guardian and it has daily coverage of the speakers, debates and events on Sky TV Arts Channel

Of course a festival that can attract this level of heavyweight speakers also attracts a fair amount of sponsorship and one of the main sponsors this year is Sony. Specifically it is promoting its ebook reader the Sony Reader. This little electronic device can store up to 160 ebooks and, with Amazons Kindle reader, among many digital book readers available now.

Publishing executives are watching with keen interest the growth of e-book readers as unlike the internet where most content is available for free, ebooks are charged for. Yes the readers tend to come with a range of out of copyright texts but new e-books cost as much as your average paperback and many in the publishing world are looking at this as a whole new growth channel for the publishing world.

Imagine not having to worry about the weight and size of books when you pack for your holidays. All you need to do is download 4 or 5 or even more books to your book reader that is less than an A4 pad in size and pack that in your hand luggage. You are happy as you have less to carry and the publishers are happy as you have bought each one and they have not had to print them or distribute them so they make more profit. Now you can see the appeal for the publishers.

Its not only the book world that is getting excited. Rupert Murdoch recently announced that News International is going to spend time, effort and money to try and make people pay for newspaper content online. This will not be easy, but in America people seem to be happy to pay for newspaper subscriptions to read their paper of choice on the Kindle device. This has been so successful that Amazon has now launched a larger tablet version of the Kindle to make it easier to read larger formats such as newspapers. Whether this will take off in the UK remains to be seen but many in the UK are hoping it does.

Amazon’s Kindle is only currently available in the US which is why Sony are moving fast with its reader as unlike the Kindle it is not wireless and does not offer newspaper and magazines. The Kindle scores highly there, wirelessly updating itself while you are on the move. The latest rumour is that Apple is looking at a tablet rival which could become the publishing equivalent of the ipod.

Technology aside, whether people will convert and actually use them will be the main driving force for growth in this new market. As part of the sponsorship for Hay festival Sony is running workshops and panel discussions as well as a trial area for anyone interested in seeing them work. At the moment with the Sony device at £219 and the Kindle in the US at £310 price will also be an issue. However as more devices are launched and prices come down publishers of both newspapers and books are hoping this could create a whole new literary world and a nice revenue stream in the process.

Tuesday, 2 June 2009

Virgin media and the pg tips monkey

Sometimes if you cannot come up with a good idea of your own in marketing what you can do is steal a really good one and make it different enough so people think its your own. Unfortunately for Virgin TV Media it looks like they have tried this with something a little bit too iconic.

The two characters i most identify with on television at the moment are Stewie from Family Guy and the monkey from the PG Tips ads. Monkey is now in its second incarnation having been created to promote the now defunct ITV digital. At the time it was the best thing about the failed digital offering as anyone who purchased the service got a free monkey. When they went bust there was a brisk market for Monkey's on ebay. In 2007 Monkey was re-born, along with Johnny Vegas, after PG Tips paid the agency Mother who created the character for the rights to use him. Once again Monkey has become famous and i even have one hanging from my fridge.

Virgin Television is just about to go through a marketing re-vamp including a new logo and as part of this they have got the creator of Monkey to create a new character called Red. The new character is red, funnily enough, and imp like and surprise surprise made of the same knitted material as Monkey. Virgin will be using red in a range of idents and adverts to promote this re-launch and they have already announced it will be on Facebook, Twitter and have its own podcasts. So tick for covering all the expected social media marketing boxes but not for originality.

I may be hopelessly wrong on this but i was always taught that there is nothing wrong with stealing great ideas, just be careful about which one you copy.

Friday, 29 May 2009

Decision engines and Chandler Bing

Today we have had the announcement regarding the long awaited search engine from Microsoft. This for a long time was under the codename Kumo but now they have launched it with an equally ridiculous name. Once upon a time Bing was just the surname of a man called Chandler who had the pleasure and pain of being married to Monica in Friends. Now however the word Bing will also be associated with Microsoft's latest attempt to crack the search engine market.

As the engine is not live i cannot comment on it apart from to say that as much as it pains me to say it, i like the fact they are describing it a "decision engine". The problem Microsoft have is summed up in one word: dominance, the dominance of a certain Google. Its search engine is the main way that most people on the planet search the web. It is a true "search engine". By calling Bing a "decision engine" and positioning it as an alternative to Google and as a tool to help individuals find information to make decisions it at least gives them a positioning statement to build a marketing campaign around.

That marketing campaign is what i am really looking forward to as Microsoft's campaigns have started slowly but surely to become much more innovative and encompassing. Its last two campaigns: the "I'm a PC" campaign, to the latest one featuring young children showing how easy it to use PC software have been the best so far. Big spenders as they are the world launch budget for Bing is going to be a reputed $100m so look out for a range activity in the UK soon.

If you want to learn more about Bing you can watch the promo video here:

If you want to watch something better however why not spend 20 mins in the company of the original bing and his best bits here: and here:

Thursday, 28 May 2009

Google and the country of origin

This blog was created as part of research into the best route forward to create a blog for one of our classified sites As it is we are building that using and the Thesis theme. However the lessons i am learning from running this have been very useful, from how to install Google Analytics, to the latest when i realised that the site has dropped completely from Google index of pages from the UK.

Of course i should not have been surprised as this is a .com address and hosted in America, it is just a blogger free site. However despite this, i just presumed that it would rank equally when using and searching "the web" as when searching "pages from the uk". On investigation Google makes it clear that you can set preference for where your site is targted in Webmaster tools if the domain is not the country of origin.

As we have a number of sites that are .com and hosted in America i asked our search consultant Just Beerekamp at Traffic4U, our natural search agency, for his comments. So if you were not aware here are some handy pointers:

"Google uses various indicators to determine a country or language a website is targeting. Common factors are:
- Top Level Domain (.com for US or International, for England, .nl for the Netherlands etc.)
- Location of server (determined by IP address)
- Language on the website itself
- META-language tag

Apart from these there is a more important factor, the origin of the incoming links. If your website receives many links from websites in some country your website is bound to target that country (according to Google). Therfore link, you need accumulate more link from UK oriented websites.

Also If you're sure that your site only targets the UK then it's wise to target the site to the UK in webmaster tools"

So if you have a .com site and you are really only targeting the UK make sure you let Google know that in your webmaster tools to make sure you rank.

Tuesday, 26 May 2009

Nokia, Ovi and catching up with the iphone

I am currently playing with an iphone for a month to check out both how people are using it and what opportunities are there for the mobile platform for a regional newspaper group. Having had the phone for a paltry three days i have to say that i am already hooked. I could waste time rambling about how cool the phone, how good the mobile web browser is etc but you can read that elsewhere or just borrow one of a friend.

One of the drivers of the take up of the iphone has been the applications you can download onto the phone. This has been backed by the usual high quality of campaigns to promote how these apps can improve your life. From choosing a cab to finding a restaurant to working out a tip there are thousands of apps available both paid and free and that number grows daily. Of course the Google Android phone also allows you to run apps and unlike the iphone on Android the apps are open source so you can get them from other places apart from the locked down Apple App Store. Add to that the blackberry and windows app offerings and you can see that mobile applications is a burgeoning business.

Missing from this list though is the giant Nokia who sells around 40 million handsets a year compared to the iphones 20 million. However this week Nokia launches the amusingly called Ovi which sounds like a children's TV animation but is in fact its own App store. It is being launched this week in Some European countries and Singapore and will roll out across the world quickly.

Nokia has been slow of the mark with this despite the clear market dominance they enjoy. Having this huge number of handsets should create an immediate market for the store and a new revenue stream for Nokia but it will depend on how Nokia markets Ovi. T-Mobile launched the Google Android phone with a lot of people dancing together in Liverpool Street Station. This was very memorable but did not explain why you should buy one and every day the campaign was on i was also exposed to ads from Apple showing me how the iphone could improve my life through not just being a phone.

So Nokia although late to market has a great opportunity and i look forward to interest to see what messages and channels they use to push this new competitor to the iphones crown. If you want to know more feel free to visit here however as a word of warning i dont think it has launched in the UK yet as i have already registered my phone but there seems to be no apps available yet so watch this space.

Saturday, 23 May 2009

Facebook presents "delete or not to delete that is the question"

While watching My Name is Earl last night i laughed as the character Darnell set himself up on the fictional social media site "Buddy Book" because all the "old people" had now got onto Facebook and Myspace. You see there are various reasons why i have no personal presence in the world of social media. It is my job to understand them all and so i do have dummy accounts that i use to see how the technology is being used and developing and more importantly how they could and are being used as a marketing channel. But personal accounts, no way.

There are a couple of reasons for this. Firstly when i used to have personal accounts for Myspace and Facebook etc i could not keep up with them and also could never understand the correct digi social etiquette for rejecting a friend request from someone you had spent years trying to avoid but who had managed to find you online. Secondly working in the regional press i am acutely aware that if anything unfortunate ever happened to me, whereas 10 years ago my next of kin would have been asked for a picture, today journalists go for the easy option. That option is to see what photos are online, especially ones that i would not want shared.

It amazes me on a regular basis how many people are caught out by posting images of themselves in dubious circumstances or situations which then miraculously end up in the public domain. Of course you can delete any images that you would not want your mother to see or the whole world for that matter. However recent research from Cambridge University shows that even if you delete them they may not be as out of reach as you think.

A group of researchers put photographs on 16 popular websites, noted the exact url's of the photos and then deleted them. They then checked 30 days later and managed to find the photos on 7 sites including the behemoth Facebook. As you can imagine this created a whole pile of press and forced Facebook to come out and make the following statement:

"When a user deletes a photograph from Facebook it is removed from our servers immediately.
"However, URLs to photographs may continue to exist on the Content Delivery Network (CDN) after users delete them from Facebook, until they are overwritten. Overwriting usually happens after a short period of time."

What that means in English is that your facebook pictures do not sit on one single but enormous computer in California. The reality is that they use storage facilities across the world and that picture that you deleted because in the cold light of day you realised that your prospective employer, partner, pet (delete as you will) would not think too highly of you if they saw it, could actually be stored anywhere.

They do of course eventually get deleted but would you have put them up there in the first place if you knew it could take 30 days before you hitting delete and them actually leaving the web. To be clear they come off your profile straight away but if you know the url of the picture then they will still be there.

The basic reason for this is the cost that these networks would occur if they had to delete photos from the whole network the minute a user wants them. To do that would involve a huge investment in process, server technology etc etc and to be fair you have to know the actual url of the photo after it has been deleted to stand a chance of finding it.

So this situation is not going to change, indeed if the figures on the usage of Facebook are to be believed then it may well get worse with more photos online hiding in the "cloud" of the modern web. So can i advise those of you that do have social media sites or even use image sites such as Flickr or Picassa (they came out quite well btw) check what you are uploading to them. My advice would be if you would not want your mother or your boss to see the photo don't put it online, especially if you don't want it to end up in the papers if anything happens.

Wednesday, 20 May 2009

Google new search options and universal search

Google has added a new featured to its search listings albeit without a lot a fuss. If you look underneath the Google logo on a search results page above the first listings you will now see a text link stating "show options".

When clicked on this introduces a new range of search filters allows users to select results from videos, forums, reviews, and also by various time criteria i.e. past 24 hours of past year. I mentioned Google's move to Universal search in my post regarding the Wolframalpha search engine and this is another step towards that.

An excellent view and description of this new development, far better than i can explain, and including a link to a Googles video explaining the new options can be found on the Further blog from Mark Cook its search marketing director which is well worth a read here:

O2, the Joggler and the family fridge

Last night my eye was drawn to a new campaign from O2 promoting its calendar service and associated product the Joggler. Like all good campaigns it made me want to find out more about the service which allowed you to organise your life through a device that ran a family diary and sent sent reminder texts to your phones for important dates etc.

The reality of the service is that you of course need to be registered with O2 and have an O2 phone to get the best benefit. Although if you are, you do not need to shell out £149 for the Joggler itself you can just use the calendar app on your PC. So once you realise that you don't need the Joggler box to use the calendar what is left?

Well the box can store and display photo's and can be used as a music player (however it does not supported Apples AAC format). Digital radio is coming in December so hard luck if you buy one now and it has traffic updates from traffic master (useful in a kitchen) and news from sky news.

The advert tries to explain that the Joggler allows you to clear up all the clutter from the family fridge from children's pictures to reminders. Of course as someone with a 13 month old, what they have forgotten is that i don't want to see a picture of what my Son has created on a digital screen, its actually nice to see the real thing.

I hope that this was another attempt at creating a digital hub for the home rather than just creating a product because they could, but i fail to see how this justifies its place on that journey. It is limited in its application and you can do more things by having a notebook permanently in the kitchen which might cost a bit more but it would do an awful lot more. The ability to access the web for recipes for a start!

If you are on O2 for your mobile phone then the calendar, which can be found here:, would be a very useful tool however i would stick to that and ignore the joggler.

Monday, 18 May 2009

WolframAlpha versus Google

Over the last two years there has been a number of new search engines that have been launched that have claimed to be able to take Google's crown. Many have tried, lured sometimes though a desire of the creator to make the world a better place. Most however have been created to try and get access to the revenues that Google enjoys as the world's search engine of choice.

The latest to join this list is a search engine created by a British scientist Stephen Wolfram, a British computer scientist now based in Illinois. His new engine is the web’s first “computational knowledge engine”. In English that means that it only holds factual data and all the data has come from official websites, libraries and academic journals, and checked by experts.

It is getting a lot of hype because the engine that drives it can link every piece of information in its database to other bits of information that are related. So for example if you type in GDP Spain not only do you get text results based on those keywords but it also brings back graphs and also related content such as economic reports. So from plain English questions you get detailed academic results.

Looking at the engine now it looks like a tool for academics rather than those who just want to find a picture of Paris Hilton. Google indexes the whole web which means the dross as well as the valuable stuff, reporting results in an order based on a range of variables. This new engine just looks at the factual. What this means is by definition it will be limited in its content and i suspect use, although a targeted search engine for research is no bad thing. However its the process of linking data of different types to a plain English input could be he start of the next generation of how we search online. Google started this with its Universal search project and this looks like another step on the way.

Check it out here:

Friday, 15 May 2009

Murdoch and the war against free content

The different between the PC based Internet and the mobile based internet is the cost of content. In the pc internet world people have got used to not pay for content. If they want news they can go to hundreds of newspaper sites or content sites and even places like Google news which links to all the top stories and just reads them. They do not have to pay they just have to accept that the content will have ads around them. On mobiles people stated to get used to paying for content via micro payments such as an enhanced text message cost.

Now with the rise of smart and internet enabled phones publishers are once again giving their content away free. On my mobile within two clicks i can read all the news from the BBC, The Sun, The Guardian and Sky and all for free. However for the news international titles among them that may not be for much longer.

In a recent Q&A session with journalists Murdoch announced that he intends to sort out the "freebie" culture of news on the internet and to start progressively introduce charging models and fee structures on his online newspaper portfolio that includes The Times Online, The Sun and The News of the World.

The business model so far for newspapers has been to give the content away, build an audience and then monetise that audience predominantly though digital display ads. Unfortunately virtually all have not managed to make the same revenues as the print products which are still supporting the cost of the content creation hence the current round of massive reduction in costs seen across the newspaper industries and especially the regional press industry.

Murdoch has one model in the Wall Street Journal which has managed to increase its circulation and also charge for its online content but it is very specific in its content nature. If anyone can succeed it will be Murdoch and the £3.6bn in cash he has in his empire to fund trials of different business models. Media owners will be watching this with keen interest as if he can make this work they will all follow and this will probably spare thousands of journalists from loosing their jobs around the world.

So the next year will see whether Mr Murdoch really can be Citizen Cane or whether the great newspaper man of our time will turn into the next King Canute.

Thursday, 14 May 2009

To Twitter or not to Twitter that is the question

Once again i have been dragged into argunments recently about Twitter and more specifically its value as a tool for marketing. So just to make my position clear i have copied below my April Eastern Daily Press column in which i set out my views on the subject.

It is worth noting that since then a poll on Marketing Weeks magazine website has 44.4% of marketing professionals thinking it is a significant tool and an equal 44.2% thinking ot with 11% unsure yet. Certainly in America a new poll by Harris has speculated that because of the recent media hype and take up by everyone from Martha Stewart to Opra Winfrey the younger age groups are now leaving Twitter to look for the next cool thing.

Anyway here's the column and if you agree or disagree feel free to comment or email me your views at

I was recently asked by a colleague about creating a feed on Twitter for one of our commercial sites. For those who don’t know, Twitter is a micro blogging site, micro because each post has to be less than 140 characters. It has become extremely famous very quickly as it has become the darling of the media. Every celebrity known to mankind seems to have their own twitter page and the media does love to write about it. Sky News even has a twitter correspondent for crying out loud.

Twitter was designed for friends to let each other know what they are doing in brief statements. However research from O2 has shown that UK businesses are sending about 3m posts a day with 700,000 business using the services. But what are they saying? In effect they are saying very little to a small amount of people who are not interested. It is just the next big thing and another bandwagon that businesses think they should be on. Don’t get me wrong Twitter for individuals can be fun, even the voyeuristic pleasure of reading posts written by celebrities themselves not the distorted and re-interpreted words from celebrity magazines is interesting. However a marketing tool it is not.

A couple of years ago Second Life, the online virtual world, was all the flavour. Thousands of businesses paid a lot of money to create their own environments within this virtual world but now two years down the line many are pulling out. Why, because they simply cannot justify the expense. The Department for Work and Pensions has had to defend publicly its “waste” of tens of thousands of pounds of taxpayers' money in building a government “innovations centre” in this virtual land. The users moved on to the next cool thing. Second Life “jumped the shark” (it’s a colloquialism, look it up in Wikipedia) and Twitter will be next. Ever since Jonathon Ross banged on about it on his show and Stephen Fry and Philip Schofield made it famous, the early adopters, those that many businesses want to target, decided to move on to the next big thing.

Geoffrey Moore, in his 1991 book Crossing the Chasm, created a life cycle for successful technology products and named groups of users based on the timing of the use of that technology. These are innovators, early adopters, early majority, late majority and eventually onto laggards. Twitter is current moving into early majority but it needs to make money. In reality most of today's social networking businesses will struggle to make a viable business. Evan Williams, one of the team behind Twitter has said “We will make money, but we can't predict exactly what's going to work,” Which is great when you get multi-million funding boosts but not when they run out.

Web 2.0 history is now starting to get littered with social sites, from Friends Re-united, Pandora, Bebo, Second Life, MySpace, Flickr, You Tube, Facebook and now Twitter. All in their time have been heralded as the future of the web and the next Google in terms of revenue potential. Some have been lucky to have been bought for millions of pounds ensuring that their creators retire in luxury. However although some still have vast audiences none have lived up to the hype. There is always something else just around the corner.

So for any business who is thinking they must be on twitter, ask yourself, why do you really want to be on it? Who are you trying to attract and what are you going to say? And is there some better way of communicating with your target consumers? My advice would be sign up, but just to find out what Philip and Steven are doing today as tomorrow they will probably be on something else.

Tuesday, 12 May 2009

Audioboo, podcasts, Flickr and the search for an image

Due to the fact that i have to spend most of today working on a board presentation regarding digital strategy that is hurting my head i will keep today's post short.

Last night I managed to create a debate regarding the vlaue of a service that allows you to create what are effectively mini podcasts from the iPhone. This in itself is not that exciting, what is though is the fact that the app then allows you to tag the audio with a photo, title and tags and also available geo location data. I personally thought this was a very useful tool and could point the future for both podcasts and also potential development for twitter on which i have certain views. Certain collegues disagreed but if you want to learn more you can get it here:

Just to re-dress the balance here is the most fun site i have seen for a while that allows you to spell out words from photos on Flickr. Have a play here it can be very funny:

Monday, 11 May 2009

EBay, Archaeology and Fakes

My favourite story of the day regards a metal detector who has been jailed for selling fakes Of course it is sad when someone decides to con others especially when he is trading off his reputation as a renowned finder of rare items. If you are interested in what he did read the article on the Times site before Mr Murdoch decides to implement a charging mechanism and watches his visitor count plummet.

Most interesting to me was the link between this and another article which appeared on an American archaeology site. Here a Professor Stanish has written regarding the fact that eBay has not become the source of all evil that most in the time team supporting fraternity thought it would.

When eBay launched, many thought that the fact that you could buy antiquities online direct from those who found them would encourage a rise in looting and people running off the Egypt to come back with statues stuffed down your trousers. In fact what it has down has created a world of online fakes. Why travel the world when you can knock up a knock off in the shed at the bottom of the garden. It seems those people who used to go off looting and sell what they found to middlemen now sell fakes direct with a lot less risk as you cannot be nicked for importing forgeries only if you get caught selling them.

In the paper Stanish states:
"because the low-end antiquities market has been flooded with fakes that people buy for a fraction of what a genuine object would cost, the value of the real artefacts has gone down as well, making old-fashioned looting less lucrative."

I'm off to buy that fake pyramid now!

Friday, 8 May 2009

Google Streetview, Property and spare time

As one of my responsibilities is a property website i often get to spend time looking at competing property portals to see what they are doing. This is of course quite boring unless you do it linked to that great English pastime of checking property prices near you, searching for property you can afford and looking at others that would require a lottery fortune.

Last night i was looking at such properties and found what looked like the rural cottage not far from Norwich in my price range. Before the internet i would not have even seen that unless i had happened upon an ad in the paper. Now it seems commonplace to see these things online. Last night however was the first time property hunting became really interesting.

Luckily unlike many agents, this one had provided the postcode of the property plus further map details in the online brochure. This meant that i could use google maps with the satellite view activated to find the property and see at least an overhead view of it to get a sense of its position. This again is nothing new and has been available on Google and indeed integrated into many property portals sites for a few years. What was different though was the addition of Google streetview.

I knew that the streetview service was available in 50 UK cities and they are slowly rolling it out so i did not expect it to work in this rural spot. Sure enough when i tried it over the property Google duly informed me that Streetview did not extend that far. However as i moved towards Norwich on the map i managed to activate streetview and turn round back to the cottage. Despite being told from the map/satellite view that streetview was not available i actually managed to "walk" right up to the property and take a good look at it virtually.

The result was that i realised the art of the estate agent was not dead because as good as it looked online and in the brochure with the numerous pictures they did not show the sub station right behind the house. Also the complete lack of back garden with dark north facing back of the house. So apart from saving me a trip on Saturday it clearly shows that Google is slowly but surly extending streetview albeit making it difficult to find that out.

Unlike the Daily Mail i actually believe Streetview is a real leap forward, not a threat to our privacy. Its uses with positioning software is the most exciting technology of this year, especially when linked to a mobile phone. When demonstrating the service Google showed the system on an Andriod phone allowing a user to tell the system to look for restaurants and then walk down a street with a virtual street on the phone taking you straight to your eateries of choice. When this is all linked to Ad Words and Ad Sense and Google positioning ads you can see why they are spending literally millions on this.

This technology is very much in its infancy but in a couple of years time it will be mainstream and not only will we never be lost again trying to find that bar in London but we will also will not be frustrated with a wasted house viewing.

Thursday, 7 May 2009

Baking Cookies and the Web

Last night in my continuing decision to improve my skills i decided to bake cookies. This was partially because i wanted to teach myself how to bake but also following some web based inspiration.

Over the last few years i have really enjoyed not only growing vegetables but learning the art of cooking. This has come from the usual sources of inspiration from TV chefs such as Jamie and Hugh. However i have always stopped short of deserts of any kind. I can knock out a range of starters and some great main courses learnt and adapted but deserts scared me.

They scared me because of the need for precision. No throwing an extra pinch of thyme in here or there, no things have to be measured and accurate. I don’t mind that at work, its part of the job especially when you are dealing with budgets but when i am at home cooking i prefer a little more freedom.

However as a grown man i felt this was something i needed to get over and so last night i entered the world of baking, starting easy with chewy oatmeal and raisin cookies. As a first attempt i was quite pleased although i will definitely be adding a lot more cinnamon and some nutmeg next time. As you can see from the picture, i brought a few into the office this morning and they were well received by my colleagues so ginger cake next.

The point of this however was more about how i found the recipe. Rather than just resorting to wading through numerous cook books I simply went online and searched for a chewy oatmeal and raisin cookies and bang along comes hundreds of sites all with different variations on a theme.

Cooking is big online and getting bigger. I have added a couple of links to foodgawker that links to different sites and CakeSpy blog has more than 100,000 visitors a month! Some cookery blogs are run for fun and some look extremely professional and are clearly run by people who have learnt how to make their blog look a lot more professional than my humble attempt.

Its clear to see that there is a growing appetite (forgive the pun) for food online and not just people looking at the major sites like BBC Food or Market Kitchen. As someone who understands that cookery is actually about trial and error and learning from others i can only applaud those people who diligently update and add new recipes to their own blogs so that people like myself can try and lean. So if you have not already looked I can recommend spending a happy lunchtime reading the different cookery blogs - you will not regret it.

Tuesday, 5 May 2009

Sainsburys, Pollack and Marketing tricks - EDP COLUMN - May 2009

This was of course written before the sad event that was the relegation of NCFC to the third tier of English football. As I have tried to explain to others you cannot chose your family or your football team, they come with birth. Supporting Norwich was passed to me by my father and I will pass it to my son but with a larger dose of realism. Enjoy......

Published Eastern Daily Press May 6th 2009. - yes i know this is going up before publication date but i wrote it!

By the time you read this you will already know whether I will be feeling the same pain I felt in 1985 and again in 2005. So it’s probably quite fortunate that my deadline means that I will not pepper this column with sad/glorious anecdotes (depending on the outcome of last Monday) regarding NCFC. Instead I am dedicating this column to the brilliantly mad marketers at Sainsbury’s.

Recently Tesco announced that they were enjoying weekly sales of over £1bn a week and annual profits of more than £3bn. This is despite being in an ongoing media battle with Morrisons and Asda on who is cheapest. All three forcing us to watch ads regarding the average cost of a shopping basket, great price crunch deals and now spotty teenage Asda workers telling us how they are amazed how cheap everything is in their store.

To be fair Sainsbury’s is on the same bandwagon albeit with the classic female worker who also is a caring mum and the odd appearance from the almighty Jamie. However they are also coming up with surprising strategies based around product ranges the latest being Pollack, yes the fish.

Sainsbury’s have re-branded Pollack to Colin. Now to be totally clear, that’s Colin as in Colin Powell the American ex-General not Colin as in Jackson or Firth. This is the French name for the fish when it is cooked and supposedly it has a much higher gastronomic reputation with our Gallic cousins than here where it has traditionally been deemed cat food. It seems that if we eat as much Pollack, nee Colin, as the French it would have a major positive effect on our cod stocks. Especially as it is much more plentiful and cheaper than the more popular cod and haddock.

Sainsbury’s are urging shoppers to “try Colin and chips on a Friday” and even hired designer Wayne Hemmingway of Red or Dead fame to create new packaging for the line. His new Jackson Pollock inspired packaging (creative thinking at its best there) is used right across the line from packaged fish to Colin fish fingers.

So why would I call the marketers at Sainsbury’s brilliantly mad. I do of course applaud the effort to support sustainable sourcing and protecting dwindling fish stocks by promoting a more unfashionable yet more sustainable and plentiful fish. However it is more to do with the fact that before you go rushing off to your nearest Sainsbury’s they were actually only running this as a trial in 10 stores to gauge consumer reaction. Of course the acres of media space they gained from this would suggest differently but that is why they gain the brilliantly mad tag from me.

They could have taken the easy route and pointed out how much cheaper their Pollack is compared with Tesco or Aldi. This route though gives them massive media coverage, lets them boast about their green credentials and will probably help them sell a pile of fish if it is rolled out across the UK.

So hats off to the marketers at Sainsbury’s, they broke the golden rule of re-branding i.e. don’t do it unless you really, really, really have to. FYI it’s always better to realign an existing brand with what your customers want than start afresh with all the associated costs. They turned a re-branding into a major marketing coup and a clever one at that. They used an obscure product line to cut through the clutter of the current supermarket promotional messages and that is very clever.

I hope I keep this up

I started working in the media and specifically online in the mid 1990's and have watched the rise of various new toys from blogs to social media, web 2.0 and I could go on. I never bothered to run my own blog for many reasons, many of them the same as to why i am not on Facebook or Twitter. I have tried them all for my job to see what commercial benefit they had and then deleted my accounts. A blog is only really a blog if it is updated and that takes commitment.

I used to have a weekly column in a regional paper in England called the Eastern Daily Press and that allowed me a creative outlet for all those comments I occasionally need to air. That is now a monthly column and yet the desire is still there so i now have this. The problem with understanding the internet is the knowledge that this will be visible to the world including potential and current employers and journalists. So I promise to keep this regular, relevant and hopefully vaguely amusing. At least the vegetable tips may prove useful.

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