Tag Archives: PR

How social media sold OMGPOP to Zynga

17 May


Until late March, OMGPOP was a little known game developer limping along and was running desperately low on money. This was until it created Draw Something. The game became an overnight sensation, catapulting the company into the mainstream and leading to its $180 million purchase by Zynga. The game’s addictive fun got people hooked but it was social media that generated mass awareness and spread the product virally.

OMGPOP hadn’t advertised or undertaken traditional PR but it became hugely successful within a matter of weeks. People shared their sketches, talked about the game and challenged their friends to play through their online social networks. The game quickly gained popularity as celebrities tweeting about the game – such as Stephen Fry and Jimmy Fallon – created a huge amount of additional buzz. The rise of OMGPOP demonstrates perfectly the evolution of brand communication. The ability of social media to spread publicity and corporate messages means it’s now arguably more powerful now than traditional media.

Social media has changed the way that products are marketed and brands are built. Previously companies had to funnel their message through the media. This either involved brands earning placement in news or feature articles or paying for the privilege to appear. While these more traditional methods are still important and are an effective way for brands to reach their audiences as part of an integrated comms approach, social media offers a bigger opportunity to reach more people and create more buzz. The Guardian.co.uk, as an example, has daily unique visits of just over four million (March 2012) while Facebook had 483 million daily active users on average in December 2011 and 1.36 million visited Pintrest per day in March. Social media also enables brands to create campaigns that are highly targeted and reach the right audience. This shows the scale of social media and the opportunity brands have to reach a large audience but also the right one.

Despite there being a potential huge audience in the hundreds of millions, brands won’t get noticed if they don’t capture people’s attention. So what underpins any social media strategy is content that forces people to read, watch or listen and then share it round their network. This is why Draw Something exploded in popularity. The sketches that people drew and the game itself were the content that captured people’s attention and made them share around their social media sites. So while social is the platform, it’s great content that engages people and creates the buzz.


How to pass the buck in the media

28 Oct

The longer I work in the communication biz I cannot look at a story without thinking who has placed it and the reason it is in the media. So when I saw an interesting story in the BBC earlier titled ‘Local Councils in England have £14bn in reserve’ it got me thinking.

The BBC ‘learned’ about the information so it has obviously been leaked to them, but for what reason and by who?

So you have to ask, what will the people reading the story think when they read it, also who benefits from this story and what they are trying to achieve by placing it?

We only have to go back a week and to the Coalition’s Comprehensive Spending Review. Now there were a lot of cuts that were announced by George Osborne, but the deepest of the cuts will fall on the local government budget at almost 30% over four years. With these deep cuts in the local government budget the Coalition’s strategy was to pass the tough decisions onto local councils, and as such help divert public resentment away from themselves.

However the Coalition has got a lot of bad media coverage nationally and locally about their decision to cut local government spending by so much. The BBC story is an attempt to deflect responsibility back onto local councils. By saying they have money in reserve and implying their coffers are bulging, the strategy behind this story is to once again put responsibility back on local government and show the public that any cuts are their own decisions and not that of the Coalition Government.

So this gives a reason why this story is in the media and also demonstrates that someone from within the government has given the BBC this information.

Ed’s union backing will strike a chord with Tory spin

26 Sep

The media are running with the line that Ed Miliband was elected as Labour leader and the Conservatives are bound to pick up on this and run with it – is because of the support of the unions. As Nick Robinson on his BBC blog said: ‘ His brother David won the first three rounds of voting and won more support amongst MPs and MEPs and ordinary party members. What clinched the contest was the votes of union members – a fact that will be deployed ruthlessly by his political enemies.’

Now the Tories have the perfect attack on Ed Miliband and therefore the Labour Party. We have already seen a number of protests and strikes from unionised workers and as we all know major cuts will be coming in October, this will lead to more industrial action.

It gives the Tories a narrative to attack Labour and it gives the media a story. It is an extremely powerful message and one that is already no doubt being fleshed out by Tory strategists.

The Tories can paint Ed M as being indebted to the unions. It will be an extremely powerful line, one that will almost certainly be picked up by a media that is sympathetic to the government, and a message is likely the resonate with the pubic. Instead of people such as Bob Crow (head of the RMT union) becoming the cause of annoyance and figures of hate, it will become Ed Miliband and as such the Labour Party.

Although people will be angry at cuts to their services, they also get angry when their lives are disrupted. Look at the recent strikes by RMT workers that put a stop to large sections of the London Underground. People do not care about whether ticket offices remain open, what they do care about is that their journeying around London was disrupted. If the action of unionised members affect people’s lives the Tories will try to get Miliband to denounce them, if he does not they will say it is because they got him elected. This is not a new strategy, but it will be more powerful on Ed and will be more powerful because of the cuts that will be coming. It may help deflect some of the public anger away that is coming the Tories’ way and shift it onto Labour.

So how does Ed Miliband and Labour combat this forthcoming attack? Simple it needs to tell a story why the unions are striking and link it back to direct decisions the government has made.

Labour has to get across that they support the unionised members because they are ordinary hard-working people who are merely opposed to vicious cuts imposed by the coalition. Another powerful counter is that members are not striking to save their jobs but to protect the services that everyone in our country  rely upon. That they do not strike because of some dogma, they strike to try to save the services that people need, unlike Tory cuts which are driven by a party doctrine.

Will women walk if Nike continues to support sponsored athletes like Rooney and Woods?

11 Sep

Legendary Romanian tennis player Ilie Năstase had just won his second Grand Slam, triumphing over Nikola Pilić in straight sets at Roland Garros to win the 1973 French Open. He won the US Open the previous year and was now the World’s number one tennis player. So he seemed like an obvious choice to be paid to wear Blue Ribbon Sports’ new tennis shoe.

He was the first person the company endorsed and he would be the first in a long line of winners and champions that the company would align itself with. But Năstase was also a notorious womaniser, he was named by Maxim magazine in its top ten “Living Sex Legends” list, reportedly having slept with over 2,500 women. This was a sign of things to come for the company, as he would be first in a long line of their winners and champions who would cause sexual scandals. When Năstase’s career petered out in the late 70s Blue Ribbon Sports turned to a new tennis star. The company signed up John McEnroe in 1978 and in the same year renamed itself Nike Inc.

Sponsoring the world’s greatest athletes is a massive part of Nike’s marketing strategy and they now have sponsorship deals with thousands of sports stars and sports team around the world. And just like Ilie Năstase did, a raft of Nike’s sponsored athletes have caused scandal recently with lurid tales of their private lives.

A string of Nike’s athletes have been involved in murky sexual dealings recently. Wayne Rooney reportedly slept with vice girls, Tiger Woods cheated on his wife with a string of women, Christiano Ronaldo fathered a love child, Ashley Cole is now divorced after bedding a number of women, and Frank Ribery solicited sex from an underage prostitute.

But what happens to the public’s perception of Nike when their athletes go bad, does it adversely affect Nike’s brand and reputation and have a knock on effect on their sales?

Nike seem bullish about their long term sales prospects, they reckon by 2015 its revenue will have risen by 40% to $27 billion. But in the short term there has been a massive hit on one of their brands, sales of its Woods branded golf merchandise has slumped, this come at a time when golf apparel sales overall are on the up. But is this sales slide due to Woods’ infidelity or the fact he has not been playing as much golf, and when he has been playing he has not been winning?

So there seems to be a short term hit on one of Nike’s brands but what is the long term damage? Nike has stood by their athletes, generally releasing statements saying it is a private matter for the stars. But by standing by their athletes – and effectively not condoning their behaviour – is the company doing serious damage to its brand in the eyes of the public and specifically women?

We look at the actions of Rooney and Cole who have allegedly wronged their other halves, Coleen Rooney and Cheryl Cole, who are both role models and are viewed very positively by women in the UK. Would Nike supporting athletes such as Cole and Rooney have more of an effect on whether women choose Nike over its rivals, or does Nike’s association with top women athletes have more of an effect? What would be the stronger influence in the mind of women when choosing a sporting goods brand, is it positive role models the brand associates itself with or the brand not condoning the sleazy antics of its male athletes?

How the ‘Ground Zero Mosque’ has been positioned

24 Aug

'Ground Zero Mosque' protesters

There is a right old kick off in America about a muslim community centre and mosque planning to be built a few blocks away from the site of the World Trade Centre.

As Charlie Brooker puts it:
Millions are hopping mad over the news that a bunch of triumphalist Muslim extremists are about to build a “victory mosque” slap bang in the middle of Ground Zero.

The planned “ultra-mosque” will be a staggering 5,600ft tall – more than five times higher than the tallest building on Earth – and will be capped with an immense dome of highly-polished solid gold, carefully positioned to bounce sunlight directly toward the pavement, where it will blind pedestrians and fry small dogs. The main structure will be delimited by 600 minarets, each shaped like an upraised middle finger, and housing a powerful amplifier: when synchronised, their combined sonic might will be capable of relaying the muezzin’s call to prayer at such deafening volume, it will be clearly audible in the Afghan mountains, where thousands of terrorists are poised to celebrate by running around with scarves over their faces, firing AK-47s into the sky and yelling whatever the foreign word for “victory” is.”

The way the development has been framed by its opponents has been a fantastic piece of PR positioning. The term ‘Ground Zero Mosque’ provides a media friendly soundbite that sticks in people’s minds. It is a term that creates a powerful picture and one that stirs up emotion and controversy. Although the building is not really a mosque  and will not be built at Ground Zero. In fact it will be built nearly 200m away and will be community centre which will include a swimming pool, gym, theatre and various sports facilities.

Now the media has run with this story because it provides a fantastic narrative for them, it is controversial and there are two very vocal opposing sides of the debate.

24: action/drama or advert/drama?

12 May


Just one of the many shots of a Dell computer shown in TV show 24


I am becoming a  brand geek. While on a marathon session of watching a box set of 24, I couldn’t help but notice a brand after brand popping up on screen.

In my defence it is not hard to notice brand after brand after brand on 24 – it is a television show that is particularly heavy on product placements.

In earlier seasons of 24 Apple paid to have its Mac computers splashed across our TVs. In season one Jack and the fellow good guys used Macs and the terrorists and associated bad guys used computers with a Windows system.

Two giant computer makes, Dell and Hewlett-Packard, have paid to have their brand placed into series four of the show. Practically every time a computer in the Counter Terrorism Unit is shown, which is the main setting of the show, you saw Dell or HP logo.

This is the perfect association for both of these American companies. Not only are HP’s logo and Dell’s logo continually flashed at people, but they are creating a perception that their computers are cutting edge. They are showing consumers their computers are capable of tackling some of the most technologically advanced terrorists that the US of A has faced, they perform some of the most complex computing tasks at top speed and they do it all without crashing.

Now both HP and Dell have paid huge amounts of money to have their brand used in this way in the show. But I was shocked when star of the show Jack Baeur (a Federal Agent) has to hide out in a house. Now he needs a computer. This is the transcript from the scene:

Tony ‘What kind of communication do you need?’

Jack ‘A wifi and a hardline.’

Tony ‘Ok we will go back to my place.’

Jack ‘OK, thank you Tony.’

Tony ‘Wait til you see it before you thank me.’


An old school Dell computer being used by Jack Bauer in 24


When we get to the house we see Jack using a retro Dell system. It seems bizarre that Dell – who clearly have paid to have their logo shown in the series – would want people to associate their brand with outdated equipment and characters being derogatory towards its brand.

‘Jade Goody’ effect may save BBC Radio 6 Music

5 Mar

6 Music has received unprecedented publicity over the past few days when the news that it may close broke

In a round-a-bout way the threat that the BBC may shut down 6 Music could be the best thing to happen to the niche radio station.

The threat of the axe has provided an enormous amount of publicity for 6 Music. Suddenly everyone is talking about 6 Music. Our televisions, papers, magazines, social networking sites, forums, news websites and blogs, have been taken over by news and opinion about 6 Music.

The same thing happened when Jade Goody received the news she has cancer last year, she received far more publicity and coverage in the media when she was on her way out, and the same is now true for 6 Music.

Although the mainstream media broke the story about the possible closure of 6 Music, new media has taken the story over. The station seems to have a vocal core of supporters who are behind the online campaign to save it.

For a station with such a small audience the coverage has been nothing short of extraordinary. The loss of another digital BBC station, Asian Network, seems to have been drowned out by the mainstream because of this digital campaign to save 6 Music.

BBC Radio 6 Music has become a major trending topic on Twitter

However it is only natural that a digital campaign is behind the plan to save the digital station. Various campaigns have been set up on Facebook and a trending topic has been launched on Twitter. The publicity and online activity for 6 Music is great news for the station as its brand is being talked about on websites where you will find a chunk of its core demographic.

The hype around the station has been helped by a string of celebrities who have popped up to defend the station. Phil Jupitus, Lauren Laverne and Lily Allen have all had their say as to why the station should not be closed.

The celeb endorsement not only gives a chance for the mainstream media to keep the story alive and keep promoting the brand, but the endorsement is also picked up by their followers on social media.

And as people’s behaviour is hugely influenced by celebrities, 6 Music should be seeing a spike in listeners tuning in.

The closure is just about the most positive news that 6 Music could hope for as it attempts to increase on its 620,000 weekly listeners and maybe justify its existence.

The rabid defence of the network and the coverage in the media and on social media has so far been sensational PR for BBC 6 Music. And with this publicity it may make people think again about the station – not only the listening public but also BBC bosses.

No-one likes being called lazy

20 Feb



A product that insults people may make them think twice about buying it.


There are many ways to insult someone, but one of the easiest ways is to call them lazy. So it seems pretty daft that a brand would insult a consumer and then expect them to buy their product.

But this is exactly what this product called ‘Very Lazy’ does – it insults people.

At first glance the product sniffs of quality. I love how the label does not take over the packaging. It lets the attractive natural colour of the produce dominate and as a result it works well.

But they have got the branding of the product so very wrong. No-one likes being called lazy. We all may be a bit lazy from time to time but who in all honestly  is proud to be called lazy. So why would a consumer want to be associated with laziness. Products are supposed to make people feel good.

I can see why such a name may work for a product like this, people have busy lives so they don’t want to come home from a long day at work and start cooking a lengthy gourmet meal. People with modern lifestyles want food that is quick and easy to make, but also is tasty and nutritious. The product tries to position itself with good food that can be made speedily and easily. But there are far more positive associations of speed and ease that could be attached to the product.

‘Very Lazy’ is a horrible name for the product. It may as well be called ‘Sloth’ or ‘Can’t be Arsed’ or ‘Idel’.

Two-faced Tory marketing mantra

22 Jan

Latest Tory billboard campaign which was
rumoured to have cost the party £500,000

While Euro RSCG London may be getting a bit of a boost from the Tory party at the moment it is safe to say that the industry is going to take a battering if they assume power in the General Election.

George Osborne has said the Conservatives would cut the government’s advertising spend immediately if they are voted into power. He called the current spend ‘poor value for money’ and ‘excessive’. Gordon Brown said he would also cut the government’s marketing spend by a quarter but many have a horrible feeling the Tories want to go much further.

David Cameron echoed the views of his shadow chancellor by saying the current spend was ‘irresponsible’. You would get the impression that the Tories had a clear scepticism of the merits of marketing, PR and advertising from their less than positive comments. So it came as a surprise when Dave revealed that his party would spend the maximum legal limit of £18m on marketing during the upcoming election campaign. They are also expected to spend many more millions on marketing in the run-up to when the election is called.

And of course they have already released a string of high-profile and  expensive campaigns in the past six months or so. You can get an idea how much they are plowing into their campaign from their furious marketing activity and from a string of articles found on marketingmagazine.co.uk (here are just a recent few) – Tories look to recruit General Election brand manager‘, ‘Labour campaign funding on the slide as Tories launch poster offensive’ , ‘Conservative Party poster accuses Labour of class war’, ‘Conservative Party target younger voters with Spotify ad campaign’.

Will brands be leaving the Woods?

9 Dec

Two of the trio of champions have been causing trouble for Gillette.

There is a bit of rumbling in the press that Tiger Woods’ love of mistresses may cost a fortune in future careers earnings as sponsors look to distance themselves from the golfer.



The media are having fun with the news that Gatorade have dropped him due to his alleged flings with several women and the subsequent scandal it has caused.

He signed a deal with Gatorade in 2007 for what is believed to be worth $100 million over five years. But they announced they are set to axe their Gatorade Tiger drink, however the PepsiCo brand says the decision to drop the drink was made months ago, the scandal is just a happy coincidence they say.

Woods also has deals with Cadillac, Accenture, AT&T, TAG Heuer, Electronic Arts, Nike and of course Gillette, that have helped him become the world’s first dollar billionaire sportsperson, according to Forbes. All these sponsorship deals and endorsements actually make up 90% of Tiger’s income.

Nielsen, the US TV ratings and advertising measuring guru, says there has been a Tiger Woods advertising blackout since two days after the scandal broke. Despite the research by Nielsen, Woods’ sponsors say they have not changed their advertising plans have said they are sticking with their media schedules.

One brand to stand by their man is Nike who issued a statement backing Woods last week.

But out of all the brands I feel sorry for Gillette, they are having a right old tough time with their sponsors of late. We all know Thierry Henry was a very naughty boy, and it seems that Woods has been a very, very naughty boy. They must be nervous that a scandal will break about Roger Federer. Behind his squeaky clean image Gillette must be terrified he is actually a crack addict who he enjoys nothing more than kicking puppies and is having a sordid affair with Sue Barker. My money is on the affair.

In the eyes of the sponsors Woods is damaged goods and they will no doubt be scrambling to get away from anything to do with him. It was his golfing ability that made his name but it was a nice-guy family image that built his brand to allow him to become a billion dollar sportsman. But in my very humble opinion what Henry did is far worse than what Tiger has allegedly done. Tiger’s cheating is nowhere near as bad as Henry’s. These men have lucrative sponsorship deals because they rose to the top in their particular sporting arena. They became the best of the best. Gillette sponsors them because they are champions. They were not chosen because of their apparent wholesome family image but they have both been endorsed by brands as they symbolise excellence, winning and success. They have been sponsored because of their profession and not their private life.

Tiger may have cheated in life but Henry cheated on the field of play, he cheated in his profession, and this is worse in my mind. Henry handled he ball not once (perhaps forgivable), but twice in order to direct it onto his foot, onto William Gallas and into the goal. It was a clear breach of the fair play ethos of what football, being a sportsman and a role model should all be about.

Henry and Woods are sponsored by Gillette because they are sportsmen, but Henry’s conduct was terribly unsportsmanlike. While Gillette stood by Henry and backed him up almost immediately they have so far remained quiet on Woods, they are no doubt waiting for the scandal to reveal its full extent. Their silence on Woods’ behavior is likely to mean that they will be dropping him or at least scaling back their use of him in their marketing activities. But if they were to drop anyone it should be Henry for his reputation has been damaged beyond rehabilitation. If anything would make me consider boycotting Gillette it would be because Henry and not Tiger Woods.

Spoon full of Jedward is the medicine for ITV

2 Nov

The X Factor's ratings have skyrocketed due to Jedward's 'John Sergeant' effect

The X Factor’s ratings have been sky high this year and media analysts are predicting bumper ratings and bumper advertising revenue for ITV this Christmas. And what are they saying is the cause of the higher viewing figures? That’s right you get guessed it, the terrible twosome, John and Edward Grimes. 

Broadcastnow is predicting a 20:20 Christmas present from X Factor to ITV. They expect up to 20 million people to tune in for the finale which would mean an extra £20 million for struggling ITV.

Certain media analysts are putting the jump in people watching down to the ‘John Seargeant’ effect they boys have had. As I predicted in a previous post the hype surrounding the lads has been great publicity for the show and has helped ramp viewing figures up.

High profile performances from some of the world’s top artists will have undoutbaly helped X Factor attract more viewers, but many a expert say Jedward is the casuse of the X Factor’s ratings boom.

Media agency PHD’s broadcast director Andy Spray told broadcastnow.co.uk the boys were having a big impact: “It’s brought the show back to being about entertainment, which in turn generates more press. If the twins make the final, there could easily be 20 million plus watching.”

X Factor has not only seen inflated viewing figures but also a surge on the X Factor’s website and with a separate show on Sunday viewers have more time to vote for the favourite act, which means more money generated through phone lines and the red button.

And now The Sun says it has a bit of proof that Simon Cowell is actually a fan of the boys. Publicly he’s the boy’s fiercest critic, he leads the nation in their hatred of the young Irish twins. It is his criticism that is fueling the hype surrounding the lads, he is making sure the press have something to report on and making sure they get an abundance of column inches. And in doing so ensuring the X Factor has free publicity and remains in the spotlight. 
You never know he may genuinely hate the boys, but I very much doubt it. The boys would have never made it to the live finals without the support from Cowell. He knows the industry inside out and he would have known from the off the boys would be an entertainment and PR sensation.

Cowell will only want one thing this Christmas and that is John and Edward to make it to the final. After all he’s an executive producer of the show and his production company, SyCo, produce the X Factor. Higher ratings this time round means more money for Cowell and his company to produce the show next time round.

NHS strays into political advertising

29 Oct

NHS campaigns have a habit of catching people’s attention by creating harrowing scenes, using powerful imagery or landing a shocking message. But while browsing the Manchester Evening News’ website I came across this piece of advertising from a coalition of Greater Manchester PCTs that caught my eye.


The NHS flash ad on the MEN website (left turns into right)

The advert is promoting the supposed benefit of introducing a minimum price on a unit of alcohol and links to this website (which bizarrely has no mention on minimum alcohol pricing). This is a strange piece of NHS advertising as it’s political. Should the NHS be advertising to try to promote a change in the law? They have strayed into political advertising and this is not the kind of stuff we usually see from them. Their advertising is normally limited to public health advertising and the occasional recruitment campaign. 

I suppose it grabbed my attention after the all the commotion the British Medical Association created last month by calling for a blanket ban on alcohol advertising in the UK. The BMA want two things – marketing alcohol to be banned and a minimum price per unit of alcohol.  

It is fair enough for the BMA have their say on the issue of binge drinking as they are a pressure group, but the NHS is a government organisation and you would think they would be only allowed to advertise government policy or messages the government wants to promote.

Moirgate: Update

23 Oct

There’s still no advertising around Jan Moir’s column on MailOnline. I wonder how long it will be before brands begin marketing around a Moir piece again? It could be some time and even when someone does there will be an inevitable backlash against the company, orchastrated of course through cyber space pretty much in the same way Moir was targeted. 

It has been fairly lonely around a Moir piece as of lately due to her controversial views on the former Mr Gatley

It has been fairly lonely around a Moir piece as of lately due to her controversial views on the former Mr Gatley.



So as I like a bit of a gamble, I have decided to place odds as to when a company will take the plunge and agree to their product being shown next to Jan Moir’s smiling face. 

* 1 week : 480/1
* 2 weeks: 267/1
* 3 weeks: 156/1
* When the Advent calendars go up: 114/1
* By Christmas Day: 113 /1
* By New Year’s Eve 2010: 10/1
* Never ever: 5/1

Disclaimer : These odds have absolutely no meaning whatsoever, I cannot take any bet you may want to place as I have little money. Please go to a reputable bookmaker to satisfy your all your Jan Moir related gambling requirements. 

It’s not going to be easy selling ad space next to a Jan Moir piece from now on

16 Oct

Jan Moir's article on Stephen Gatley has caused an advertising blackout on the Mail Online page around her piece.

The Daily Mail’s sales team must be looking forward to getting back to work on Monday. It’s no doubt been fun trying to sell advertising space in the paper and on the website with the Credit Crunch and recession, but now they also have to deal with the fall out from a gay-bashing columnist. 

As you probably have heard Jan Moir made some pretty incentive (that’s putting it nicely) comments about Stephen Gatley and the wider gay community.

The general gist of what she was trying to say is that Stephen Gatley’s homosexuality somehow led to his death and as such it brings into question civil partnerships.

First her comments about Gatley: “And I think if we are going to be honest, we would have to admit that the circumstances surrounding his death are more than a little sleazy. After a night of clubbing, Cowles and Gately took a young Bulgarian man back to their apartment. It is not disrespectful to assume that a game of canasta with 25-year-old Georgi Dochev was not what was on the cards.” 

And now her opinion on gay marriage: “Gay activists are always calling for tolerance and understanding about same-sex relationships, arguing that they are just the same as heterosexual marriages. Not everyone, they say, is like George Michael. Of course, in many cases this may be true. Yet the recent death of Kevin McGee, the former husband of Little Britain star Matt Lucas, and now the dubious events of Gately’s last night raise troubling questions about what happened.”

A lot of people became enraged and as such there has been a barrage of criticism in the media, on the blogs, Facebook and Twitter. This in turn has led to a record number of complaints being made to the Press Complaints Commission. But does the Daily Mail really care if the PCC takes up the case, let’s be honest it’s a fairly toothless organistion with limited powers.

What is really going to worry the management at the Mail if there is a backlash from companies and a drop in advertising revenue. Brands have been quick to disassociate themselves with anything to do with Jan Moir after a well orchestrated Facebook campaign published telephone numbers of companies advertising around Moir’s piece. Marks and Spencer and Nestle demanded their advertising be taken away from around Moir’s column on the website, even though the Mail’s online team promptly removed all advertising from the page after it became apparent that her article hadn’t gone down too well. 

Time will tell what the ramifications for the Daily Mail will be. I can’t imagine any brands will want anything to do with Moir, it’s a fair assumption that the space around her articles will be ad free for some time.

John and Edward are a PR dream

11 Oct

X Factor's dynamic Dublin duo John and Edward

You would think that John and Edward were professional puppy killers or they invented cancer by the way they have been vilified by the media and become hated by large swathes of the population. Although disliked/hated/despised (delete as appropriate) by many, it’s lucky for the Irish duo that X Factor’s
producers seem to have taken a shine to them. 

And of course the pair are no doubt loved by the producers as they are a PR dream. The lads are a media sensation, they have created a press frenzy for the X Factor that none of the ‘talented’ singers have done. They have dominated the tabloids and every TV columnist has lined up to take shots at them, in doing so only fuelling the public’s hatred.

The strongest emotion we have by a long way is our love to hate and the public really seems to hate these boys. But all this hatred is just fantastic news for X Factor’s producers, who will be wishing these boys stay in the competition for a good few weeks.

The longer they do stay in the competition the longer the show will keep hold of people’s attention. When people talk about the X factor they are talking about these two boys. Just check out Facebook, John and Edward are a hit and have generated far more interest than any of the other big names in the competition – Olly Murs, Stacey Solomon, Lucie JonesDanyl Johnson or Joe McElderry.

There are quite a number of groups that have cropped up in honour of the lads, here is a selection of just a few – ‘We HATE John and Edward’ (by far the most popular with over 80,000 members), ‘GET JOHN AND EDWARD OUT’, ‘john and edward the wankers that got through’ (my personal favourite) and ‘JOHN AND EDWARD SHOULD DIE’ (bit harsh). And to demonstrate how ‘popular’ they have become and to satisfy my apparent urge to draw graphs I have plotted each act’s biggest group/page by number of members (as of 8.30 11/10/2009) on Facebook.

XFac graphPeople may wonder why John and Edward made it to the live finals, Louie may have been accused of choosing them because they are Irish, but the main reason why are still in the X Factor is because of the producers. The longer the dynamic duo stay in the X Factor the longer the public will hold interest in the show and the higher the viewing figures will be which will be make the X Factor’s producers very happy indeed.

Imagine a world where Coke promoted Pepsi

30 Sep

A lovely view of Rochdale town centre

Think of the day if Coca-Cola advertised Pepsi on its cans, Vodaphone plugged T-Mobile’s latest new unlimited texts offer, Manchester United embossed ‘City Til I Die’ on their latest strip or Ronald McDonald handed out flyers for Burger King.

It’s pretty hard to imagine and you could argue that it would only happen in some crazy parallel advertising universe. Promoting your rivals seems bit a backwards strategy and let’s be honest its insane to even think about it, but not according to the communication crew at Rochdale council.

They have been advertising near by town centres and local markets on the back of their employee’s wage slips. Neighbouring towns, Todmorden and Hebden Bridge, have made an appearance and as they are just a short journey away should be considered fierce rivals to Rochdale’s own town centre. Although the adverts will no doubt put a few extra pennies in the council’s coffers, the possible long term damage is potentially disastrous.

For one Rochdale town centre has been going through a bit of a rough patch for the past few years, retailers have deserted the town in their droves only to be replaced with a bazaar of pound, pawn and phone shops. Town centre businesses need all the shoppers and custom they can get. So you have to wonder what the logic is behind actively encouraging people to go elsewhere. And the council is not just encouraging the general masses to go elsewhere it’s encouraging its own staff, its own representatives, the very people who are working to try and better Rochdale.

Also what kind of message does it send to council workers that their employer is promoting neighbouring shopping centres instead of its own? It almost shows a lack of loyalty and a lack of confidence in its own facilities. It is unimaginable to find ASDA promoting Tesco’s latest deals on the back of its employee’s wage slips, so why should Rochdale council promote rival markets?

This practice is inconceivable in the real world but somehow seems acceptable to communication professionals employed by Rochdale council.

McSpenses – is Parliament like McDonald’s?

23 Sep

Is Parliamentary business a lot like that of McDonalds While watching a bit of Question Time it was announced the head of UK McDonald’s will be a panelist in a few weeks time. This got me thinking how McDonald’s situation a few years ago is so similar to the row over MPs’ expenses.


McDonald’s came under intense pressure a few years ago from the media, the odd grassroots campaign and a lengthy libel case. It got so bad they even got their very own phrase coined in the dictionary. ‘McJob‘ basically describes a terrible job with little chance career development; apparently not many burger flippers were making it to the boardroom.

It was a pretty bad time for the public image of the company. They generally got a lot of pad publicity for a number of things, they took a battering in the media and through things such as McLibel and Super Size Me.

 As a result of all the fuss they changed. And by golly there can be no argument that they have.  They now have a healthier menu, their Happy Meals have the option of carrot sticks, grapes, orange juice and water. They are now a top employer and have all the official awards to back this up. They are now more open about the nutritional value of their food and what it is actually made of. A fantastic turn around for the company. As such they have had a lot of positive things to shout about and they will be the first to tell us all. One of their recent TV spots by ad agency Leo Burnett demonstrates their new business practices perfectly. 

They may have genuinely wanted to change their business, although you may take the view they were pressurised into changing due to the bad publicity. It was this drip, drip, drip of bad media coverage and the pressure that just kept building up until they hand was forced and they to change their business. 

In the same way this is true about MPs’ expenses. You get the impression that they don’t genuinely want to change, I doubt many of them want the public to know what they spent our money on. But it is a series of shocking revelations, the continued media coverage and public pressure that has forced Gordon Brown and his Government to do something. They know they have to change the system – which they have already started to do –  but they have been reluctant to do so. 

But if it wasn’t for the Freedom of Information campaign and then the subsequent revelations by the Daily Telegraph, the bad publicity, the media coverage and the subsequent demand from the public which followed, MPs would have continued business as normal.

The cost of delivering promotion

23 Sep

letter-ladyStill no word from Rochdale Council about the total cost of delivering their glossy PR magazine Local Matters. But I can now tell you it is likely to cost over £10,000 to deliver every issue.

I recently put a Freedom of Information request in to find out how much Local Matters costs to produce. It was revealed the mag costs around £20,000 per issue. However this figure was without the cost of delivering it to the thousands of homes across the Metropolitan Borough of Rochdale.

But after a bit of undercover reporting I can now tell you what the cost of delivering each issue of the magazine is likely to cost £10,143.*

The council informed me in their response that: “Local Matters is distributed by a local leaflet distribution company. Teams of staff deliver the magazine door to door, usually over a ten day period.”

So I approached a ‘local leaflet distribution company’ and asked for a quote.

My ‘magazine’ was exactly the same size, length, shape and weight as Local Matters. It was being delivered to the same number of homes, across the same area and over the same time scale.  

After a bit of haggling I was quoted £98 plus VAT for every 1000 leaflets the company delivered.

I was told it would be ‘quite some job’ delivering the leaflets due their size and weight and as such they would have to be delivered on their own.

And now with the cost of delivery, Local Matters is likely to cost over £30,000 to produce each issue. That brings the total cost of producing the magazine to £177,636 every year.

Again this raises a serious point about how the council communicates with the residents. Surely the keys points could be compressed into a regular email bulletin and then sent out to people in Rochdale. This would be more efficient, a lot cheaper to produce and also allow information to be sent out immediately. The only advantage Local Matters has is that it can get information to those without internet access. 

* This is only an estimate of what the council will be paying for delivering of Local Matters and is no way an exact figure.

The cost of promotion

23 Sep

Latest edition of Local Matters

Figures have revealed Rochdale council’s glossy PR magazine, Local Matters, costs a minimum of £116,778 to produce every year – that works out around £20,000 per issue.

I recently obtained these figures through a Freedom of Information request to Rochdale Council.

The magazine allows the council to get their uncensored message across to the people of the borough. Arguably this is a great way for the council to communicate with residents, as it allows them to say exactly what they want to say. They have free range to fill the mag with unedited stories and information that is totally on message.

But do the borough’s residents really need the council spending thousands of pounds on this magazine? Surely there are better, more imaginative ways in which the council can get its message across, and in a much cheaper way.

And with a squeeze predicted on local government finances after the next election, this kind of spending will surely be reigned in. As you read this Rochdale council is being forced into some tough choices on cuts, so perhaps it’s time for the council to get creative when it talks to the people. More effort could be used to get the council’s stories in the local media, and of course social media could be better exploited. Although they have made a tentative step into the world of Twitter, there have been a few irregular Tweets, more could be done to communicate through social media at a knock down price.

And back we go to the realities of money. The figure I have quoted is just a minimum cost of Local Matters, the final cost of will be much higher.

The total cost I have been given doesn’t include how much it costs the council to deliver the magazines to every home in the Borough of Rochdale – that’s of course Rochdale, but also Heywood, MilnrowLittleborough, Middleton and all the areas in between.

The council has for some reason exempted this information under Section 43, which basically protects business interests.

Don’t worry readers I immediately lodged an appeal to the council and I am eagerly waiting for their response.

They have slapped a section 43 on this piece of information and they say the reason is: “Rochdale Council believes that to disclose the information would prejudice the council’s ability to get good value for money when dealing with commercial companies.”

Now hold on Rochdale Council, the magazine is printed by a private company so why can I have this information and not information on the delivery cost.

It is not going to be cheap to hand deliver a thick, glossy magazine to tens of thousands of homes and this is likely to push the cost of the magazine through the roof.

The public have a right to know what the council is spending their money on and the council has no right to block this information. Local Matters is all about informing resident’s of the wonderful borough of Rochdale, so come on 

Full Breakdown of Figures
* 92,000 copies are produced every month.
* In the past 12 months Rochdale council have produced 6 issues.
* Local Matters costs the council the staff equivalent of approximately £9,000 per annum in editorial time and approximately £3,500 per issue in internal design time. The former figure excludes on-costs such as National Insurance.
* It costs £14,463 to print every issue.

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