Wednesday, May 31, 2006

Pay bonanza

Another day, another set of BBC pay rises that seem oddly divorced from reality.

I like the BBC, the 'Blue Planet', 'Spooks', 'Doctor Who' and BBC News Online. Fantastic all and one.

But after the radio salary bonanza (Chris Moyles £630,000, again why? BTW while we are on Moyles everyone seems to be in shock at how good he is on 'Celebrity X-Factor'. The Sun is even backing him to win the show - apparently he has redeeming features. And anyone who chooses the Kinks 'You really got me' can't be all bad, can they? Cowell called him a slightly bigger Robbie Williams. You've been warned) today it’s the turn of the new BBC Trust.

BBC chairman Michael Grade for instance is to get a 70% pay rise or £60,000 a year.

Inflation busting is one thing, but how do you come up with a figure of 70% for a job that calls on Grade to work four days a week.

Grade's rise comes as part of the corporation's board of governors making way for the new BBC Trust.

The BBC is advertising for trust members and really it sounds just like my kind of job.

The new vice-chairman of the trust for instance will get £75,000 a year, that's double again the £28,060 paid to Anthony Salz, the current vice-chairman of the board of governors.

It must be double your money week. Someone should have told me.

Even for the bog standard trust representatives from England, Northern Ireland, Scotland and Wales there is £40,000 on offer for two days a week.

You guessed it. That's up from £28,060 for one and a half days a week.

The remaining trust members will each receive £35,000 for two days, up from £15,963 for a day and a half.

Tuesday, May 30, 2006

Dating Ronald

Have you ever given much thought to Ronald McDonald's sex life? No me neither, but someone has.

In his new novel 'jpod' (a sort of follow-up to Microserfs) Douglas Coupland devotes much time to Ronald's sex life. It must be something to do with living in a log cabin in the middle of nowhere. Really, Doug you have too much time on your hands... which you have put to great use. Who knew there would be so many laughs to be had discussing the sex life of an asexual fast-food mascot clown.

The jPod, in case you were wondering, has nothing to do with Apple and is the name for a set of cubicles (or pod) in a games company where everyone is placed by HR simply because their surname begins with the letter J. Sort of random in an orderly HR kind of way.

And, of course, one thing the jPodders hate more than anything else is McDonald's, or at least that horribly processed smell of fast food that is referred to as the taint. When one character (evil Mark) brings the taint into the office, Ronald's sex life comes under the microscope.

"Maybe McDonald's food is the way it is because Ronald is lonely."
"Lonely? He's asexual."
"That doesn't mean he's not lonely. Maybe he needs a cat."
"I bet he's into water sports."
"No, that'd mess up his make-up."
"I think he's probably bi-curious."

And then...

"I wonder what he's like on a date?"
"Well you couldn't really got to a movie with him, because everybody would recognise him. No privacy. It'd be like dating Spider-Man."

The jPodders conclude that, like all clowns, Ronald probably sits alone (in Bel Air) and drinks wonder if the fame, the money and the fries is all worth it.

"We should find him a mate."
"Let’s all write to Ronald to explain why each of us is his ideal mate."

jPod is out on June 5.

War on America

The Daily Telegraph's "War on America" front page has been voted the most memorable of the last century in Newsnight's Big-Read-All-About-It initiative.

The front page from September 12, 2001 featured the unforgettable image of New York's Twin Towers ablaze and falling.


The competition, run in conjunction with the British Library, asked Newsnight viewers to vote for the most striking newspaper front page over the last hundred years. The Daily Telegraph front page, advocated by Dame Pauline Neville-Jones, won with 22.9% of the vote.

The full list of results is as follows:

1. War on America - The Daily Telegraph 22.9%
2. The First Footstep - Evening Standard 15.1%
3. Gotcha - The Sun 9.9%
4. Dunkirk Defence - Daily Sketch - 9.6%
5. Up Yours Delors - The Sun - 8.6%
6. He lied and lied and lied - The Guardian 8%
7. Freddie Starr ate my hamster - The Sun 7.6%
8. Mrs Pankhurst arrested - Daily Mirror 7.1%
9. Murderers - Daily Mail 6.2%
10. The War is Over, says IRA - Independent 2.6%
11. Games rocked by black power - Evening News 2.5% Posted by Picasa

Friday, May 26, 2006

Making a connection

And so to New York with Starwood Hotels for a media summit to talk about hotel branding. To be honest, I had never really thought much about this before for which I thought there had to be a really good reason... hotels don't really have brands.

They all look more or less the same and it's kind of difficult to pick out a Le Meridien from a Marriott or a Hyatt Regency. It's all heads on beds just with different logos on the ashtrays and towelling robes that you stuff in your suit case (not that I have been doing this, of course).

Then there are the bad ads that you see on CNN or in Conde Nast Traveller
with people on beaches and... more people on beaches. Possibly people in other places as well.

Starwood did actually talk a good game. It owns some world-class brands (Sheraton, W Hotels and Le Meridien to name three) and it has done, in recent years, something serious about branding such as hiring Steve J Heyer as CEO, who was most recently president and chief operating officer of Coca-Cola.

They actually hired a marketer as their chief who then hired another former Coke and P&G executive Javier Benito as chief marketing officer.

They talked a lot about marketing, how there had been no consistent spend on advertising and what there was had no "emotional connection". We watched some really good ads from the usual suspects Reebok, Nike, but others as well particularly some from a US insurance firm Geico, which dramatically outperformed expectation.

Unlike ads for hotels these ads were not interchangeable… before we then saw interchangeable new hotel TV ads with people jumping on beds for that essential Sheraton experience. Nothing to persuade you to pay a little extra for a room that you could get cheaper across the street on Expedia.

They just didn't say anything (lacked the "emotional connection" being talked about) and five minutes after they had been shown you would forget every detail about them other than they were generic.

But there was better. Strikingly simple and memorable ads for one of its newer brands, Four Points by Sheraton, (a moderately priced Sheraton with the emphasis being on the simple pleasures rather than paying for extras you'll never use).

No beds in sight, no beaches and not many people. A rocking chair moves slowly backwards and forward in one 15-second spot and a hand pops some plastic poppers in another. These ads actually did rise about the parapet -- they were distinctive and conveyed exactly what they set out to do: showing some of life's simple pleasures.

Coincidentally both sets of ads were created by Deutsch. Really, I would get them to try again on the Sheraton work or try someone else.

I did mention this to Javier Benito, but he was of course having none of it.

"They tested well", but then he had to say that. I should have asked him about his emotional connection. Then again…

The brand has done other things as well, like the Starwood blog,, which is really very good and has been mentioned along with GM's blog as being among the few corporate blogging outing that
have worked.

There's going to be more spend on advertising as well, as Benito admitted to date there had been no consistent spend on ads, which is something that defines the sector. Quite how much this will mean in actual dollars on ads above and beyond the $30m currently spent (mostly in the States) they're not saying.

Part of that will likely see a pitch for the recently acquired European based Le Meridien, which is parting company with TBWA\.

There are more brand extensions along the lines of Four Points, like the coming launch of the Aloft, a sub brand of the chic W Hotel, but more suburban and on the road. Budget, but cool with the DNA of W (of which there isn't one in London, but that looks like it is about to change in the near future).

All these innovations support what Heyer says when he was talking about being truly differentiated and driven by innovation and that brands are more than just logos, they are experiences.

This is all very well on paper, but the problem comes at the other end when you actually get into your hotel room and start to have that experience: when after your 12 hours of travelling (and that while everyone likes to travel, no one actually likes travelling) you get a surly check-in guy who thinks you're a moron (he might be right, but it's not in his remit to tell you), when find a bit of the shower hanging off, there's no bottled water, no tea or coffee and a Snicker's bar costs five bucks or there abouts.

Why is that? The Snickers, I mean. I didn't actually eat one, but they tried to charge me for it as everything in the mini-bar is on a sensor. If you move the Snicker they think you ate it. It's like big brother is guarding the snicker.

"Just breakfast and a Snickers?"
"Er, I didn't actually eat the Snickers, I just moved it."
"You moved it?"
"Yeah, I was going to eat it, but...I didn't."

He eyed me neutrally, no doubt thinking I ate it and, of course, I was going to, but then I picked up saw it was 280 calories and thought "well, I already consumed at least 5000 getting here in the last 15 hours with my non-stop grazing maybe I should eat the apples. No charge, or maybe it just wasn't electronically tagged.

I digress, I was going to say that when I was waiting to get a table at the New York Le Meridien's famous Norma's, the guy running the reservations desk called out for a "Gogor?" several times, before I lifted my head out the New York Times and got that maybe he was calling me.

Is that even a name? Possibly, but just not mine.


He shrugged in a kind of whatever names are mere details kind of way.

The point being, as Heyer said, people have more of a relationship with a bottle of Heinz Ketchup or Tide washing detergent because these brands deliver on their promise. Hotels have so much to deliver on and so much can go wrong, but then hotel rooms are a little more pricey than washing detergent.

But should you pass Norma's (at the Le Meridien) on 56 between 6th and 7th the blueberry pancakes are great. You just won't have any room for that compulsory second breakfast.

Saturday, May 20, 2006

Bring Back...Brut?

'Bringing back 'The A-Team' is one thing, but bringing back 'splash it all over' Brut? Oh will someone please stop Justin Lee Collins.

Last week's 'Bring back The A-Team' on Channel 4 should have been absolutely rubbish. Not because it was a bad idea, no, more because its presenter was the intensely annoying Justin Lee Collins.

He's hairy, he's a poor stand-up comedian and when his voice comes on the radio I have to switch it off. It's just too painful.

However, beyond the wildest of expectations Collins played a blinder and won everyone over with some genuine charm and produced a rather good bit of telly in his campaign to bring back 80s hokum 'The A-team'. You remember it, that tea time wonder of explosions, gunfire, bad scripts (more bad scripts, oh and more bad scripts) and some cigars, but hey they were Vietnam vets and had a cool van.

Really I couldn't care either way if they bring the show back or not, but you know when it does return (and it will) it will be as a movie (following in the footsteps of the upcoming 'Miami Vice' and 'Starsky & Hutch') starring big name actors with a walk on parts for our three aging 'A-Team' survivors.

Having a mini triumph, Collins now has a new plan: to bring back aftershave Brut.

The Brut brand is, of course, best remembered by a generation for its advertising campaign of the 70s and 80s featuring boxer Henry Cooper, who famously advised the public to "splash it all over". Kevin Keegan and the late great Barry Sheene also appeared in campaigns adding macho glamour to the product.

But really, its over, we've moved on, Brut's day has passed. The A-Team thing was funny (the previous 'Grange Hill' thing less so), but I fear Collins is about to Jump the Shark.

Collins told The Sun that he wear nothing else, but Brut (oh please). "I wear nothing else. It's my favourite scent in the world. I've loved it ever since I was a kid. I'm on a one-man crusade to try to make it popular again.

"Whenever I find some I buy as much as I can. You'd be amazed how many people come over and ask, 'Is that Brut?'"

Do you sense an imminent irony failure? I think so. Collins has used up all his allotted irony. He should move on. Sadly he will not.

Back on May 30.

Friday, May 19, 2006

The freakish 14

Is it just me or are this year's Big Brother wannabes worse than ever? I mean worse in a good way, of course, like a rubber-necking festival ogling a 14-body pile-up waiting to happen.

No cow either, how disappointing was that? Where was the promised cow with all the milking and cow pat fun during those long hot summer days? And Chantelle who was said to be coming back for another "OMG" trip through British celebrity TV land. Where is she? Vapid and dim she might have been, but a colossus in comparison. Okay, not colossus, but harmless and silly.

I watched the whole thing, thinking somehow that contestants would get better, but I wasn't thinking like a Channel 4 producer working on Big Brother.

That job is more akin of a crazed scientist wondering what will happen if he adds just a little more nitroglycerine and shakes?

Possibly lots of swearing, some shoving and maybe drunken snogging. Like last year when Makosi thought she was pregnant with 70s dancer Antony's offspring after frolicking in the pool. Sadly, the child of Big Brother was all in the former nurse’s mind.

This year they have a former Miss Wales. She apparently likes underwear and once spent £1000 on it. She had a fling with Dwight Yorke and is currently a bar hostess. I wonder where they met?

Imogen’s most outrageous experience was dressing up as a playboy bunny at her own party, but getting so drunk she passed out. Oh you get the picture.

The most grotesque entry was Lea 35, who was once 22-stone, but is now a car crash of plastic surgery with Euro Trash size MM superboobs. MM? Are you serious? Do they even make them that big? Apparently so.

She thinks Elvis is sexy and admits she's been celibate for a year because only the seedy guys are interested in her. Shocker.

Pete the tourettes suffer is like a Lee Evans clone. It's scary. The funny walk the…zero talent. It's all there and he is being tipped to win.

Pete says he "craves fame and would like to be a famous Touretter", like a famous majorette or something.

Whatever he's doing, bookmakers Paddy Power seem to think he can win. Oh please save us.

Darren Haines, spokesman for Paddy Power, said: "Pete wasn’t the only one swearing last night. Paddy Power’s traders were cursing as we were knocked over in the rush to back the bubbly Brighton lad, even as we cut his odds from 7/1 joint favourite to 10/3."

"There may be people criticizing Channel 4 but as far as viewers and punters are concerned, they can’t wait to support him with us."

Surprisingly underwear lover Imogen is proving the most popular girl so far and superboobs (let’s face it,as superhero powers go, big boobs are not going to save the world) looks likely to be the first to go.

It's going to be a long hot summer. Pop quiz: what ever did happen to those girls?

Foot in Moyles

Halle Berry gave Chris Moyles both barrels. You have to laugh when the larger than most DJ can hardly move without lumbering into one spot of trouble after another

Former Bond actress Berry,who was plugging her new X-Men movie, accused the Radio 1 breakfast show host of having a "racist moment".

The offensive one in some bizarre effort at humour started yelling in a bad American accent and claimed that he was a big fat black guy. "Put your hands in the air! I'm a black American guy. A big fat black guy."

Berry, possibly best known for blubbing at the Oscars and calling most of the industry racist, was not amused. "Are we having a racist moment here?"

Moyles, the (self-proclaimed) “saviour of Radio 1” who lost 300,000 listeners in the last quarter, was quick to deny the charging, saying no racism intended, but after Berry had gone he could not help himself. "What the hell was all that about? Oh, just get over yourself."

Moyles, who gives great offensive quote - remember the one about wanting to lead Charlotte Church "through the forest of sexuality" and then calling phone-in contestants children "f***ing brats", is due on Celebrity X-Factor soon. Word is that he will be blacking up to appear as one of his idols. Joke. Seriously, that was a joke.

Thursday, May 18, 2006

Ready Beanz

Heinz must be getting desperate with Branston biting into its market. That can be the only reason for launching ready made beanz on toast?

The new snacks come foil wrapped and are toasted in 60 seconds. You know, sort of like Kellogg Pop Tarts and presumably just as tasty.

Apparently, Heinz has also worked out just how many beans are needed to stop the sauce leaking out and knackering your toaster. I imagine the answer is not very many.

Heinz has tried various product innovations before. There was the horrendous idea of the Beans Pizza. I don't know if this is still around, but bizarrely I just found someone waxing lyrical about them on market research site Ciao!.

Where the someone describes them as "one of the greatest food combinations ever". That's just plain weird.

I digress, the point is beans on toast is a fantastic snack. Student or no not. Personally beans on toast with cheese, but its been years since I tried either.

If you're struggling to remember how it's done and its been a while since you enjoyed this snack. The Sun has handily provided a reminder guide to making beans on toast.


Could it be that Emirates, sponsor of the new of Arsenal's Ashburton Grove Stadium, had been planning something of a nice big congratulatory ad campaign this morning for the beaten Gooners?

It's one explanation for the pages of ads it ran this morning in The Times, Independent, Guardian and Daily Telegraph... proclaiming that it has ordered 45 Airbus 380s.

The ad ran over four pages in The Times, with copy drawing attention to the fact that the A380 lands at Heathrow today for the first time.

Noteworthy surely, but surely there's more mileage if you've spent £100m sponsoring Arsenal's flashy new stadium and they had looked set to beat Barcelona in Paris last night to win Europe's biggest trophy. Emirates had already ran goodluck ads.

Sadly, reality got in the way and disaster struck after Jens Lehmann was red carded just minutes in leaving a 10-man Gunners to crash heroically to a 2-1 defeat and leaving Emirates media agency MediaCom with a quick ad change.

Wednesday, May 17, 2006

Biggest Big Brother ever

It starts tomorrow at 9pm, it will run all summer, and is set to be the biggest money-spinner for Channel 4 to date.

Channel 4 isn't saying how much it makes from Big Brother, but with a longer run and more contestants the station has probably added substantially to what it will coin in.

There will be free videoclips this year and a big deal with, which will stream highlights.

William Hill predicts the show will lead to the biggest betting spree in reality TV history, with an estimated £10m set to be waged.

Not to mention the Golden ticket that will see a member of the public chosen at random. The tickets, hidden in special KitKat bars, go on sale tomorrow with the competition finishing on June 2. Meaning a late house mate entry.

Channel 4 also seems to have gone out of its way to get an "attractive" looking bunch of wannabes, with at least two of them already tipped as potential winners.

And to make sure they get close, there are only nine beds for 12 housemates – oh there's a water bed as well.

Executive producer Sharon Powers said: "It’s up to the housemates to decide who sleeps where and ultimately who to sleep with on launch night."

Who knows what they are like, but there's been plenty that has been written. Mostly about former Miss Wales Imogen Thomas, who won her place in the final line-up after appearing on a test run of the show where she talked about sex... and then some more about sex.

A Channel 4 source said: "Imogen is wild, she flirted non-stop with the lads and girls. Every conversation ended up being about sex. She talked non-stop about the hunky models she bedded. She loves talking about sex and loves doing it too. She said she was single and looking for love.”

Apparently she is desperate to be famous and will do absolutely anything. She's already "dated" and "dumped" former Manchester United star and Jordan ex- Dwight Yorke.

Dwight was said to be besotted with Thomas, but she couldn’t quite see how he could progress her career. Either that or the fact that his current club Sydney FC is a little bit of slog to get to.

As well as Thomas, there's cross-dressing Tourette's syndrome suffering Peter Stephenson. Not only does he swear all the time, but he punches himself as well.

He is also said to be really good looking, in a band called Daddy Fantastic, and likes to whip out his manhood out with friends. That's a bit strange isn't it?

Tuesday, May 16, 2006

Superman returns

Looking a little like the frontpage of the Daily Planet, Total Film has a lenticular 'Superman Returns front cover out this month, if you squint really hard you can just about pic out a few clues to the plot of the Summer blockbuster as Superman returns to Metropolis.

Inside Total Film has the scoop on relative unknown, Brandon Routh, who beat hotly tipped Hollywood stars to the role of the mighty spandex one as well as ten-pages of features tracing Superman from his comic book roots, through to the TV spin-off 'Smallville' and the new movie.

Desperately seeking mom

McDonald's can't do anything right and its latest PR effort to form a panel of 'global celebrity' moms and ordinary housewives smacks of desperation.

You know its desperation as rather than get a substantial panel it is selecting "nine moms" globally. Nine count them. That's one from the UK, one from the US, one from Germany and one from China with the rest from some other countries that you probably don't care about.

But in all just nine, I mean seriously what kind of panel is that?

They're not even ordinary mums, they some of the nine local contestants are celebrities like German Olympic skier Christa Kinshofer and US speed skater Bonnie Blair.

McDonald's says the panel is part of its, "ongoing commitment to connect more closely with customers".

Connect with their customers? If that's the case why did they choose a skier and a skater? These are exactly the kind of people who would never let their kids go into MacDonald's and never go in themselves.

There is no UK representative, but looking at those chosen so far its going to be someone like Sharron Davies.

What McDonald's really mean is that it’s a chance to connect with some really healthy looking former athletes who would not let the fatty unhealthy food it produces anyone near their loved ones.

The more I read of the story in Marketing this morning the more I thought it had to be a joke or a PR whiz, marketing plan drawn up on the back of a napkin. McDonald's is good at Napkin Marketing.

Like the time recently where it introduced a deli menu before pulling it, leading to the restaurant chain's chief operating officer, Mike Roberts publicly saying that he was not "overly impressed with how Toasted Deli Sandwiches have rolled out in the UK" or when it introduced its 'Sex and the City' salad campaign under the delusion that young health conscious women would be coming through its fast food doors.

Does Mcdonald's actually know who its customers are? You have to wonder.

Monday, May 15, 2006

Milking it

Channel 4 looks like it will try to equal Five's pig-pleasuring episode on 'Big Brother' this year with the introduction of a cow when the housemates enter on Thursday. No, not one of the housemates, an actual cow.

The cow is replacing the chickens on 'Big Brother 7', so having seen Rebecca Loos pleasuring a pig on its minor celebrity fest 'The Farm', we will now get to see fame-hungry Big Brother contestants milking it for all their worth udders and all.

Apparently, the chickens are out because of bird flu, which seems a bit harsh. We could have had a TV version of 'Outbreak', except without Dustin Hoffman, Renee Russo and Cuba Gooding Jnr.

With the chickens gone, no more will we get scenes like Darren Ramsey (cast your minds back: he came third in the first series) who loved the birds so much he went on to score a £100,000 deal with Chicken Tonight before promptly disappearing.

Apparently, housemates will actually have to drink the milk that that the cow produces and will be denied milk on their weekly shopping list.

Be sure to watch out for guaranteed hilarity, as some of the 11 housemates will no doubt display Jade Goody levels of insight and be shocked to learn that milk really does comes from cows.

BB executive producer Phil Edgar Jones said the cow idea was one C4 had wanted to do for sometime, but earlier plan had been killed off by foot and mouth.

With booze free flowing, there is bound to be some Kurt and Ram ('Heathers') style efforts at cow tipping, as one housemate tries to convince the other housemates that, yes, you really can tip sleeping cows.

Friday, May 12, 2006

Perve & Oggle

P&O, judging by a new World Cup viral, seems to stand for Perve & Ogle or at least that's the impression you get after watching this shameless piece of sexist nonsense.

A bunch of models in crop tops and knickers squeeze into a VW Camper van with close-ups and action replays (it's weakly football-related) on backsides and busts.

There is a lame voice over with such lines as "there's no doubt about the fitness of the squad...(geddit?)" and on it goes.

The 60-second viral has been created by Designate ("the travel, tourism and leisure specialist communications agency") as part of P&O's drive to "put the fun back into ferry travel".

Hang on I missed something there? There's fun in ferry travel? The prize is a VW Camper van. Apparently every camper van in Britain has been bought up and they're all heading to the World Cup.

OK, I get that some people will love this as much as they love Page 3, It's like Nuts and Zoo on TV, which is exactly the audience that Designate say they were after. Young lads, apparently they are the future of ferry travel. The future? I'll be on the Eurostar, car and all.

But I can't be the only one who finds this slightly offensive (possible sense of humour failure here)?

See for yourself. Harmless fun or sexist twaddle?

No mingers

The Sun cuts straight to the central issue of ‘The Apprentice’ this morning, asking the question: Would blonde Michelle have won if she was a minger?

The paper has devoted a double page spread to the subject with the headline "Would she have won if she was a minger?"

I wasn't one of those who watched 'The Apprentice' obsessively, but having seen the rest of the contestants Michelle didn't really have a lot of competition in the looks department.

That isn't being harsh -- there were some personalities on the show, but only the smiling blonde, who today is displaying a perfect set of shiny white teeth in the Sun, was particularly attractive.

Most people seem to think that Ruth Badger was the real leader of the pack, but clearly not as obviously attractive as winner Michelle.

To be fair, Michelle had the best nickname, 'The Silent Assassin', for her ability to remain cool under pressure. That's like a superhero name, you could see her wielding swords and taking people out with a name like that. And you need to be super good-looking for that kind of work.

Talking of swords and taking people out, Uma Thurman is on 'Jonathan Ross' tonight or as the BBC release refers to her the "leggy Hollywood star". While she's talking about her new movie 'Prime' (older woman younger man romcom).

Ross will, of course, get down to the issues, not that it's about looks

"I was always physically insecure … big feet, too tall, not co-ordinated or together," Uma says.

It’s a tough life.

Thursday, May 11, 2006

Mackenzie returns

Kelvin MacKenzie is back at The Sun today with a new column. Is this a shot across the bows of editor Rebekah Wade?

It looks like all change. While Wade might be known as being close to the Tony Blair, MacKenzie wastes no time in using his first column to put the boot in.

"I haven't enjoyed myself so much in years. Watching the Blair project collapse in ruins is fantastic."

Ouch. Of course, MacKenzie likes to put the boot in and the French get a kicking as do Heather Mills-McCartney (or "monopod" to Kelvin), the liberal classes and Chelsea goalkeeper, Petre Chech.

MacKenzie's return to the paper, after selling TalkSport and seeing Highbury House crumble, he edited for so long and gave us so many classic headlines (see Gotcha) hasn't exactly been trumpeted.

Sure it is flashed on the frontpage, but with a flash in the bottom left corner that gives you the impression that the Ross Kemp-beating Ginger Ninja wasn't exactly thrilled to have MacKenzie back as a star columnist.

No one likes a former editor looking over their shoulder, particularly one who is known to get on well with the head honcho Rupert Murdoch, who like everyone else is concerned about falling sales figures at his flagship tabloid, which recently hit a new low.

It seems unlikely that MacKenzie would ever return to newspaper editing, but is this another sign that Wade's tenure at Wapping is coming to an end?

Lace deal

Has Interpublic had to pay Garry Lace off? It seems that way. After months of waiting, the verdict is in and Lace has resigned from Lowe London, not that the result was ever anything but a foregone conclusion.

Interpublic slipped out a short statement last night after its latest set of poor results, saying only that following his suspension Lace had resigned as chief executive of Lowe and that neither side would be making any further statement. It's all terribly confidential.

The story seems to be that having hastily jumped to suspended Lace, Interpublic found nothing on him after its investigation and has had to quietly pay him off. Well as quietly as you can when it is being reported all over the industry.

Initially, Lowe had promised everyone a speedy inquiry with a decision by the end of March, but then April came and went and May got under way and still no decision.

At one stage, Lace had been rumoured to be preparing a counter lawsuit against Lowe, but that idea seems to have quietly gone away as did any talk of punitive damages against Lace.

It all points to an investigation that found nothing and the long delay giving the lawyers on both sides to come up with a deal that was agreeably to all concerned.

Interpublic, of course, suspended Lace over supposed meetings with Sir Frank Lowe. They doubtless took place, but probably weren't about Lace joining Sir Frank or launching a start-up agency.

That's almost certainly what Interpublic's investigation revealed before its lawyers hashed out a deal and it handed over a cash settlement marking, just another in the episode in 'Intepublic: A Serious of Unfortunate Events'.

With no suit against it and Lace not on the receiving end of any punitive damages, Lace should be free to back behind a desk some where in London's agency land. Don't expect to wait long for that.

Wednesday, May 10, 2006

The short Chantelle story

Celebrity publishing has reached a new… something or other, with news that 'Celebrity Big Brother's' Chantelle is to publish her autobiography.

She's signed a £300,000 deal hot on the heels of Billie Piper, who signed some similar kind of big-money deal for a ghost written book.

Chantelle rose to fame five months ago when she entered the 'Celebrity Big Brother House' and has since been relentlessly flogged by PRs and Channel 4. She might be getting married to serial marriage proposer and Preston of indie band The Ordinary Boys .

Five months? An autobiography? Surely it should be a short story littered with the phrase "Oh my god". If she runs into trouble I'm sure Victoria Beckham would take her call. Posh last year told us "I haven't read a book in my life" despite having "written" one: Learning to Fly. Clearly, Learning to Write was rejected as a title.

Hopefully, some of Chantelle's choice Big Brother lines will be reprinted for...errr prosperity.

On George Galloway: "He's a right chauvinistic pig, whatever that means." And on hearing basketball player Dennis Rodman boast of sleeping with 2,000 women: "That's more than 100! That's more than 500!"

I can just about see the case with Billie, who at 23 has been a celebrity of sorts since she was about 16. She married Chris Evans and stars in 'Doctor Who', she might have a few tales to tell, you know, if you care.

Clearly I'm not the target market for these books -- this new brand of autobiography is books written by those who don't write for those who don't read and they are a publishing sensation. Sharon Osborne's book and Jordan's 'Being Jordan' are massive hits. Not to mention Wayne Rooney, 20, who is apparenlty getting £5m for the story of his short life.

But five months of celebrity and a £300,000 deal? That's like half a BBC Radio presenter’s yearly salary.

Tuesday, May 09, 2006


Paddy Power is running a book on Newsnight's most memorable headline -- it might have only lasted one edition but the Sun's Gotcha (although not the favourite) has to be a possible winner.

The Sun ran the "Gotcha" headline after the British nuclear-powered sub HMS Conqueror sank the Argentine cruiser the Belgrano during the 1982 Falklands War. It only ran for one edition before it was pulled under then editor Kelvin MacKenzie although it was apparently uttered by the night editor.

It was published before anyone knew that 323 men had gone down with their ship. It was later replaced by a less jingoistic "Did 1,200 Argies drown?". Considering its short tenure in London editions only, it is still one of the best best known and infamous news headlines.

Paddy Power is backing the Daily Telegraph's stirring 9/11 front page "War on America" as its 2/1 favourite, ahead of the another infamous Sun headline "Freddie Starr Ate My Hamster" at 5/2.

Other frontrunners include the Standard's coverage of man's landing on the moon, "The First Footstep", at 9/2 and the Daily Mail's memorable "Murderers" about Stephen Lawrence at 6/1.

UK’s Most Memorable Headline

2/1 War on America – Daily Telegraph

5/2 Freddie Starr Ate My Hamster – The Sun

9/2 The First Footstep – Evening Standard

6/1 Murderers – Daily Mail

10/1 Gotcha – The Sun

14/1 Dunkirk Defences Defies 30,000 – Daily Sketch

14/1 Games Rocked by Black Power – Evening News

16/1 Up Yours Delors – The Sun

16/1 Mrs Pankhurst Arrested – Daily Mirror

20/1 He Lied, and Lied, and Lied – Guardian

33/1 The War is Over, Says IRA - Independent Posted by Picasa

Saviour of Radio 1

I've come to the conclusion that either the world has gone mad or I have finally lost touch with the cultural zeitgeist.

Yes, of course, I'm talking about Chris Moyles who is hereafter referred to as "the saviour of Radio 1 (self proclaimed)" as Radio 1 gets the station of the year gong at the Sony Awards. I'm sure its totally deserved.

The R1 breakfast show host won the Entertainment award last night, beating Chris Evans and Jonathan Ross. I suppose that is an achievement. Annoying motor mouth beats two other...

Other than Zane Lowe, is it really all about Moyles at R1? It seems hard to believe. If only the numbers didn't lie (no not the £630,000 salary) I mean the fact that the self-proclaimed saviour has added 1.2m listeners since he took over from Sara Cox and his show records 550,000 downloads. People really do like "the saviour of Radio 1 (self proclaimed)".

Fortunately, like all saviours they one day have to face their god and it turns out that for Moyles that will be Simon Cowell, who "the saviour of Radio 1 (self proclaimed)" will now face when he makes an appearance as part of the line-up on 'Celebrity X Factor'.

Can Moyles sing? It seems unlikely, and you just know that it's going to be bad. Actually according to Cowell (in the Sun), it's going to be worse than bad.

"This show is going to be two words -- 'car' and 'crash'."

This show sounds genius, let's hope Cowell is not overselling it as he is promising to surpass his usual level of meanness and be much tougher.

"I'm going to have fun with these celebrities. We can be very cruel indeed. We need to be that bit harder on them as they are famous already."

Who would have guessed? 'Celebrity X Factor' is going to be a car crash.

Monday, May 08, 2006

Taking a whack in Canada

This really made me laugh. Can't think why. 'Whack' a new Froster drink flavour, which is apparently the follow-up to last year's "hugely successful" Bloody Zit.

It must be a language thing. Clearly the meaning (I'm hoping at least) must be a little different in Canada and the idea of putting your hands to good use is really quite innocent.

As for the Bloody Zit, I'm not so sure about that one either. Somehow, I don't see either Whack or Bloody Zit winging their way to the UK anytime soon.

Fox that
Nick Pollard is off from Sky News as viewing numbers at the channel continue to fall. Could this have anything to do with what some people call the Foxification of the channel's news.

Rupert Murdoch has looked several times apparently at launching his Republican-supporting news and lots of comment station Fox News in the UK, but now seems to have given up on the idea. Instead Sky News is becoming ever more Fox like, which is a style quite alien to news junkies this side of the Atlantic.

A relaunch of the channel earlier this year introduced more Fox News-style slots, or "appointment to view" segments as Sky calls them.

They didn't the improve viewing figures, which post-relaunch are down to 4m from 4.6m while main rival BBC News 24 continues to race ahead. BBC News 24 seems to be getting ever more in its stride with big-name presenters from BBC One moving across in rising numbers to present slots. Recently we've seen the arrival of George Alagiah and Emily Maitlis.

BBC News 24 focuses on getting the news, while the impression Sky News gives is sometimes more comment than news. Clearly it’s this impression that viewers are getting as well, with News 24’s figures passing the 6m mark.

Friday, May 05, 2006

Blue is the colour

The Evening Standard did say when it relaunched there would be more colour. It was just never that specific on what the colour was going to be. Today's paper clears up any lingering doubt: it's blue.

"Blue is the colour" is the headline on this afternoon's edition with a standfirst telling readers how "Jubilant Tories crush Labour in London" before going on to talk about bloody noses.

When the redesign was unveiled Standard editor Veronica Wadley said that it would shift the paper very much towards a "London focus" with some ideas that will appeal to "younger urbanites".

Now what could those be? In case you had been left wondering, those ideas are a more partisan Daily Mail mini-me that not only gives you the latest London news (finally), but does so in a fashion that is likely to turn off even more readers. It's already down 7.12% year-on-year to just 331,512 (six monthly average), from 356,906, which are figures to be concerned about. It's last ABC is even lower 324,123 down 3% from February.

Today at least, and it’s hardly likely to be a one off, it takes on the mantle of the house journal of Conservative Party headquarters. Fair enough...if you have readers to burn.

More headlines inside tell how it was "The night that London showed Labour the door" despite Labour winning Lambeth, coming close to take Islington and holding over key councils across the city such as Haringey and Barking. OK, so Labour lost Camden, Hammersmith and Croydon, but who wants to live in Croydon?

As much as Londoners deserve a choice of political candidates in local elections it needs a choice of London newspaper. Roll on the launch of a new evening paper for the capital and some healthy competition for the Evening Standard.

The Evening Standard's owner Associated is said to be in the running for the London's new evening newspaper. Just imagine, it already has the Metro in the morning, the Evening Standard at lunch and in the evening the freedom to serve up a new title.

Chances are that London Mayor Ken Livingstone would never allow Associated to win. It would simply be too much for Ken to bear.

De Pouzilhac the Hack

What ever happened to everyone's favourite dapper deposed Havas chief executive Alain de Pouzilhac? It turns out he has a new job running President Chirac's planned rolling news channel.

With the catchy name of La Chaine Française d’Information Internationale, (surely up there with one of de Pouzilhac's old agencies, the much-missed Messner Vetere Berger McNamee Schmetterer/Euro RSCG) it’s the pet project of French president Jacques Chirac, who came up with the idea back in 2003.

after France's position on the Iraq war following the flack that the country came in for because of its position on the war in Iraq. Chirac was unhappy about the dominance of the English speaking BBC and CNN.

As with all things French, there has been no plain sailing, it's already lost one chief executive, and De Pouzilhac has upset Chirac over the crazed suggestion that the channel broadcast in English.

This plan was unpopular because only 80% of those watching would be English speakers admittedly some of whom have GCSEs in French. So there is a great French compromise. There will be two channels broadcasting the same programmes with one in French and one in English.

De Pouzilhac has also scrapped the name and is doing what he does best hiring brand consultants (bet Havas didn't get that call) to come up with a new name.

Read the rest in The Times today.

Skip this

Several reports out this week about the impact that personal video recorders could have on the advertising industry, with the latest giving a gloomy picture.

Earlier this week, the ad industry got to hear what it wanted to hear when it comes to personal or digital video recorders (DVRs) namely that the news was not as bad as first expected and that the TV ad industry is not facing death by DVR.

That piece of research found that ad-skipping was not as rampant as some had feared. It said that ad-skipping was not the main reason as to why consumers love DVRs.

Really? I feel impoverished not having, it (Telewest haven't got around to rolling it out and changing to Sky involves too much effort), and was reduced to taping a programme using my old VCR the other night.

It was the first time I had used it in close to two years. It wasn't even plugged in -- cue much fracking around with Scart cables and plugs. Later, when I came to watch the programme I had to get up off the couch and press the fast forward button by hand (remote long since lost/broken), but I still did this rather than suffer ad minutage (don't get me wrong I like good ads, I just don't want to watch them at home).

So really if you have a DVR and you can skip straight through the programme you are watching at the press of a button, ask yourself are you going to do it? Are you? Of course you are.

The research earlier this week claimed that people would actively choose to watch spots they consider entertaining. Maybe, but once, but after that? Face it most finance/detergent/coffee/food ads are not really that entertaining. Quite the opposite.

So out comes another piece of research from JupiterResearch that says that DVR ad-skipping could cost the TV ad industry $8bn. That isn't wiped out by any means, but it is a hell of a kick in the teeth.

Jupiter found that 53% of US DVR owners used it to skip ads and if those that do skip did it all the time (and why not?) it would equate to the loss in 2006 alone of $8bn out of the total of $74bn spent.

Last year research put the ad-skippers at much higher level saying that nine out of 10 users fast-forwarding through ads.

The $8bn talked about is high considering that penetration still has a long way to go (in the UK less than 10% of UK adults now have a DVR in their home). Look again 18 months or two years down the line when penetration has picked up and that figure might well have more than doubled.

That really would be bad news.

Thursday, May 04, 2006

Girls allowed

GQ has Girls Aloud on its front cover this month. I'm sure there is a really good reason for this.

A good reason other than, that is, they are young women with not a great deal of clothes on. Haven't skipped in a few pages, this month it is actually GQ's entertainment issue.

I like GQ and as usual there are some gems inside. For instance, there is an interview with the director (currently working on 'X-Men: The Last Stand') Brett Ratner, who at 37, is described as literally being GQ man. He is a multimillionaire, he drives a Bentley and has a girlfriend who is a Romanian model called Alina Puscau. Never heard of her, but she's a model so hey.

Or if you Google news, his girlfriend might be everyone's favourite 'Mean Girl' Lindsay Lohan who turned up at Ratner's house and found him in bed with Puscau and was somewhat surprised.

Apparently, he never told Lohan when they got together that he… er… like had this girlfriend.

I digress slightly, I was going to make some lame point about I always live in hope and expect something more from men's magazines other than scantily clad MAWs on the front page.

But then I reconsidered and having read the Ratner piece came to the conclusion that the reason why Girl's Aloud are on the front cover is not simply because they are 19- and 20-year-old clotheshorses-come-popstars, but because GQ thinks that its late 30- and 40-something readers could be actually dating them (Girls Aloud that is). Like Ratner, who possibly would date one of them (maybe more than one) if he could sort out his current love life troubles.

Wednesday, May 03, 2006

Radioactive placement

Whiz bang -- there are a lot of explosions in 'Mission: Impossible III' and there is also a very large DHL truck.

At the special screening of the movie before an invited audience of marketing folk, the pep-talk guy stood in front of the screen and told everyone how DHL had worked closely with the film's makers (director JJ Abrams of 'Alias' and 'Lost' fame) and Tom Cruise to make that the brand's involvement in the blockbuster was as 'organic' as possible.

I took organic to meet subtle and not overtly overshadowing what was going on in the rest of the movie. He was really quite convincing as he explained the help DHL had received from the smiling Scientologist, noted couch jumper and new father.

Apparently, if you see any DHL packages with 'M:I III' stickers on they were the personal idea of Cruise. That's right, Cruise is sticker man.

Did you see that DHL van? 

Organic being the touch word for the evening, it was something of a surprise, resulting in tittering laughter in the theatre, to see a DHL van literally pull across the front of the screen like someone parked… well a van in front of the screen to block out the action.

This wasn't organic product placement, it was radioactive. It was big, it was yellow with red writing and it was impossible to miss. Subtlety went out of the window and there was no getting it back.

Tuesday, May 02, 2006

Ascendancy of the literal

Have you ever seen the show 'Supernatural'? It's on ITV2 (tagline: "Scary just go sexy") and it's about these two brothers who go around the country and investigate...supernatural goings-on. Really, it's not half bad in a sub 'Buffy the Vampire Slayer' kind of way, although to be honest there is less arse kicking.

I digress, slightly, but I got something in the office recently about a new show on the Sci-Fi Channel about a medium and it's called...'Medium'.

Or there is this show about these people who are lost on this desert island called...'Lost', not to mention '24' and 'Desperate Housewives'. You see where this is going right?

When did the naming of TV shows get so literal? It seems like another case of TV executives dumbing down. Have you seen 'Ultimate Force' (OK, I have, and really I have no excuse)?

I'm sure programme titles used to be a bit more varied, maybe not exactly describing what you're getting on the packet in one word or less.

TV shows used to be called things like 'Hill Street Blues', 'The Rockford Files', 'Maverick', 'Hart to Hart', 'Moonlighting' and 'Remington Steel', none of which actually give much away in the title.

I'm not saying that the new trend of literalism is producing terrible names, because it's difficult to argue against such generic words. I mean how can you knock the word lost? All my existential angst is tied up in that one and I guess what they really wanted to call it was 'Mysterious Island', if only there hadn't been half a dozen shows about that already.

Personally, I'm convinced that 'Return to Mysterious Island', had to be worth a punt. Gloss over the fact that no one is actually returning anywhere and just add it to the riddle.

Not my kind of people

TV loves to dig up the past. First 'The Price is Right' comes back from the dead, now its' 'My Kind of People' presented by Charlotte Church, who will tour…shopping centres.

'My Kind of People' was, of course, presented by everyone's favourite pool owner Michael Barrymore, who is engaged in his own TV comeback.

Apparently Church, who is also looking at doing her own Channel 4 chatshow, will tour shopping centres in Wales looking for the Principality’s most talented people. All three of them. That's not exactly going to take long.

But it’s worse than that. According to a spokesman from Channel 4, as well as the next Charlotte Church, they also want to find "Wales' most talented senior citizen".

I want to ask the question why, maybe that would be ageist, but seriously why?

Catch it on Channel 4 on Fridays. Be warned though, old Welsh people will be singing (obviously if they happen to be former miners or Tom Jones then that's just fine).

Diana free

What is with the Daily Express? It's Tuesday and there is no Diana story on the front page! Has the world gone mad?

Technically today is a Monday, what with the whole bank holiday malarkey, so possibly it doesn't count. But it should be said, people rely on the Daily Express to have a Diana story on its front cover at least twice a week (Tuesday's and Thursday's seem to be the day), to keep us all abreast of the developments in this breaking story.

I just hope this isn't the start in a downturn because, after an extensive search, there appears to be no other source, on or offline, for stories about Diana Princess of Wales (deceased).

Thank the Richard Desmonds for the other old stand-by: migrants. The great thing about these stories is that they can pulled from the archives and run as front page news at a moment's notice. Genius.

Readers of the Express would start getting bewildered and confused (as would the rest of us) if it started putting real news on its front page.

Ford vision

Ford is looking at making its own reality television show. It might have something to do with cars.

Ford already has something of a thing for TV. If you've been watching 'American Idol', you already know two things -- Ford is the sponsor (having done '24' before), and really you should probably get out more.

According to Adweek, Ford has presented an idea for a reality show to its dealer network and they love the idea. Apparently it’s about cars and might involve contestants competing for the right to design one.

It sounds a bit high end. I'm not sure its going to have same pull as people having drunken sex on Channel 4 nor is it likely to produce a Kelly Clarkson.

The Ford show is clearly one for the geeks and will no doubt air on the Discovery Channel (which, of course, we love).

Ford says the next step is to present the idea to network executives.

The idea was developed by JWT in Detroit and it does sounds like an interesting idea, but, with this, it means that the floodgates will open. Hair idol? I'm sure the idea is out there.