Tuesday, February 28, 2006

Party on Rimmel

Watching the new Rimmel London spot with Kate Moss, I couldn't help chuckling away. It's the story of a model…who's been out partying all night and is in need of some fix-me-up slap.

With a script that starts "now party for longer", no amount of scandal was ever going to tear asunder Rimmel and Moss. They are made for each other. It actually feels kind of real. You know only too well that Moss is living large the Rimmel party girl lifestyle.

 The Rimmel London team must have been cheering Moss on as she was caught taking cocaine like it were Space Dust. They knew that all she needed to get out of jail free was an application of Rimmel London recover anti-fatigue foundation, which "transforms the look of tired skin for an instant glow" and, now that you mention it, helps you out of the odd career-threatening PR crisis.

Plus Rimmel was only too happy to stand by their girl, happily splashing out on new TV, press and poster ads. It's sort of refreshing. Moss's cocaine taking aside, here is a celebrity brand tie-up that really tells no lies. Posted by Picasa

Au revoir les Francais

Nothing seems to make an Emap investor happier than getting out of foreign markets. Its shares were up more than 5% this morning after Emap said it was finally pulling out of France.

Something about Emap and international expansion has never quite panned out. All Emap can seem to do overseas is lose large amounts of cash.

Emap made a foray into the US when it bought Petersen in 1998 for £720m, only to sell it two years later at a huge loss to Primedia. The deal is reported to have cost the company £545m.

Now it's pulling out of France, which has always been a problem. Last year, Emap saw profits in France fall 50%.

Despite the fall, Emap chief Tom Moloney was still bullish last year and was talking about the possibility of launching new titles in France, but Emap has simply not been able to make it work in France.

Monday, February 27, 2006

Russian brides for Middle Earth

While everyone loves Middle Earth, you know, the country formerly known as New Zealand, a timely reminder that attitudes down under herald from something closer to the Middle Ages than the 21st Century.

Vodka company 42 Below has upset the New Zealand Russian community with a new ad campaign that offers the prize of a Russian bride for Kiwi men.

According to 42 Below, Russki women could be the ideal match for the unreconstructed Kiwi man.

 "Let me tell you, those Russian women are awesome, they don't care if you watch cricket on Valentine's Day, hell they don’t even care if you're short and fat. It's almost too good to be true."

Quite. The ad features a picture of a blonde scrubbing a floor. Apparently, the Russian scrubber of choice will be available to the competition winner who will pick up $8,000 or a return trip to Moscow with spending money on a find-a-bride tour.

Can Russian women really be queuing up to look after overweight All Blacks fans? Who knows, but 42 Below chief executive Geoff Ross said that while he could see the campaign being offensive it was, in true Kiwi style, just a bit of fun.

He said the campaign was aimed at classic Kiwi blokes who would love to meet "hot" Russian women.

"For the single Kiwi bloke, who might not be an All Black or very good looking, this is a chance to get hooked up with somebody pretty hot. The ideal woman for the Kiwi bloke is one who keeps him fed and looked after all day and meets all his needs." Posted by Picasa

White Hart Snub

It was a while ago, but when it comes to football people tend to have long memories. Back in September 2002, Tottenham Hotspur rejected a request from the Israeli Football Association to stage their home Euro 2004 qualifiers at White Hart Lane.

Spurs were the first port of call for the Israelis -- understandable with the club's big Jewish support base and the 50,000 Jews who live within kicking distance of the White Hart Lane ground.

Fast forward to three-and-half years later and Israel's tourism ministry signs a £350,000 sponsorship deal with North London rivals Arsenal. Ouch, that has to hurt.

 This even though Arsenal's headline stadium sponsor is the Emirates Airline, the state-owned carrier pf the United Arab Emirates, which does not have diplomatic relations with the Israel.

Did the tourism ministry even consider Spurs? Well, apparently not. In case you were wondering Spurs fans -- you're just not big enough.

Uzi Gafni, a director of the tourism ministry, said told the Israeli daily newspaper Haaretz: "We didn't go near Chelsea because of its anti-Semitic image prior to the [Roman] Abramovich era. Manchester United arouses antagonism, and Tottenham, despite its Jewish connection, isn't big enough. Luckily, Arsenal got back to me, just two days after I made the initial contact." Posted by Picasa

Friday, February 24, 2006

Ken and the Evening Standard

The Evening Standard must be breaking out the bubbly tonight after getting its man – even if he does happen to be London's mayor.

 I hope Ken Livingstone does appeal against the decision of the disciplinary panel, which has found him guilty of bringing his office into disrepute. It's unelected and has no place in removing a democratically elected mayor from his job even if it is only for a temporary four week period.

That said, the situation would not have come to this new low if Ken grew up and apologised for an ill judged off the cuff remark comparing the Jewish Standard reporter, Oliver Finegold, to a German concentration camp guard.

He was clearly in the wrong and if it had been another paper there probably would have been an apology forthcoming, but because it was the Standard, London's unchallenged and, sometimes wanting newspaper, that was never going to happen. There's too much bad blood between the mayor and the capital's only newspaper. Routemaster buses are more likely to be brought back. Talking of which...

These two really need to bury the hatchet somewhere other than each other. The whole thing only underlines the need for another London newspaper. Like a choice of candidates Londoners also needs a choice of local newspaper. Posted by Picasa

1982 and all that

It's always the small things. The BBC is to axe is Falkland Island radio service after 62 years in the name of progress. It only costs a few thousand pounds a year to produce the twice weekly 15 minutes broadcasts, which go out on Tuesday and Friday evenings on the World Service. That's just 30 minutes a week, but apparently they have to go.

Admittedly, with TV and broadband access, the Falkland radio service no longer plays the central role that it used to in the life of islanders, but there still seems to be a place for it.

 In 1982 when Argentina invaded the distant South Atlantic islands, and when everyone was mildly surprised to realise that they were not in fact in Scotland, the service was the only real link the islands had to the UK throughout the launch of the Taskforce, the invasion and swift liberation.

The Times, today quoted Norma Edwards, an islander who served for 20 years as a councillor saying how much the service would be missed: "It will be greatly missed. We may have television now, but still a lot of people tune in. During the conflict it was the mainstay of the people — it's where everybody got their information from."

All for just a few grand when the BBC casual wastes of millions of pounds on the likes of the likes of Davina McCall (please tell me what's she for?) and certain overpaid executives. Did someone say Alan Yentob?

In true BBC style there has been zero consultation. So much for license payers getting a say. Okay, so I turned into my dad and, really, I apologise for that, but it seems a shame. Posted by Picasa

Thursday, February 23, 2006

The lunchtime overheard podcast

Genius idea at lunch today. What with all the interest in all things podcast. Sitting in The Hospital, in the rather too-close-together booths more suited to an intimate tete-a-tete than a lunch time meeting, conversation continually came to a halt as my lunchtime meet and I listened into the booth behind us as various bits of the publishing industry were discussed.

With the blinding by science insight that "no one sends shit by post" and "email everything" (agency advice to client, surely) magazines were on the agenda.

A digital tape recorder could easily have snapped the whole thing and make it ready for download right after lunch. The Hospital is not alone in offering intimate dining where neighbouring conversations are as clear as your own.

A regular tour of the Ivy, the Wolseley, San Lorenzo, Nobu or Sketch, Langans, Soho House and Century would be good to start.

Admittedly, recordings might be scratchy, but unlike Faceless, you could guarantee it would be the real thing, the things you could hear. Just last week, pitch details were drifting my way although clearly the diners on that occasion had enjoyed a third glass or four as laughter was obscuring the talk.

Trouble is, of course, like podcasts, great idea that it might be, no one would ever get around to downloading it.

No tits, no balls and no newspaper

The sad but inadvertently amusing story of the News on Sunday aired last night on BBC Four, documenting the universally disastrous attempt by the British left to launch a mass-circulation tabloid newspaper in 1987.

The idea was to give an alternative voice to rival the Rupert Murdoch and Robert Maxwell press and, very promisingly, it started out so well as an unlikely group of left-wingers managed to raise £6.5m.

Beginning by appointing people on the basis of politics and political correctness, the paper ended up with a launch team that included an editor who never edited a tabloid newspaper and a marketing director who knew nothing about marketing ("but I think it's the kind of thing you pick up").

The paper's news editor got his job because he was a young black journalist giving him more cadre points than the white lesbian who was qualified for the job.

Everybody fell out and no one was quite sure what they were trying to produce. Its editor Keith Sutton wanted a kind of leftish Sun while editor-in-chief wanted a worthy and weighty informed political read. No surprise that they got nothing.

Bartle Bogle Hegarty were appointed in a further clash of cultures. The agency came up with a great gutsy tagline "No tits, but a lot of balls".

While the line summed up why the paper wasn't The Sun, the feminists onboard hated the line and it was rejected in place of something a little more watered down - kind of like the whole project.

 With a dire first issue (frontpage splash was a story of a man selling his kidney… in Brazil) sales went from 500,000 (800,000 had been the break-even point) to 200,000.

There might not have been time for the kind of tabloid humour that readers want (left-wing or right), but at least there was time to take the staff on a much needed deafness awareness course prior to launch.

The paper did at least give rise to a very good book, 'The Rise and Fall of the News on Sunday'Posted by Picasa

Wednesday, February 22, 2006

Sleaze or PR wheeze?

Is it just us or does the whole Bam Bam and Faceless podcast smack of a PR stunt? The Kiss 100 breakfast show has been getting great mileage from the intimate diary of a London university student, which has become a hit on iTunes.

Only Bam Bam knows her identity and each week, she calls a voicemail server and leaves a message for the him. The DJ (researcher) then transcribes her words and runs it through a voice synthesiser.

 The updates reveal her calorie-counting encounters with her boyfriend ("The Body") and intimate thoughts about sex, lesbian encounters and her parents.

Maybe it is the real deal, there is a something of a hint that the whole thing is a fake and fictional, in the same way that Belle de Jour, the blog of a London call girl, "written by an anonymous prostitute", turned to out largely to be a fake ticket to a book deal and TV drama.

The likes of Sarah Champion, Toby Young, Lisa Hilton and Isabel Wolff were all tapped as possible authors of Belle de Jour, but while no one owned up, no one believed it was real either.

Is Faceless more of the same? Well, some of the entries are so banal as to be real and you have to wonder at the tone, for instance:

"I got a text from the Body saying: 'Do you want to come around?' He told me he was drunk, so I thought it would be quite fun."

OK…

Or this Valentines day entry, she gets two cards, but not, she fears, one from the Body.

"I'm petty sure neither are from the Body. He sent me a text saying 'Happy Valentines Day bitch'. So I replied 'Happy Valentines Day Sweetheart. We call each other nasty names, and it's annoying me'."

So is it the real thing? Posted by Picasa

Putting Dimmock into your hair

Last week, it was 'Big Brother' dimwit Jade Goody launching a perfume. Cue jokes about eau de kebab. This week it’s TV gardener Charlie Dimmock, who is best known from the BBC's 'Ground Force' for not wearing a bra. For some reason, the lack of a bra proved a national tabloid and TV obsession.

Not being a gardener nor fan of 'Ground Force', I can honestly say I never got it. Women with nipples? I mean, was that it?

Anyway, I digress. Dimmock was one those ruddy face women, not unattractive, but definitely defined by the garden and her place in it. So a range of beauty and hair products? I'm not entirely sure where this one is going, but mucky hair or muddy face packs no doubt.

 Maybe there are an army of ruddy British welly-wearing women just waiting for Dimmock's products to hit the shelves, but I'd always thought her appeal was more 50-year old dads, not known for their appreciation of beauty products, whose weekly highlight was to see Dimmock's unfettered bosom? I'm sure there is a strategy in there somewhere.

Oh in case, you were wondering why she doesn't wear a bra (sorry, I Googled her and so was led on a Dimmock odyssey, including a page that answers all your Dimmock related questions:

Q: Why does Charlie Dimmock never wear a bra?
A: Charlie cannot understand the fuss about her breasts. She says she simply does not like wearing a bra, and thinks they are uncomfortable for physical work. Would Charlie and Ground Force have achieved such a following if she did? Look at the photographs or go to the latest jigsaw page and decide for yourself. Posted by Picasa

Taking the bottle

Selling bottled water is obviously getting more difficult. Now that it's been revealed as an environmental disaster (not to mention pricey), ever new ways are needed to persuade consumers to bottle up. Buxton might have gone too far.

"Buxton's new 'On the move' sports bottle delivers 1L of pure hydration. This bumper size bottle of Buxton Natural Mineral Water is the answer to all consumer hydration needs. It has a new "easy open" thumb-up sports cap, which can be opened one-handed, and the bottle is the ideal shape for gripping while on the go.

Pure hydration? Consumer hydration needs? Who has those… oh wait, they are talking about drinking the stuff.

Oh and please tell me what's with the whole one-handed thing? No, seriously I want to know.

Tuesday, February 21, 2006

Steve Jobs's birthday buzz

Steve Jobs is a lucky guy. Those nice people at LoveLabs are sending him one of their specially appendaged iPods for his birthday. While Steve probably has iPods coming out of his ears he probably hasn't got one of these.

Apparently something of a hit in Europe, the iBuzz is - wait for it - a music-activated orgasm machine that can be connected to any iPod, MP3 player or music source. According to the PRs at LoveLabs when it drops into Steve's mailbox on Friday, never will anyone have been so excited to hear the song "Happy Birthday to you!"

 In case you were wondering, the iBuzz can be clipped to your belt and a "bullet" that vibrates with the music slipped into your pocket – or elsewhere. When the volume is turned up, the vibrations get stronger and…well you get the picture. It comes with a his-and-hers ring and stimulator, white iPod-style wires to connect to a music source, and a headphone splitter so users can listen to their music while enjoying the vibrations. No, seriously, that’s what it says.

If you're hard up (okay that's just plain lame) and you don't have an MP3 player "handy", the iBuzz can be used as a stand-alone vibrator thanks to its seven vibration patterns. Posted by Picasa

Pet food for people

Pet food brand Iams is to sponsor the third series of Channel Four's 'You Are What You Eat' show. I have to say I'm kind of confused. Exactly what message is Channel 4 sending out here?

I know broadcasters need the money, but really did no one blink when they said "pet food: it’s the ideal sponsor for a show about people with really unhealthy diets". The lack of healthy food brands wanting to cough up the cash is disheartening.

Is Channel 4 trying to say the people on 'You Are What You Eat' probably would be better off eating pet food? Well maybe. The press release does helpfully point out that, like people on the Channel 4 show, up to 50% of cats and dogs in the UK are overweight.

 Gillian McKeith knows this only too well. Maybe she could tell some of her TV victims that they would be better off eating pet food ("I recommend Iams: packed with vitamins, and fish oils for a healthy coat.")

Maybe I'm just being too literal for the world of TV sponsorship. It obviously makes sense to someone, not least of all Iams.

According to Richard Learwood, managing director of The Iams Company: "The sponsorship of You Are What You Eat is the ideal fit for the Iams Company."

There you go. Posted by Picasa

Monday, February 20, 2006

Empty Arena

After the drubbing most lads mags took in the ABCs last week, Emap's Arena was one of the few magazines to show a rise, up 5.6% to 49,296 in the last six months more than 11% on the year.

A magazine that has been in decline for years seems to have arrested some of its fall. It's not difficult to work out why. It now just apes the competition and is virtually indistinguishable from its bigger-selling rivals.

 With its nine pages devoted to Tess "blonde in underwear of the moment" Daly, six pages devoted to an erotic Agent Provocateur film, not to mention cover lines crying out for attention "Sex talk: Could you say no to Lolita" followed by "My Dominatrix hell", you can see where it's all going.

Oh there is a "World Exclusive" interview with former daytime presenter and sex weirdo John Leslie. By world exclusive, I take it they were joking as clearly no one cares.

Arena is something like a poor man's GQ/FHM wannabe. It wants to be one or the other, but is sort of adrift, seeking a role without any ideas of its own, which explains (circulation rise or not) why it sells less than 50,000 copies a month.

But at least the magazine can do one thing with gusto, sadly that's glibness masquerading as controversy.

What were they were thinking by including British Fascists in the list of people who need to "Smile" in the five page (a Philipa Page special) feature. The British Fascist entry begins "Loathsome as they maybe…" and really it should just stop there.

All this from a magazine that styles itself as "The smartest men's style magazine in the world". Posted by Picasa

3am worth of disappointment

The soggy red carpet at the Baftas wasn't the only thing to disappointment. The Daily Mirror's talent vortices that are the 3AM girls managed to voice their disappointment at the poor underweight goody bags. The girls were unimpressed by the lack of diamond-encrusted watches and did not wait to tell their readers so.

You can kind of understand their disappointment. You elbow your way to the front of the goody bag table only to find it's not a Hollywood style freebie fest now in your hand, but only its poor British relation containing nothing more than a DVD and a bunch of Nicky Clarke hair care products. Hardly worth all the push and shove.

Journalists moaning about rubbish freebies -- whatever next?

The cheeseborgs are coming

Looks like whatever agency has the Leerdammer cheese advertising account gave the copywriting job to the office Trekkie. That can be the only excuse for the tagline "Resistance is futile".

Actually there's no excuse and one can only hope that the creative team behind the tired effort, with a woman seeing her therapist about a cheesy problem (ending with therapist jumping over the desk and grabbing the cheese: yawn), is assimilated into new lines of work forthwith.

 I know that "Resistance if futile" is used quite widely, but even not Star Trek geeks know where the line comes from -- cue excuse for picture of former Borgette Jerry Ryan, who is currently appearing as a baddie con artist in 'The OC'.

But please only click on that link above if you have plenty of minutes to waste as you will find yourself sucked into a world taking you through Daleks, Cybermen, Douglas Adams, not to mention the 2001/2002 internet phenomenon "All your base are belong to us". Like I said, think clearly before you click, believe me, I know. Posted by Picasa

Friday, February 17, 2006

One chicks and kicks video to go

While I've often suspected that the amount of time creatives sometimes spend dreaming up new campaigns adds up to not a lot, Beattie McGuiness Bungay's new cinema and TV ad for French Connection takes that to a new heights.

Looks like Trevor Beattie spent actually, erm, zero time working on the ad. The spot is a virtual shot-for-shot remake of a Groovecutters music video made using the same actresses and the same director, Duncan (David Bowie's son) Jones. Hell it even uses the same location.

The single charted in the top 40 last year and having seen both, there's nothing between them, although the Grovecutters video is a tad less violent (possibly because of the lack of kicks and punches landing and nil sound effects), but otherwise it’s the same right down to the girl getting covered in oil (gratuitous pic for so featured) and the lesbian kiss.

  According to Kev Keane from Grovecutters: "It's such a rip off. I am not even sure if FCUK know how much of a copy it is. Would they have approved it if they knew it was not specially created for them to spearhead their £2m campaign?"

Good question, no doubt BMB amended their bill to French Connection accordingly.

Apparently Grovecutters' label Nebula (Virgin/EMI) are none too happy about the video being reshot for French Connection and are considering legal action. Watch this space. Posted by Picasa

Taking the Danish

Next time you find yourself in downtown Tehran, just make sure you don't ask for a Danish pastry as you're likely to be on the receiving end of a perplexed look.

Iran has taken to venting its anger over the publication of those cartoons one step further. Having already decided to stoke the flames of over-reaction by cutting commercial ties with Denmark, boycotts and demonstrations, fire has now turned on the humble breakfast-time treat.

 On the heels of Americans renaming French fries cheese-eating surrender monkey fries… no wait that's not right, I mean, of course, Freedom Fries, the Iranians are picking up the renaming baton.

From now on, your delectable Danish will be known as "Roses of the Prophet Muhammad".

It's not quite as catchy is it? While its' usual to ask for a Danish, asking for Roses or a Prophet could end in all sort of problems.

According to reports, one of Tehran's most popular bakeries, Danish Pastries, covered up the word "Danish" on its sign with a black banner emblazoned "Oh Hussein" – referring to a martyred Shiite saint.

As others have pointed out, Hans Christian Anderson had better watch out. Posted by Picasa

Smash hit, splat and kapow!

Now that Smash Hits has bitten the dust, it appears that the knives are out. Pet Shop Boy Neil Tennant, the teen pop title's most famous alumni, has wasted no time in laying the blame for the magazine's demise on the blonde shoulders of Kate Thornton.

According to Tennant: "Kate Thornton was the one who ruined that magazine. It was really cutting edge before she got hold of it. She just made it girly and silly."

  Not that Thornton, who during her time at the magazine was best known for... relaxing in the office, has much to worry about. She's gone on to be the new Davina McCall on ITV, presenting ratings winner 'The X-Factor'.

But then again, whoever wrote Wikipedia's entry on Smash Hits seems to be of a similar mind:

"In the 1990s, the magazine's circulation slumped and it was overtaken by the BBC's spin-off magazine Top of the Pops. Television presenter and journalist Kate Thornton was editor for a short time." Posted by Picasa

Thursday, February 16, 2006

Not so maximum effect

As predicted, Maxim suffered in the ABCs, as did much of the men's market. Not only was Maxim's fall worse than expected (down 16.2% to 190,438 rather than a rumoured 10%), but rivals are saying its even worse than that.

Speculation is that Maxim has lost something like 25% of sales at the newsstand, while rival Loaded has been gaining at newsstand by 20%.

Quite what the truth is probably won't emerge until the next round of ABCs in six months' time

Damning praise for Sophie Raworth

Ouch. The Times really has it in for the Sophie Raworth today, praising her with faint damns. In T2 today, The Times uses its regular line drawing piece to unjustly lay into Raworth after she was given the BBC One O'Clock anchor job yesterday.

The paper describes her not only as "sensible", but goes on to say that she's "not an English rose exactly but middling". Middling? That really is harsh and uncalled for.

  Raworth relinquished her seat presenting the Six O'Clock News, when she went on maternity leave, to Natasha Kaplinsky, a triumph of make-up, expensive haircuts, a bit of dirty 'Strictly Come Dancing' and naked ambition over… well just over everything, but that seems to be how to climb the ladder at the BBC. Just take a look at the Kaplinsky-alike clone Kate Silverton over on BBC News 24.

Not getting to see the One O'Clock news all that often, but catching the headlines at six now and then it's a poor trade, getting Tasha over Sophie, who is far from "middling". Posted by Picasa

A thank you from Al Jazeera

A little phone call of thanks from Al Jazeera today following Brand Republic's story yesterday about The Times getting its websites confused.

No small thing either. The Times published an apology on its leader page this morning.

Apology: Al Jazeera

A leading article yesterday referred to comments on the Al Jazeera website relating to the use of images of abuse by British troops. The Al Jazeera television network has no connection with that particular website (www.aljazeera.com ) and has a separate website (www.aljazeera.net ), which did not carry the same inflammatory comments. We apologise to Al Jazeera for this mistake.

OK, I know I'm blowing our own trumpet, but what else am I supposed to do with it. Second thoughts, don't answer that question.

No Spooks ban…but maybe some editing

Another day, another Muslim media row. While the storm over the publication of the cartoons of the Prophet Mohammed rumbles on and the death toll rises, today The Sun splashes with a story about the BBC scrapping an episode of its excellent 'Spooks' spy drama, in which an Al Qaeda terrorist is gunned down by a Christian fundamentalist.

  While I can't personally see the anything wrong with the storyline – last time I checked Al Qaeda was a terrorist organisation that murders the innocent – you can immediately see the BBC's problem with the plot: it involves Muslims and we're not allowed to say anything bad about them. Or at least that's the way it seems.

There is a precedent for it. In 2003, the corporation faced Muslim complaints over another episode of 'Spooks', which featured an Islamist suicide bomber.

Muslim groups were worried that it encouraged hostile feelings towards Islam. Well not exactly – actual suicide bombers like the ones you get in Israel, Iraq and now London encouraged hostile feelings towards Islam, you know, funnily enough.

The BBC didn't pull that episode, and rightly so, it was a good intelligent piece of primetime drama.

While running inflammatory cartoons in the name of press freedom was ill-advised, although it's difficult to work out exactly how negative that has been because it is almost impossible to see through the fog of manufactured disgust (those cartoons were first published in October and it took months for imams to whip up anti-Western sentiment to its full ugliness), it would be much worse if people avoided exploring legitimate subjects or stories, such as the one featured in the upcoming episode of 'Spooks'. Posted by Picasa

Wednesday, February 15, 2006

Taking one in the Gutfield

Magazine ABCs tomorrow and cue rounds of press briefings and depressed/happy magazine publishers. One title not tipped to do so well is Dennis Publishing's lads mag Maxim.

Talk is that Maxim could be down by a whopping 15%, which would be bad news for its controversial American editor Greg Gutfield. Gutfield is known for his practical jokes and was brought over to the UK having edited Stuff for Dennis in the US.

  He is reported to have once turned up at a fashion show wearing a bear's skin and hired three dwarfs to disrupt a Magazine Publishers' Association meeting in New York – the topic of the MPA meet was "How to Create Buzz".

More recently, Maxim had to apologise to the motor-racing legend Sir Stirling Moss. In an interview done by Gutfield, Moss was quoted as saying: "I did my best to spread herpes around the world." What he actually said was "I did my best to spread happiness around the world." The magazine blamed the mistake on a mishearing. Oh really.

When he was hired, a Dennis Publishing spokesman said: "I think he will bring a welcome jolt to UK's men's magazines."

Maxim recently saw its readership fall 23% from 991,000 to 760,000 in the National Readership Survey, but it's sales and the ABCs that really count. In the August ABCs, Maxim was down 2.9% from 234,183 to 227,377.

Maybe that's not the kind of buzz Dennis was after. Posted by Picasa

The Times and the real Al Jazeera

I was nodding my way through The Times leader this morning which was, I thought, rightly saying how the media was exaggerating and exploiting the story about British soldiers mistreating Iraqis, and in particular Al-Jazeera, which has shown the video helping to inflame sentiment.

It's nothing new, of course, Al Jazeera has at every opportunity pulled news stunts like this before. The station made its name following 9/11, when it had exclusive footage of Osama bin Laden. Durin the invasion of Iraq, it showed images of dead and captured British and American soldiers during the war, provided to it by the Iraqi regime.

 On its website, it has a section headline "Iraq under occupation". It's not exactly your traditional Western news organisation. It's very unimpartial, that's its bag. Soon to be the bag of Sir David Frost and the BBC's Rageh Omar who are both Al Jazeera-bound.
The Times today, however, went a little further, labelling Al Jazeera as the "supposedly prestigious Al Jazeera network".

It then cited examples it had read on the Al Jazeera website yesterday: "For example, the story was laid out under the thoroughly neutral headline: 'Another episode in ‘Iraq War Crimes’ series'. It sat alongside a chat room hosted by a Dr Kareem entitled 'Let’s Talk' which featured questions for “debate' including: 'Britain will learn a bitter lesson along with the US not only in Iraq but in Iran very soon' and 'Let Sharon’s painful death be the punishment for his crimes!' and 'Would you sentence Sharon, Blair or Bush to death?'. Sir David Frost, the station’s new signing, might wish to be aware of the unsavoury company that he is keeping."

Frost would surely want to be aware of all of this on the Al Jazeera website, if in fact it was the Al Jazeera website The Times was getting steamed up about. However, it isn't.

Al Jazeera operates Arabic- and English-language websites. Its English language website at http://english.aljazeera.net, however, should not be confused with Aljazeera.com, an unrelated English language website that publishes news and opinion pieces of an inflammatory nature about current affairs in the Middle East, where Dr Kareem and his ilk are located. If only someone had told The Times.

Somebody get someone a lawyer. Posted by Picasa

Tuesday, February 14, 2006

Do you Podcast?

If you hadn't already guessed podcasting is this year's blogging. So have you podcasted yet? What do you mean you haven't even got your Blogger account up and running yet?

Really I should be podcasting this myself so you can download it onto your PC…and then upload it on to your MP3 player once you've synched with your PC. By MP3 player I mean your iPod – what do you mean you haven't got one? Are you some kind of Neanderthal?

I'm sort of digressing. I just did another spot survey and found that really, while sort of interested in Podcasting, (this translated as we downloaded several Rick Gervais shows and listened to at least one), no-one really can work up the enthusiasm to do much about it.

  But if you looked at the frenzy of activity that isn't the impression you get. Various national newspapers such as the Guardian, Daily Telegraph (which has a podcasting editor) and the BBC to name a few are doing work in the area.

The BBC today announced 29 more radio shows are to join its trial. Count them, one, two.... You'll now be able to get hourly news bulletins, Woman's Hour not to mention highlights from BBC Two's Newsnight. That's right Paxman on your iPod…scary.

But why do we need Paxman on our iPod anyway, when he's on TV and on BBC online already. The real interest is individual podcasters who, like bloggers, could, maybe, add something new to the media mix

So far though, I know people are doing it and it's really great to experiment, but it seems that this is a case of hype over interest. Posted by Picasa

Ryanair and the TV scare

I've never flown on Ryanair. I know, kind of remiss of me despite my fair share of cheap, low-cost flights over the years.

I'd already picked up on the bad press over the years and sort of made a mental note never to fly Ryanair.

  I've flown EasyJet and that's so far never proved a problematic experience, although fundamentally I know that the economics of cheap flights probably means there is little between them.

That said, Channel 4's 'Dispatches' programme last night was the final nail in the coffin, which showed appalling security lapses and poor standards. You wouldn't buy a used car from Ryanair let alone get on one of their planes. The catalogue of shortcuts the programme managed to uncover during its investigation is probably only the tip of the iceberg, so why risk it.

A quick poll of the Brand Republic office (so wholly scientific) revealed the following: everyone would rather fly with another airline, with the most acerbic comment being "I'd rather walk than fly Ryanair", which considering how far out of town you might get dumped that might actually be an option.

In response to last night's scathing documentary, Ryanair has launched an aggressive marketing campaign, with ads launching today.

The ads, there was one in The Times today, do not directly refer to the programme, but carry the headline "An apology".

Of course, it's not a real apology, its another "free flights" deal (free meaning you pay for baggage, booking, and taxes). A real apology might have been a braver idea, but Ryanair doesn't seem to be that kind of company. Posted by Picasa

Monday, February 13, 2006

And the next editor of The Sun is?

With scoop after scoop it's not much of an industry secret that people think the next editor of The Sun will be News of the World editor Andy Coulson.

It's only February and already he has wracked up England manager Sven-Goran Eriksson in the fake sheik scandal that led to the coach losing out on £7m (not to mention selling 200,000 additional copies of the News of the World). This week Coulson struck again, with an Iraqi abuse scandal involving the British Army that has been picked up around the world.

  Luckily for Coulson this one is the real thing. Members of the unit concerned have already been identified. This story was obviously well checked for its authenticity before it went to press.

Piers Morgan, the former editor of the Daily Mirror who lost his job over fake Iraqi abuse pictures, must be kicking himself.

The only question that remains to be answered now is how long can Rebekah Wade, The Sun's current editor, whose star is said to have waned over the last year, hang on? Posted by Picasa

Tory bloggers to target BBC

Labour and the BBC had better watch out: the Tories are on a mission to harness the power of blogging and are out to learn a few dirty tricks from the Republicans.

In the US Republicans have made blogging something of a powerful political tool, claiming big name scalps like CBS news anchor Dan Rather and damaging Democrat presidential loser John Kerry by going for his Vietnam war record.

According to a report in The Times today, the Tories have sent one Tim Montgomerie, who is behind the conservativehome.blogs.com, to the US to pick up tips from the Republican bloggers.

Montgomerie has been impressed by the likes of Glen Reynolds, who is behind the influential US political blog, instantpundit.com, and who argues that blogs can take on the mainstream media.

This only means one thing to the Tories: it's a chance to do a bit of BBC bashing.

"The BBC is the obvious place to start. It is our No 1 target," says Montgomerie.

It'll be interesting, but personally I don't see the Tories having any success in the UK market, which is so very different to the US and where blogging is nowhere near as mainstream.

In the UK the instances of bloggers impacting the mainstream media agenda have been fewer and of less significance and where these have been successful it is not from Tories, but from the left-wing blogs such as when Harry's Place, which helped to highlight the extremist links of a trainee Guardian journalist Dilpazier Aslam.

Blue rinsers, even under fresh-faced 'Dave' ("my favourite band is the Killers) Cameron, don't strike you as natural bloggers. Besides the Rotary Club can be time consuming. The other problem for the Tories is that some tactics used by US bloggers would simply never wash in the UK.

One of the most celebrated US bloggers, Ann Coulter, whose nickname is the "Bitch Goddess", helped highlight what the Iranians were up to nuclear wise with such helpful language as "Raghead talk tough, raghead face consequences".

Or maybe it could work, in which case expect to see "Ragheads in charge at BBC" any day soon.

He bangs a drum OK?

Sir Martin Sorrell is the latest to run afoul of the former pornographer in chief Richmond Desmond (whose media interest used to comprise solely of the likes of Asian Babes and Horny Housewives) as he finds himself in a legal spat over the launch of OK! in the US.

Desmond is claiming as much as $10m in the row in which MediaCom is supposed to have guarantied advertising in OK!. It's a tit for tat legal row (WPP is suing for unpaid bills relating to the launch of the magazine), which will be settled out of court, but it is another reminder of the perils of doing business with Desmond.

  The former Telegraph chief executive Jeremy Deedes knows this only too well after he was greeted at a now notorious meeting two years ago with "Guten morgen", the German for good morning, as Desmond proceeded to swear and 'sieg heil' in a tirade of foul-mouthed abuse aimed at Telegraph Group executives, in which he damned the paper's potential new owners, German publisher Axel Springer, as Nazis.

Desmond has a thing about the Nazis. He has several times laid into arch-rival Associated Newspapers about alleged Nazi links using the Sunday Express on one occasion to expose ties between the paper's owners the Rothermeres and the Nazis in the 1930s.

There's also Desmond's talked-of dealings with the Mafia although these have largely been rubbished, but there are out there, alongside the porn past and the and Nazi jibes, all combining to build a picture.

Most damning of all, however, and the real reason to warn off potential business partners, is that one of his official media press shots shows him playing the drums. In his office. Posted by Picasa

Friday, February 10, 2006

How to make a million…and go to jail

Ouch that has to hurt. You see your former colleague walk away with a bit of community service while you get three months.

Not-so-lucky former Daily Mirror City Slicker journalist James Hipwell has been rewarded for not pleading guilty like his ex-colleague Anil Bhoyrul with a six-month sentence, three months of which have been suspended.

  I supposed the suspension is something, but Hipwell only got that because he has a deteriorating kidney condition after a transplant.

Quite how much cash Hipwell has left for his trouble is anybody's guess, but all this for £41,000 he made from trading the shares he tipped in his Mirror column.

Bhoyrul is said to have made £15,000, but then he's in Dubai these days having long done his community service, probably on the tax free beech.

The real question of this whole affair, which has been rumbling on since 2000, that's six years, I mean count them, is how much money this cost the taxpayer. Millions will be the answer, it always is. Posted by Picasa

Chicks and kicks

Whatever you think of French Connection clothing (poor quality and overpriced is the Brand Republic office consensus), its advertising is always striking and the latest spot written by Trevor Beattie is set for tabloid headlines and an almost certain TV ban.

It's one of those ads with "shot to be banned" written all over it, with violence and sexual suggestiveness writ large. I kind of like it. Funny that.

  Two very attractive women trade martial arts blows in a dingy basement. It's not just the fighting, which would not look out of place in a Jet Li movie, but there is an added element of sexual suggestiveness. At various stages, as elbows, punches and kicks are traded, the girls, who also lose items of clothing, seem to be enjoying it as the men in the cinema audience will no doubt do so also -- there's no way this will run on TV, not pre-watershed at least.

Oh, then there is the baby oil touch. Extra special, one of the women gets covered in oil (it’s a dingy basement after all) and takes a second or two to rub some down her arms.

The final shot, as one women pins the other against the wall, is a passionate kiss, followed by another, a Glasgow kiss, as a wincing headbutt is served up.

Small point really, but the only thing I can't quite work out is what it has to do with its target market of 18- to 24-year-old women? Posted by Picasa