Thursday, April 27, 2006

Afghanistan, your next career move

Ad execs tired of London used to go to South East Asia. However, there could be a new destination on the itinerary and its called Afghanistan.

News just in from JWT: Afghanistan is a largely untapped territory for many marketers. I'm just trying to wonder why that might be.

Oh wait…now, I remember, Afghanistan is a largely lawless country best known for its connection to the heroin trade, home of mountain dwelling Osama Bin Laden, has the death penalty for conversion from Islam, renegade Taliban guerrillas and the top headlines on Google all start like this: "Three killed…", "Four killed.." and "13 Killed…". That was in the last four days.

Still in a release from JWT that arrived this morning it sees many opportunities for multinational companies looking to extend the reach of their brands. Land Rover? Hummer?

This really is marketing at the sharp end. Still JWT seems game after forming a venture with a local post-Taliban established agency in 2004. However, it does have some useful tips should you wish to make a foray into Kabul.

1. Afghans welcome advertising. Prior to the fall of the fall of the Taliban in 2001 they didn't have any. Result. Pesky Westerns might now be adept at avoiding advertising, but these Afghans don't know what's hit them. Although JWT warns that "the mystique will likely fade".

2. Communication messages must be simple. Marketers must return to the basics mostly because 4 adults out of 5 are illiterate; therefore, much print and outdoor advertising is conveyed through visual image. Forget the long copy ads.

3. Beware the backlash, if you think KFC had problems, that's nothing according to Emmanuel de Dinechin, a partner at Altai Communication who warns that the “the slightest insensitivity could elicit a backlash from consumers”. This could involve flag burning and rioting and death should you be a Danish firm as Arla recently found out in the prophet Mohammed cartoon fracas.

4. However, if you win you could win big. JWT describes Afghanistan as "virgin territory". Someone get on the blower to Branson, he'll be out of his Jacuzzi and on the next transport plane into Kabul.

A few years ago, Altai asked men – that is just men - to name iconic brands and all they came up with was Coke and Toyota. Insert your brand name here to join a country that apparently has recognition of just two brands.

5. They already have Pop Idol. Wait ... is that a good thing?

6. Bring your own Kevlar. You might need it.

Wednesday, April 26, 2006

Losing its crunch

Is it just me or is the whole Walkers celebrity crisp campaign becoming really tiresome?

The latest campaign featuring a rather pumped-up Charlotte Church alongside career crisp-shifter Gary Lineker (apparently he used to play football or something?) doing his usually cheeky chappy thing.

I'm sure it’s very good as are most of the ads that have emerged from Abbott Mead Vickers over the years, which have featured the likes of Tara Palmer-Tomkinson, Helena Christensen, Gordon Ramsay, Victoria Beckham et cetera, which guarantees plenty of tabloid coverage.


 
But as ideas go, rocket science it ain't and maybe the whole endeavour is about to fall back to earth.

Actually, what I think it could be is that Lineker has just outstayed his welcome. He appearances on screen now elicit a yawn.

It lost people with its recent "we thought you might like to know", "healthy" eating campaign where Lineker told us that Walkers contain 5% of the daily recommended intake of saturated fat. The campaign was snotty and condescending.

I realise that while these ads don't do anything at all for me any more they probably play quite well to Walkers target audience of ever pudgier kids. I know Walkers say these aren't who the ads are aimed at, but I don't think they are kidding anyone (there can't be many other explanation for the Nuts/Zoo tailored picture of a cleavage heavy Church). The cheeky chappy thing is talking straight to kids.

If nothing else, the Walkers explain Church's fuller figure. Apparently she loves her crisps.

"I absolutely love crisps and I've always found the ads really funny," Church said. "Gary was great to work with, but did try to nick my crisps. I wasn't having any of it."

Tuesday, April 25, 2006

Taking the blame

It seems no one wanted to take the blame for Davina McCall's “chatshow” 'Davina' at the BBC, which is why news of its cancellation came from not one, but two senior BBC executives.

The statement announcing the show's much predicted cancellation came from not just Peter Fincham, controller of BBC One, but was also attributed to Jon Beazley, controller of entertainment commissioning. I guess it’s safety in numbers when you it comes to canning an unmitigated disaster.

Apparently, according to Fincham, the problem wasn't that 'Davina' was crap, the quality of guests were poor and that McCall was unsuited to er... interviewing, but rather that the show played in a "challenging slot".

Fincham went on to congratulate BBC One for taking risks, which is the last thing that 'Davina' was. A risk is reviving an old badly damaged franchise like 'Dr Who' and putting all your trust in one man (Russell T Davies) to deliver the goods.

Risk is not getting a well known celebrity presenter to... er, talk to celebrities. That's risk-free TV.

The BBC hasn't given up hope on McCall, however. It is planning to work with her on a "long-term basis". Did they not see ‘He's Having a Baby’?. What on Earth is with these people?

Davina will be back in a presenting role, which to be honest is more her thing, for 'Sport Relief' alongside Chris Evans and Gary Lineker, but really do they need her for it?

Break your own

Sometimes don't you feel like the news agenda is set for you? That the stories you are fed are really not what you're looking for?


 
Clearly this is how someone at the BBC was feeling yesterday when they put out this piece of breaking news. Imagine your own headline… and story.

Monday, April 24, 2006

Bus shelter lifestyle

Do you ever worry about the street furniture you pass and think "that's not really fitting in with my lifestyle?" You know glance at a bus shelter or a cross-track and muse "mmm, if only it was some other shape than a rectangle?"

No neither do I, which is why I laughed so much when looking through this press release from JCDecaux, which included these classic utterings from Mr Poster himself following a win of half a dozen bus shelters in southern France.

Jean-Charles Decaux, co-CEO of JCDecaux, said: "By offering towns and cities throughout France a choice of street furniture ranges tailored to their particular needs, we help to improve the quality of their citizen's lives."

BBC wonga trouble

The BBC silly money story will not go away and now Radio 4 presenters are up in arms about the huge paypackets dished out to the likes of Sara Cox, who picks £200k for shouting into the microphone twice a week.

Radio 4 presenters aren't concerned that the "talent" over at Radio 1 and Radio 2 are paid they are outraged that the BBC pays so much money to people who ramble between records fullstop.

You can see their point.

Radio 4 presenters are paid a fraction of what the likes of Radio 2 DJs Jonathan Ross and Chris Evans receive, as are, er, most people.

One presenter, quoted in The Times, said: "I accept that we are public service broadcasters but I have worked out that I am paid a tenth of what some receive for spouting between records. It is not just airtime. We can spend hours beforehand researching subjects or preparing interviews."

It all means trouble for Radio 4 controller Mark Damazer, who is going to be on the receiving end of his staff's "concern".

The BBC is desperately looking to find out who leaked the document detailing the salaries, which as it asks the government for a whopping inflation-fee busting licence increase (come on it needs it, it wants to pay Jonathan Ross £12.5m) is terrible PR.

What the BBC hasn't done is come out and justified why it pays some of these people so much.

It far outguns commercial radio rivals, so it's not as if it can use the market setting the pace for salaries.

Jeremy Paxman is very good, but is he £1.1m good? He picks up that for 'University Challenge' and 'Newsnight'. Paxman is on 'Newsnight' tomorrow night. It's the second time he has been on the programme this month.

While Cox and co pick up huge wedges of wonga, most Radio 4 programmes presenters are paid between £700 and £1,000 per show. If only they could do 200,000 shows a year they could catch Cox who sweats it out just over 100 times a year.

Friday, April 21, 2006

Half baked Elvis

Kingsmill’s' Elvis ad campaign, created by JWT, is taking the blame for the disastrous sales at Associated British Food.

The campaign featured Elvis Presley, OK, so he was best known for his love of deep-fried peanut butter sandwiches, founding the first Kingsmill Bakery during his one and only visit to the UK, followed by the strapline "By appointment of the King".

Really, they weren't half bad and they were a sight better than the ads featuring comediennes Mel & Sue.

However, George Weston, ABF chief executive, laid the blame at the door of the ads as he tried to explain to the City how sales of Kingmills had... well crumbled.

"We're going to repair the damage that's been done," Weston said, adding that its "consumer marketing not being sharp enough".

Weston can, of course, point to the fact he already fired the agency concerned. JWT parted company with ABF, which appointed M&C Saatchi in February without a pitch.

For a company apparently in need of creative ideas, maybe a pitch would have been appropriate? That's possibly just crazy talk.

The appointment of M&C extended the agency's existing relationship with ABF, with which it works with in Australia on the ABF subsidiary George Weston Foods (main bread brand Mighty White, handled by M&C's Sydney office).

Personally I didn't think JWT's ads, which broke in October 2004, were that bad. The use of the King was a good idea. and I really couldn't agree less with an unnamed commentator in The Times who said using Elvis was the equivalent of "Buddy Holly fronting an airline commercial, or Marvin Gaye a campaign to remember Father’s Day".

The problem for Kingsmill, like anyone else making bread in factories, is what they put in it. It seems to last forever, which doesn’t really isn't right. Bread isn't supposed to do that and consumers more than ever are making healthier choices.

Part of those healthy choices means going organic or buying food fresh. Personally I buy bread from the famous local Turkish Cypriot bakery Yasar Halim. It tends to last about two days, which is sort of what nature intended.

Thursday, April 20, 2006

Karl the comedy phenomenon

In this week's Heat, Ricky Gervais reveals, among other things, that he would like to include radio sidekick Karl Pilkington in just about everything he does.

Anyone who listened to the Ricky Gervais and Stephen Marchant show on Xfm or the later podcasts would have come to love the input of Karl Pilkington, famed for his banal asides like only being able to listen to songs with stories.


 
When asked about incorporating Karl into his recent 'Simpsons' script, Gervais said: I'm tempted to incorporate Karl into everything I do. But you can't write the stuff that comes out of Karl's mouth.

"It's like you get teams of of writers working 20-hours days on comedy scripts, and Karl just says it. If he's awake he's talking shit. And it's dynamite. But he would be the perfect cartoon character. He's very nearly as stupid as Homer Simpson and he's got a rounder head. Karl is, to me, the comedy phenomenon of 2006. Everyone I meet in LA had the podcast on their iPods. Nerds! They were all asking about Karl. I did Janeane Garofalo's radio show and she asked: "Who plays Karl Pilkington?"

If you want to know about Gervais's housing plans or more about making 'The Simpsons' episode, which airs on April 23 on Sky, you'll find it all in this week's Heat.

For more fun facts about Karl, including how he regularly missed school because his parents took him on caravaning holidays during term time or how a failure get a ZX Spectrum for Christmas when he was eight contributed to baldness -- visits Karl's page.

Just the McJob

Trying to take ownership of the McJob label in its new ad campaign is a brave strategy for McDonald's, but possibly not the smartest.

The campaign tries to put a positive spin on the word that has for long been used to describe anyone working in McDonald's or any other low-paid and low-prospects environment.


 
The three ads (not done by Leo Burnett, but created in-house) variously try to get over the message that working at McDonald's is really not all bad. One ad focuses on the promise of two pay rises in the first year and another on the idea that opportunity beckons with several board members having started corporate life serving Happy Meals.

The strange thing is that McDonald's owns the trademark for McJobs dating back to 1984, which pre-dates Douglas Coupland's Generation X by seven years.

Apparently, the original idea was to use it for "training handicapped persons as restaurant employees". The trademark expired, but then along came Coupland and his novel (which incidentally never the word in reference to McDonald's), which prompted the fast food giant to restore the trademark in 1992.


 
I don't rate its chances and think all the ads are going to do reinforcing the idea that McDonald's is synonymous with McJobs or as Coupland put it: "low-pay, low-prestige, low-dignity, low benefit, no-future job in the service sector. Frequently considered a satisfying career choice by people who have never held one".

Besides, the ads make it sound like working in the McDonald's board room is a good thing. Have you seen what happens to their executives? It's not a healthy career choice.

Wolling in it

Jonathan Ross is on is way to become the highest paid British TV presenter ever. How did that happen?

The BBC want to pay him £12.5m. This in the same week that the corporation is on the receiving end of flak over the large salaries that it pays its radio and TV presenters, including Wossy. Jeremy Paxman picks up a combined £1.1m for 'Newsnight' and 'University Challenge', which some people in this office seem to think is possibly the best programme on TV. In radio, Terry Wogan comes out on top with £800,000. He is Radio 2's top talent so arguably there is a case for his cash.

Over on Radio 1, Sarah Cox picks up £200,000 for presenting a weekend radio show. Cox and BBC public service remit? Oh please. More than 3,000 people are losing their jobs.

Then there is Jonathan Ross. He takes home £530,000 a year for his three-hour Saturday show. The BBC want to give him another £12.5m (over three years) in an attempt to keep him out of the hands of ITV and Channel 4, who are all desperately keen to sign him. Did I miss something?

Ross is great car crash TV, best watched after… well after, but his show can be the most cringeworthy piece of trash in the world. Some of his interviews are so truly awful that the only response is to run and hide behind the couch (that could just be me).

Anyone who witnessed his efforts with Jennifer Connelly, Kanye West and Shirley Ghostman will know how bad he can be.

He has a habit of not letting people get in a word edgeways. I don't know, but that can be a bit of a problem if your job is to interview people. His radio show is much better, so people say, it's his natural medium partly because he holds back a bit, but mostly because he only has himself to talk to.

Who knows what's going on the at the BBC. Clearly having blundered so badly with Graham Norton and Davina McCall it is desperate to hang on to a big name, but surely it has to draw the licence-fee-funded line somewhere. If ITV really want to pay Ross £15m the BBC should let it have him.

Wednesday, April 19, 2006

The politics of Dave

Have you seen Dave? Dave the Chameleon that is? I have and I'm slightly torn.

The Daily Mail and Daily Telegraph have worked themselves into a bit of a lather with calls of negative campaigning and questioning the idea of turning David Cameron, into a reptile while The Times wonders if this is not a new low for New Labour.

We've kind of been here before. With the wildlife theme that is. I'm not totally sure who is coming up with these ideas, but last time we had former Tory leader Michael Howard and Oliver Letwin as flying pigs. Howard and Letwin are Jewish and that advertising idea quickly, and rightly so, blew up in Labour's face.

Not that Labour started it. Negative campaigning is something that the Tories have done masterfully well with some of the most classic ads of the last three decades (the Saatchi brother's "Labour isn't Working" and "Demon Eyes" for two) are the work of that party.

So in one sense to claim that this is a new low or the start of some new era of negative campaigning is sheer hokum, pure and simple.

I admit I laughed out loud at the Dave party political ad, not only is it well done it pokes fun where there is fun to be poked. Dave the Chameleon in his boater hat for those Eton and Oxford days.


 
Did you laugh? I can't be the only one. I laughed again at Dave the PR flack quaffing champagne and rabitting away on his 1980s mobile brick of a phone while not snorting Class A drugs in the back of his super stretch limousine. I laughed at all of that.


 
The problem is that when the laughing is over it turns out that the ad, which is going to be part of a longer campaign (there's an inane Dave Blog to read as well), has no substance. It has nothing that speaks to those wavering Labour or undecided voters.

What it does do is play brilliantly to Labour's heartland, to its hardcore voters, who already know that Dave will change his clothes to suit the colour of your doorstep. Labour voters already know that Dave has declared himself to be the new Blair.


 
Not only that they know that Dave is greener than the Green Party because he has a pushbike and that he's more liberal than the Liberals. Yes Dave is all things to all voters. He's every Dave. He's a Chameleon. Genius idea. That's where it should have stopped as Labour got working on a campaign idea that spoke volumes about what Labour has done in office, its achievements, and its future plans.

Many people believe that there is a good story to be told, about health and education, because for as slick as Dave the chameleon is, it doesn't tell that story and it's not really something that people will be discussing on the doorstep, which as the crucial, and possibly bruising, May elections creep near is what should count.

Tuesday, April 18, 2006

Express Diana shocker!

I promise we're going to stop this soon, but it's Easter and oh they've done it again.




I'm not sure what the headline means exactly. I can't bring myself to read the whole sorry story. But does it mean they going to torture the "Diana Death Doctor" and make him tell the truth?

Will this "Splash!" be followed by the story "Diana Death Doctor Tortured". Er, probably not. Besides, it's not the headline we really want to see, which is, of course, "Diana obsessed editor fired!".

Halifax's rootin' tootin' deserves a shootin'

The new Halifax ad is guilty of so many crimes, it's difficult to know where to start. Maybe just with the idea itself, which seems to have come from a long, long line of really bad Halifax ideas.

You know which ad I'm talking about -- it’s the TV and radio campaign that takes a Glen Campbell song, 'Rhinestone Cowboy', and twists it into unimaginable horrors.

The spot, made by Delaney Lund Knox Warren & Partners, starts with Barry from Belfast. Whether the entry of Barry on the scene means curtains for the equally maddening Howard, who really took the Xtra annoying thing to new levels, is unclear. There's certainly little to choose between the two.

You know Barry is going to be as annoying as Howard when the first thing he does is have a Gillette moment about Halifax's regular savers account, throwing his arms in air and shouting "spread the word".

No stop, please Barry. Whatever you do, don't spread the word by song! Too late. Really good original songs, proper music, often works well, but when you butcher classics that's all you're doing. Butchery. This is so bad, I just have to get this off my chest.

I should say that I have a bit of a soft spot for Campbell's 'Rhinestone Cowboy', it's a good song, it's a classic even, and it can only ever end in tears when advertisers take the words and productise them.

So while Campbell about how he'd been "walkin' these streets so long, Singin' the same old song", and where "hustle's the name of the game" and where nice guys get "washed away like the snow and the rain" before rising to its familiar chorus.

Halifax then has Barry out in the Old West and the Gold Rush with every cliché under the sun -- it's all too rootin-tootin to be true as Barry warbles on about "a place out there where you can earn more than a fist full of dollars" and if "your savings just anit rising there's good news on the horizon, wouldn't you want to be where your money can increase".

It goes on and an on. I've only been subjected to it once on TV -- that was watching it here in the office, after everyone else reported being inflicted by such audiovisual pain that I had to watch it. Until that point, I'd only heard it on the radio on Good Friday. Sadly I spent most of the day in the kitchen on Friday hot-stove slaving, listening to Xfm as I cooked, which meant I heard it a lot. Somehow while bad on radio, it's only when you see the full car crash of a TV production can you witness the full horror.

The ad was directed by Andy Lambert who has previously been behind work for Thomson Local among other things. It's probably not his fault, but if you want to know who else was responsible you'll find them all here.

Thursday, April 13, 2006

Metrosexual departure

I got a T-shirt in the post this week. This is not unusual. Normally they are oversized and in some garish primary colour with a logo so large and thickly applied to make it only useful in stopping bullets.

This one was slightly different. It was a sort of tawny beige with the words "Real men don't shave". I know something about this having not so long ago gone through a whole non-shaving period.

The t-shirt was connected to a US ad campaign that has something to do with the death of metrosexual man, which it seems to me has been greatly exaggerated.

No there has not been a collapse in moisturizer sales or anything as drastic as that, but a possible shift in attitude.

You can tell as earlier in the week The Times ran a pieces "Metrosexual, RIP?", which summed up modern man's dilemma quite well as it posited that while the name may change a man's dilemma remains the same: "what is the precise ratio between machismo and moisturiser that will get me laid?"

With The Times article and the T-shirt, that's once as rumour and twice as fact.

The Times piece was sparked by the recent closure in the US of Condé Nast's Cargo magazine, which was interpreted here and there as more evidence that metrosexual man had had his day, taken his styling products and gone back to basics.

Gawker for instance has this to say: "Let it be said that we’re never happy to see a magazine die. But if this signifies the larger, official and irreversible death of the metrosexual, well, it’s a noble sacrifice."

I'd been thinking about this and couldn't really agree less. Men are more than ever buying cart loads of product. The closure of Cargo was simply time being called on a bad idea: a shopping magazine for men? Can you see any sense in that as an idea? No me neither.

Clearly neither could many men. Ziff Davis Media closed its men's tech-shopping magazine, Sync, last November; Fairchild folded the men's shopping title Vitals in September.

Men's shopping mags going belly up aside, do a little digging and you'll find that all the things that apparently "made" metrosexual man still seem to be there in the market writ large.

After a quick look around and I found reports ranging from a booming shaving products market (it used to be easy: foam, now its foam, gel, oil et cet), which grew 24% between 2000 and 2004 and was worth about £500m last year, to the heavy discounting and the rise of 'metrosexual' man are driving the fragrance sector.

"The rise of 'metrosexual' man has pushed grooming up the agenda for young males, who have been targeted by manufacturers accordingly."

While teenagers experiment with hairstyling it’s the 25- to 34-year-old market that is the key audience for manufacturers partly because these men want to look good at work.

Women on average might worry about her body every 12 minutes, but men aren't far behind. Another recent study conducted by Ogilvy & Mather also saw no stopping metrosexual man, those urban straight men who are conscious of their physical appearance.

Metrosexual man is far from dead, but it's the phrase itself that people have twigged is naff. It was meant to suggest "just gay enough", but it was really always too gay to be straight, which is partly why we have seen the emergence of new (but the same) marketing buzz words to replace it such as Ubersexual and Heteropolitans.

The Ubersexual seems simply to be a reworking of the classic sex symbol (George Clooney and Brad Pitt are Ubers) while the Heteropolitans (Jamie Oliver, Andrew Flintoff and Vernon Kaye) seem to be lads...but didn't they morph into metros? It's all kind of circular and confusing.

There was the Retrosexual as well. Although I'm not sure what ever happened to him...other than his move to all things retro.

All of these new catchall phrases are essentially naff as well. Having never gone around describing myself as a metrosexual (it always sounded like a term of mild abuse), I can't really imagine ever wanting to attach any other marketing buzz word to the labels that I am already wearing.

I might once have tried a seaweed green face mask (it was a long time ago) and have been known to, you know, moisturize, on occasion, but firmly resist Metro, Uber (unlikely) or Heteropolitan tag.

Although, that said, I'm kind of likely to wear the T-shirt, the shaving thing aside.

Wednesday, April 12, 2006

C4 wedding

Davina McCall had better get her hat. Channel 4 has scored its first 'Celebrity Big Brother' engagement with Chantelle ('Ohhh my God') Houghton and Ordinary Boys singer Preston.

Channel 4 has already been documenting Chantelle's celebrity life on E4 'Living the Dream', Although exactly what the dream comprises is sort of sketchy. Possibly it is only to say "Ohhh my God" over and over on TV in bikinis. E4 seems happy to oblige.


 
According to The Sun this morning, the Ordinary Boys singer, who is a dab hand at the whole engagement process (he proposed to his ex Camille Aznar after he got out of the Celebrity Big Brother house before promptly unproposing, or changing your mind as it is better known), but seems to have settled on the dippy blonde one, formerly a Paris Hilton lookalike and now, presumably, just herself.

After three months together, Chantelle summed up her feelings about getting engaged telling the crew on another E4 show (what's the point of E4 again?) 'Chantelle’s Dream Dates' that "It’s what I’ve wanted for the last few months”. What she wanted prior to the last few months is anybody's guess.

Tuesday, April 11, 2006

Sky dreaming

Sky should be investing in programming, but it hasn't and what it has done has largely been cheap, poor-quality offerings like 'Brianiacs' and a sort of footballing 'Hollyoaks' called 'Dream Team', which it has finally cancelled after 10 long years.

Presumably, someone noticed that no one was watching and that after a decade it really was time to blow the whistle on the drama about Harchester United football club.

Apparently the beginning of the end came when Jane Hewland, the programme's creator and executive producer at chief at Indie Hewland international, killed off a lot of characters at the beginning of the latest series. After that viewers deserted in their droves. What viewers there were to start with.

Sky should thank her. Send some flowers and invest the money in something half-decent for Sky One.

I like Sky One and do watch things on it, but that's largely American imports. I regularly watched their 'Buffy' and 'Angel' combo and to be fair Sky has had a move in this direction with 'Hex', which has been sort of hit and miss (didn't this show lose its lead character early on?).

It should do more of that. This seems the only way that it is going to get its head seen above the parapet in the fiercely competitive multichannel world, which also hurt 'Dream Team', particularly with a dominant Living TV pulling in female viewers and a strong line-up of hot-to-trot US dramas ('Grey's Anatomy' and 'House') over at Five.

Ten years of 'Dream Team' is more than enough for anyone. Besides, with the likes of 'Footballers Wives', what chance did the C-Team every have? 'Dream Team' did focus on the football (through magic of Sky Sports cutaways), unlike 'Footballers Wives', but fictional football? Seriously who cares.

It will be interesting to see what Sky One's new director of programmes, Richard Woolfe comes up with.

Moss stick

Kate Moss should get together with Tony Blair and Bill Clinton. They could form some international threesome (no Kate, not that kind) to publicise Teflon. She's the world's first non-stick supermodel.

Calvin Klein has rewarded Moss with a nice fat new ad deal as she seems to reverse any career damage that the Daily Mirror did to her career with more and more work. Like Blair and Clinton, she can take anything the press has got to throw at her.

She seems to be as busy now as she was when the whole story broke. She might have lost a couple of gigs, but nothing to worry the bank balance.

On top of that, it's being reported that she's readying her own fashion line, the non-sniffable variety. Besides, models and drugs are like hands and gloves. Everyone knows and the industry seems to accept it like Londoners accept tube strikes.

On a more serious note, no seriously, maybe this does all represent not simply a more laisez-faire societal shift in attitudes towards drug taking (no endorsement).

The last couple of days have seen the News of the World and The Sun full of stories of former 'EastEnders' actress Jessie Wallace and her drug abuse. The Sun's front page today proclaims 'Jessie snorted coke for breakfast' and you were wondering why she always looked so wide-eyed on TV.

The general reaction, like Rimmel and Calvin Klein for Moss, has been to shrug it off and declare business as usual. Maybe that's just what it is.

Page Six

The inside scoop today, as it were, on New York's finest. No not the NYPD, but Page Six, the New York Post's gossip column, from of all places The New York Times.

The NY Times has a two-page piece on Page Six, which is invariably described as one of the best gossip columns around and as "first among equals" by Kurt Andersen, a founder of Spy magazine and a former editor in chief of New York magazine and writer of the hit turn-of-the-millennium media novel 'Turn of the Century'.

Page Six is edited by Richard Johnson, who during his long tenure revived the blind items: "Which married tycoon has a fondness for...". The NY Times describes Johnson as an unlikely gossiper-in-chief, being an avid patron of the theatre and with a taste for Shakespeare.

But then again, Johnson at heart is everything his column is. He was set to be married yesterday for the third time on a yacht in Palm Beach, Florida. Very Page Six.

Read the rest:

Monday, April 10, 2006

Adidas Noodles

Adidas is in trouble with Asians in the States over a line of trainers that features a character with a bowl-cut hair, slanted eyes, pig nose and buck teeth. You can see its problems.

Although I have to say that all it did for me was instantly reminde me of Noodles from Gorillaz, which can't be a bad thing.

The trainer in question is a collaboration between Adidas and San Francisco clothing maker Huf while the image, which features on the shoe's tongue, was created by Bay Area artist Barry McGee.

Asian Americans are arguing the image is a stereotype of the variety previously seen in anti-Chinese cartoons. While Adidas is keeping its head down and saying it "appreciates all self-expression", whatever that means, Huf owner Keith Hufnagel is going on the offensive giving both barrels to the bloggers who have taken up the campaign.

"First off... yellow. We're still the yellow peril to them, huh?'' wrote one blogger at Mr Brown, a blog in Singapore.

The name really doesn't help. The trainers are part of an Adidas collection called Adicolor Yellow series. Oh dear.

Hufnagel has dismissed the row as "internet garbage" and reminded the bloggers that the image had previously been used by the same artist in anti-racism work.

"They should do their studying before they say anything," Hufnagel said.


 
All it reminds me of is Noodles from Damon Albarn’s virtual band Gorillaz. Did anyone ever consider that to be racist? Rather than a cool cartoon, admittedly racially accentuated.

Whatever it is, sneaker devotees better be quick about it if they want to get their hands on these. Only 1,000 pairs of the offending trainers have been made, each coming with a $250 price tag that will likely soar once they find their way onto eBay, as they are sure to do.

Mentally

A huge new media cult has been uncovered and it's frankly something of a worry. At its head is Peter Hill.

You know what I'm talking about, it's the Daily Express. It's one of our favourite guess-the-front-page games in the office. The default answer is, of course, Princess Diana, and on any given day you have a really good chance of finding her on the cover, along with the same story as every day with the words rearranged.

It must be the only paper in the country that has a dead royals correspondent, which even for the British tabloids obsessed with the royals is taking things to extremes.


 
I'm worried that they've kidnapped most of the readers under the orders of Peter (as Private Eye calls him - "mentally") Hill. It makes Scientology look like...well people who harmlessly worship a dead science fiction author.

Kidnapped them and did a mass brain washing. That can possibly be the only reason why these people keep buying the Daily Diana, because they seem to enjoy reading the same story week in and week out.

The only other equivalent in British newspapers is possibly the Indescribablyboring, which thrills its readers each day with great frontpage graphics (I like the paper just not the frontpage). Both papers seem to have parted company with the rest of the newspaper business possibly because they fail to understand the first part of that very word: NEWS.

UPDATE: Thanks for Mailwatch tip, I'd not seen that. Someone has posted something amusing over there about the Express front page today that's worth repeating:

That's a swan right? A freaking swan- DO they not know!? Bird flu: symptoms may include crass art.

Friday, April 07, 2006

Maxim effect

If you haven't seen enough of Eva Longoria, Maxim wants to make sure you don't miss out. The Men's mag has put her in the desert outside of Las Vegas.

She's there for all to see in her full 75 x 110 feet glory, stretched out on the desert floor as part of the celebrations for 100th edition of the US edition of Maxim.


 
Biggest outdoor ad ever? Although, excuse the pun, its more outfloor than outdoor. There's been lots of chatter about this already over on the Brand Republic Forums, kicked off by AT. Take a look.

If you have Google Earth downloaded (which seems to be something of an addiction in some offices) you can zoom in on her from above.

If you haven't got around to downloading Google Earth you can get the full giddy effect over at the Maxim website.

The 'Desperate Housewives' star who is never short of a couple of words for the press manages to blow her own trumpet in true starlet style.

"I guess space is no longer the final frontier. I am flattered, to say the least, to be TV's sexiest earthling," Longoria said.

The Nevada desert stunt follows yesterday's news that Felix Dennis is to sell his entire US operation, which includes Maxim.

One of the reasons behind the $250m sell off is Felix's love of trees. He told the TV news show '60 Minutes' once that he might eventually sell some or all of the company to finance the creation of a 50,000 acre forest.

One man island

ITV are getting serious in the battle with Channel 4's 'Big Brother'. They are going all out in the crazy stakes and are set to sign Chris Eubank to appear on 'Celebrity Love Island'. Eubank is apparently desperate to get back on television. He's a shoe-in.

According to The Sun this morning, the former world champion boxer, who lately has shown himself to be a couple of punches short of a full combination, is prepared to do anything for another shot at fame.

They should team him up with Michael Barrymore, they would make one hell of a TV duo should Judy and Richard ever retire.

Eubank who split with his wife Karron (not because of the unusual spelling of her name apparently) last year owes the tax man a whopping £1.3m. Eubank, of course, has already been on 'Celebrity Big Brother' and at the time was quoted as saying that having the cameras on him 24 hours a day "was one of the highlights of his life".

But then he did try to drive him truck into Downing Street in a one-man protest against the military presence in Iraq.

Among other things Eubank is likely to bring a bit of religion to Island as well. He has converted to Islam in recent years, but prefers to describe himself as "a man of many faiths".

Sign him up, if there is anyone who should be on an island it's probably Chris Eubank.

Thursday, April 06, 2006

And the Fake Sheik is?

Looks like it's all over for 'fake sheikh' reporter Mazher Mahmood, who after battling against George Galloway's efforts to expose him has thrown the towel in.

The current ban expired at 4pm today and after which point newspapers and websites will be free to publish pictures of The News of the World man after he came undone while trying to sting George Galloway.

I won't reiterate all the Galloway stuff that I and everyone else have already gone over, but it does look like Mahmood is going to need a job of some sort. Obviously one with a picture by-line.


 
His departure from the world of undercover journalism is probably going to make a lot of people happy and some others unhappy.

There are lots of stories about Mahmood and his scruple-free lifestyle, some of which relate to how by using the News International chequebook he would pay women to help compromise celebrities as part of his stings.

Certainly recent stings have involved a 'Footballers Wives' bit part actress being unveiled as a high-class hooker. Mahmood certainly knew how to track his stories down.

He's probably going to miss staying in all those top hotels and being chauffer driven around town.

Expect a "Fake Sheik Idol" competition, to fill Mahmood's shoes. Sadly winners wanting to job the celebrity circuit can only ever expect to get their silhouette published - unless that is they take on Galloway.

Who as Labour MP, and Gordon Brown aide, Ian Austin, put it: "George, I suppose this just goes to show that it takes one imposter to spot another. After all you managed to persuade the good people of Bethnal Green and Bow that you would be a hard working local MP."

Update: you can read Brand Republic's full story here.

Wednesday, April 05, 2006

Ten German bombers

One to watch: The World Cup is coming and while we will be inundated by commercial virals, good and bad, this footballing wonder from Germany is too good not to share.

A very funny anti-German viral from a German (so that's OK then) political activist group KP Berlin.


 
Obviously, if you are going to the World Cup then please no repeating any of the phrases you hear in this viral video: you'll only get yourself arrested.

Enjoy the singing and other fond footballing memories (chiefly we're talking about a 5-1 scoreline here) and watch the whole thing here, crazy dancing and all.

Hat tip: Harry's Place

Teen market withers

The teen market is the future in many ways. It's where marketers and publishers see a lot of trends developing and the biggest trend of all is magazines being closed (today ElleGirl) and publishers investing in digital media.

What has started out as a trickle is turning into a bit of a flood.

Hachette Filipacchi has said it is to cease publishing the US print edition of ElleGirl magazine in favour of investing in digital media versions of the teen mag. Hachette has already closed ElleGirl in the UK and the decision to close it in the US I so it can effectively reach the market by investing "in the media where they spend most of their time".

It's the same reason why Emap closed Smash Hits magazine after 28 years because its readers deserted the title to spend time online and their money on mobile phone content.

And again, the reason why IPC Media sold Mizz magazine to Italian publishing group Panini and why the teen entertainment sector overall has been hit by an across-the-board decline in sales of over 18%.

The BBC's Top of the Pops magazine was down 31% over six months to 96,576 in the latest ABC figures, with the BBC gearing up to launch more websites out of its magazine brands this year, with Top of the Pops in the frame for online investment.

The Top of the Pops brand already has a website under the bbc.co.uk umbrella, offering the chance to see clips from the show as well as music videos, news, interviews and downloads.

The teen market is at the sharp end, witnessing the closures of titles in the face of online growth, but its all sectors of the market are being hit, which is why in recent weeks you've had Guardian editor Alan Rushbridger pondering whether newspapers even have a future:

"Some people think it's an even more fundamental question than that: whether newspapers have a future. And wrapped up in all that is whether newspapers deserve to have a future. And if they do have a future, as what?"

The future is no doubt digital and properties such the classified advertising site Craigslist.com, which is starting to hit the US market hard (worrying execs at the New York Times a lot) with its business model that is free to both sides of the equation, will play a big part in that.

A business model that offers free classified advertising is as Rushbridger said "an unusual business model" and "a difficult business model to beat".

While it's a bit of a stretch to say today it's ElleGirl, tomorrow it's the New York Times, possibly not as big a stretch as it once was.

Scoopless Galloway

It's difficult to know what to feel. George Galloway had been stopped by the courts from revealing the identity of the News of the World's 'Fake Sheik' Mazher Mahmood.

On the one hand, it would have been interesting to see Mahmood unmasked in a turning the tables on the hoaxer kind of way, but to have it done by Galloway in some kind of pantomime affair takes all the fun out of it.

Self publicist and windbag Respect MP Galloway, who was as we are all grimly aware was recently a resident of the Celebrity Big Brother House, knows far too much about pantomime and allowing him to expose Mahmood is just letting him lustily breathe in the his favourite substance: the oxygen of publicity.

The News of the World managed to obtain a high court injunction yesterday to stop Galloway publishing pictures of the "Fake Sheik", who came undone when he tried to sting Galloway in a dinner at the Dorchester, where Mahmood was offering to fund the MP's strange party of bedfellows that bring together the likes of radical Muslims and the Socialist Worker's Party.

It seems Mahmood over-egged the performance a little, trying to get Galloway to make anti-Semitic statements. Not a stretch for someone like Galloway, who after his re-election had this to say about the "Zionist media":

"I was re-elected despite all the efforts made by the British government, the Zionist movement and the newspapers and news media, which are controlled by Zionism."

Yesterday Galloway sent pictures of the Mahmood to all MPs, their families, to the Queen’s private secretary and to others in public life who may be targeted by Mahmood’s.

If he wins, it could be tragic for Sunday mornings because it will mean an end to such great exposes as Sven Goran Erikkson and others, who are campaigners in the realm of personal self advancement of a monetary kind.

Of course, the trouble is that the windbag friend of Saddam Hussein and other butchers is allowed to use the injunction as some rallying cry to slam Rupert Murdoch and taking it as an attack on press freedom, but what's that to seeing an elected member of parliament wearing a leotard and purring like a cat on national television. That's the real affront.

Tuesday, April 04, 2006

People on the food

It’s a weird one. McDonald's is launching a global promotion offering consumers the chance to appear on its packaging. My question is: would you want to eat food with the pictures of McDonald's customers on it?

Contrary to popular belief (okay, not really a popular belief), oh and advertising, McDonald's customers aren't generally the most healthy people in the world.

McDonald's might have ads with attractive 'Sex and the City'-type women in them, but really when did you ever see those women in McDonald's at lunchtime eating salads?


 
McDonald's customers are generally the spotty ones or the ones waddling down the high street ruing the day that their class action suit, which accused the burger giant of making them obese, was thrown out of court.

According to the promotion, 25 winning consumers will then appear on the fast food giant’s packaging.

In today's Marketing, sources claim the promotion is intended to provide the "I'm lovin' it" campaign with a more realistic representation of what consumers really enjoy.

Call me a cynic, but realism? I'm betting that the 25 "winning customers" look like they could be on the books of Storm rather than sitting in McDonald's in Peckham.

Monday, April 03, 2006

Chevy warming

Catch it while you can. There's a Chevy commercial you won't be seeing on TV any time soon that rails against the dangers of global warming.

Hang on a second... railing against global warming? Chevy? The maker of 4x4 vehicles? Surely some mistake. Well almost.


 
Chevy is running a competition online to allow people to create their own Chevy ad for the new 2007 Chevy Tahoe.

"Now, you’re the director and it's your job to communicate this message by creating the best Tahoe online commercial for your chance to win."

One person, a Popbitch poster called Reverend Goatboy, has done just that with a spot that shows great shots of the new 4x4 Chevy racing off-road and sitting on top of glacial peaks.

Except that the text running over the spot goes likes this: "The arseholes who run the USA... and the people that use these...".


 
It goes on to tell how they're not going to need sat-nav for much longer as all those glaciers are going to turn to water and finally desert. It ends with the line: "Global warming isn't coming – it’s here."

Catch it while you can here as it won't be up for long.

Al-Jazeera gets new weapon

If Western governments were already worried about the launch of Al-Jazeera's English-language news channel this summer now they should be really worried.

The Times is reporting a new twist in the international news battle as the Qatar state-owned Arabic news channel, accused by London and Washington of aiding terror, turns to sheep. No one saw that coming.

No, it doesn't have secret film of sheep packed with explosives running through Iraq. Just sheep from Wales.

More precisely a family of opera-singing Welsh sheep, 'The Baaas', which have apparently gone down well with the wife of the Emir of Qatar.

'The Baaas', a Welsh-language children's show on S4C (at least I think it’s for kids) are to appear on Al-Jazeera, which is better known for screening the mutterings of Osama bin Laden and his gang of mountain-living thugs.

'The Baaas' will form part of Al-Jazeera's children's channel offering. Apparently Al-Jazeera has bought all 52 episodes of 'The Baaas' from S4C.

Not only have the scripts been dubbed into Arabic, but they have been cleared after being checked for "anti-Islamic subtexts". Seriously. I guess you can never be too careful with sheep. I'm not sure how you translate down with the international caliphate into baa, but I imagine... wait this joke is so over. Read the full story here.

While we're on it, the New York Daily News has former ABC 'Nightline' presenter David Marash explaining why he is joining the likes of Sir David Frost at Al-Jazeera in the latest septuagenarian news hiring while Mediaguardian.co.uk is reporting that Five presenter Barbara Serra has also joined Arabic TV channel.

Saturday, April 01, 2006

Harry Unlimited

I did a double take when I saw this today and it took me a few seconds to register that the Guardian hadn't staged a coup and swallowed the political pundits over at Harry's Place.


 
Falling on a Saturday I haven't been out tracking down April fool's joke although I see The Sun had penguins happily waddling about on the south bank of the Thames
and The Times has the anagrammatically-correct Alexi Harpor (April Hoaxer?) talking "Chip and sing" cards.

The Guardian itself has Coldplay singer Chris Martin coming out in favour of David Cameron while the Daily Mail attempts to incense its already incensed readers a little more with the tall tale of Tony Blair replacing the traditional black front door of Number 10 Downing Street with one painted a more socialist red. A pinkish tinge would have been spot on.

The BBC has a good round up of all the April Fools jokes around today.

The BBC itself has self publicist extraordinaire George Galloway resigning from Respect. If only.