Thursday, August 31, 2006

Airfixed

I was truly quite saddened to hear about the demise of poor old Airfix. The model plane and toy soldier maker has gone into administration and I'm quite sure that a piece of my childhood has gone with it.

Hawker Hurricanes, Lancaster Bombers and my personal favourite the Desert Supermarine Spitfire. They hung from the ceiling and provided night time cover, but no more.

There were lots of battleships and submarines as well. My experience was that these did not survive the bath.

Boxes upon boxes of plastic soldiers as well, of course, both the tiny little small ones and the larger ones, which were essential for recreating many WWII skirmishes. You never quite seemed to have enough. Maybe another box? My mother has several thousand of these stashed in boxes in her loft. I'm sure they will come in handy one day.

Video games hit Airfix hard and sales have declined dramatically over the years.

There was also talk that the models got easier and were required less skill and time to make, which possibly means there was not glue everywhere and a pilot that you forgot to stick in the cockpit and then couldn't as it was pretty much impossible to pull the thing apart again without ruining the whole project.

There was an effort a few years ago to introduce more futuristic toys called Robogear in an effort to compete with Power Rangers and Pokemon, but it never really took off.

For me it all sums up images of long summers, sticky glue fingers and khaki paint all over the shop. Maybe someone will yet save the brand and the company. Fingers crossed.

Asda result

Something of a coup for the Asda marketing team. The ITV news last night ran an item on its new ad campaign starring Coleen McLoughlin.

There's been a lot of interest surrounding her and Asda signing her, but it’s still something of a coup to get that kind of free TV airtime.

Asda, of course, initially signed Coleen and her footballing half, Wayne Rooney, but then dropped him after his dismal World Cup.

Asda has had its fair share of trouble with celebrity spokespeople. Signing Sharon Osborne was a misfire and the injured Michael Owen was another. His short stint felt tacked on and another fine example of brands jumping on the celebrity band wagon without really knowing why they are there.

With Coleen, however, I'm happy to report that the spot for George's latest Must Have range works really rather well. It's simple and follows the style in some ways of the back to school ads that are running at the moment with the kids singing acapella style on the school bus.

This time, it’s kids singing Roy Orbison classic 'Pretty Woman' and aping the movie where Julia Roberts takes that walk down the street.

With campy fashionistas watching her pass from the windows of their boutiques, Coleen passes by in her get up -- tops and jeans and knock-down prices.

She doesn’t speak, but then she doesn't need to. It's simple and nicely executed by Publicis with media through Carat.

There is a small niggling doubt about it all, what with WAG Coleen being so closely associated with designer labels. Of course, she has now come out and said that she also shops on the high street, which most women will probably buy into because she probably does, what with Top Shop, H&M and Primark offering so much.

Dog's Dinner

London Lite hit the streets yesterday and underwhelmed to the point of stupefaction.

One of my biggest problems with the Evening Standard is that it suffers from thinking it's a national newspaper and not a paper for London, which Londoners actually want.

London Lite suffers from the same problem, with a Standard-like splash about mobile phones on planes. It's a very average story (errr it made page 21 of The Sun this morning, Page 13 of The Guardian), but if you picked up the paper yesterday it could have come from anywhere. London, Dublin or Manchester. It doesn't jump out and say London. Even in August there must be something happening.

It's a poor front page that not only has a poor splash, but the furniture around it is all a bit of a mess. It doesn't shout new, hip and London. It hardly shouts at all.

None of it looks very new. It all looks a little tired and borrowed. Actually, what it is, is that it looks pretty much like Standard Lite and, while I know, it was rushed it's a pretty disappointing debut.

Inside it feels like the Standard and there's even a crafty nod to Richard Desmond with its London Eye gossip pages.

Desmond was going to call his much-talked-of paper from a couple years ago London-i.

Not only is London Lite short on ideas, but the pages all look familiar from elsewhere. The London Eye looks like the Londoner's Diary in the Standard with a bit of the tedious Friday Standard magazine thrown in.

I know that it can't help looking like this in a news-light month like August, but this effort will not only leave readers underwhelmed, it’s going to leave them a little confused. It's like they previously picked up the Standard Lite and now have something that looks like the Standard Lite, but is purple.

Is there any way you can change the colour? Oh well not to worry. I'm sure someone liked it.

On the plus side it is free as various people have said, but simply because it's free is that an excuse to offer yet another version of the Daily Mail lite several times diluted (Daily Mail to Evening Standard, to Standard Lite and to London Lite).

Overall, I think it will disappoint its core female audience of busy young London women and, worse, I think it is also a bit of a male turn-off. I know ad revenue is important, but with no sport on the back page blokes are going to be picking it up flicking to the back and quickly binning the thing.

Having seen Associated Newspapers misfire and trip out of the starting gate, the way is open for News International's thelondonpaper to show that it can produce a product that grabs people's attention, that makes them sit up, rather than leave the paper on the Tube or the bus exactly where they found it.

Wednesday, August 30, 2006

Wankers

'Big Brother' winner Pete is getting a £1m book deal. Good for him, but what a waste of space the publishing industry must be.

Pete has been described by people who’ve met him as really quite normal and dull if it weren't for the fact that because of Tourette's syndrome he says "wankers" every five minutes... which is funny to watch because somehow the word wankers makes us all laugh. Well it makes me laugh, but then I'm pretty easily amused.

Even in big type, I'm not sure how funny the word "wankers" would be in a book or if it's quite so funny if it’s not on TV, which brings us to the problem of who and why?

We know the when. The when is before Christmas and, according to the blurb, the book will tell the story of what it's like to live with Tourette's syndrome. My guess, not too hot, but at least you're always quite amusing... and I imagine less so when the vicar asks if anyone knows of any reason... wankers.

Pete, 24, who won £100,000 on 'Big Brother' has said: "It's amazing to be working on my life story."

I guess so. Carole Tonkinson, spokeswoman for publishers HarperCollins, said not only was it all hugely exciting, but that Pete had inspired us all. Well, I guess you've got to sell books somehow.

The book will include details of his "romance" with fellow contestant Nikki Grahame... they had better hope their publicists can keep them together until then. If they can, then expect a chapter entitled "How I accepted Nikki's escort shame". Or if they can't, "How I could not cope with Nikki's escort shame”.

In an ideal publishing world, all chapters will be interchangeable.

It won’t be the first ‘Big Brother’ book, that honour goes to Sada. Remember her? She was the yoga chick and the first person ever to be evicted from the 'Big Brother' house back in the heady days of summer 2000.

She wrote something called 'The Babes Bible' before chucking it all in and heading for India to train to be a yoga instructor. According to one review on Amazon it is "A perfect gift for a single woman" although the reviews all sound like they were written by the author.

But the real success goes to kebab muncher Jade Goody, who has inexplicably made a packet out of just about everything despite being a wee bit educationally challenged. She has had her book out 'Jade: My Autobiography', in which she munches kebabs, goes on TV and inexplicably makes piles of cash and gets an Amazon.co.uk Sales Rank of number 283.

Tuesday, August 29, 2006

Anderton TV

Please someone give Sophie Anderton her own TV show. She could crash cars every week.

With ‘Big Brother’ gone what else is there to do (OK, there are other things), but turn to 'Love Island' and the best thing on it has been Sophie Anderton.

While it hasn't been as big as ITV had hoped, it did in the end do the business. At first bringing back most of last year's contestants seemed like a bankrupt idea, it did actually work and has probably secured another year for 'Love Island' (unless ITV happens to win 'Big Brother' then maybe not).

The only down side was that, while Calum Best came back this year and won alongside Bianca Gascoigne, Sophie Anderton was kicked off the island before the end.

There could have been fireworks. If not fireworks then lots and lots of tears. Clearly she is not all there, but doesn't mind telling the world what she thinks.

And some of it weirdly makes sense. For instance, she told Kelle Bryan and Kate Lawler that she hates footballers' wives. She chose a good pair to unload on.

"I can't bear them. They all suck... apart from Victoria. They don't work for a living and spend absolute fortunes. Coleen McLoughlin's a sweetheart but I just think she needs to keep her mouth shut."

I didn’t even realise Coleen spoke, I thought she just shopped. Kate Lawler didn't say a word, which was a shame as she used to be Real Madrid's Jonathan Woodgate’s girlfriend.

And Kelle of course is best mates with Louise… who is married to former Liverpool and Spurs star Jamie Redknapp.

Sophie also kissed on camera. Sadly, she kissed ex-boyfriend Chris Brosnan, who after she had gone wasted no time laying into the loopy one.

"Sophie's not a supermodel. That's someone like Kate Moss, who is internationally worldwide. Sophie's got a name in England outside of that it's like Soph who?"

ITV could change all of that. If Channel 4 gave airhead Chantelle her own show, the least ITV could do is give Sophie Anderton some more airtime. She has the potential to be Britain's answer to Paris Hilton, in a Sophie-goes-to-work type set-up. Yes, she moans, bitches, rants, raves and cries at every opportunity, but it’s actually better than just about everyone else in the land of reality TV.

As for the winners, not a particularly attractive pair. Serial shagger Calum Best and Bianca Gascoigne whose claim to fame is that she is the step-daughter of Paul Gascoigne who she slagged off to camera. Okay, I know he was abusive, but she is using his name.

Next up 'I'm a Celebrity... Get Me Out of Here’, which will apparently feature non-celebs as well. Hang on a second ITV, that sounds kind of familiar.

Friday, August 25, 2006

Secret cappuccino

Starbucks has a secret cappuccino and apparently it’s not the only one.

This is what it is. There is at Starbucks a cappuccino that is not on the menu, but which you can buy all the same.

It's cheaper and apparently tastes better, but it is hidden. If you ask for it, staff will serve it.

According to a report on the BBC, while that sounds strange it is the way that many companies do business.

Apparently Starbucks claims it does not have room on the menu board for this cheaper drink. Frankly that sounds like froth.

It's called the "short cappuccino" and I imagine that soon it might be selling a few more.

Coffee Republic has a similar drink.

The reason for it the BBC says is simple. Starbucks like everyone else would love to rip you off 24/7, but knows it can't.

So instead it has this formula of different prices for different types of customer. The low "hidden" prices are for those regular customers who would otherwise shop somewhere else.

Galloway Beirut

Milk-licking MP George Galloway is going to Beirut for TalkSport, sadly he isn't staying, but you have to feel for the people of Beirut. They've suffered enough.

The loudmouth 'Celebrity Big Brother MP will be making "history this weekend as he holds what is believed to be the first ever radio phone-in live from a war zone".

Errr, well last I heard there was no fighting in Beirut, so really live from somewhere where there was recently some bombing, but that really doesn't sound as catchy nor suit the razzamatazz of the Galloway bandwagon.

The anti-war, friend of many an Arab dictator, who famously said to Saddam Hussein during the first Gulf War: "Sir: I salute your courage, your strength, your indefatigability" and added "hatta al-nasr, hatta al-nasr, hatta al-Quds", which is Arabic for "until victory, until victory, until Jerusalem".

The station is calling him "the most controversial exponent of Middle East politics". Recently there was also talk that he was trying to persuade some sheik to buy the Daily Express so he could expound to us daily.

What that boils down to, of course, is Galloway, who is famously anti-Israeli, saying that "in most people's eyes Israel is a terrorist state" while referring to terror group Hizbollah as a Lebanese national resistance.

He's just the kind of man I would send, one more foghorn in a region where there are already too many foghorns blaring indiscriminately.

I'm going to say it, why oh why do TalkSport employ him? Who wants to hear him lecture listeners with his warped view of the world.

Be sure to tune your dials elsewhere on Saturday and Sunday night.

Thursday, August 24, 2006

Britney reject

Apparently, this picture of Britney Spears is rather too stimulating for the Japanese market and has been rejected by Tokyo's subway system.

The pic from the cover of Harper's Bazaar magazine's Japanese edition had already run in the US, but the Japanese version will hide everything below Britney's elbow.

 Not sure what they were worried about maybe it was people jumping on the tracks to get closer, which would be difficult considering how fake the whole thing is. Like Victoria Beckham's backside.

Looking at the picture (slightly odd with the raven coloured hair) subway officials in Tokyo should have remembered that the pic is so heavily air brushed that it bears little resembalance to the reality of trailer park Britney who is expecting her second child.

"We apologise for hiding part of a beautiful image of a mother-to-be," said the subway guys.

Wednesday, August 23, 2006

Top slot

More odd medialand appointments with IPC's Tim Brooks named as managing director of The Guardian.

Brooks is managing director of the men's unit at IPC Ignite!. It had been thought that after Carolyn McCall was promoted to chief executive of the Guardian Media Group, her job would go to commercial director Stuart Taylor.

But no, in comes Brooks with his wealth of magazine experience, but no experience of newspapers.

Not unlike Brooks's former IPC boss Sly Bailey, who left the chief executive job at the magazine publisher, to take the top job at Trinity Mirror.

Or more recently Stevie Spring, who made the leap from outdoor firm Clear Channel to magazine publisher Future.

My guess is that Stuart Taylor probably won't be long for the world of Guardian Newspapers, having seemingly lost out to an outsider.

It makes something of a break for The Guardian, which has promoted internally candidates over the years, including McCall, who joined the newspaper group 20 years ago as a planner before rising through the ranks.

No more it seems. The Guardian has cast around outside its ranks and hired no doubt the best man for the job.

Brooks has spent his last six years at IPC and before that he had nine years at Emap, but is maybe best known in the media industry for founding Media Week, which is now owned by Haymaket.

The good news is he might have written the odd newspaper story along the way.

RIP Joe Rosenthal

I missed this having been away, but Joe Rosenthal, the photographer who took the iconic photo of US Marines raising the American flag over Iwo Jima during a bloody battle with the Japanese, died at the age of 94.

It's one of the most famous news photos ever taken. Three of the men featured later died in action and another had a tragic life (Ira Hayes) who Johnny Cash penned a song about. 
There has been talk over the years that the photo was staged, but there is no evidence for this. The Marines in the photo were replacing a smaller flag that had been planted earlier.

The photo is also the basis for a memorial to US Marines, across the river from Washington.

Wednesday, August 16, 2006

The Big One

'Fast Food Nation', I'm almost too squeamish to watch this one and I haven't eaten meat since 1989.

'Slacker' and 'Before Sunrise' director Richard Linklater's movie version of 'Fast Food Nation' is looking very good. It's from a script by Linklater and Eric Schlosser, who wrote the original book.

The burger company in the movie is called The Big One, but everyone knows who they are talking about.




If you haven't read it we've got a comment piece up on Brand Republic looking at how Mcdonald's is going to respond, the authors argue that a "kinder, gentler McDonald's" is emerging and one that is a lot more savvy about its brand, what it represents to customers and how far that allows it to stretch in its.

Okay, I'll believe that when I see it, but for a corporation that is more brand savvy it is really going to have to try harder than its panel of 'global celebrity' moms launched earlier this year. All nine of them.

And it really does need to do something a little more than this to throw off its low-paid and low-prospects McJob tag.

Time on Wade?

With The Sun apologising over yesterday's dated royal grope pictures, it could be getting close to the end of the road for the paper's editor.

There has been talk all year of Rebekah Wade's falling star. This latest embarrassment is not likely to help.

Who was to know? It looked so good on paper. A royal scoop no less, with pictures of partying Prince Harry groping a former blonde girlfriend, Natalie Pinkham, in a night club.

Although within hours it emerged that the pictures were three years old. Ouch.

The Sun has had to apologise to Princes Harry and his brother William, also shown in the pictures, which belonged to Pinkham who also complained and wants an apology.

Clearly there is going to be a question of how the paper got hold of the shots in the first place and how its scoop of five pictures across three pages was so wrong.

Pinkham apparently first claimed the pictures were stolen, but later withdrew this allegation. It's certainly more notoriety for her. Apparently, she wants to be a TV presenter and has dated rugby players. Shocker.

The salacious pictures were accompanied by headlines of equal measure: "The Booze Brothers" with a caption reading "Harry as Dirty Harry, the Paw Prince and Squeezer Geezer".

The paper even got the place wrong, not only were the pictures not taken this summer, they were also not taken at the trendy London nightspot Boujis where the princes often fall out of.

Worse still, the paper had to push it and bragged that Harry would be left "with a little explaining to do" to his girlfriend Chelsy Davy.

Now the only one with a bit of explaining to do is Wade who will have to tell boss Rupert Murdoch what happened.

Could this be it? If it then step forward News of the World editor Andy Coulson, who is tipped by many to be the next editor of the paper. Unless, that is, his copybook has been blotted by the arrest of his own royal editor for alleged phone-tapping activities.

The only upside for Wade is that Clarence House has no plans to take any further action and will not be going to the Press Complaints Commission.

Tuesday, August 15, 2006

First casualty

Pretty disturbing. A TV news director masquerading as a relief worker.

A Hezbollah supporter, known as green helmet as he wears one, is shown masquerading as a relief worker, which is bad enough, but he turns out to be a TV director for the terrorbags propaganda channel. It's the second time he's been caught doing this.

A dead Lebanese child is carted in and out of the ambulance to ensure that the camera crew can get a better shot.



You can just imagine what would have happened if this had been a British or Israeli news crew -- there would have been international outcry, but this story has had little coverage over here.

The man pictured is apparently someone who has appeared in numerous TV reports and newspaper photographs as a rescue worker, but clearly his real work is stage managing propaganda.

There's a lot of it around, yesterday a Fox News commentator, a priest no less, was exposed using underhanded methods to get access to some of the senior figures at the Mosque in Walthamstow, which was home to some of the 24 terrorists who planned to blow up numerous planes last week leaving Heathrow for the US.

According to Reuters, the Fox News man is said to have initially told the Mosque officials he was representing the Vatican. Nice work. When in doubt claim you are working for God.

Mohammed Shoyaib, imam of the Masjid-e-Umer mosque in Walthamstow said that Father Jonathan Morris, a Fox News religion reporter, introduced himself as a Rome-based priest working for peace in the world.

I knew deep down that Rupert Murdoch had the world's best interest at heart, but world peace? Way to go.

Apparently only later did Father Morris say he was from “a sister network of Sky News”. A sister network? Oh, you mean Fox, home of many Republican rent a rants.

Monday, August 14, 2006

It's a Hummer

Tough sell. GM is launching an ad campaign this week to convince people that its Hummers are friends of the environment.

Personally, I don't have any axe to grind against the GM. I think Humvee's are very cool and besides you can use them to invade whole countries with. If not entirely successfully.

While the Marines are pretty happy with theirs, GM is getting worried about the negative image that its civilian models Hummers are picking up.

As a result, they have hired Belgian comedian Chris Van Den Durpel to play a magician in some new ads for the latest Hummer model, the H3.

I know, who would have thought they have comedians in Belgium? This nugget of information has increased my knowledge about the place immensely. I now know that not only do they sell beer, chocolate, have lots of useless EU institutions, that Marvin Gaye wrote ‘Sexual Healing’ there, but they have comedians as well.

The TV, print and online campaign sets out to reveal "surprising truths" about the vehicle's size, fuel efficiency and manoeuvrability, according to the WSJ.com.

The H3, unlike its bigger counterparts, which are best known for being driven by celebrities and football players still it has a way to go. The H3 only gets 20 miles to the gallon on a motorway, which considering the US gallon is smaller than the UK one makes it pretty fuel efficient.

It's cheaper as well, instead of the $53,000 it's $30,000.

The ads, with the tagline "It's not magic. It's the midsize H3", show the H3 driving by gas stations, just to prove that they don't need to stop every time they see one.

Friday, August 11, 2006

Bonkers Galloway

George Galloway, the Big Brother MP, has plans for the Daily Express.

He was interviewed on Al-Jazeera earlier this week and told how he had been trying to persuade an "Arab ruler" to buy the papers from Richard Desmond.

"You know, I don't want to embarrass any particular Arab ruler, but once I spoke to a prince. I told him there were three British newspapers on sale for £100 million - The Daily Express, The Sunday Express and The Daily Star. Three important newspapers. "Why don't you buy them?" I said. "You could make a foothold for a decent point of view on the Arab world, if you were to buy these newspapers. He could have bought them, but he didn't have the courage to buy them. He'd rather spend the money on other things.

"You know, in London, there is enough money thrown on to the roulette tables of London's casinos by Arabs, which could buy media in America and Britain, and transform the landscape. But I tell you, the good news is this: In the desert, just a few drops of water can transform the landscape. All we need is a few drops of water, because the American and British people have no faith, no trust, in their leaders. They know that the policy of their leaders is leading them to disaster.

"We need to intelligently apply the resources that we have, and people can contact me, to my e-mail, through my website, georgegalloway.com. I have many ideas on how we can do this. I just don't have any money."


The full transcript is here, including Galloway's rather disturbing obsession with sexual-exploitation analogies.

Crazy, even by the standards of a hate-filled member of parliament willing to dress up as a cat, get on all fours, lapping pretend cream from Rula Lenska's cupped hands

On the flipside it would probably put an end to the Daily Express obsession with Princess Diana…but it is still too high a price to pay.

Although Georgie will feel at home in the pages of the Daily Star, it has Big Brother on its front page most days this summer.

But that wouldn't work: the obsession with Princess Diana would simply be replaced - as one Venichka on Harry's Place put it - by one of "how the Dead English Rose was carrying in her womb England's First Muslim Monarch had it not been for M15, the CIA, the Duke of Edinburgh, etc".

Thursday, August 10, 2006

London free for all

Finally a newspaper war, phew. I'm quite looking forward to the launch of News International's thelondonpaper and the bust-up that will ensue with Evening Standard and Metro publisher Associated.

I stopped picking up copies of the Metro ages ago. I know it's free, but I don't think a lot of it. Maybe because it is what some call a "subs" newspaper, it doesn't employ many journalists and it shows. As a digest of news from here and there it is sufficient, but I want more. I know, how greedy am I.

I want more in the sense that I've long thought the Evening Standard and its editor, Veronica Wadley, a waste of space and a disservice to Londoners.

It's a great city with a less than great newspaper. Sometimes it doesn't even know it’s a London paper. The clue is when you look at the front page and there is some piece of national news unrelated to London like it’s a pretend national. It happens all the time.

Estimates are that Associated Newspapers is prepared to lose 100,000 daily sales as it takes on News International. That would see it with sales of around 200,000. Ouch.

It could be even more. According to Campaign this morning, insiders at the Standard said it plans to raise its cover price by 10p to 50p and move the title upmarket in reaction to arrival of thelondonpaper, which hits the streets on September 18.

Putting the price up and going up market? Panic on the streets of London as the Moz father might have it.

There will in its grittier place be London Lite (working title, hopefully), which will replace the lunchtime freesheet Standard Lite.

It all sort of echoes what Associated did in the late 1980s when it took on Robert Maxwell and his London Daily News.

Twenty years ago Associated brought the Evening News back to life to unsettle Maxwell's plans and it worked.

This time it is a different more volatile game. The market has moved on and unlike 20 years ago most of the newspapers in the battle are free.

Rupert Murdoch isn't going to scare as easily as Maxwell did. He will be in the game until the end. Lord Rothermere will have to dig deep in those pockets as he fights back against News International.

It will be exciting to see how the rival editors do and the ideas they have: Stefano Hatfield at News International and Associated’s Martin Clark, the Scottish and Irish Daily Mail veteran, who launched Standard Lite.

What that all means for the Standard is unclear, but unless Wadley has some very good ideas the paper is likely to find itself squeezed in a vice by her new sibling rival London Lite and thelondonpaper.

Wednesday, August 09, 2006

When we roll

It's nine minutes long and its kind of dull – I'm talking about Agency.com's Subway non-viral.

If you haven't seen it yet, and apparently 10,000 and counting have, take a look, but don't feel obliged to watch the whole thing. Nothing happens and it gets worse as it goes on.

Going to Work for SUBWAY: Part 1


Okay the back story is Agency.com gets ready to pitch for Subway's interactive account and makes a video of a bunch of meetings where Americans show they know words like "zinger".

Along the way they harass people on the street, get a job making Subway sandwiches for a day and humiliate a Subway sandwich guy. Nice job.

They also say things like "If we roll, we roll big", and "Nobody got hurt. Nobody got fired. So I think it went pretty well."

They also keep calling it a viral, which it is clearly not. It's a corporate video. Who these 10,000 people who've watched it are I don't know.

But on the basis of this video would you give Agency the work? Oh be serious.

For the blonde diamond-ringed Agency exec bitching about salaries and saying the poor Hispanic sandwich guy probably earns more deserves a dumping from the pitchlist.

Some people out there think it's good. I guess some people are desperate for jobs in the agency world.

Bloggers' revenge

Reuters must be feeling it, having been slapped into place by bloggers.

With acres of biased media coverage of the conflict, bloggers have struck again with Reuters feeling the full force.

No one had ever heard of a Lebanese photographer working for Reuters, Adnan Hajj, until earlier this week when he doctored some pictures to give the impression that Israeli bombings were worse than they actually were.

His work is now the most viewed on Youtube and he's the most searched for item on blog tracking site Technorati.

It was all smoke and mirrors. He added a darker, thicker plume of smoke, some extra flares from an Israeli fighter and pressed send. The images were used around the world, but like so often with the Lebanese-Israeli conflict they were not telling the whole truth.

Reuters, of course, did not discover the truth until after the pictures had been printed everywhere. No word on why that was so, but they won't be using him again.

Bloggers who discovered the fakes kicked off a campaign around the world causing Reuters to admit its error and fire the photographer.

Adnan Hajj's pictures have previously run in august journals like the New York Times as well in other places around the world.

It's as much a story about the manipulation by the mainstream media of images (be it war zones or celebrity waistlines) as it is about bloggers, but it is another major blogger scalp.

Having already helped to derail John Kerry in the US presidential elections and questioned the CBS story that President Bush had received favourable treatment in the US National Guard.

One of the bloggers behind revealing that there was little truth to the CBS story was Charles Johnson, who runs a site called Little Green Footballs. Johnson was back in action again this time one of the first to notice the Lebanese pictures were doctored, which was posted the news on his site, which was then seen by Reuters a day later.

Hajj told Reuters that all he was trying to do was remove a speck of dust and fix the lighting in the photos. This must have been why he added extra flares from an Israeli F-16.

For more on this story, you can find it here.

Tuesday, August 08, 2006

Rip Brother

The tabloids are in a frenzy over 'Big Brother' and the rip-off housemate 'crisis'. I don't get it.

As many as 1500 complaints have been received by Ofcom. These must be from betting syndicates as nobody else can seriously care what the outcome is.

I've been watching it occasionally this year and following the progress in the tabloids. So I guess I am along for the ride. I caught it on Friday when everyone started to get hot under the collar about old housemates coming back again.

It's not the first twist we've seen this year (there was the secret house and the double evictions), and it was somehow quite predictable, but sensing that this series has overstayed its welcome they are trying to shake it up and inject some life back into a show that's almost dead on its feet. I mean just look at the cast of characters left behind in the show.

This sort of got me thinking. Does it appear to you that the best people (okay, best as in better than the other cretins) are voted out? You always hear talk of vote rigging and betting syndicates.

Never having so much picked up a phone and voted anyone out (or in) for that matter, it raised nothing more than a wry smile from me. I'd like them to bring someone back, if not from the dead, then at least from the eviction dump and really it has to be Nikki (I'm not even that fazed about having an opinion on this – I have one on the Middle East as well, so I'm tasking at both ends of the cultural and political spectrum).

Nikki was highly entertaining. She made very ordinary things seem inadvertently funny. I hope they bring her back. She really wants to win as well. They can team her up with Chantelle, give them their own Paris Hilton and Nicole Richie like series. They could flip burgers or go camping. It would be inadvertently funny. Or crap - whatever, people would watch it.

Update Who would have guessed the three blondes Grace, Nikki and Lea along with himbo Mikey are going into the secret house.

Channel 4 might now have to repay the cash that punters have previously spent cash voting people out as watchdog ICSTIC investigates a possible refund. With 6m having voted, this could be as much as a whopping £3m. Ouch, that might hurt.

Oh why

For your viewing pleasure Living TV has created: 'The Curse of Diana's dresses'.

You could make it up, but I'm not sure you would bother. It's like the title for an episode of Columbo: 'Columbo: The curse of the dresses'.

Living TV seems to have caught a dose of the Daily Express obsession with Princess Diana. Except one step removed, it isn't actually the dead woman, but the clothes she wore.

"With the ninth anniversary of Princess Diana’s death approaching, Living TV has an exclusive one-off hour-long documentary that explores the intriguing, mysterious and sometimes sinister stories surrounding the dresses of the late Princess that were auctioned shortly before her death in August 1997."

Apparently "some of the dress's new owners have been struck down by curious runs of bad luck". It's not just anyone, but more the people who have "exploited the dresses for their own financial gain".

Excuse me? I have a question. How do you exploit a dress for financial gain? I don't understand.

Others who have come a cropper, Living TV says darkly, are those who have "kept the dresses to themselves – hidden away from her fans".

The dresses were sold off and raised millions for charity. The rest is clearly complete tosh.

The press release is full of crap like this: "Intriguingly there was no Lot 13 at the auction, perhaps an ominous sign of what was to come"?!

Living says it has exclusive access to contributors speaking about being the "guardians of the now sacred relics".

Relics? Did you find them in a tomb? No they came from some designer on Kings Road or where ever it was that Elizabeth Emmanuel whipped up her creations.

Bonkers.

Monday, August 07, 2006

Great ad crimes

What were they thinking? A naff Vodafone ad has gone and ruined the Only Ones classic punk pop track 'Another Girl, Another Planet'.

It's such a good song and just about the only track by the late 1970s punk band that anyone knows. It's a track that everyone has danced to in the 1980, 90s or 00s, as it keeps getting spun by DJs.

Now it is on TV as the backing track to a risible Vodafone ad that has a couple flying around celebrating the freedom of weekend tariffs.

The whole spot is a little druggy looking. Eagles flying high, enchanted looking forests, water falls and a flying couple.

Okay, everyone knows the song is about heroin abuse, so you have to think that the creatives behind the spot were either having a bit of a laugh. Sadly they were still laughing and forgot to do too much work on the ad, which is just lame and if you take away the song there is little to the idea at all.

I don't have a problem with great songs being used in really good ads. I could watch the original Sony Bravia ad over and over and still love the Jose Gonzalez’s song 'Heartbeats', as it works beautifully.

You can see there is some thought there, placing a great song and images together. With Vodafone, it’s painful and the whole thing just crashes and burns.

Maybe the survivors of the band were hard-up for cash. Fair enough, they wrote it.

I guess the same must have been true for the La's 'There she goes' a few years a go, although I can't for the life of me remember what it was used to sell.

However, Bobby Gillespie has no such claim. And really he should hang his head in shame at allowing Bacardi to use Primal Scream's 'Moving on Up'.

Another great song, another poor ad casually thrown together. Maybe it was the pressure of his upcoming wedding and knowing that Kate Moss was about to upstage his bride, Katy England, and suddenly a bit of extra cash for the honeymoon getaway seemed like a good idea.

What next the Stranglers 'Golden Brown' to promote Wheatey Flakes? It can't be that far away the Mail on Sunday bizarrely gave away a ten track CD of the band at the weekend. Not quite sure what that's about.

Friday, August 04, 2006

Apple schmapple

The Apple nuts are after me. I said something bad about Apple and they just don't like you to do that.

The independent ran a big Apple feature yesterday asking whether the Apple brand was faltering? It's a fair enough question:

"Computers were just dull, grey boxes until Apple came along. The 'rebel' brand's beautifully designed, brilliantly marketed products became the epitome of plugged-in, wired-up, 21st-century chic. But as the company has prospered, so its devotees have become uneasy. Faulty products, poor service - and worse - the list of grievances is getting longer. Is Steve Jobs' empire losing its cool?"

As part of the feature, I provided my one or two pence worth laying out what I thought about Apple. I've never been a fan of Apple I have to admit and have always found the devotion of Apple fans to the their machines slightly odd, obsessive:

It's just not special anymore, by Gordon MacMillan

In its early days Apple was seen as almost a rebel brand, which appealed to a community of creatives and geeks. And in design terms, Apple was the technology that was made for creative people: journalists, designers, programmers, writers; people who had a less mainstream take on life. The company built up a strong following as a result.

But Apple wasn't just about appearances. The most important thing about Apple was what it wasn't. It wasn't another IBM. It wasn't Microsoft. People saw it was offering something different - something that complemented a less corporate-driven lifestyle.

Of course, personalities were involved. While a cult grew up around Steve Jobs, Bill Gates was seen by Apple's users as an antichrist figure. In their eyes, he was the head of a massive company that wanted to take over the world, that wanted its stuff on every desktop. They always thought Steve Jobs was fighting from the other corner. They thought he was bringing diversity to their desktop, and to their world.

When Apple was driven to the brink, it fought back - first with the iMac, and then with the iPod and iTunes. When the iPod took off, Apple broke away from its core group of users to become something global, a company whose appeal extended far beyond its traditional advocates. Suddenly, the people who were using iPods were not the people you might have associated with the brand say two years beforehand.
But the Apple had been on the way back well before the iPod. The iMac and iBook started the resurgence, because these funky luminous plastic machines were on everyone's desk. They played on what Apple has always played on - this is not just another computer. Its advertising was saying "Think Different", and, with the iMac, genuinely looked different, too. In reality, Apple may not have been that different from any other computer company, but the people who bought its products bought into the idea.

Now there are different categories of Apple users. There are those who have been with Apple all along, and there are those who love their iPods, but who, like me, have never really liked Apple. So the company is in new territory - it has a new audience, which doesn't have the devotion traditional Apple users have. Apple has become ubiquitous, which has changed the brand beyond recognition, and, perhaps that's the real reason some of the shine has come off. It's just not as special as it was."


I should have expected it. I had my first email from an Apple fan as a result this morning:

Dear delusional Apple hater:

Give me a break! It was "struggling Apple." Then, once Apple starting
rocking, it became "Once struggling Apple," and now that they
continue to confound the street with record sales and record profits
and iPods are selling in greater numbers, you come out with this
unsupported-by-the facts bullshit conjecture about Apple losing its
grip.

GET OVER IT Gordon, Apple is here, Apple is successful, Apple owns
the downloaded music market, Apple is entrenched, and Apple will
continue getting stronger, despite the crap that's been spewed about
Apple for decades now.

Once at least there was some back-up for the whiny Apple haters. But
now? You're living in fantasy land.

Michael Fremer
senior contributing editor, Stereophile
not an Apple stockholder


And here's another one:

Ms Pierce, Mr MacMillan,

Dear oh dear. You two really aren't much in touch with reality, are you?

You may not like Apple, as indeed you admit Mr MacMillan. You may just be trolling for hits with faux opinions. Either way I hope that your mail boxes are flooded with people like me who will challenge your standpoints.

Even with corks in your eyes, it will be impossible not to see the the massive growth taking place in Apple's customer base. What's more, it's easy to see via any number of online feedback sites that the new Apple customers are just as loyal as the old hands are, and indeed are often even more prepared to enthusiastically promote Apple products.

If the faults you see in Apple products are symptomatic of anything, it is that Apple is producing more radical ideas, better products, better software and generally more life changing ways of doing things than anyone else today.

And of course Apple is set to do even more of this and you can both look forward to having to work a lot harder to convince anyone that your views have any value whatever.

Either way, I shall indeed keep this article on file and I shall enjoy reviewing it in 12 months time. No doubt I will also enjoy reminding you of it too!

Regards,

Jonathan Tilney

Thursday, August 03, 2006

Google life

What kind of Google life do you have? It's just an idle thought. We were in the midst of writing a story about a new marketing chief at the Discovery Channel. I quickly Google the new appointment only to find that Rebecca Barrs Rormark had no Google life. She simply did not exist in the Googleography.

For a few minutes, I thought that the dopey PRs must have spelt her name wrong, but apparently not. Rebecca Barrs Rormark was spelt correctly.

It was like she was a made-up person. Not only was there nothing about the Rebecca Barrs Rormark, but there was nothing about any other Rebecca Barrs Rormark. At all. That is just as weird. All you get on Google is a blank page. Almost unheard of.

Everyone Google's themselves finding out weird mentions of their actual selves and their other selves.

For instance, I have the Gordon MacMillan Southam Observatory named after me. Nice work. There's also Sir General Gordon MacMillan. Well, I was in the army cadets.

Other people in the office in their Google lives have: appeared in 104 movies; went to the work house in 1859 destitute and pregnant; someone else is a rally driver, has a zoo named after them and work in JD Wetherspoons in Norwich – well, they are a journalist, you had to expect it.

Up in smoke

Abbott Mead Vickers anti smoking work has been outstanding particularly the recent hard hitting campaigns, clearly that's not enough for the COI after it revealed yesterday that it was dumping the agency after 22-years.

It's difficult to know what you have to do to hang onto a piece of work sometimes. Produce great work: tick, lose account: tick.

The ad with the man lying in bed telling the viewer that by the time that people watched this ad the man would be dead should be enough to convince anyone to stub out for good. I liked the 'if you smoke, you stink' campaign as well.

Maybe it was simply the fact that the Department of Health team kept looking at the shock ads being produced by Euro RSCG London for the British Heart Foundation, which showed cigarettes oozing a fat-like substance.

Those were very hard to watch and possibly over shadowed the DoH's campaign and maybe that's why it thought it needed new ideas despite a body of work over more than two decades that has hit home.

That said Euro RSCG fared no better. It lost that account to Lowe and RKCR/Y&R and that business is also up for review.

Actually, this whole smoking business looks like more trouble than its worth.

Wednesday, August 02, 2006

Thinking the stupid

Coca-Cola is considering reintroducing Dasani to the UK market. Having suffered cancer scares and the revelation that it was simply bottled purified tap water, Coke clearly has money to burn for a second attempt.

Coke spent millions on Dasani a couple of years ago before the whole endeavour came crashing down around its ears.

Having had its £7m launch hit first by claims that its new bottled water (described on the label as “Pure, Still Water”), was actually plain tap water from Kent, things only got worse for Coke from there.

Two weeks later, Coke had to recall its entire supply when Dasani was revealed not only to be tap water, but tap water with an added cancer-causing chemical. Did no one mention that what you're supposed to add is vitamins not cancer. Cancer only works when you add it to cigarettes, everyone knows that.

Prior to the cancer scare, there had been a £4m relaunch planned to explain away the "Del Boy Trotter" tap water lark and they may have succeeded, but cancer is a hard thing to explain away.

The debacle in the UK spread to Europe and more millions were wasted as Coke suspended its launch into the French and German markets.

Now it wants to try again in the UK and bring back the brand early next year.

How tainted does a brand have to be before the message gets through to the owners that people just are not going to buy it.

What's the tagline going to be? "Tap water: it’s back and this time it’s cancer free." Maybe not.

The funny thing is, Dasani was successful in the US. American execs must be wondering just how they can bridge the gap and transpose the success they've had at home to the UK.

Has no one told them yet? We're two nations divided by a lot of water. Boom boom.

Tuesday, August 01, 2006

Observe this

Why are they always property developers? I have nothing much against property developers, but 25-year old property developers who splash $10m to buy newspapers. Come on it seems only fair to have something against that.

I'm not sure what they might be yet, but 25-year-old Jared Kushner who has just bought the politics and media weekly, the New York Observer, looks like he turned up as an intern after finishing graduate school and in some weird mix up he liked it so much he bought the paper.

By the way, the paper is best known as once being the home of Candace Bushell who penned her Sex and the City column that became a book and a TV series.

And the deal actually sounds like an episode of 'Sex and the City'. You know the one where she meets this preppy 25-year old and blahs on about how "sometimes a girl has just got to have a younger man, they have no hang-ups and they're really grateful" or something like that.

Later in the episode Carrie meets Jared's dad. Although that might be difficult as he's in prison with a rap sheet that is pure Hollywood.

Mr Charles Kushner, who gave his son a few multi-million dollar leg-ups to get going. Thanks dad.

Although quite what Jared is thinking now is anyone's guess. Charles Kushner was sentenced to two years in after pleading guilty to 18 counts of tax evasion, witness tampering and illegal campaign donations.

There's more. He also owned up to hiring a prostitute to seduce his brother-in-law and having a videotape of the event sent to his sister.

Who does that? Oh wait the guy who wants to get back at his sister for cooperating with a federal investigation into his business activities.

At this point in the relationship Carrie decides that really a young man is fine, but if she has to to have the family as well she's going to take a pass. Next!

Vanity Fair

Kate Moss scores again. Vanity Fair gives its blessing to the top vacuum cleaner of the fashion world.

There can't be many careers where a major drugs scandal is a actually a career boost, but almost a year down the line that seems to be Teflon Kate's story.

Vanity Fair has put her in its Best Dressed Hall of Fame. I'm not sure what that means. She turned up at Bobby Gillespie's wedding to former Dazed & Confused editor Katie England wearing a white hot pant suit and stole the show. I guess that's what you have to do (although you sort of have to feel sorry for the - maybe she took the whole upstaged at the wedding by beautiful skinny blonde girl in hotpants well...yeah right).

But then you start reading the rest of the list and you realise its just the same old names (with David Beckham and Prince William et cet) and really is nothing more than self-ingratiation celebrity twaddle.

Still it's another Kate Moss cover, and another reason for those brands that were worried about using the model for their next campaign not to worry so much, They can now line up (no pun, honest) to follow Burberry and Rimmel, which stuck by her, and the likes of Agent Provocateur and Calvin Klein Jeans, which rewarded her with new work.

I would run out and order myself a bag of what ever she's taking, but I don't think I have the nostrils for it.