Thursday, November 30, 2006

Talk talk

Tommy Sheridan, the News of the World's favourite socialist, is joining one of TalkSport's stations joining other failed left wingers on the airwaves.

First there was Derek Hatton, the man best known for running Liverpool into the ground in the 1980s under the auspices of the Trotskyist group the Militant Tendency, and sending redundancy notices to workers by taxi.

He found a berth on 105.4 Century FM. I'm not sure what he talks about, but according to Century, Degsy, as he is better known along with someone called Di, offer "celebrity chat, cool tunes and lots of laughs". Me? I'm feeling the warmth already.

Then there is strange milk-licking 'Celebrity Big Brother' contestant and expelled Labour Party member George "I never get tired of the sound of my own voice praising various dictators" Galloway.

He can, of course, be found on TalkSport. I don't think he talks about sport, but more about his great chats with likes of Syrian President Bashar Al-Assad or the great times he had chowing down with Saddam Hussein.

Now joining the ranks of failed (but very sun-tanned lefties) is Tommy Sheridan another member of the now-defunct Militant Tendency and more recently of the Scottish Socialist party, and now pretty much on his own after all that business about orgies and such caused him and his loyal wife Gail a spot of bother with the tabloids. Not enough to stop Sheridan.

He has joined the TalkSport-owned Talk 107. Though to be fair, as Charlie Whelan wrote recently, Sheridan has gained near cult-hero status in Scotland, because unlike his compatriot, "gorgeous” George Galloway, he is seen as a serious politician. This is a man who would never dream of appearing on 'Celebrity Big Brother'. No, he is happier being snapped as he's arrested for the hundredth time outside a nuclear base.

But like Galloway he is another of these overly tanned types. Can he just on accept the fact that he is Scottish and be done with the paleness? OK, no, I guess he can't.

Sheridan is presenting "Sunday Morning with Citizen Tommy". I'm sure it will be all very topical. He will no doubt entertain his band of listeners with, not I suspect, tales of affairs and swinging, but more fanciful stuff like the curious allegations that he's a victim of M15 spooks. Please don't laugh.

But despite all his troubles he is still upbeat -- as he said on a recent TV interview: "You have got to have the ability to laugh at yourself because if you don't, then you won't get any affection from people in Scotland. No-one is above having the Michael extracted from them at one time or another - that's part of being Scottish. And I don't think anyone is too precious to have fun poked at them. You have to be willing to go with that."

I'm trying to work out who will be next...maybe Dave Cameron could get a man of the people show.

For more on Sheridan and his move to radio, there's a rather long Scotsman article.

Wednesday, November 29, 2006

Blair and Hitler

Running an ad that compares the prime minister Tony Blair to Adolf Hitler is just plain wrong.

I'm not the only one as a number of people complained about the ad for NO2ID, an anti-identity card campaign group, which ran in The Guardian.

As you an see it shows a close-up of Blair's face in monochrome, with a barcode placed on his top lip to resemble the German dictator's moustache.

NO2ID said that the photograph of Tony Blair was retouched to make it look like a 1930s portrait and the layout was designed to recall the Nazi era. The campaign group argued that the photograph did not portray Tony Blair "as Hitler" but was intended to be "a comparison of Tony Blair with Hitler based on policy, not personality".

On policy? Well that's okay then.

 NO2ID said that the ad contained an implicit claim that "identity cards were useful to the implementation of Nazi policies across Europe; they argued that that was beyond doubt" and asserted that identity cards themselves had "been used to control populations in occupied Europe and were very closely associated with the process of sorting victims for the concentration camps".

In its defence, NO2ID argued that free speech was a vital function of advertising and said the ad was intended to be insulting to Tony Blair.

In its defence, The Guardian said the ad did not make a serious comparison between Tony Blair and Hitler, but sought to highlight a particularly contentious policy. It said the newspaper was aimed at an adult and educated readership and, as such, it should allow a certain degree of latitude in the advertising it carried that depicted political figures.

The Advertising Standards Authority rejected the complaints after concluding the ad may be have been distasteful to some but was unlikely to cause serious or widespread offence.

The ASA said: "We considered that, although the ad may have been distasteful to some, it was unlikely to be seen as making a serious comparison between Tony Blair and Hitler but instead as highlighting a lobbying group's opinion that ID cards should not be introduced because of the threat to civil liberty they posed. We concluded that, as such, the ad was unlikely to cause serious or widespread offence."

Tuesday, November 28, 2006

Grade A

Michael Grade's appointment as chairman of ITV is a huge coup.

While there has been endless amounts of speculation about who will succeed Charles Allen as chief executive by journalists and analysts, with just about every name in the industry mentioned at least once, no one has paid any attention to who will replace ITV chairman Sir Peter Burt. Then wham!, out of nowhere, ITV pulls something out of the bag.

If ever a broadcaster needs a figure like Grade and his years of industry experience then this is it.

Grade is only two-and-a-half years into a four-year term as chairman of the BBC. That's not a job you leave lightly.

Grade is clearly relishing the challenges ahead. The first will be to finalise the appointment of a chief executive.

Stephen Carter or Andy Duncan seem to be the floating favourites.

After that, there is the challenge of programming and advertising and ITV knows it. In the announcement, Burt said it straight.

"ITV's challenges, particularly on the programming and advertising side, are considerable."

What's left after the programming and the advertising? Oh right the static.

Grade knows it as well.

"My first priority at ITV will be to support the team in accelerating the improvement in programming performance for our viewers and advertisers. This is the best way to enhance the value of the company for our shareholders," he said.

At the BBC, he has been looking on as the, largely the BBC continues to innovate and succeed with its entertainment programming, creating smash hits such as ' Strictly Come Dancing', 'Doctor Who', 'Jane Eyre' and documentaries such as 'Planet Earth' while ITV flounders.

There is little to compare on ITV at times. Other than its hit soaps, it’s all a bit of a forgettable wash. Although to be fair as reality TV shows go, 'I'm a Celebrity... Get Me Out of Here!’ is a winner. At least ITV axed 'Love Island' to the collective relief of all but tabloid gossip writers. Now, with the failed NTL merger behind it, if it can focus on quality, ITV's future is suddenly this morning looking a little brighter.

UPDATE: Another thought, everyone is no doubt wondering how much exactly ITV is paying Grade. No idea, other than a lot, but to give an idea back in July Grade did say the BBC was underpaying its executives as he deflected criticism of director-general Mark Thompson's recent pay rise to £619,000.

Grade said that the ten members of the BBC's executive board all could earn more if they worked in the private sector, rather than for the publicly funded broadcaster.

He has obviously taken his own advice.

Friday, November 24, 2006

Userless content

This is quite surprising. Looks like there are still a few hiccups for media owners to sort out on their journey into the world of user generated content - namely lack of users.

Not entirely, it seems that blogs are going strong and people are coming forward to do them, its just the other bits.

From Newsnight editor, Peter Barron

A few weeks back we launched Oh My Newsnight, an invitation to make a short film for the programme to run early next year. Of course we're not alone in asking viewers to provide User Generated Content - these days everybody seems to be at it.

At least, lots of programmes, but I'm not so sure lots of users are.

We asked you to send us a film of around two minutes duration on any subject of your choice. And yes, we've had a few offerings so far, but very much of the YouTube "me and my cat" variety.

What's surprising is that while many viewers are prepared to sit down and create lengthy and thoughtful blogs about what we're doing on Newsnight - or what we should be doing - which will be read by about 50,000 hardened blog watchers, almost noone seems to want to commit those thoughts to video, with a potential audience of a million viewers.

So, this is last orders ladies and gentlemen. If you want to get your message across there is a short time left to get cracking with camera, webcam or mobile phone. If your message is you'd rather leave it to us, that's also fine.

Or maybe your view coincides with that of the Daily Show's Jon Stewart in this fabulous savaging of CNN's efforts in the field of User Generated Content.

Peter Barron is editor of Newsnight.

Hat tip Mark.

Durex Mates

Durex airs its male adult toy ad on TV next week and its creative looks like it’s been borrowed from a rival.

Durex got a splash of headlines this week with the news that it was to become the first brand to promote an adult toy for men on UK national television. Of course, being quite naughty it will not air until after 11pm.

The Durex product on offer is a "vibrating penis ring". It will appear in a 30-second spot, created by McCann Erickson Barcelona.

The ad follows a couple sitting at a dinner table and the woman has what looks like an engagement ring box in her bowl. She picks it up and it starts to vibrate, she smiles and says: "Yes, I do." The strapline says: "New Durex Play Vibrator. The vibration ring for him to give pleasure to both of you."

 It's a nice idea - the engagement ring creative works well. Well, at least that’s what Claydon Heeley thought back in January when it created a similar viral film for rival condom brand Mates and its vibrating penis ring.

Created on a tiny budget, the film features a couple at dinner where the man tries to woo his love with a ring. It’s only on the third attempt - when he proffers the vibrating toy - that the woman says ‘yes’. Sound familiar?

The original Mates spot has been seen by about 100,000 people and is still doing the rounds.

Admittedly, as the Mates film is a viral it is a little racier. It finishes with the man dropping his trousers, buttocks to the camera, and we are left to imagine the vibrating toy in place, giving us some comedy porn. Well if it works once, why not use it again? Posted by Picasa

Thursday, November 23, 2006

Tory 'tosser'

Oh dear. The Conservative Party is attempting to ditch its stuffy image through new advertising that uses a "tosser" to warn against getting into debt.

Yes that's right, a Tory "tosser". They always think of these things first. The "tosser" film is the first of six "sort it" initiatives from the Tories. They are going to put it on YouTube among other places.

 The web ad shows a young man being influenced by his "tosser inside".

"Inside all of us lives a conniving dirty little parasite the tosser within. He wants you to spend spend..."

I'm not sure about the "tosser" inside, more like the Tory inside. It just reminds me of Loadsamoney and the 80s. I suppose that's where David Cameron got his political grounding.

There is a serious message in here somewhere about getting people to take personal responsibility for a series of issues, beginning with personal debt.

According to a Conservative spokesperson: "The 'sort-it' campaign is not a political campaign. It is about getting people to think about their own social responsibilities. We don’t agree that in opposition all you can do is talk about what you might do in government."

...which is handy because I haven't really heard a lot of talk about what Cameron is going to do.

The campaign has been created by advertising agency Karmarama.

David Buonaguidi, Karmarama's creative director, said: "The Tosser Inside is a wake-up call designed to appeal to an audience that usually screens out this sort of message. And by posting this film online, we’ve cut out the need to toss away millions on media spend."

UPDATE: You can now see this on YouTube as some one in the comments has pointed out.

YouTube effect

CBS has seen a massive increase in viewers after it started posting clips on YouTube.

US TV network CBS only opened its channel on YouTube last month and has already racked up 30m viewers.

Incredible stuff, and it really shows you how powerful this site is. While the music firms such as EMI and Universal talk of suing, they should really be looking at what CBS is doing.

CBS has three of the top 25 most viewed videos this month, including clips from naval crime drama 'NCIS', 'Late Show with David Letterman', 'The Late Late Show with Craig Ferguson' and 'The Early Show'.

Letterman's 'Borat Meets David Letterman' posted more than 1m viewings alone. So take a look. If you take any more Borat that is.

On the back of the 'Letterman' clips being posted, CBS says that notable increases in ratings have been recorded for these programmes, in particular, 'Late Show with David Letterman', which has added 200,000 new viewers.

This is exactly the kind of stuff that ITV should be doing in the UK, its in the process of relaunching its website and CBS is really pointing the way forward to show how you can give stuff away, engage with your community and reap the benefit in viewers.

Wednesday, November 22, 2006

ASA

Some people have too much time on their hands and complain to the advertising watchdog.

I've often wanted to complain to the Advertising Standards Authority. Usually when looking at an ad and thinking “I bet you could interpret that as racist, sexist, homophobic and anti-semitic", but before I get a chance to put pen to paper or pick up the phone, I have to remind myself that it’s wrong to complain just so we can have a really good headline on Brand Republic. Besides I would be found out and, well, it would be embarrassing if I was.

I digress, sort of. More than 20 people this week complained to the ASA about the Lynx ad where the guy in it showers people in huge amounts of sweat.

They were pissed off that the ad made fun of people who suffered from excessive perspiration.

Twenty people is a pretty big hit. They must have been having a group meeting or something. That, or people really do have too much time on their hands.

They complained it was "offensive", "insensitive" and "made fun of sufferers of hyperhidrosis", which is apparently the condition describing excessive sweating.

Everybody sweats, it can be embarrassing, but no one sweats like the guy in the Lynx ad and no one could possibly take that ad seriously. The guy has a hose pipe under his arm and it’s funny. It’s almost a really good ad. I say almost, as the most annoying thing about it is the naff Scottish voiceover that accompanies the spot.

It clearly wasn't shot in sunny Scotland. The beach and skyscrapers kind of give that one away. It was shot in south America and created by Lowe Argentina.

Some from the agency emailed me a while ago to complain about how their ad had been butchered with the adding of the voiceover. I'd have to agree, it’s terrible, but as I gather a naff Scottish voice over is not reason enough to complain to the ASA, which is a shame.

The ASA was, of course, having nothing to do with the missives from the 12 step hyperhidrosis boys and dismissed the complaints, although it did say that some people might find the ad distasteful, but didn't elaborate as to whether this had anything to do with... OK I'll stop now.

Tuesday, November 21, 2006

Balance sheet

Who would have guessed… Rupert Murdoch has some kind of a conscience, better known as a balance sheet.

Murdoch has scrapped OJ Simpson's book and scheduled television interview calling the project "an ill-considered decision".

We all know why he did… no one was going to buy the book (published by News Corp-owned Harper Collins) or watch the TV show (on News Corp-owned Fox). Advertisers were pulling out and that's really it. Game over.

Murdoch isn't concerned about the morals of this project, where OJ Simpson describes a hypothetical way of killing his ex-wife. He did apologise, but it’s a little late. The book was due to be published on Nov 30 and he waited to the last possible moment before changing his mind and bowing to intense pressure from the US public. I'm sure he would have ploughed on, if it would had made a buck or two.

When I first heard about the project, it seemed almost impossible to work out at first why anyone would do it. I was being slightly stupid, of course, as I forgot to enter pots of money into the equation. Doh! Simpson had signed a deal worth £1.8m although he personally wasn't getting the cash -- his family were. So that's OK then.

I'm sure when Harper Collins signed the deal they thought it was gold. A book about OJ and a TV interview to sell it, how could it all go wrong?

But still, as barrel-scraping goes, this takes the biscuit. OJ Simpson was cleared of murdering his former wife Nicole Brown Simpson and her "friend" Ron Goldman in 1995 but was then found liable for their deaths in a civil case and had to pay as much as $35m in damages.

Murdoch's News Corp had planned to publish Simpson's book called 'If I Did It' (described as an "imagined confession”), and a television special later this month.

But there has been genuine outrage in the US and rebellion from Murdoch's own Fox TV network, which is one of the more surprisingly twists of the case.

In the interview, Simpson was to have spoken in hypothetical terms about how he would have committed the 1994 killings?! It’s so bizarre. Clearly OJ has some time on his hands and pretty much thinks about nothing else than: how would I have done it? Not that he did of course... because he's innocent. A court case proved that. Well, one of them anyway.

"I think News Corp finally stepped up, admitted they made a mistake, and did the right thing," said Jonathan Polak , a lawyer for Fred Goldman, Ronald Goldman's father. "This is everything we have been asking News Corp. to do for the past two weeks."

According to various reports, at least a dozen Fox affiliates across the country had already decided not to air the interview and all the advertisers wanted out. It would have appeared as virtually paid-for programming. Who wants to have their product associated with OJ and schlock like this?

Michael Palmer, vice president and general manager of WFVX, the Fox affiliate in Bangor, said his station would have reluctantly aired the interview had Fox broadcast it. "It was reprehensible, and certainly not something suitable for the holidays."

There you have it: not suitable for the holidays.

Monday, November 20, 2006

Yahpoo

Yahoo! is in trouble, according to an internal memo that could see its workforce slashed.

A confidential internal memo reported in The Wall Street Journal has revealed that Yahoo! needs a dramatic organisational shake-up and cuts in its work force of up to 20%, according to an internal memo written last month by senior vice-president Brad Garlinghouse.

Garlinghouse, described as a second-tier Yahoo! executive who has taken increasing powerful roles in the company since joining three-and-a-half years says that Yahoo! suffers from a "lack of consistent leadership, business focus” and a "single cohesive strategy".

"We lack a focused, cohesive vision for our company. We want to do everything and be everything -- to everyone."

The document was published in the Saturday edition of The Wall Street Journal and a Yahoo! spokesman has confirmed it is authentic.

According to the WSJ article , Yahoo! shares have fallen about 31% since the start of the year, compared with a roughly 20% rise for Google. EMarketer predicts Google will command 25% of U.S. online-ad revenue this year, compared with 18% for Yahoo, when certain marketing expenses are factored out. Both had a roughly 19% market share last year, according to the research firm. Yahoo's quarterly revenue has essentially plateaued near $1.5 billion for the past four quarters it reported.

Yahoo last month said third-quarter net income dropped about 38% from a year earlier, largely because of changes in accounting for stock options, and it lowered its 2006 revenue projections, citing competition for ad dollars.

The Journal story also describes rumours that chief operating officer Dan Rosensweig and chief financial officer Sue Decker could be elevated to become co-presidents, in preparation for the retirement of chairman and CEO Terry Semel, age 64, who joined Yahoo! five years ago.

The call for restructuring follows a series of embarrassments that have caused Yahoo! shares to lose 31.5% of their value so far this year as it struggles to keep up with rival Google.

Google has been piling the pressure on Yahoo! after its YouTube acquisition. Despite being told by some that it is just about to enter a world of legal trouble with its huge $1.65bn acquisition of YouTube, Google is seen as leading the way in terms of dotcom innovation.

Google has made some inspired acquisitions with the likes of Blogger and Picasa, as well as others. Now people are looking to see what Yahoo! will do, and whether it will be able to clinch a deal to buy the number two social networking site Facebook.com to recapture momentum from Google.

It badly needs something major. If Yahoo! waits around too long it will be beaten to the punch as the sector gains in confidence and, more importantly, the valuations continue to rise. Second-tier players are seeing their valuations rise in turn. Facebook looks like it will cost $1bn. This is a price that Viacom has already blinked at before slinking away.

The memo, which is for some reason known as "The Peanut Butter Manifesto" because it argues that Yahoo's investment strategy is like spreading peanut butter too thinly on bread – calls for a "radical reorganisation" of the web giant.


Garlinghouse says Yahoo! should cut its staff by as much as 20% as part of a plan to reshape the current business "There are so many people in charge (or believe that they are in charge) that it's not clear if anyone is in charge. I believe we must embrace our problems and challenges and that we must take decisive action," the memo states bluntly."

He focuses on deleting a variety of duplicative groups that pit established business units against new initiatives, including music, photos, search, applications, social networks, global strategy and even who controls the Yahoo! homepage.

Is anyone running this company?

In a statement, Yahoo's leadership has defined three areas of focus for its business.

"The memo itself highlights that we have an open, collaborative culture and a senior management team that is intensely committed to helping Yahoo! fulfil its potential as an internet leader," the Yahoo statement said.

The WSJ says the memo has received support from Yahoo! senior management and that Garlinghouse had been asked to head an internal committee to investigate the issues he raises.

The memo itself was written in response to a New York Times article last month that Garlinghouse describes as "a painful public flogging".

"While it lacked accurate details, its conclusions rang true, and thus was a much-needed wake up call," the Yahoo executive writes. "It's time for us to get back up."

Thursday, November 16, 2006

Celebrity hell

ITV's latest outing for 'I'm Celebrity...' is possibly its best (worst) to date.

I admit, I watched a little last night and was stunned. With Lauren Booth, David Gest, Jan Leeming and company, ITV has pulled off one of the worst car crashes of Z-listers there ever was.

You would never have thought that any of these characters would amount to much in such a show. But no, former news reader Leeming is a bitter and twisted so and so. Gest is bonkers ("Zebra milk"?!) and worst of the bunch (I mean best) is Booth the total waste of space who is Cherie Blair's half sister and so the PM's sister-in-law.

For the last nine years, she has used the connection to pop up all over the place and slag off the Blairs. She is the sister-in-law from hell. Most of her work has been in the Daily Mail where she has pronounced on cue on the wrongs of New Labour, the ills of the war in Iraq and why Tony Blair should go.

She is a shameless embarrassment who has made a career out of Blair bashing, which is why it was so entertaining last night to see her reveal herself as the gauche celebrity wannabe that she is as she came out... all black.

She outed herself as a reggae fan (sang reggae), talked of the Brixton massive, dope smoking and then moved on to hip-hop. It was hard to watch, but so brilliant. It was like Borat was a blonde.

"I don't think many people would think of me sitting outside a club with a Tennents at 16 with the Yardies."

Yardies? Are you sure? She rethought this one:

"Well, not the Yardies but the ragga crowd."

"I had 10 years of just getting down, whether it was the reggae scene, going out in Camden Town, whatever. I am just the hip-hop girl. I went to cool clubs, rap clubs."

Of course, Myleene Klaas is in there too, wearing bikinis and smiling for the camera and seems alright, as does Jason Donovan and the ex-Busted guy Matt Willis (despite his crimes against music) while designer Scott Henshall… oh just shut up. What a big girl (I mean that with respect of course in the gender neutral sense).

Wednesday, November 15, 2006

Al Jazeera English

Months late, a last-minute change of name (Al Jazeera English?!), but Arabic news channel Al Jazeera, best know for its Al Qaeda footage, launches its English-language channel today.

The channel has changed its name at the last minute from Al Jazeera International to Al Jazeera English. It doesn't exactly roll off of the tongue. Actually it is a terrible name, knack handed. Made the Emir came up with the one.

The channel will initially broadcast for 12 hours a day and becomes a 24-hour news operation from January 1. It had been meant to launch in the spring, but was hit but internal disagreements and problems about exactly what it was going to be.

A story yesterday said that British staff working for the new English-language channel drank so much alcohol that they were ordered to undergo special "cultural awareness" training on how to behave in a Muslim country.

Clearly the Sultans of Arabic news didn't realise that drinking alcohol is considered journalistic training in the UK.

Not to worry, the presenters and producers hired on lucrative tax-free salaries to launch Al-Jazeera International were lectured by Islamic groups on "appropriate behaviour" after a series of marathon drinking sessions in Qatar, where the new service is based.

The channel's owner, the Emir of Qatar, is understood to have personally ordered the move.

Broadcasting from studios in Doha, Kuala Lumpur, London and Washington DC (bomb proof, I hope) it is on course to reach 80m homes in Europe, Africa and South-East Asia. How many will be watching is another matter.

It hit a bit of a hiccup in the US. It has no major cable or satellite distribution. It is available on something called GlobeCast, which is French or something.

In the Middle East, it has won a reputation of taking a distinctly Islamic view of the world, which is fair enough, and we can expect more of the same from the English-language version, which might mean more problems for London and Washington.

According to one presenter Felicity Barr -- yes that's really her name, Tarquin, James and Henry -- are all on board, says "It is definitely an international channel, but it's certainly going to have a Middle Eastern feel about it. The instant reaction for, say, a Western organisation, is to get analysis from the United States or from the UK. We will be getting our reaction, first and foremost, from the Middle East."

While Al Jazeera stormed the Arabic world with not much problem largely by running footage released by Al Qaeda, including videos of Osama Bin Laden and 7/7 bomber Shehzad Tanweer. The Arabic channel controversially refers to Palestinian suicide bombers as "shaheeds" (martyrs) and has been accused by the Bush administration of being an Islamist propaganda tool.

Predictions are it is going to find the-English language version a bit harder. The easy thing about the Arabic world is that is not big on freedom of speech and the big players like the Saudis don't like criticism. This is what did for the BBC's Arabic service years ago, which Al Jazeera rose out of the ashes of.

Interestingly, the new English language channel has already faced accusations of "selling its soul" to the West.

A list of critics including former employees, Right and Leftwing bloggers and Muslim commentators, have all predicted a disastrous future for the fledgling channel as it attempts to crossover into the mainstream.

Tuesday, November 14, 2006

Letterman balls

Did Fallon get its award-winning idea for its much admired Sony Bravia ad from someone else?

This bit of video is flying around the web. It looks kind of familiar and it was done by David Letterman in San Francisco 10 years ago.

OK, it isn't exactly the same, it isn't set to music, but the genesis of the idea is there and both were shot in San Francisco.

The Letterman version is ran on 'The Late Show' in 1996. It wasn't just about balls, but melons as well. No, I'm not sure what that's about either.

It is, of course, only the first example, Apple was embroiled in a spat last year and before that the Honda 'cog' ad was at centre of rip-off debate over 1987 film after two Swiss artists considered legal action against the ground-breaking two-minute-long Honda 'cog' ad, complaining that it bears similarities to a 1987 short film.

According to a story in Creative Review at the time, Peter Fischli and David Weiss are concerned that the "cog" ad, created by Wieden+Kennedy London, bears a resemblance to their film 'Der Lauf Der Dinge'.

That spat echoed a dispute between Guinness and a filmmaker, Mehdi Norowzian, who claimed that the brewing giant's 1995 dancing ad ripped off a short film he had made.

Despite marked similarities between the Guinness spot, created by Dublin agency Ark, and Norowzian's film, the court ruled against the filmmaker, who ended up liable for costs.

Another artist, the Turner Prize-winning Gillian Turner, threatened to sue BMP DDB and Volkswagen over an ad she said ripped off her "signs" work.

KFC defence

Fast food is really bad for you, which is why KFC is warning people from space.

At least that's how I read it. A huge ad of Colonel Sanders outside Area 51 near Roswell, home of various space craft that the US government don't want you to know about or just lots of desert.

Either way, it’s a fitting choice to create a really big ad or 'astro-vertisement' as I like to call it (OK, that's not me) of Kentucky Fried Chicken's founder Colonel Sanders.

It's like a planetary warning telling passing little grey men to stay away from the planet Earthy because we're infected by junk food.

It could be seen by KFC as an act of penance for making and selling all of that disgusting crap and selling it on every street corner.

Hopefully passing interstellar vessels will see it and cancel any plans to say hello to pals at Area 51, invade or convene with John Travolta (a fan of KFC) and the rest of the Scientologists, who are waiting for Battlefield Earth to being for real... or something.

Seriously though, KFC has created the huge face in the desert as part of a worldwide redesign of the chain's restaurants and brand logo.

I don't know, what is it? It strikes me as odd to choose the desert to kick off your global rebranding.

In the rebrand, Sanders appears in a red cook's apron, rather than the iconic white suite jacket, as this gives KFC the "chance not only to make sure we stay relevant, but also communicates to customers the realness of Colonel Sanders and the fact that he was a chef."

He was a chef? Well, they could at least tell us what he cooked.

Wednesday, November 08, 2006

LA inevitable

Resistance is futile. The LA Times editor has lost his battle over staff cuts and quit.

Back in September, Jeffrey Johnson, publisher of the Los Angeles Times, and Dean Baquet, the editor, refused to lay off staff at the paper on the orders of bosses at parent group the Tribune Company, sparking a rebellion between title against its parent company.

Johnson was said to have reached a "temporary understanding" with his employers and that neither he nor Baquet were about to be sacked.

Today, Reuters is reporting that Baquet has resigned and that in a sombre meeting with hundreds of staff in the newsroom, publisher David Hiller said: "Dean and I spoke, and we decided we really have a different vision of where this newspaper is going." He added that there would be staff cuts next year but declined to say how many or whether they would be achieved by attrition or layoffs.

The publishers always somehow manage to survive and escape the swing.

Apparently Hiller's comments were greeted mostly with silence from reporters and editors, some of whom were in tears, according to people who attended the meeting.

Baquet is being replaced by Jim O'Shea, currently managing editor of The Chicago Tribune, will take up the position on Monday.

This all follows the rumour earlier this week that entertainment mogul David Geffen's sale of a Jackson Pollock painting for $140m (£73.4m) has intensified speculation that he plans to buy the LA Times.

Reports say that Geffen, founder of Geffen Records and co-founder of the Dreamworks film studio, is prepared to pay up to $2bn in cash for the newspaper. Other businessmen to register an interest in buying the LA Times are Eli Broad and Ron Burkle, who made their fortunes in real estate and supermarkets respectively.

Ebay fakes

Ebay needs to get a grip of its community as sellers are exposed as hawking fakes.

I've used Ebay a few times, not much of a fan. My mum likes it, but she likes 'CSI' and is obsessed by Las Vegas, so really I'm not sure what that says.

BBC One's Watchdog last night showed that some of the sellers that eBay calls its most reliable sellers ("pillars of the eBay community") are selling high quality counterfeits, but that's not really the point.

Among the products bought by the programme's researchers were counterfeit Prada shoes sold as authentic. The real shoes would cost around £190, but a £40 bid for a pair of "genuine" new ones was successful.

Two bogus Christian Dior bags that were sold as 100% brand new and authentic were snapped up for £75. The bags apparently appeared to be bought from different sellers, in fact they were from the same one. Watchdog said these were the worst copies the programme obtained, with shoddy detail and - here's the big clue – the bags were stuffed with Thai newspapers.

Also bought was a good copy of a Chloe bag and some highly sought after Adidas Y-3 trainers. Small details revealed these to be fake: no shoe should have the same number, but these did.

The report comes on the back of others about people being ripped off by the unscrupulous on eBay.

Ebay really does need to do more to protect customers from being conned and to protect itself. While the early model seemed ground breaking and exciting, it now seems worryingly prone to attack from the unscrupulous.

eBay says counterfeit goods are not allowed. But several big-name manufacturers feel the online marketplace – the most visited commercial website in the UK - isn't doing enough to police the problem.

Mike Roylance of Adidas said: "There are some really serious criminals behind this. We're seeing people going out to the Far East to bring containers in just to sell on eBay. They're making millions - it's big, big business."

eBay has a system for monitoring counterfeit goods, but the onus is on genuine brands to alert them of the ones to remove. That's the wrong way around.

When eBay does take down adverts for fake goods, it is easy for the traders caught out to do exactly the same again using a different name.

Since hearing the programme's findings, eBay has taken down ads from the sellers identified as selling counterfeit goods.

Tuesday, November 07, 2006

Female Beauty

People seem to have realised, courtesy of a Dove ad, over the weekend that female beauty is a con.

I could have you this (in a nice way of course) a long time ago. Who hasn't had the before and after experience. The after being at 7am and alcohol free. What that's just me? You're kidding.

Luckily it's the person that's inside that counts, you know, or something.

There's a big feature about this in The Times today where Mary Ann Sieghart gets The Dove treatment. Her conclusion, she looks better but feels fake. Fake's good right?

Anyway, we wrote about this on Brand Republic a couple of weeks ago. So if you haven't seen it take a look.




This is what we said when we made it ad of the week.

This Canadian ad, called "evolution" and created by Ogilvy Toronto, for Unilever's Dove ad continues the theme of using real women by showing how most cosmetics advertising use make-up, lighting, camera angles and image manipulation to create the illusion of beauty. The ad starts by focusing on a young woman's spotty face. She is then made up by stylists, has her hair done by hairdressers, is photographed under intense light, has her image manipulated by computer artists with her neck stretched, eyes lifted and face airbrushed. The image is then put on a billboard. The ad ends with the tagline "No wonder our perception of beauty is distorted. Take part in the Dove Beauty Workshop for Girls."

Monday, November 06, 2006

Nice war

The MoD is under for fire for spending £1.5m on an Army TV ad.

The ad, made by Publicis, was shot in Chile in South America. The £1.5m cost makes it one of the most expensive British Army ads ever made.

Critics are suggesting that the "forward as one" spot, which features paratroopers running out of the back of a C-130 transport plane and clearing a house with grenades, roping out of a helicopter, before converging on a bridge with more troops and vehicles, is a waste of taxpayers’ money.

 It looks pretty expensive and you imagine it’s the kind of thing that happens in the Brecon Beacons and on Salisbury Plain all the time.

Which is why you have to wonder why they flew all the men and equipment to South America for the ad.

This all comes at a time when troops fighting in the field are short of everything from Kevlar to bullets and properly armoured vehicles.

Ad agencies love to travel and even better to travel on a client's budget. Everyone knows that long-time favourite locations are New Zealand where you can film everything from people hula hooping (Heart FM), apples in an orchard (Magners), young people in the street (T-Mobile) and so many more. South Africa is a long time adland favourite as well.

So, it is good to see Chile getting a look in. Although, to be honest, the explanation of the MoD doesn't quite ring true.

"Part of the appeal of the Army is that you get to travel the world. The ad was intended to show that and did so very well."

Really? Scrub land and forests with some mud and a bridge that looks like England. Or possible more like Scotland?

Looks like another example of the COI not controlling costs and allowing budgets to spiral as the governments spending on advertising continues to soar.

In August, it was reported the COI had spent £168m on advertising as the department came under fire as departments including the Home Office and the Department for Work and Pensions questioned its value. Posted by Picasa

Thursday, November 02, 2006

Awash with MTV

Copenhagen is awash with pictures of the youthful Justin Timberlake, as MTV makes its attempt to own a significant portion of the promotional space for this year's MTV Europe Awards ceremony.

Artists confirmed for the event, held at the city’s Bella Center, include The Killers, Timberlake himself, Keane, Muse and the newly added Australian rock act Jet. This year’s sponsors include Replay Blue Jeans, Opel/Vauxhall and Sony Ericsson, which seems to be winning the battle in the advertising stakes, not only being included on all the MTV Europe Awards promotional material, but also taking several high-profile sites throughout the city to promote its new W850i Walkman mobile phone. If the other sponsors have their own promotional sites, they certainly aren't as visible.

The mobile phone company and Replay seem like a good brand fit, but the connection between Opel/Vauxhall and the youth music channel is less obvious, although the car marque is set to complete a pan-European television and web campaign based around the awards tonight to coincide with the ceremony. Copenhagen’s press is also full of stories regarding the event including a secret gig from The Killers, which was attended by Timberlake and his A-list movie star girlfriend Cameron Diaz.

Events to come include the pre-show party, starting at 7pm local time, the event itself, which starts at 8.30pm and the aftershow party that starts at 10.45pm and that eventually closes at 4am, and includes sets from actress Juliette Lewis and her band The Licks and DJ sets from Santa Cruz residents Goldierocks and DJ Lazer. Only a few hours to go, until one of Europe’s biggest music events starts and is broadcast to the world.

The journalists are out in force, and every media or creative agency chief executive that could blag a ticket already has. And if your names not down, you’re definitely not coming in...

MySun

The Sun, from a relatively slow start, is really starting to show how Web 2.0 should be done online.

Its user-generated content website MySun already has more than 130 blog entries with bloggers regularly posting and picking up decent amounts of reads, with a surprising number of literate and readable blog entries.

Users can also create a MySun homepage complete with personally selected categories of articles, with the personalisation clearly taking its cue from News Corp comrade MySpace.

Its forums are sparking with debate and its online videos are pulling a real pull.

This all less than two months after the major overhaul of The Sun's website, which is putting it ahead of some of its more established newspaper rivals.

It has also put the investment into the project editorially, with MySun boasting a six-strong team dedicated running the project in which a community editor, hired specifically to run the feature, oversees a team of editorial moderators.

Pete Picton, Sun online editor says that one of the key drivers was to get the readers involved, and why not? It's free content, more ad inventory and then there are all those page impressions.

Picton says that traffic numbers and numbers of people signing up has exceeded expectation and that new features and developments of the service would soon appear.

"Previously we haven't given readers a huge number of option to get involved with the website. This is giving them the chance to respond to content, to write and review content, and create their own comments.

"What we hope this will grow into is readers creating their own areas around the site, to review albums and review holidays, to start to create that kind of rich content. Doing this creates a loyalty because the readers feel more involved with the site," Picton said.

Wednesday, November 01, 2006

AdVerbatims

Newish site called AdVerbatims, really this is apparently just want people say, and you can easily believe it. Very funny with lots of quotes from agency and client idiots, all laugh out loud stuff.

For instance:

#118- "It's amazing how well you interpreted the brief. This piece is exactly what we wanted, you could not have made it any better, I love it. But I also think it’s too good. This is for a bigger client, a more international one. We're not like that. See if you can do something shittier that we can use."
(Client, same Marketing Manager)


Or others just as choice:

"I don’t get paid for thinking."
(Agency, Art Director)

"Thinking in vain, that's our business."
(Agency, Account Director)

Google ad

Google is set to overtake Channel 4's ad revenue by the end of year and ITV1 by 2008.

If you hadn't realised the ground had seismically shifted, then this is your final wake-up call before you roll over and go back to sleep.

Last month, it was reported that UK internet advertising spend rose by more than 40% in the first half of the year to £917.2m, and is now just under a percentage point behind national newspapers in terms of share.

The IAB said that the gap between online and newspaper advertising is narrowing fast and if this growth rate continues then online will be a £2bn medium by the New Year.

Newspapers are one thing, but television really seals it. The search giant will pull in around £900m of ad revenue in the UK by the end of the year according to Duncan, in comparison with Channel 4's estimated £800m.

If it’s passing C4, it must have passed Five already and that means ITV is not far off from being surpassed as more and more cash goes online.

Media buyers are saying that Google overtake ITV1 as early as next year.

Duncan said that traditional media needed to wake up to growing threat of online ad revenue.

"People need to wake up and realise that this is not just a cyclical issue. There is a deep structural change taking place. If we want to protect the fantastic legacy of UK broadcasting, we need to wake up to this sooner rather than later."

He's right, but it isn't just the TV industry -- it is the media industry as a whole that needs to wake up and really look beyond what they are doing to compete with pure-play online firms like Google.

As newspapers are passed, many in that industry must have already realised that they have become content islands quite separate from the rest of the online industry. Virtually all of the major newspaper groups, even those who have done great work online, lack any type of community and that is what everything online comes back to.

TV as well as papers should be in an ideal position to exploit it and bring in that extra ad revenue, but no one has yet.