Wednesday, January 31, 2007

Telegraph poles

Simon Waldman, The Guardian's digital media chief, has hit back at the Telegraph's number one website claim.

He tackles the whole web auditing business in detail and if you were ever a little shaky on what exactly means (and why it matters) what then you should be reading it.

His piece comes in response to the claim that the Telegraph started talking up late last year in a £300,000 ad campaign created by Clemmow Hornby Inge. If you've sat on a Tube recently you've probably found it hard to miss the ads from the Telegraph Group proclaiming that, according to figures from internet monitor Hitwise, Telegraph.co.uk had the most amount of visitors of any quality UK newspaper website between July and September 2006.

Of course, anyone who knows even very little about web stats knows that Hitwise figures are not quoted by publishers when it comes to auditing their websites or selling advertising on them.

However, the problem is that because there are multiple currencies in use it’s confusing and allows people like the Telegraph to come out and say "We're number one (according to someone or other)".

So why are the Telegraph using them you ask? It’s a good question. If you're not the number one or even number two, er, or even number three newspaper (ouch) and someone shows someone within your organisation figures showing you're suddenly an all-conquering number one, then I think someone, who really shouldn't be allowed to, starts making stupid decisions – resulting in £300k ad campaigns.

The campaign has clearly irked a number of people because complaints have been made to the Advertising Standards Authority about the Britain's No.1 quality newspaper website claim.

You might wonder how the Telegraph managed it, when in November the ABC Electronic had Guardian Unlimited with 13,841,182 users, followed by the Times Online with 9,028,963 and The Sun Online 7,578,042. Telegraph.co.uk had 6,374,362.

Going from 4th to 1st would be something of an achievement. Who knows maybe the silver surfers, (no not the Marvel one) have suddenly gone web crazy, allowing the Telegraph to soar.

Waldman writes: "Initially, I thought this was just a marketing wheeze - just to put themselves back in the frame. But word gets back that they really believe it. There has been a complaint to the ASA (not from me, I should add), and ultimately it will be their call whether this is legal, honest and decent etc. But, in the meantime, I think it probably makes most sense to have a look at the figures in a bit of detail here and let people make their own mind up.

"And yes before I get going, the big question is does it matter anyway? But I’ll get to that at the end."


Read the rest of Simon's piece here.

Tuesday, January 30, 2007

Inside out upside down

News International does magazines. Just not very well.

Today it pulled the rug on home style magazine Sunday Times Inside Out. The title never published an ABC and is thought to have struggled in a tough market. News International spent £6m on the launch marketing campaign alone with two million 28-page sample copies given away.

The Two weeks ago it pulled the plug on its project Dannii women's magazine…before it had even launched.

That title was due to launch last September, but a series of delays have meant the date has moved back several times.

This doesn't exactly bode well for News International's next magazine launch a rumoured weekly news, comment and analysis magazine that could draw on the editorial resources of The Times.

The company had registered the name Spectrum with the Patent Office and news analysis is thought to be the most likely route for the new magazine.

Still there has been some success it did win the contract to publish Sky Magazine…oh wait it won that from sister company BSkyB.

That said celebrity real life magazine Love It! recorded an initial ABC of 405,441 exceeding its 400,000 sales target.

There also meant to be a proposed Sunday Times-branded motoring title, but with star columnist Jeremy Clarkson involved with BBC Top Gear magazine that's not likely to happen anytime soon.

Sun does Britishness

In a striking front page today The Sun tackles Britishness.

The effects of 'Celebrity Big Brother' are still rippling out and today The Sun has suspended Page 3 to replace it with a double page spread supporting its striking front page, which tackles what it means to be British to 12 kids from across the ethnic spectrum.

While the splash shows them all holding cards with vile terms of racist abuse they have suffered, inside they tell their stories. It's a great idea and a tabloid newspaper working at its best. It’s the kind of thing you would expect the Daily Mirror to be doing.

 

"They are some of the most offensive and ugly words in the English language. Words like 'nigger', 'spic' and 'raghead'.

"But today The Sun makes no apology for printing them -- or the pictures showing children who are the innocent victims of such repugnant insults.

"The youngsters, whether Muslim, Jewish, Sikh or Christian, have two things in common.

"Like 'Celebrity Big Brother' winner Shilpa Shetty, they have encountered racism in this country. But they are also all BRITISH.

"Shilpa's victimisation by bullies Jade Goody, Danielle Lloyd and Jo O'Meara ignited a national debate on how racism, like a monster from the deep, still lingers and lurks in 2007.
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Read the rest here.

Monday, January 29, 2007

Sour times

The Sunday Times took a huge swipe at The Guardian yesterday.

The paper laid into The Guardian accusing its Berliner relaunch of being a failure, saying that it was looking tired and old, and that there was discord at senior levels about the digital future of the paper. Ouch.

The piece sketched a number of storm clouds ahead for Alan Rusbridger, editor of The Guardian, not least of which is dwindling online classified revenues at Guardian Media Group cash cows such as Trader Media Group, which owns Auto Trader, not to mention Society and Media Guardian for jobs. It went so far to go right over the top and suggest that "the looming classified crisis threatens to put the business on the skids".

The piece, which damns the Berliner as being slightly larger than the Daily Mail, and lauds the cheaper conversion by The Independent in 2003 before adding that The Times moved successfully to compact format the following year (although, let’s face it, it is one of the dullest rebrands a paper has ever had in merely copying the Indie -- which loathe it or loathe it [sorry I mean like] did break new ground).

It goes on to say that The Independent and The Times are both taking sales from The Guardian. Although I'm not sure how -- in December, The Times' circulation was down by 3.9% to 635,777, while The Guardian fell by 4% to 365,635. Admittedly the Guardian was down, but no way did the Times take those sales.

While The Guardian is damned, its sister title The Observer is praised and Roger Alton "is now widely seen as having produced a better paper with the new format".

It quotes an unnamed media "pundit" saying "The Guardian is boring and already tired-looking, whereas The Observer has become a lot livelier. Worse for The Guardian in some ways is that The Independent is punchier and has achieved success at a much lower cost."

No that's just plain wrong, the Independent is dull dull dull. Interesting one-trick pony frontpages, but if you want news -- go elsewhere. So much for punditry. Despite producing a good paper, Alton's job is reported to be on the line, with Ian Katz, long seen as a replacement for Rusbridger, as the one who might get it.

The Sunday Times then moves on to the Guardian Unlimited, which remains one of the best newspaper sites around and says that poor integration is causing friction with Rushbridger wanting them closer together and Emily Bell, editor-in-chief of Guardian Unlimited, resisting. The paper has done a great job online and while sometimes you wonder about a design revamp, is more integration what’s needed?

There is more from the Sunday Times, which I suppose is worth noting, but its only contribution to fresh newspaper development is to stick its cover price up to £2 without offering anything much new in return.

Read the rest of the Sunday Times piece here.

Friday, January 26, 2007

Pom victory

The Australians love to call Brits “whingeing Poms”, but no more. A group of Brits in Australia have succeeded in their long campaign to ban an ad that depicted Englishmen as whingers.

The Australian version of the ASA, the Advertising Standards Bureau, yesterday ruled that the Englishmen were right to be offended by an ad for beer that negatively stereotyped and demeaned English people.

The radio ad for Toohey’s New Supercold beer (let’s face it they advertise nothing else in Australia other than beer) featured a group of Englishmen singing Land of Hope and Glory with various synonyms for whinge, including whine, moan, slag and complain.

 

The ad ended with a voiceover saying: "Introducing Toohey’s New Supercold, served so cold it’s a Pom’s worst nightmare".

The bureau ruled that negative words in the ad detracted from what it said was the otherwise playful nature of the word Pom. It said that Pom had been given "a derogatory and almost hostile meaning", Mark Jeanes, the acting chief of the bureau, said. The ad has been withdrawn.

The Aussies are obsessed by us in a way we're not about them. The ASB considered five TV, print and outdoor ads that made reference to the Australia-England rivalry in the advertising material.

While complaints were held against the Toohey's ad, others were not. Some examples of other ad taglines used last year included "sends shivers down a Pom's spine"; "the Poms are going to choke"; "Aussie cricket fans can stick it to the Poms"; and "for backyard fun, tonk a Pom". It's a strange place.

In deliberating on the complaints, the ASB considered that the use of the word "Pom" is part of the Australian vernacular and largely used in playful and often affectionate terms.

The board also said that Pom is not used in a way to vilify, or incite racial hostility towards, people of British extraction, particularly when considered in the context of the cricketing tradition and affectionate rivalry between the two countries.
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Thursday, January 25, 2007

Dream jobs

Apparently most people are not in their dream jobs.

According to a report on Reuters the dream job for most Americans is something that is "fun" and 84% are not in their dream job. So I guess that means 84% are not having fun at work. It’s a tough life. You have to wonder what they were expecting with the whole world of work thing.

I mean I like work, but fun isn't an adjective that I generally use to describe it.

Oddly, salary was one of the least important requirements of a dream job and was cited by just 12%. Clearly, none of these people have to live in London if cash is their least important requirement.

"That fun was more important than money, that was reassuring when you're looking at the workplace and what defines happiness for people in their jobs," said Jennifer Sullivan, spokeswoman for CareerBuilder.com.

No Jenn, what it means is that people were lying.

According to the survey having fun at a dream job was cited by 39%, with 17% percent saying making a difference in society was most important.

The survey was carried out by jobsite CareerBuilder.com and Walt Disney, which is holding a contest in which winners can get a chance to work at a Disney theme park job for a day.

Disney theme park for a day? Isn't that where you get punched by kids and generally abused and have to wear a stupid suit? This sort of reminds me of a story in Irvine Welsh's The Acid House.

Apparently the people in dream jobs are most likely to be firefighters and policemen, followed by teachers and estate agents. I tell you that makes no sense. Not surprising people in retail thought they had the least dreamy of jobs.

No mention of hard-working new media and journalists. What gives guys?

Asked what they had wanted to be when they grew up 22% of children said firefighter, 17% said princess and 16% said professional dancer. An equal number of people – 14%-- wanted to be cowboy or president.

Cowboy, I understand for the obvious reasons, but my careers officer had nothing doing when I suggested this.

The only presidential job worth having is surely Martin Sheen in the 'West Wing' or 12 colonies president Mary McDonnell in, yes you guessed it, Battlestar Galactica. She gets to order bad people out of airlocks. Clearly not something that gets advertised as part of the job.

Alas Wendy's

For a moment it looked like McCann Erickson had held onto the $400m Wendy's account.

Sadly, clearly proving that fast food is really bad for you this was just a sub-editor's error over Advertising Age, which sent out this breaking news at 18:23.

Wendy's $400 Million Creative Account Goes to McCann Erickson Unclear if Media Buying and Planning Will Also Move

By 18:46 it was all change as the US magazine had a change of heart and sent out this breaking news instead.

Wendy's $400 Million Creative Account Goes to Saatchi & Saatchi Unclear if Media Buying and Planning Will Also Move

New York (AdAge.com) -- Wendy's is moving its $400 million creative account from Interpublic's McCann Erickson to Publicis Groupe's Saatchi & Saatchi, according to executives familiar with the situation. It was unclear if media buying and planning, now at Universal McCann, will also move. The agencies either couldn't be reached or referred calls to the marketer. Wendy's CMO Ian Rowden declined to comment.

Wednesday, January 24, 2007

Life on Mars

The BBC's time-travel show 'Life on Mars' is back next month and if you haven't seen this promo trailer its really worth watching.

Created by Red Bee Media the viral transforms the show's two star coppers, modern day Sam Tyler, played by John Simm, and the unreconstruced 70s 'Sweeney' man Gene Hunt, played by Philip Glenister, into 'Camberwick Green' style claymation characters. A nice idea that's really well executed.

It's worth mentioning that Red Bee weren't first on the band wagon with this. Abbott Mead Vickers BBDO were there last year with its cheeky TV ad campaign for Quaker's Oatso Simple porridge range. That spot featured Windy Miller and ended up with a bit of a genital controversy if you remember. It involved Windy's eccentric Uncle Gruber, a naturist, coming to stay and exposing himself to viewers as you do.



I'm still intrigued how they are going to resolve this show. Is it a bump on the head? Seems a bit obvious and too close to "and it was all a dream". Time travel is another option, but again how likely is that?

Tuesday, January 23, 2007

Saying sorry

Channel 4 is unsurprisingly not going to axe 'Big Brother'. It isn't even saying sorry.

In a statement issued last night, Channel 4 chairman Luke Johnson launched a review of the show, which might involve some slapped wrists, but it seems that the broadcaster has become too attached to the piles of cash that the original reality show makes it.

This despite the complaints total about the racism row between former 'Big Brother' contestant Jade Goody and Bollywood star Shilpa Shetty now standing at 40,000

Johnson said: "The Channel 4 board recognises that the events of the last week on ‘Celebrity Big Brother’ have provoked an unprecedented level of public complaint. We believe this has triggered an important debate

"Clearly many people were worried and offended by what they saw. I want to reassure them that we take the views of our audience very seriously and profoundly regret any offence that may have been caused.

"On behalf of the board the chief executive and I have commissioned a review of the editorial and compliance processes that support Big Brother. The board will receive a full report and seek to identify any lessons that can be learned for the future. The programme remains on air for a further week and the channel is focused on its completion.”

Oh hang on a second, does that last bit sound like it has some bite in it? The "channel is focused on its completion", sounds like almost a veiled threat that the show, which has one week to go before the summer orgy for real gets going, could still be in trouble.

Clearly, nothing is going to happen now, viewing figures, which hit almost 9m for Goody's eviction, will slope off and Shilpa, who is odds on favourite to win the show, will be crowned 'Celebrity Big Brother' queen and all will be happy.

Personally, I'd like to see it go. I'd like to see a lot of them go. Where do they get these people from. If it's dimwits like Jade, it's post Lucy's like the one on 'Shipwrecked' who supports slavery!?

Channel 4 could then free up its schedules for some half decent programming and spare us from the vile mutterings of talentless media wannabes.

It should buy some programmes, did I mention that that the revamped 'Battlestar Galactica' is the best show on TV?

But don't take my word for it, The Guardian among others raves about it and said the other week that it was the only "award-winning drama that dares tackle the war on terror".

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Monday, January 22, 2007

Bomb scare

What with the evacuate "the building for two hours there's a bomb threat" today completely slipped away from me and I didn't get around to posting.

I'm trying to work out if it was a disgruntled former Haymarket employee, someone late for work or some genuine nutter. Possibly a combination of the two.

Great day for it, January 22 was officially misery day (there was a story about it somewhere today, but all I could find at this hour was one referring to misery day 2005, but you get the picture). This must be why my lunch appointment was 45 minutes late and when he did turn up it emerged he had been made redundant.

Friday, January 19, 2007

Dear Jade

 The Indian Tourism Office is writing to Jade they want her to come visit. In an open letter to Jade that has run in a number of the nationals including the Times, Daily Telegraph, Guardian, Independent, Metro, and Evening Standard.

The India Tourism Office is welcoming Jade and her "friends" to experience India for themselves. Actually not a bad move by them to jump on the bandwagon. The idea was the brainchild of Smarter Creative Director Rob Scott and was put together in record time yesterday afternoon.

Apparently she has already been. The bottles for her perfume (pulled from the shelves of The Perfume Shop yesterday) were made in India and she went and met the factory manager.

She is 50-1 odds on favourite to go tonight, but sadly her public will not be there to greet here.

In a statement re tonight's eviction, C4 said:

"Over the past few days, Celebrity Big Brother has generated an intense and, at times, heated public debate which the evicted housemate will be unaware of.

"As a result, Channel 4 and Endemol have taken the decision to conduct tonight's eviction in front of a studio audience and without a crowd."

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MyLawSuit

MySpace is being sued and it's a serious case of child safety, but…

…why is that Americans reach for their lawyers faster than you can say 1-800-so-sue-me? Just asking.

The families of five teenage girls are suing MySpace over claims that they were sexually assaulted by men they met through the social networking website.

The case argues negligence on the part of the Rupert Murdoch-owned site. It is obviously a very upsetting case, but is it really MySpace's fault?

The site has increased its security and hired experts. It has, for instance, made it impossible for users aged 18 and above to contact 14 and 15-year-old members unless they know the younger person's email address. The girls involved in this case were of that age, but really there is only so much that can be done. The rest is up to the guardians and parents of the children involved.

Sadly, this kind of thing is going to happen. People always find ways to abuse systems to the ill of others. Just like the case of some other teenage girls posting video clips on YouTube of them beating up another girl. Someone's going to be suing over that one as well.
While getting a pile of cash is no doubt an attractive prospect, it doesn’t actually have anything to do with protecting the children concerned. Nor will it likely stop other attacks.

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Thursday, January 18, 2007

Sponsor this

After days of dithering and trying to weather the storm and sidestepping the issue Andy Duncan, Channel 4's chief executive, has finally said something about what is going on inside the Celebrity Big Brother house, but its worth noting that he only made thes statment after Carphone Warehouse suspended its Celeb Big Brother sponsorship.

"The latest series of Celebrity Big Brother has strayed into particularly controversial territory - the issue of racism and whether or not it remains ingrained in British attitudes despite all the progress we have apparently made towards becoming a truly multi-cultural society.

"The level of complaint and comment shows the programme has touched a real nerve.

"The debate has been heated, the viewing has at times been uncomfortable but, in my view, it is unquestionably a good thing that the programme has raised these issues and provoked such a debate. These attitudes, however distasteful, do persist - we need to confront that truth.

"What constitutes racism is a complex question. We have been monitoring extremely carefully events in the house and have reached the view that we cannot with certainty say that the comments directed at Shilpa have been racially motivated or whether they stem from broader cultural and social differences.

"We have already intervened with Danielle and, as viewers will see tonight, again with Jade where we felt their comments might be construed to have racist overtones. Producers also spoke to Shilpa today who said she did not feel that behaviour towards her was racist.

"We will not hesitate to intervene again if apparently racist behaviour occurs.

"Big Brother's unique strength is that it is ultimately the public who will decide whether or not the behaviour of certain contestants has been unacceptable.

"Tomorrow night Jade and Shilpa will face the public vote. The British public has the opportunity to cut through the claim and counter-claim and pass its judgement on the events of the last week."

Stop C4

Someone please stop Channel 4. It's all a little embarrassing and rather hard to watch.

This has blown out of all proportion. I watched some of it last night and had to stop. Jade Goody is on some mission of self destruction that maybe even the Impossible Mission Force could not accomplish. Brand Goody is toast. Really burnt toast at that. I guess if she knew the word irony she could lament "Big Brother made me and now its broken me".

I think just about every national newspaper has gone overboard with it as effergies are burnt and Gordon Brown ruing the day he decided to go to India when 'Big Brother' was on.

 
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Clearly Channel 4 are not going to take this off the air. The ratings have surged, hitting 4.5m, but its taken a moral dive. Last night hit a new low, C4 needs to wake up. It keeps trying to weather this with the cultural clash when it is new clearly more than that. Goody needs to be taken out/voted out for her own/our sanity. Then we can quietly forget about the show again.

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Wednesday, January 17, 2007

Big Brother

There's an MP involved, so it must be serious if the scent of free electoral publicity has wafted its way to the House of Commons.

Worse still for Channel 4, Carphone Warehouse might review its lucrative multimillion-pound sponsorship forcing the broadcaster to do something.

The count is all over the place. If you read the Metro this morning, 20,000 people are complaining. Elsewhere its 10,000, but whatever the number it has five digits and reality TV is in for a welcome kicking.

Although Bollywood star Shilpa Shetty, the focus of the alleged racist abuse, has not yet complained to the outside world it does appear she is being picked on with some racism thrown in to boot. She has, however, been reduced to tears by her gang of white working class tormentors and their manifest conservatism.

It was bound to happen you throw in morons like Jade (is it worth mentioning how sad it is that someone celebrates what a dimwit they are? Probably not), coupled with a couple of newly acquired minor celeb side kicks in the Jo O'Meara, who was in S-Club (not that there is anything wrong with Romford... OK now you mention it), Goody's boyfriend Jack Tweed and disgraced former Miss Great Britain Danielle Lloyd.

Keith Vaz MP was yesterday talking of an early day motion in the Commons after constituents in his Leicester East constituency contacted him. He was on Channel 4 News last night calling for the broadcaster to intervene and to set higher standards, although a vox pop done before his segment aired had several members of the public saying it was more bullying and ignorance than racism.

The text of the early day motion reads: "This house views with concern the comments made about’ Big Brother’ contestant Shilpa Shetty by other housemates; believes that ‘Big Brother’ has a role to play in preventing racist behaviour in the ‘Big Brother’ house; regrets that these comments have been made; and calls on the programme to take urgent action to remind housemates that racist behaviour is unacceptable."

It is on course to beating 'Jerry Springer: the Opera', which racked up almost 9,000 complaints when it aired, but had already picked up more than 55,000 before it aired. Those Christians know to hit the phone (should you ever be holding a telethon).

Goody has said such things to Shilpa as "She makes me feel sick. She makes my skin crawl." Her boyfriend Tweed is thought by some to have called her a "Paki" although what it was exactly he called her was bleeped out by Channel 4. The broadcaster said it wasn't racist abuse and what he actually called her was a "cunt". Well that's all right then. Lloyd called her "a dog" and also accused of her wanting to be "white". This related to use of cream to bleach her facial hair.

Channel 4 is so far doing nothing and says that much of the furore has arisen after misreporting of the exchange between Goody and Tweed ("she makes my skin crawl". However, a sponsor getting jittery could change all of that.

Tuesday, January 16, 2007

High end freebie

Richard Addis, the former Daily Express editor, is launching a free daily newspaper targeting big earners.

According to Media Week, Addis, who was more recently FT Weekend editor, is launching a free daily newspaper at the end of March, targeting high-worth Londoners with arts, leisure and current affairs content.

It sounds like an interesting idea, not so sure about the name: Newsstand? Maybe it’s a grower.

If you were thinking that the Tube and buses were already overrun with copies of City AM, thelondonpaper and London Lite flying around then don’t worry, Addis has given this some thought and has come up with a new distribution idea. Newsstand is going to be delivered every weekday morning to 30,000 homes with upmarket London postcodes.

So if you don't live in SW1 or thereabouts, I wouldn't worry about it because you're probably not going to see it.

In keeping with its compact circulation, editorially the paper is going to be filled with a little commissioned material, including some comment, but will mostly comprise third-party deals for much of its content.

Some of which Addis says will come from websites that have no print arm. Addis sees it providing a new outlet and distribution for these sites. It’s a nice idea.

He's also planning further launches, including some more specialist publications such as a magazine targeting London's large Polish community. Maybe combining it with those upmarket Londoners looking for builders.

High end freebie

Richard Addis, the former Daily Express editor, is launching a free daily newspaper targeting big earners.

According to Media Week, Addis, who was more recently FT Weekend editor, is launching a free daily newspaper at the end of March, targeting high-worth Londoners with arts, leisure and current affairs content.

It sounds like an interesting idea, not so sure about the name: Newsstand? Maybe it’s a grower.

If you were thinking that the Tube and buses were already overrun with copies of City AM, thelondonpaper and London Lite flying around then don’t worry, Addis has given this some thought and has come up with a new distribution idea. Newsstand is going to be delivered every weekday morning to 30,000 homes with upmarket London postcodes.

So if you don't live in SW1 or thereabouts, I wouldn't worry about it because you're probably not going to see it.

In keeping with its compact circulation, editorially the paper is going to be filled with a little commissioned material, including some comment, but will mostly comprise third-party deals for much of its content.

Some of which Addis says will come from websites that have no print arm. Addis sees it providing a new outlet and distribution for these sites. It’s a nice idea.

He's also planning further launches, including some more specialist publications such as a magazine targeting London's large Polish community. Maybe combining it with those upmarket Londoners looking for builders.

Monday, January 15, 2007

Wal-Mart

A sigh of relief for Interpublic Group. Somehow, after the DraftFCB pitch fiasco it still managed to maintain the $580m Wal-Mart account.

If you want to know how important that one ad account is to the troubled Interpublic then look what happened to its shares. They rallied 4% on Friday night when the decision was made.

When it first won the business it was seen as proof that Michael Roth was turning Interpublic around after those accounting scandals. When DraftFCB lost the account, its shares tumbled.

As you'll remember, the account went for review again in December when DraftFCB was stripped of its prize. This time around, it’s Interpublic's Martin Agency that will take the lead in handling creative work on the account while Publicis agency MediaVest takes the media work.

In December, Wal-Mart called in Select Resources International to rerun the creative and media pitch after its December appointment of DraftFCB and Carat for media.

Then it all got complicated. Wal-Mart parted company with Julie Roehm (she of Lingerie Bowl fame when she was at DaimlerChrysler), its senior vice-president of marketing communications, and then dumped Draft FCB, which Roehm had appointed with talk of murky goings on, riotous diners at Nobu and rides in Howard Draft's flash cars among other things.

Roehm told Reuters at the time "the entertaining was part of the normal course of business" and denied any inappropriate activity.

Roehm was only at Wal-Mart for a year and was really not seen as the traditional kind of person the retail giant hires.

Anyway, despite the possibility that the account might go elsewhere, Interpublic managed to hold onto it after a pitch against WPP Group's Ogilvy & Mather and Omnicom Group's GSD&M. DraftFCB was not allowed to participate.

This time around the review was run by John Fleming, the Wal-Mart chief marketing officer who said the Martin Agency had been selected for its "deep retail experience, recognised creativity and an understanding of our customers".

Thursday, January 11, 2007

West Wing

ITV1 is reported to be planning to make a 'West Wing'-style drama set in Buckingham Palace.

'The West Wing' (IMHO possibly one of the best things on television equalled now only by 'Battlestar Galactica' - which owes something to the 'West Wing') will be about life in the palace and made by All3Media-owned independent producer Company Pictures, according to Broadcast.

ITV has apparently commissioned 8 hour-long episodes of the show dubbed 'The Palace'. The TV title says it will have a contemporary feel and will not portray real members of the Royal Family (a very good idea, too distracting), but rather fictional ones like president Jed Barlett (the best left-of-centre president the US never had) in the 'The West Wing'.

On paper it sounds brilliant and, although it doesn't have the talent of Aaron Sorkin behind it, it is being written by Tom Grieves, whose has previous writing credits include Channel 4 police drama 'Ghost Squad', which starred Elaine Cassidy.

If last year's film 'The Queen', which was also made by ITV and starred Helen Mirren, is anything to go by then quality drama might be making a slow but steady return to ITV.

P&G reaches out

P&G is entering social-networking arena with the launch of two websites aimed at creating online communities where the consumer-products giant can learn more about its customers.

One site will apparently be celebrity and fan driven and will be tied to P&G's decades-old People's Choice Awards. The other is Capessa, a women-oriented site produced by Procter & Gamble for the health section of Yahoo.

Capessa is designed to be a forum for women to discuss subjects such as parenting, pregnancy and weight loss. The People's Choice Community site formally kicked off this week, a day after CBS broadcast this year's People’s Choice awards.

The Wall Street Journal and others report that there will be no P&G ads on Capessa and the only mention of P&G on the site is a line at the bottom of web pages that identifies Capessa as being produced by a P&G company. Yahoo, which is promoting the site as a big feature of its health section, says it doesn't want to over-commercialize the site given the serious nature of subjects being discussed.

However, the new sites will be less about promoting specific brands and more about market research and both new sites will act as continuing focus-group-type environments where P&G will attempt to learn more about its target audience's likes and dislikes and what consumers in different stages of life care about.

In a separate move, P&G's Herbal Essences shampoo brand has now got a MySpace page that allows people to show off pictures of their hairstyles. What fun.

Wednesday, January 10, 2007

Price hike

With the ABCs due on Friday the Sunday Mirror is expected to be down by around 13%, or 200,000 copies. Is putting the price up really the answer?

December figures are always bad so this is not totally unexpected, but the Sunday Mirror slid 3.09% to 1,333,255 in November. If the latest is correct it will fall to just 1.1m, falling ever closer to the million sale mark.

It's a tough problem for Trinity Mirror chief executive Sly Bailey, who just finished a strategic review of the company that resulted in the venerable Racing Post and 138 regional titles being sold off.

That all comes on top of more than 700 job cuts being announced in October as Trinity Mirror looks for cost savings after experiencing tougher trading conditions and a slowdown in advertising.

Still as far as the Sunday Mirror is concerned Sly has come up with a solution. The answer? Hike the paper's cover price to 90p and make it more expensive than top selling rival News of the World. Huh? Can someone call in a management consultant to explain that to me?

It doesn't seem quite the way to push up sales.

There's more woe in store for Trinity Mirror, the sister Sunday title The People is also down by 13% or 122,000. For The People this comes on top of a 3.12% drop to 764,409 in December.

Lift work

Lift work - Leagas Delaney chair lift company Stannah, butt of many jokes, an advertising make over and rather good it is too.

The TV and press campaign, which breaks next week has been created to address the stigma attached to the old stair lift business and will introduce the strapline 'Stannah. The Stair lift people'.

 

Leagas says that the campaign is targeting people in denial of their need for a stair lift and so have come up with press advertising features hard-hitting (and amusing – okay we laughed) lines such as "Ever heard the phrase Home Sweet Nursing Home?".

The TV spots were directed by Mark Mylod, of 'Royle Family' and 'Shameless' fame with one spot featuring a couple making the decision to get a stairlift, talking about it, but not quite being able to openly use the word ‘stairlift’.

Another change is that the press ads will no longer just tucked away at the back of the weekend supplements, but actually appear as full page ads in the nationals and in magazines.

Although oddly, the campaign breaks at the same time as a story about a disabled worker at Stannah...who was denied a chair lift.
Apparently, Stannah dismissed the employee David Radcliffe's request that the lift be installed at its offices in Andover because "everyone would want to ride on it and no work would get done".

I'm thinking that David Brent works for Stannah. It's just a guess. Posted by Picasa

Tuesday, January 09, 2007

'No licence fee news this week'

1.30pm: The government's announcement about the BBC's licence fee deal is unlikely to be made until at least next week. By Tara Conlan.


It's wrong to take the michael out of your rivals, but this story that is currently gracing the homepage of MediaGuardian can not escape unnoticed. No licence fee news this week? Well thanks for the heads up...about the lack of news. The subs must be at lunch.

Hang on a second, its all change at MediaGuardian, new headline: "Licence fee uncertainty drags on", dragging well that's definitely January news.

Fast food nation

Saw this last night and it's a must see. Like 'Dazed and Confused’, but with a message.

Richard Linklater's latest movie, which opens shortly, is a fictionalised version of Eric Schlosser's hit non-fiction book 'Fast Food Nation'.

With the tagline 'The Truth is Hard to Swallow', you'll know that's true once you've watched this journey to the dark heart of where your two all-beef patties come from.

Greg Kinnear plays Mickey's Fast Food Restaurants head of marketing, and inventor of the "The Big One", and he is sent to check out not so tasty goings on at the meat packing plant where Mickey's (standing in for McDonald's here) burgers come from.



He drives out to beautiful Denver, Colorado, and it looks like you're floating over open prairie until the camera swoops in and reveals miles and miles of steel pens crammed with cows chowing down on genetically engineered food. No roaming longhorns here.

His story runs parallel to that of some young Mexicans crossing the border for the first time to work in the US. Some of these unlucky sould end up working for Uni-Globe Meatpacking for low wages and dangerous conditions.

Inside here is where you realise the true meaning of fast food. So many corners are cut in making the food (in killing and processing the animals) and ensuring that only cheapest meat makes it down the line as fast as possible. This leads to mishaps as cow intestines splitting and shit getting into the meat.

Bruce Willis does a good turn as the man responsible for the meatpacking contract for Mickey's in Denver. He plays a hardball Republican whose answer to healthy quibbles is a diatribe about all the things wrong with "this country today" speech. His response to a bit of shit on the food is to "cook it". He doesn't mention anything about eating it.

Linklater favourite and 'Before Sunrise' star Ethan Hawke is back, but this time he plays mentor to a new generation of slackers and is merely there to retell stories from his days of student activism, which leads to the final strand in the movie, where Hawkes’ niece in the movie leads one of the film’s funniest scenes as he and her student friends try to set the cows free... only to find that they can not get them to leave their grass-free steel enclosures because that is the only life they know.

It gets gory at times, but if you're going to eat the stuff, you should at least know where it comes it from.

Monday, January 08, 2007

Master and no servant

Its not a climb down or anything, but Channel 4 just announced that it has ended the whole Upstairs/Downstairs master and servant thing.

The shopping task, which split the house, prompted two housemates to leave and ruffled more than a few feathers, has now come to an end. This afternoon, the seven servants returned to the main house to re-join the 'Family' members, Jade, Jack, Jackiey, Shilpa and Jermaine.

All passed the task apart from Leo - who fell asleep during his servant shift - and Jo, who allowed Ken to prepare his own cheese and bisucits. However, two fails still meant that the housemates passed the task.

Big Brother has rewarded them with a luxury shopping budget of £4 per person per day (for the next six days - whooppee), a total of £336. The twelve housemates will also enjoy takeaway food of their choice later this evening.

And it has nothing to do with losing two celebs after the introduction of dimwit Jade. Seriously it doesn't.

TV prayer

Muslims are apparently mightily unhappy that convert Jermaine Jackson's fives time a day praying has been edited out of 'Celebrity Big Brother'.

Someone has posted elsewhere on this blog that "Jermaine has caused national controversy by openly praying his obligatory five time prayers live on national TV. However Channel Four the Broadcaster has censored any footage of the former Jackson Five practicing his faith.

"Outraged Muslims have begun to complain on grounds of fair representation as Shilpa Shetty was broadcast practicing Yoga, they are demanding an explanation from Channel 4 as to why Jermaine praying has been censored.

"Complaints to Ofcom the body that adjudicates media complaints are set to flood in this Monday. Jermaine has begun to attract many thousands of Muslim votes."

Well several things really, one last I checked yoga was not a religion. I know this as I went yesterday and not one person mentioned god and there was no praying. Although, granted, yoga does have a prayer position, but I don't think it has anything to do with opening a direct line to god. I could be wrong.

The only thing I ever got out of yoga was plenty achy and plenty of flexibility.

Secondly, who wants to watch someone pray five times a day? It’s not a spectator sport (OK technically and non technically not even a sport) and it’s also a private matter, not a subject for entertainment.

He's also not the first Muslim in the BB house. Geordie Narinda from 'Big Brother 2' and Shahbaz Chaudhry from 'Big Brother 7' were Muslim… admittedly the last was gay and not practising, but Narinda was and I don’t remember a hoot from the Muslim rent a mob.

We'll check later to find out with Ofcom if Muslims are really as outraged as the poster would have us believe. My guess is not.

While we're on the subject of 'Celebrity Big Brother', exactly how bad an idea was it to bring Jade Goody, her boyfriend Jack and her mother (where the answer about Jade's looks and brains is settled) into the house?

Since the introduction of Jade and making most of the housemates into pissed off servants living in grot, Tower of London singer Donny Tourette has gone over the wall delivering some honest rock'n'roll lifestyle and now film director Ken Russell has had enough after falling out with the loudmouth waste of broadcasting space Jade.

No surprise at all. Dear oh dear, someone at Channel 4 must be getting worked up over this as the whole thing goes down the toilet.

Friday, January 05, 2007

The truth about ad sales

Someone has been busy on YouTube working up a humorous take on the world of ad sales and media agencies.

It's a pastiche (a rather close one) of another effort done a few years ago, the US made Truth in Advertising, which is better.

But that said the Truth About Ad Sales definitely raises a laugh or two and is definitely worth a look. The back stabbing, the bollocks and the bullshit is all there.

The scrubbing out of one clients name on a PowerPoint presentation and the adding of another is all spot on. As is the liberal sprinkling of buzz words. That's strategy for you.

...and if you haven't see the original, well take a look.

Truth in advertising

Thursday, January 04, 2007

The OC gets it

Fox has axed its one-time gem of youth culture as 'The O.C.' is canned after just four seasons, so long from 'The O.C.' beeyiatch.

There was a moment when this teen drama about a boy from the wrong side of the tracks who finds a home in the pool house of a rich family in Newport Beach, Orange County, was a must-see, hey even I couldn't help myself, but that moment has long since been and gone.

Fox has only ordered 16 episodes of the final season rather than the usual 22-plus.

According to series creator Josh Schwartz, the finale "will deliver real closure to the series, to the story we began telling four years ago. It will be fun and emotional and I think really satisfying. It is the finale we always planned to do."

That has to mean that someone ends up

A) Dead
B) Drunk
C) Pregnant
D) A combination of the above

This is what always happens to people in 'The O.C.', well that and the fact that a lot of people get punched as well: "welcome to the O.C., bitch".

When it launched it was the kind of runaway success that US TV does so well. It pulled in 10m in its first season, 2003-2004, and did well for Channel 4 and E4 in its time. But that 10m turned to 7m and the last season that is about to wrap has been pulling in around 4m.

Well miss the ideal, non-denominational season festival of Chrismukkah and as many references to 'Star Wars' as you can shake a stick at.

It's farewell to broody Ryan, played by Benjamin McKenzie, who was sort of eclipsed by co-stars Seth Cohen, played by Adam Brody. Of course, Mischa Barton’s Marissa Cooper paid the price already, her character got killed off with the earlier death by booze and cliff diving.

The final season is about to start on Channel 4 shortly, in which we can look forward to Ryan confronting the death of Marissa and… getting into cage fighting. Oh sharks have been jumped here.

On the plus side, the first couple of episodes of 'Ugly Betty' that I saw over Christmas were really very very good. It's very 'The Devil Wears Prada' and the general level of hell that working in glossy women's magazines must be. Its painful to watch to see America Ferrera's Betty in those horrendous clothes and braces but a lot of fun as well. All sharply observed, slickly written and bounds along at a suitable snappy pace. All of that and Ashley Jenson from 'Extras' is good again as initially the only friendly face in building.

Big laughs and outlandish plots and lots of skeletons in the closet what more could you ask for in January. Begins tonight on Channel 4.

Free Ken

I watched 'Celebrity Big Brother' again and liked it. Although I'm worrFied about poor Ken Russell.

I think it might be getting better or my taste for low brow is plumbing new depths. It really is just like Channel 4 said, an eclectic mix they have this time.

And Ken Russell (he of 'Lady Chatterley', 'Gothic', 'Tommy' and 'Women in Love' fame), he's 80 this year for god's sake, I think Channel 4 have taken him prisoner. That said Ken looks like he will be value for money, is impression of "mad Pete" was spot on.

No one other than Sunday Mirror journalist Carole Malone (how did they let her in? She seems nice enough, but... she's a journalist, the first, not sure what's with that) and Leo Sayer seemed to know who he was.

Talking of Leo, he clearly is going to be maddest of the bunch. All of that "I'm very funny" and then making noises like a chipmunk is not funny Leo, seek help.

The annoying one of the bunch is clearly the Tower of London's Donny Tourette. Lame band, lame character. All this "fuck you, fuck you all" act is like some poor Johnny Rotten impression. It could be Rory Bremner for all I know.

Who else, well there is the top but wonderfully dim totty in former Miss Great Britain Danielle Lloyd, who seems confused and doesn't know who anyone else is and is missing shopping and boyfriend Terry Sherringham of West Ham. Not even former 'A-Team' man, Dirk Benedict who seemed (unsurprisingly) quite interested in her. There's that woman who used to be on the 'Kenny Everett Show' Cleo Rocos. That's about all there is to say about her...oh she says she wants a husband - good luck with that.

There was Ian 'H' Watkins from Steps, who seemed all right for a camp former cheesy band type. Busy day for him having been outed by the Sun yesterday. Jermaine Jackson was clearly regretting the whole stupid idea and plotting ways to have his agent killed. Oh, there was the Bollywood woman Shilpa Shetty, who like Jackson seemed out of it. They both want their hired help back. Nicest of the bunch seemed like the one who could sing in S-Club, Jo O'Meara. We kind of liked her "I'm just Jo from Romford" schtick.

Plenty of time to enjoy this, Channel 4 is keeping them in for five weeks, it’s going to be a long cold winter.

Anyway, here's the full low down from Channel 4 should you be interested.

Name: Carole Malone
Age: 47
Occupation: Journalist
Lives: London

Famous for her outspoken views as one of Britain's leading journalists, Carole grew up in a small mining village near Newcastle and knew from an early age that she wanted to be a journalist - causing family friction over her ambitions.

The first tabloid columnist to enter the Big Brother house as a celebrity housemate, Carole writes her weekly column for the Sunday Mirror commenting on stories of the day. Never afraid to speak her mind on headlining topics - ranging from current affairs to celebrities - Carol is not afraid of coming face to face with a celebrity she has criticised.

Carole has been married for 14 years to her Bosnian husband who is eight years younger than her. They met in a bar following a journalists party.

Why are you taking part in Celebrity Big Brother?

"Every journalist in the country wants to know more about Big Brother, so this is an absolute story for me and it's a test. I've never had to compromise before and it'll be interesting to see how I'll be in that situation."

What do you think you'll get out of the experience of taking part in Celebrity Big Brother?

"I'm expecting the worst and hoping for the best."

Name: Cleo Rocos
Age: 44
Occupation: Actress / Writer
Lives: London

Cleo is best known for her work with Kenny Everett on his legendary radio and television shows. She became Miss Whiplash of his much-loved BBC1 show in the early 80s. Cleo and Kenny enjoyed a 15-year friendship fuelled by fun and laughter until his tragic death in 1995.

More recently Cleo has performed with Leigh Francis in sketches for his Channel 4 series "Bo In The U.S.A", produced "The Seven Year Itch" in the West End and is currently writing a new comedy series - a stark contrast to her first job as a professional skateboarder.

Cleo was once kidnapped in Buenos Aires and counts Darryl Hannah and Robbie Williams amongst her famous friends. She lives with her mother, loves to eat Mexican salsa for breakfast and has a pet parrot called Max.

Why are you taking part in Celebrity Big Brother?

"It (BB) used to scare me a bit, but I've become addicted to it over the past couple of years. It's dangerous and unpredictable and I think I'll have a lot of fun in there. I like throwing all the saucepans in the air."

What do you think you'll get out of the experience of taking part in Celebrity Big Brother?

"Nobody I know would ever think I'd do something like this. I'm not a good sharer, I'll probably be the most neurotically private person in there. But I push myself: I've trained with matadors and I don't think you should play anything too safe."

Name: Danielle Lloyd
Age: 23
Occupation: Glamour Model / Former Miss England and Miss Great Britain
Lives: Greater London (originally from Liverpool)

Danielle is a successful glamour model and was crowned Miss Great Britain in 2006. However, it was reported that Danielle was in a relationship with West Ham footballer and Miss Great Britain judge Teddy Sheringham two months before the contest had started. In addition, Danielle posed topless for Playboy Magazine. Both factored in Danielle being stripped of her title. Still dating Teddy, Danielle knows all the WAGs including fellow scouser Colleen McLoughlin, as they socialise regularly.

Danielle recently competed in Miss World in China in 2005 where she came seventh, she has created her own lingerie range, and posed in various men's magazines. She believes in beauty on the inside as well as the outside saying, "we are all beautiful in our own way".

A keen online poker player, Danielle's ambition is to have her own TV show. She once blagged a first-class flight to Dubai with good friend Sarah Harding. She has trained as a beautician, specialising in massage, and is also a qualified nail technician.

"Teddy probably thinks it's a good idea to get rid of me for a few weeks - stop me going to the shops and spending the money."

Why are you taking part in Celebrity Big Brother?

"Probably just for the experience and to let people know what I'm really like, rather than what they've read about me."


What do you think you'll get out of the experience of taking part in Celebrity Big Brother?

"I don't know what to expect. I just hope that people are nice in there. I'm quite easygoing, laidback and down to earth."

Name: Dirk Benedict
Age: 61
Occupation: Actor
Lives: Montana, USA
Best known as dashing Templeton 'The Face' Peck in cult action adventure show, The A Team, in the 80's TV series about a group of ex-US Army Special Forces on the run, working as soldiers of fortune.

"I enjoyed The A-Team immensely. By nature I'm terribly serious, so as an actor I tend to want to be silly. It was a comedic show, almost like a cartoon. The actors I worked with, especially Mr T and Dwight Schultz, were very fun people. It was pretty much four years of laughter."

Growing up in the wilds of Montana, Dirk spent his childhood hunting, fishing and playing sports. His father died when he was 18 and as a trainee actor, Dirk started using the stage name 'Benedict' after his agent suggested it, inspired by Dirk's breakfast of choice - Eggs Benedict.

An author of a number of books, Dirk was diagnosed with prostrate cancer in 1981 and claimed to have survived the disease without surgery, through following a macrobiotic diet combined with exercise and fasting. He has three children, is an expert fly fisherman, holds a private pilots license and composes his own music.

Why are you taking part in Celebrity Big Brother?

"Two reasons, my teenage sons. They persuaded me to do it. I'm a recluse, I haven't been around people in a while, so they think it'll get me out of my comfort zone."

What do you think you'll get out of the experience of taking part in Celebrity Big Brother?

"Well, this is my coming out party - and probably my 'going back in hiding again' party! I expect 25 days of absolute hell, I can't find one thing that I'll like about it. I don't like celebrities, I don't hang out with actors, I hate being in front of the camera."

Name: Donny Tourette (real name Patrick)
Age: 25
Occupation: Lead singer of the band 'Towers Of London'.
Lives: West London (Originally From Liverpool).

Donny Tourette is the front man of rock/punk band 'Towers Of London' who have supported Guns 'n Roses and Baby Shambles and released their debut album 'Blood Sweat And Towers' in June 2006. The band formed in 1999, when Donny and his brother Dirk, who plays guitar and recruited their fellow band members from school assembly..

Donny's reputation as a rock lothario has made him a regular in the tabloid press in part due to his on-off relationship with Peaches Geldof. Donny wants to "tell the kids who watch Big Brother what a real band is all about". He has a dog called Toto, hates bad manners, idiocy and liars, and says the things that make him happy are "booze, fags and music".

"Our band can be summed in a sentence as punk rock'n roll stars.

"I think we do have a bad reputation. I think as it happens I do seem to land myself in a bit of trouble.

"I've been arrested a few times. I got arrested for criminal damage, they banged me up in a cell.. Think they liked having me in there to be honest."


Why are you taking part in Celebrity Big Brother?

"I've got f**k-all else to do at the moment".

What do you think you'll get out of the experience of taking part in Celebrity Big Brother?

"I imagine I'll have a good time when I'm in there".

Name: Ian 'H' Watkins
Age: 29
Occupation: Singer and actor, currently performing in panto and various West End musicals
Lives: London (originally from Rhondda, Wales)

Former Butlins redcoat Ian was christened 'H' when he started out in the band Steps - it stands for hyperactive. After huge success, Steps split in 2001 and he briefly duetted with fellow ex-Steps member Claire. Welsh-born Ian has since returned to college, studying musical theatre at the Royal Academy of Music, and has worked in the West End, starring in Joseph and the Amazing Technicolour Dreamcoat, Jesus Christ Superstar and 'Buttons' in panto.

Prior to his entrance in the house, the former Steps singer revealed his sexuality and admitted to being 'the only gay in the village', having grown-up in a small Welsh village. He also admitted it is only now that he is truly comfortable with his sexuality that he could be honest with his fans.

Ian says he is happier away from celebrity circuit. "The Met Bar is cack, they're all w**kers. I like normal people. I have normal friends. I like real people and the real world is a much nicer place." Ian loves collecting art, which is his greatest extravagance. The most expensive item of clothing he has ever bought was an YSL jacket for £5,000.


Why are you taking part in Celebrity Big Brother?

"Because everyone thinks my surname is 'Steps' - I'd like to come out of the house with people knowing that I'm an individual. I want people to see that I'm a genuine, hardworking guy, not a blonde yellow pedal-pusher wearer anymore."

What do you think you'll get out of the experience of taking part in Celebrity Big Brother?

"I just want to have loads of fun and make a few friends! I've got no agenda, I know other people might play a game but I'm just gonna be myself."

Name: Jermaine Jackson
Age: 52
Occupation: Singer, writer, guitarist. Former member of The Jackson 5
Lives: Dubai (originally from Indiana, USA)

Jermaine was co-lead singer of The Jackson 5 with his brother Michael. He began a solo career in the 1970s and enjoyed success from then on with several hits including "Let's Get Serious", "Do What You Do", "Don't Take It Personal". He has an album out this year.

Jermaine is now known as Muhammad Abdul Aziz. He converted to Islam after a visit to Bahrain in the 1980s and prays daily. Jermaine has been married three times and has eight children. One of his former wives, Alejandra, was the ex-wife of his brother Randy.

During Michael's 2005 child abuse trial, he was a staunch supporter of his brother and appeared with him in court on numerous occasions.

The three things that make him happy are waking up, family and sunshine. He dislikes pasta and any kind of alcohol. He is a huge admirer of Nelson Mandela and says his greatest fear is "sharing the toilet".

"2003, my brother (Michael) had a court case, we knew from the beginning he was 1000% innocent. It put our family through a lot. But we were strong case when we came out here we had each other so it gave us a chance to pull us together even closer.

"I have servants here. I do the white glove test and I'm very picky with germs. I won't touch door knobs in public places. I'll wait for people to open or take a tissue.

"The BB house looks very interesting. Do we do the cooking? I'm a very picky eater.

"Michael is going to watch… my whole family will watch online."

Why are you taking part in Celebrity Big Brother?
"Just to have peace and quiet from the industry, and maybe to get over my shyness."

What do you think you'll get out of the experience of taking part in Celebrity Big Brother?
"Maybe the sun might shine?! It should be very interesting to meet people I've never met before. But the diet thing...I'm a vegan."

Name: Jo O'Meara
Age: 27

Occupation: Former Singer in S Cub 7
Lives: Romford, Essex

Instantly recognisable as the lead vocalist from pop band S Club 7, Jo first came to the public's attention through the television series that launched the band in 1999 - Miami 7. Living with her fellow band mates Paul, Hannah, John, Bradley, Rachel and Tina, the series charted the group trying to crack America as well as showcasing their music. At one point S Club 7 were on television in 91 different countries.
Despite huge hits, including 'S Club Party', 'Reach' and 'Don't Stop Moving', when the band split in 2003, Jo decided to take time out to catch up with friends and family and her hobby of playing the slot machines in her home town of Romford. In 2005, Jo returned to singing briefly but a lack of chart success, with her solo album, sees her spending most of her time breeding dogs. Jo has seven tattoos and her perfect day would be to sleep late and to enjoy a Chinese and a movie.

"It was a love/hate relationship (being in the band) and we were so jetlagged. One morning we woke up thinking we were in Ireland and we were in Taiwan."

Why are you taking part in Celebrity Big Brother?

"I've absolutely no idea why I'm doing it! It's just something I've never done before."

What do you think you'll get out of the experience of taking part in Celebrity Big Brother?

"I'd just like the public to see me for who I am, behind the person people think I am."
What's your greatest fear about joining the Celebrity Big Brother house?
"All my fellow housemates hating me! I'm sure they'll nominate me because of my moaning, crying or being a pest."

Name: Ken Russell
Age: 79
Occupation: Film director
Lives: London

The undisputed 'bad boy' of British cinema, Ken Russell's appearance on Celebrity Big Brother fulfils a recent ambition of his. Known for his controversial and sexually ground-breaking films 'Women in Love' and 'The Devils', Ken is a huge fan of Big Brother and watched the summer series avidly and was outraged when Pete was not allowed his letter from home.

Ken lives with his fourth wife who he met via a dating agency using his fame to win her over. He has eight children. The selfconfessed 'grand enfant terrible' of the UK film industry, whose career high point is having three films showing in the West End simultaneously, is in the process of creating a film for YouTube based on Charlotte Bronte meets Big Brother.

Offended by dog poo on pavements, Ken has a phobia of large leaves and is not a fan of George Bush, Tony Blair or weather forecasters for that matter, either. He loves rain, classical music and movies and hates sun, heat and humidity.

Why are you taking part in Celebrity Big Brother?

"I used to be at a nautical establishment when I was young, which was full of sado-masochists. I've got a hankering for those days which I'm keen to recapture."

What do you think you'll get out of the experience of taking part in Celebrity Big Brother?

"Worse than I can possibly imagine in my wildest dreams - or nightmares! I'm looking forward to meeting Faye Dunaway, we're old friends."

Name: Leo Sayer
Age: 58
Occupation: Pop Singer
Lives: Sydney Australia

Equally famed for his curly head of hair, pop singer Leo Sawyer scored number 1 hits around the world with 'When I Need You' in the late 70's and recently hit the top spot again with a remixed version of 'Thunder In My Heart Again' featuring Meck.

Following an early career as an artist and a stint in a car factory, Leo has spent over thirty years in the music industry achieving massive success in the States, Australasia and Europe. Currently living in Sydney with his partner Donna, Leo is heavily into formula 1 motor racing and once drove with Niki Lauda He counts Nigel Mansell and Damon Hill as close friends.

#Why are you taking part in Celebrity Big Brother?

"I love being back in the UK and at this point in my life it'll be great for people to get to know a little bit more about me. It's a way of exposing myself (in the nicest possible way!)"

What do you think you'll get out of the experience of taking part in Celebrity Big Brother?

"I've no expectations. I've got an open mind and I live on my wits. It'll be fun and challenging, like being trapped in a lift or being taken hostage."

Name: Shilpa Shetty
Age: 31
Occupation: Film Actress
Lives: India

Shilpa is an award winning box office actress in her native India and a household name to Bollywood fans around the world. Having set her sights on an acting career, Shilpa was offered the lead role in her first film "Gaata Rahe Mera Dil" at the tender age of 17. Going from strength to strength she wowed the critics in Phir Milenge playing a HIV positive victim and was awarded the Giant International Award. Shilpa is lauded for having the best body in Bollywood and she is "worried about the lack of gym facilities in the house".

Shilpa sees herself as an ambassador for the Bollywood film industry. She is determined to win Celebrity Big Brother but will have a number of cultural differences to contend with. She is a black belt karate champion and says her ambition is to work with Jackie Chan.

"I've recently been described as the Indian Angelina Jolie., I'm not sure how to take that.

"I honestly truly believe I'm special. It would scare me if people didn't recognise me or didn't want to know more about my life.

"I constantly travel with an entourage and I know I won't have that in the BB house."

Why are you taking part in Celebrity Big Brother?

"Because it's the first time an Indian artist just as myself has had the opportunity to do this. To clear out the myths and misconceptions of indian people: we are modern, intelligent and glamorous. But mostly so all Indians can feel proud."

What do you think you'll get out of the experience of taking part in Celebrity Big Brother?

"I have zero expectations. The only thing I really hope to keep is my self-respect and my dignity."

Wednesday, January 03, 2007

That life

Never go back. Ouch that was painful and wrong in so many ways.

'This Life +10' brought the characters back after a decade away from our screens and, although many of us wanted to see how life had worked out for them, it turns out that really we'd rather wished we hadn't. Its like old girlfriends always a total disaster.

It started with a funeral, creative writing 101, for Ferdy who starred in much of the second series of the show to fill the shoes vacated by Warren who left to go travelling. And you really wished he hadn't come back. His character of psychobabble and endless self-analysis was the absolute pits.

The characters then came together in a country house owned by Miles, which turned it into some horrible sort of 'Peter's Friends' -- all bloated and over written. Creative writing 101 was really getting into full swing.

We then proceeded to run through the 30 something checklist.

Kids: Miles and Milly check.
Ticking biological clock: Anna, check.
Breakdown: Warren, check.
Divorce: Miles, check.
Loose touch with culture: check (the Kaiser who?)
Get bad hair cuts: Miles, check.

Oh there was much more... there was the trite post-modern touch of Egg having made it as a novelist and being followed around during the weekend by some 20something documentary film-maker, who Miles and Egg each chase after with their tongues hanging out, but get nowhere with before she leaves with some line about “metrosexuals”.

We strayed into politics with a discussion at one moment flaring into political bile as Egg laid into Miles for:

1. Being a Tory
2. Having a Chelsea tractor
3. The Iraq war.

'This Life' never previously strayed into politics: it was always a subject matter left out of their 20something lives and it was the better for it.

Writer Amy Jenkins just ranted away and it only added to the spiralling gloom, which all ended predictably with Egg and Milly arguing and seeming on the edge of breaking up, which was funny because last time we saw them, they had broken up over her affair with her bald boring boss.

That wasn't even glossed over, it was more ignored, as was much else. Actually nothing made sense. Don't even mention the fact that the last episode finished with Miles marrying Francesca and this opens with him married to a Vietnamese model Me-Linh who quickly exits stage left leaving our "friends" to argue and bicker and dance to the Manic Street Preachers.

Then in the space of minutes we have Miles go bankrupt, Egg give up novel writing, happy clappy Warren pill popping and snorting coke and the documentary was chucked in the lake. It was all too confusing only underscoring the fact that really it was great first time around, but second time sucked.