Archive for November, 2008

Now the taxman is after virtually everything you own…

November 28, 2008
Show me the money...

Show me the money...

The credit crunch is now biting everywhere, it seems. Around the globe, the taxmen are turning their attention to the unregulated trading in virtual worlds.

In October, China’s tax authority announced its intention to make sure they were receiving their cut of this new virtual economy. Sweden and South Korea have also moved to clarify the tax rules in this area. Many of these transactions are already legally taxable in the UK, but are generally ignored (for the moment).

The problem is that either items or currency from many virtual worlds, like World of Warcraft, Eve Online or Second Life, can be exchanged for real world money – often through trading sites built into the worlds themselves. In China, there are even “gold farms”, where thousands of workers repeat actions in World of Warcraft to earn gold that can then be traded for real money.

But how do you tax transactions on goods that don’t exist in the real world? Well, the most obvious place to catch them is when virtual items are sold on eBay or other trading sites. Ironically, it is very easy to tax virtual transactions, because they are all logged and monitored by the world’s designers!

Slightly more controversial are plans to tax transactions where virtual goods are exchanged for virtual money – and no “real” currency changes hands. Unfortunately, since the “virtual” currency still has a real value, it can still legally be taxed.

Of course, the problem could be solved by banning virtual trades for real money. This might also stop a few more people from spending so much time in Warcraft looking for that +46 throwing axe of doom…

Just a thought.

Quote of the week

November 28, 2008

A momentary digression from my regular word of the week entry – I stumbled across this quote recently and felt impelled to share it:

“Accustomed to the veneer of noise, to the shibboleths of promotion, public relations, and market research, society is suspicious of those who value silence.”  (John Lahr)


What does PR Look Like?

November 27, 2008

Sian Briefed

“Serenity now!”

It was my favourite phrase from the 90’s sitcom  Sienfield. When I look at this picture of PR Sian that’s exactly what I feel. She doesn’t have a hair out of place and is decked out in what I like to call “PR Blue”. It is a superior blue to others and speaks for itself.

This relatively new PR appears to be poised and ready to manage the daylights out of a briefing.

I christen this look “Briefalicious”.

A credit crunch Christmas

November 24, 2008



A year ago, few people had heard of the dreaded term ‘credit crunch’, but the phrase has now entered dictionaries.  We PR people were probably amongst the first to start splashing the financial crisis all over the media and already by Christmas 2007 we were already bored of talking about it.  This year, however, there is really no escape, with the credit crunch having now pervaded the lives of everyone in the UK in one form or another.  Employment figures dropped alarmingly fast this year, and as of exactly one month ago today, the Office for National Statistics announced figures showing negative economic growth meaning that we are on the brink of recession.  This doesn’t bode well for the millions of UK businesses that rely on the festive season to boost their yearly revenues. It is actually estimated that the Christmas shopping season can account for as much as forty per cent of a retail store’s annual revenue and as much as three-quarters of its annual profit.  But not this year!  

As the Guardian’s Steve Henry points out, there is a silver lining to every cloud, and this year it is the fact that Tesco has been the first of the UK’s biggest retailers to recognise that we’d really prefer not to be bombarded with celebrity-riddled luxury Christmas advertising this year (“Compare Tesco, who have – in my view – won the PR war by apparently ditching the overpaid celebs. That’s doing something new. That’s interesting.”). As he outlines the various advantages and disadvantages of spending millions of pounds to jump on Britain’s obsession with celeb culture at Christmas time, he asks us: “Is it time for advertising to explore new ways of talking to people? Is it possible that the credit crunch will force us all to look afresh at advertising and demand that it is more relevant, more authentic, and less wasteful?” – I hope so!  Even the biggest brands may not be able to afford to pay celebrities to dress up in silly Christmas outfits next year…

Now even birds are going on strike…

November 21, 2008



Bird Strike!

Bird Strike!

Apparently, the aviation industry’s troubles are continuing and now even nature has turned against them…

“Multiple bird strikes” forced Ryanair flight FR4102 from the sky and into an emergency landing last week.  Ryanair immediately released pictures of the blood splattered plane – presumably believing this to be some kind of PR coup.

Interestingly, lessons seem to have been leant from Ryanair’s handling of previous crises and they apologised profusely for the disruption. Near-misses like these are always a PR challenge for companies, but full disclosure is a good policy. They also correctly mentioned the efforts of the crew to keep the passengers safe.

An airline cannot really be blamed when a flock of birds decides to commit mass-suicide-by-aircraft-engine, but any negative PR is something to be avoided in the current climate for the aviation industry. Whilst most people may choose not to fly because of the credit crunch, there must be some who just don’t like the idea that their multi-million dollar passenger jet can be brought down by a depressed seagull…


November 21, 2008
I thought this word was too bizarre to miss, and very appropriate for those of us in the world of media and communications…Meaning: political (originally communist) propaganda, especially in art or literature.


Origin: 1930s, Russian, blend of agitatsiya ‘agitation’ and propaganda ‘propaganda’ 


NFC:- See Bluetooth and Rabbit Telecoms

November 19, 2008

Calls from the GSMA today urging manufacturers to embed NFC (near-field communication) technology into their mobile handsets for contactless payments reminded me of one of my first PR challenges a few years back when I was closely involved in raising the profile of Bluetooth.  As with any ‘connecting’ technology, the real challenge is getting enough weight behind each side of the connection. 

With Bluetooth, it turned out to be getting the technology fitted as standard in mobile phones and fitted into another gadget that was going to be useful  – that turned out to be Bluetooth headsets as legislation, quite rightly, came through banning the use of mobile phones when driving. 

Those taking on the NFC mobile challenge should also take heed of the now deceased ‘Rabbit’ telephone service of the early 90s, where owner Hutchison did a grand job in building some 12,000 base stations across the country which subscribers could connect through to make free calls. ( On the rare visits back to my homeland in Stockport, you still see quite a few of the little upturned ‘R’ signs posted to shop facades…) Trouble was, Hutchison didn’t do so well on the other side of the connection, building a subscriber base of only 10,000 at its height.

But back to the GSMA’s call for NFC on mobile phones.   Getting enough retail outlets to buy into NFC for small payments looks to be the challenge ahead, although the fact that millions of Londoners use NFC through their Oyster cards for their daily commute may provide enough momentum.  I do hope so, as anyone who’s had the pleasure of using NFC for contactless payments on a mobile phone will tell you it truly is a marvellous thing.

30 minutes on the Tube

November 17, 2008


‘Travel with style’, is a phrase I always try to keep in mind whenever I frequent public transport. I apply this to my coat, shoes, handbag, and then accessories. This includes my phone – phones plural now actually, as I recently acquired a BlackBerry – something I’m really starting to like.

However, I was browsing the internet today at work, and I noticed an announcement about the ‘credit crunch phone’.  The new Samsung B130 costs just £4.95. £4.95!! Amazing.

Despite times being hard though – do we really want to sacrifice style when for about £50 more you could get a reasonably better looking phone? Who in their right mind would want to whip out a phone that looks like this on their daily commute, when it would ruin the rest of their stylish attire?

Call me shallow, but these things are important to some people – myself included!


The oh-so-chic brick phone...

What does PR look like?

November 13, 2008



I really don’t think there is much to say here.

Dave, the PR with his thinking hat on, looks very, very Brokeback.

Which is not such a bad thing. 

Call centres come home

November 10, 2008


Orange has recently announced that it is bringing all of its call centres back to the UK in order to improve its customer service.  This is the best news I have heard from Orange for a long time!  Last time I called the customer service department I was put through to someone in India and the majority of our conversation was most definitely “lost in translation”, although the guy did ask me if I worked in telecommunications?!  It must be my very professional phone voice…

I have personally never understood the concept of outsourcing call centres – yes, yes, I know, it saves a company a whole lot of money, but quite frankly, I have yet to see one success story, and the majority of corporates have been pretty slow at recognising their failures and bringing their customer service call centres back to the UK.  Like most people I don’t appreciate being left on the end of a phone line listening to some vomit-inducing music only to be answered by someone who I cannot understand and has no idea what I’m talking about.  The sooner that UK companies realise the benefit of having decent call centres the better!

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