Archive for February, 2009

Gail Trimble vs Jade Goody…

February 25, 2009

Many newspapers have recently drawn a parallel between the media frenzies surrounding Jade Goody and Gail Trimble.

They have all commented that there is something disturbing about a society that revels in its own ignorance. Jade has earned huge sums of money for not doing anything in particular other than being famed for her ignorance, while Gail Trimble found herself at the receiving end of an internet hate campaign after showing her knowledge on University Challenge.

Yes, it’s terrible. Or is it?

Certainly, granting fame and fortune to people for nothing in particular is not a new trend. Socialites (i.e. people famous for going to parties) have been around for hundreds of years – and they are still common today: Paris Hilton, Tara Palmer Tomkinson and even Liz Hurley started their careers in this way. Many more people are simply born to their fame. There’s actually a good argument to say that Jade did more to earn her fame than the Queen.

And has Gail really been attacked online? In fact, I could only find a tiny handful of negative articles amid an avalanche of praise. Conversely, Jade was ridiculed in every newspaper and television show in the land. Essentially she became a jester, willing to be laughed at to make a living (albeit a good one!)

Generally speaking, intelligence is one last area where prejudice can remain. Where criticising someone’s sex, height, age, appearance or skin colour would lead to a world of trouble, attacking intelligence is considered fair game. And it’s undeniable that celebrities receive more flak for not having it, than for having too much of it.

If a few disgruntled Oxbridge haters want to sound off online, well, that’s the democracy of the internet and their own insecurities. But, comparatively to Jade, Gail has seen respect and support.

 

The Ice Factor

February 23, 2009
 
Simon Cowell has declared to the world that he wants to freeze his body when he dies so he can be brought back to life in the future. Whilst it may be hard to imagine him being much colder, the talent-show king believes that new medical technology will one day be able to revive him so he can spread his love to the article0039fbf5a000005dc437_468x442future generations of pop star wannabes.
 
The procedure is known as Cryonics. It costs anywhere between £20,000 and £120,000 and involves a team of experts draining blood from the body and storing it at temperatures of around -200 degrees. Alcor’s goal is to carry the person forward through time, for however many decades or centuries might be necessary, until the preservation process can be reversed, and the person restored to full health. More than 160 people have already been frozen with a further 1,000 signed up world wide, including 100 in England.This, to me, is a very scary thought. Granted, not knowing what the world will be like in the future is exciting and many would be attracted to finding out. However, playing with the concept of death is dangerous.  And who’s to say they will have time to think about ways to defrost us? There will be plenty of people as good as or better than most of us in the future. In fact, we’re already well on our way to having far too many people to deal with in coming years, never mind the idea that we will also be faced with a whole extra generation of old people coming back to visit! And can you really imagine visiting a graveyard of ice blocks?

I think it is far more important to spend this money on enjoying and investing in the life we have and the world around us now.  But for the gamblers among us, if you’re frozen and they never revive you, well you were dead anyway. And with the prospect of Xfactor season 5467 to wake up to… what do you have to lose?

Online fraud enters the real world

February 19, 2009

Despite the recent story of a postman who lost £100,000 in a Nigerian internet scam after meeting a girl on MySpace (and a further £30,000 to another girl who then promised to help him track down the money) most of us know full well not to hand over our cash to anyone on the internet. We also know to avoid emails with titles like “Barecleys securitie alert: log in 2 ur online bnaking now!!!!”

With so many consumers now becoming “hard targets”, you might think that the end of the internet scam was in sight. However, nowhere is human ingenuity more visible than when one man is trying to quietly steal another man’s money  and some fraudsters are now taking their scams off-line in order to lure in their victims.

Cars in North Dakota have had bright yellow traffic violation stickers placed on their windscreens, instructing the driver to follow a URL link, which tricks them into downloading a virus. The so-called Vundo Trojan then attempts to steal confidential data.
 
Apparently this is the first time online fraudsters have used a combination of virtual and real-world techniques to trick users. Through merging the physical and virtual worlds, fraudsters can create a much more believable confidence trick that even a seasoned internet user might fall for.

This may be the first such scam, but there will likely be more – and these approaches are only going to become more sophisticated in the future. Beware!

Virtual fraud just got real

Virtual fraud just got real

Chantelle and 13 year old Alfie story faces PCC enquiry

February 17, 2009
Chantelle 13 year old Alfie and Maisie

God help us all

Quite apart from the debacle surrounding the conception of baby Maisie, my own personal feeling is that it is wholly inappropriate for the parents of little Alfie and Chantelle to be brokering deals with the media during a truly critical time in the lives of all those concerned.

The number one concern of any parent has to be the emotional and physical welfare of their children (and in this case, their children’s child too) and I really do fail to see how allowing your child to be plastered across worldwide media being portrayed as thick, immature and loose helps them with the mammoth task of raising a child.

 

Thankfully, it looks like the PCC (Press Complaints Commission) could also be on the side of common-sense too.

 

Announcing the inquiry, a PCC spokesman quoted clause 6(iv) of the Editors’ Code of Practice which says: ‘Minors must not be paid for material involving children’s welfare, nor parents or guardians for material about their children or wards, unless it is clearly in the child’s interests.’

 

The PCC statement said: “Newspapers are allowed to breach this rule if there is a demonstrable public interest.” 

As an aside, note the difference between ‘public interest’ and ‘interesting to the public’.  This is where The News of the World fell down in reporting Max Mosely’s orgy.  Had the orgy actually had Nazi overtones, it may have been in the public interest to report the goings on, but your bog standard S&M orgy is not in the public interest…

 

Anyway, back to the PCC statement: “The PCC will make a public ruling on the matter when it has completed its investigation.”

 

“The commission has powers – under which it is conducting this inquiry – to launch investigations of its own volition.”

 Let’s see how this one unfolds….

 

Location, location, location

February 16, 2009

 

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It’s the first day of Mobile World Congress (for those of you that don’t know, this is when anyone and everyone involved in the mobile industry flocks to Barcelona to flog their wares at a massive trade show), and everyone seems to be talking about the potential of mobile LBS (location-based services). 

A couple of weeks ago, Google launched its controversial LBS tool, Google Latitude, which enables people to track the exact location of friends or family through their mobile devices.  Personally I’m really not sure that I would go for this, but I can see that the technology is pretty smart. 

Something that I might consider checking out is Lastminute.com’s ‘nru’ (near you) app.  The online leisure retailer recently created a program for the T-Mobile G1 mobile that tells people what’s going on in their area.  The  app uses the built-in GPS chip in the handset to work out where customers are, then suggests restaurants, bars, cinemas and theatres nearby, while a compass in the G1 also shows customers which way to go for their destination.  A nifty tool indeed!

The mobile advertising industry is also set to benefit from recent developments in LBS technology.  Our client BuzzCity runs a mobile advertising network, and has recently launched a targeting advertising feature which allows brands to target their wireless advertising campaigns to customers in different regions.  This capability will provide benefits for both advertisers and consumers, both of whom gain from enhanced relevance of advertising campaigns.

I think LBS might prove a good deal for both the mobile industry and consumers worldwide – as long as consumers are offered appropriate opt-in channels – watch this space! 

Baleful

February 12, 2009

Let’s face it, of all the people you don’t want screaming at you, the Dark Knight – the American Psycho himself – is definitely high on the list.

So you had to feel bad for Shane Hurlbut, the director of photography on Terminator: Salvation, who was hit in the face last week with a rant that would have reduced Arnold Schwarzenegger to tears.

Apparently the unfortunate DoP accidentally wandered into Bale’s eye-line during a take, distracting the actor and prompting a ferocious outburst of Biblical proportions.  

Shane Hurlbut was never quite the same after the rant...

Shane Hurlbut was never quite the same after the rant...

Unfortunately for Bale, the whole incident was caught on an audio recording, giving the actor a good dose of negative PR. But then again, publicity for films is rarely a bad thing and it has certainly helped to raise awareness of the next Terminator movie. Skeptics might even think that the recording was kept by the studio’s lawyers in case Bale walked out of shooting and has been released now to boost knowledge of the film.

This is an especially embarrassing incident for the director, McG (yes that’s his name, I know, it sounds like some kind of gangsta happy meal) – a man best known for giving the world the artistic apex that was Charlie’s Angels 2 and who is obviously out of his depth in trying to control Bale.

The rant has also been remixed into a rather good song, which is now doing the viral rounds online…

Amazon.com – covers all your worldly needs, from DVDs, CDs, books to cheese!

February 11, 2009

Can you say cheese?

The other day I was wondering how unhealthy goat’s cheese was for the average person… as you do… and so I Googled it. One of the hits, pretty high up the page, was telling me that you could buy cheese from Amazon

Amazon, I hear you cry?! Yes, apparently they’ve been selling gourmet food since 2003.

After a bit more digging, I discovered that food is only available on amazon.com, not amazon.co.uk, hence why I probably haven’t heard of the service before. However, this got me thinking about how difficult it can be to change perceptions of a brand once those perceptions are set in the minds of consumers.

The ‘Got your number’ campaign from direct assistance service 118118 is a good example of how PR can be used to change perceptions.  Last year the company recruited a PR agency to realign the 118118 brand with texting and support their ‘Safe Text’ campaign. The client apparently reported an 11 per cent spike in text volume around the launch, which is certainly impressive.  

So what’s next – HMV selling popcorn to accompany your DVD of choice when you buy online? Play.com forming a partnership with Ben and Jerry’s so you get a free tub with every purchase? Well Blockbuster already offers these sorts of deals in store, so why not online?

In my mind, if brands stick to their ‘roots’, so to speak, then consumers are more likely to see it as a natural progression and more likely to make that all important purchase. Right now, it seems a random leap for me for Amazon to go from books, DVDs etc, to gourmet food…

That said, the goat’s cheese from Madam Chevre does look pretty appetising… and it’s at better price than any other generic online supermarket…  

Now where’s my purse?!?

Cheer up News Corp it might never happen

February 9, 2009

 

‘cept it has, hasn’t it?  While many blame the media for overhyping our collective financial woes and accelerating us all towards a depression, the industry is not immune to its own effects.  In fact, last week News Corp blamed its quarterly losses of $6.4bn on a huge decline in ad revenue.  Nobody is spending, because we’ve read in the papers and seen on the TV that it’s all rather grim out there, so you’re better off saving your pennies for a rainy day.  So, as us media people trip over each other in the dole queue, you could argue that we’ve cut our collective nose off to spite our collective face.

But fear not.  Seeing as I am completely ignorant of the inner workings of hedge funds, private equity, derivatives and the like, I can categorically sum the lot up as just imaginary numbers on a screen.  Banking and finance? It’s all a bit mysterious and hard to wrap your arms around isn’t it?  A bit like God.  And I’m agnostic.

Let’s leave the bankers to it, eh and get working on something we can affect. 

Confidence.

So, if the media helped fuel the speed of economic decline by undermining confidence, let’s just all get a bit of a collective cheer on and maybe, just maybe, we can chuckle our way back to the good times.  

Party on.

Thin enough? Sure. Catchy enough? Not sure.

February 6, 2009

blogpic

Whilst casually browsing the internet today I stumbled upon this gem of a story: Sony using a plus-size modelto advertise the thinnest LCD TV ever.

Ian Morris from CNET, has highlighted the irony of using Katie Green,  who ‘famously’ refused to lose weight when her agents told her it would beneficial to her career, and I have to say I agree with him.

Ignoring the TV, which I admit does look rather fabulous, I can’t help but wonder who came up with the idea of using the ‘Thin Enough?’ campaign. I can’t say it’s the most original advert I’ve ever seen.

Surely it’s going back to the ‘sex sells’ angle – which Sony clearly think is the case in this instance. Maybe this advert will appeal to men in the first instance, purely because it features a half naked, gorgeous woman – who looks remarkably thin, I might add. But as for reeling in women – a notoriously hard market to captivate in technology – a picture of a semi naked woman isn’t going to cut it.

Gates releases bugs

February 6, 2009

 

Got proboscis?

Got proboscis?

The Technology Entertainment Design (TED) conference in Long Beach, California was the scene of an interesting PR stunt from Bill Gates this week.

Gates was at the show representing the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation and discussing the need to invest in preventing malaria.

After noting that more money is currently spent in the US on preventing baldness than preventing malaria, Gates asked “How do you stop a deadly disease that is spread by mosquitoes?”

He added “I brought some. Here I’ll let them roam around. There is no reason only poor people should be infected” and promptly started releasing mosquitoes from a jar on stage into the startled crowd.

eBay founder, Pierre Omidyar, commented “That’s it, I’m not sitting up front anymore”, while TED curator Chris Anderson joked that “Gates releases more bugs into the world”.

The Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation has pledged nearly $170 million (£118m) to develop a vaccine for malaria.

Other talks at TED covered robotic soldiers, global warming and zero-emission transport.


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