An agency blog with news from Breakfast plus thoughts, ramblings, observations and rants on marketing, media, technology and culture. Basically anything too long for Twitter or too random for our website.

Google: not half as clever as they think they are

March 13, 2019 Leave a comment

There’s a lot I don’t understand about data and privacy (although I know enough to have deleted my Facebook account). And I’m pretty certain I’m not alone. Sometimes it feels like Google knows me better than I know myself – which, as someone who is getting increasingly forgetful, is actually quite convenient.

However, there are still some reassuring gaps in the picture Google thinks it has of my day-to-day perception of my world. For example, being fundamentally an American company means that Google refuses to recognise the possibility that anyone ever walks anywhere. When I plan a trip using Google maps, it occasionally tells me that the first train I can catch is in about 45 minutes because I will have to wait 30 minutes for a bus to the station (it’s a 12 minute walk). This is annoying, but I think I can, at least, understand why the mistake occurs: Omission by obesity.

One glitch, though, continues to baffle me. For a few years now, when I get into my car and navigate with Google maps, they continue to tell me how long it will take me to get to O’Neills in Leytonstone.

O’Neills, Leytonstone, back in the day

I’ve never visited O’Neills in Leytonstone. I’m not an O’Neills kind of guy. I believe, like Wetherspoons, it’s a homeless refuge that sells alcohol and horsemeat-themed microwave meals (National Hunter’s Chicken? Novice Steaks?). But without fail, Google maps lets me know how traffic conditions are looking en route.

This took on an altogether more surreal edge this week when my hungry colleague Aisha added a meeting invitation to my calendar but omitted to stipulate a venue. Google’s suggestion? O’Neills. I was assuming it would be the small meeting room in the office, but there you are.

I’ve scoured the settings on my iPhone but I can’t find for the life of me where this assumption that I would like nothing more than to hold my next agency status meeting in an Irish theme pub comes from. I think my football team once played a game near the Leytonstone O’Neills, but I’m clutching at straws.

If anyone can explain this to me, please do. Or are Google just doing this for the craic?


Lads, lads lads… and everybody

February 5, 2019 Leave a comment

Betting ads. On the one hand, a symbol of Britain’s decline: our last growth industry is a small-scale metaphor for the debt-fuelled hedonism that underpins our entire bloody economy. And on the other hand, a symbol of advertising’s decline: in any given ad break (or in the ones I watch, anyhow), bookmakers’ commercials make up about 75% of all the ads. And the other 25% are for Domino’s.

I think I’ve written about Ladbrokes before, but their hapless efforts to reclaim some of the market share they’ve ceded to newcomers such as betfair, Betway, Bet365, Bet Twat, Bet Lynch and Betfred (I may have invented one or two of these) is tragic to behold.

Their latest spot (and there is only one, which means it’s repeated about 30 times in two hours when there’s live football on) is the advertising equivalent of your grandad trying to explain Vloggers.

My son – an Inbetweeners fan and keen football gambler (he’s 18 now so he’s grown up with the concept) – finds the ad so toe curling he has to mute it when it’s on.

“It’s just someone thinking that putting him in an ad will automatically make it funny, and it doesn’t” was his analysis. Now a bad ad can be forgiven if it manages to communicate its USP clearly. But the USP here appears to be “We do betting too”. I believe you can just see the director slitting his wrists in the corner of one scene.

The endline has just changed – after six months – from “For the bettors of Britain” to something else, about fun. And I wouldn’t bother blogging about this if it wasn’t for the fact that this is just about the only industry in the UK putting any money at all behind its TV advertising. IS THIS REALLY THE BEST WE CAN DO?

What’s particularly sad about this fiasco (from Ladbrokes’ perspective) is that with Paddy Power’s previously strong marketing having fallen off a cliff, Bet365 watching Ray Winstone literally shrink in front of our eyes (his head is no longer the size of a planet), and betfair putting their brief on air, the competitive bar is awfully low. And yet…this is arguably the worst of the lot.

Will nobody think of the children? How are they expected to decide which brand they should fritter away their financial future with when these ads are all they have to go on?

See it, say it, sorted

January 22, 2019 Leave a comment

If you’re a London commuter, you will be in little doubt what to do on the tube, train or bus should you notice “something unusual” en route to or from work.

For the past two years (although it feels a lot, lot longer), TFL staff have, via an amusingly diverse collection of pre-recorded messages, implored everyone to take action to prevent any more horrific terrorist attacks; memories of which linger, still, just below the surface as we struggle in and out of the capital each day.

“See it, say it, sorted” has wormed its way into my daily life; sometimes read with little regard for punctuation (I’m pretty sure some stations awarded the job to the person whose rendition would amuse the rest of the staff the most), but it’s there, daily.

I’ve read articles saying how annoying it is (it is), and others complaining that the line should really end “sort it” to work, which would put an awful lot of pressure on the untrained commuter who’d spotted “it”.

What it must be like for station staff having to hear this hundreds of times a day, I dread to imagine – a bit like US troops repeating ‘Enter Sandman’ at ear-splitting volume to disorientate prisoners at Guantanamo Bay, I suspect – but it’s preferable to the alternative, that’s for sure.

I’ve mused over the effectiveness of the slogan for a while now (while punching my own ears, softly), but it was only this morning that I paid attention to the line that precedes the awkwardly-delivered alliterative payoff.

“Talk to station staff or text British Transport Police on…..” is, unquestionably, the most important part of the message. Most of us, I hope, would report “something unusual” if we saw it, although that’s not to say that the reminder to “Be alert” (another old London Underground classic) is unnecessary, but I have heard the message a couple of thousand times now and, if pressed, I wouldn’t have been able to remember who I should “say it” to should I “see it”.

See it, say it, sorted is memorable. But like too much advertising these days, it loses sight of the point, in that if you’re none the wiser what to do when you do “see it”, all those minutes of in-station irritation have been wasted.

It reminds me a little of this:

The answer, if you’re wondering, is to text British Transport Police on 61016. Because if finding station staff during rush hour is the solution, you’d better hope the “something unusual” is someone’s gym kit.

High vis, high value, high fibre brand building…take a bow Greggs

January 14, 2019 Leave a comment

How is your ‘Veganuary’ going? Pretty well in some quarters it would seem. Hard on the heels of Nestle’s Shreddies co-opting the vegan banner, vegan Happy Meals from McDonald’s, vegan pizza everywhere, and All Bar One leading their New Year comms with a specific vegan menu, comes the darling of the ‘hard hat, high vis jackets’, brigade – Greggs.

Wow…I wasn’t expecting that one. So popular are the new vegan sausage rolls apparently that it’s impossible to find one. I thought I had better check this out at our newly launched, balloon festooned, local Greggs on Kingsway today and, sure enough…SOLD OUT! What with a cool £200m added to the value of the business as a result, this has to be the front runner of the Marketing Magic Moves of 2019. ‘Scarcity’…one of the oldest tricks in the marketers book has worked its urgent, insistent, magic again.

I seem to remember Wispa pulled this trick back in the 80’s… “The new product has been so popular we are having to build a new factory – bear with us!” Caffrey’s also did something similar when they launched…restricting access to Nottingham to build some student (and sales team) folklore and rate of sale momentum.

Now it is entirely possible that the swift out of stock status across the land was a planning oversight by the operations team. I tend to think not. With Piers Morgan jumping in to castigate Gregg’s vegan credentials on Breakfast TV (…if the doyen of good taste hates then it must be worth trying!) then the magic circle of marketing chutzpah was complete.

screen shot 2019-01-10 at 16.29.34

Genuine consumer insight; great market entry timing; great product placement in Hi-Res media with high visibility PR; great product ‘disappearance’ in Hi-Vis media via high visibility PR…and maybe even a great product ( …at time of writing we were unable to find one) Greggs have pulled all the marketing levers available. Indeed, the only thing not high visibility about Greggs, and their brilliant marketing programme, is the star of the show… I guess absence really does make the heart grow fonder.

Categories: Uncategorized

Equine update

January 7, 2019 Leave a comment

Regular readers of this blog will know that all Breakfast employees are forced to endure a humiliating, surely-this-kind-of-thing-is-outlawed-by-now initiation ordeal.

So it was with trembling wrist that our new Senior Account Director, Olivia Schiavi, was told that she had to draw a horse, or else. No notice or visual aides memoire are provided. The whole team watches. The tension is, as you can imagine, unbearable.

And then Olivia went and drew this:

There’s neigh mistaking that

It transpires that from the age of three, as she grew up in Provence, Olivia was a keen rider and obsessed with horses.

Ed, however, wasn’t. Here’s his effort (we realised he’d never drawn his).

This started life as a Venn diagram

Not necessarily as elegant as Olivia’s, but much like Ed himself, this creature has a sense of innate joie de vivre and optimism. And it’s running in the wrong direction.

Categories: Breakfast news

Introducing: InfoFlex

December 4, 2018 Leave a comment

It helps to believe in the brand you’re building – especially in the healthcare sector, where product superiority really matters. Over the last year, we’ve been working on InfoFlex: an information management software tool used widely in the NHS. Our research showed that patients, clinicians, and trusts alike continue to be impressed and emboldened by InfoFlex’s capabilities, and the power it hands back to its users. These are turbulent times for our NHS and the wider healthcare community, and InfoFlex offers some stability, sense, and support to those who dedicate their time to looking after us.

We had to create a brand identity to match their (genuinely) superior product and team. InfoFlex was developed by NHS insiders with first-hand experience of inadequate systems – and their deep, multi-faceted understanding is often acknowledged by clients. Their experience and understanding influenced the product development: no other software provider offers the same necessary versatility or intelligence when it comes to managing patient care pathways. And when there are people’s lives at stake, that really should be advertised.

A big challenge came with learning just how many benefits InfoFlex provides – and to so many groups within the healthcare community, too. Although we established a messaging hierarchy, the brand identity still had to be able to unify and cope with lots of information, and work well across many different touchpoints.

So we created the ‘i device’ – SuperFit for purpose, just like the product. Here it is in action:



Alongside designing a host of documents for internal and external use, we created two  brand films to succinctly describe InfoFlex and its benefits. You can find them, and much more, on the new website we designed and built as part of this rebrand:


So we’ve been busy. But we couldn’t leave InfoFlex there… To fully support the new brand identity, we also created some ads to work across print and digital; these are now in action across various healthcare  publications. Here’s the print ad:




We look forward to seeing InfoFlex gain the increased awareness and business that they deserve.


Upsetting Jim Davidson

November 23, 2018 Leave a comment

I spoke to my talented casting agent/ DJ/ street photographer friend Babycakes Romero on Wednesday (November 21st). He was at one of the Extinction Rebellion ‘events’, listening to (and photographing) some well-meaning and brave environmental protesters as they were roundly abused by anyone and everyone. Including ‘funnyman’ Jim Davidson. (He’s not big and he’s certainly not funny.)

Yesterday’s man, yesterday

Babycakes – let’s call him Jon – has blogged beautifully about the event here. I recommend reading his piece, having a think and then coming back to this blog.

Because while I endorse the theory behind Extinction Rebellion (in the face of climate crisis, lawbreaking becomes morally justifiable), personally I can’t work out how angering people going about their everyday business is going to help.

As an advertiser, amateur psychology is something I invariably engage in on a day-to-day basis. And call me old-fashioned, but I reckon pissing people off is unlikely to win them round. That’s why calling poorly-educated Americans “a basket of deplorables” didn’t quite pan out as she hoped for Hillary Clinton.

To me, one of the most puzzling aspects of the climate crisis is why fear, so often used as a motivator in advertising and by right-wing politicians, is ineffective when applied to the extinction of species or the heating of the planet.

It must be because the observable downsides of global warming are, for most people in the developed world, still intangible. Whereas terrorist atrocities in the name of Islam or the presence of a Portuguese cafe on the hight street are visible evidence of something having “gone wrong” and requiring (invariably) a simplistic and ignorant solution.

It’s crazy that an entire industry such as anti-bac cleansing wipes, for example, worth millions of pounds, is based on the threat from invisible germs, yet the visible evidence of crop failure, forest fires and the like are not sufficient to persuade us to take action on climate change. It’s almost as if using facts and evidence to win arguments is insufficient. Or, more likely, that the sacrifice required to solve it is simply too great.

So how do we address this?

When Michelle Obama says that she and her husband were determined, come what may, to continue “punching up”, she captured the horrible dilemma that faces anyone in public life when they rely on reason and logic to persuade an understandably less well-informed populace that their beliefs may change were they to consider the following salient facts, especially when ignoring facts and believing crude prejudice seems to be the order of the day.

It’s hard, but the Obamas’ ability to do that is why they write books about “The Audacity of Hope”, and why those of us who find them inspiring are disappointed when they’re replaced by people who don’t know the meaning of either audacity or hope. 

Is it time for progressives to punch down? If punching down means blocking traffic, I’m not so sure. I know the Extinction Rebellion protesters are trying to disrupt, not persuade, but still.

If evidence won’t work (and it won’t) and preventative action is too painful to take, punching up is the only way we can conceivably save the planet from disaster. Good luck to anyone who can win an election on the platform Babycakes describes in his blog. If a referendum can be swung by a significant anti-immigration vote garnered from the people least likely to live in places affected by immigration, I suspect anyone proposing no flying, no driving and no consumerism is going to lose face and their deposit, in that order.

So what will punching up to save the planet look like? Here are some suggestions:

It will look like renewable energy solutions, made affordable by governments’ belated realisation that they cannot afford (literally) to ignore the problem any longer.

It will look like cars and planes fuelled by anything that doesn’t emit CO2 (see the reason given above).

It will look like the advance of tech solutions that will address the disappearance of pollinators and the reduction in fertile arable land.

It will look like the removal of GDP and economic ‘growth’ as an objective, and a focus on the worth of clean air, clean water, animal life and the natural world.

It will come from the displacement of people in one of the more powerful countries (here’s looking at you, Trumpville, Wisconsin).

And it will come from the planet itself, as water, food and hospitable land is made scarce and people fight for alternatives.

Are those last two punching up? Not really. All I know is that by the time there’s no guarantee I’ll have clean water coming out of my tap, I’ll be slightly less annoyed by someone disrupting my ability to drive through Elephant & Castle. Hunger and thirst are pretty motivating, I reckon.

In the meantime, I remain convinced that the only benefit of last week’s Extinction Rebellion was that it upset Jim Davidson. You take your consolations where you can find them.