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Windows ’19

After 10 years cohabiting with the lovely people at Live & Breathe, Team Breakfast have finally discarded the stabilisers and pedalled all the way to our very own office in Carlisle. Or Carlisle Street, in Soho, to be exact.

The gentrification of Soho: an argument against.

That’s us (or some of us) in our new gaff. It has windows and assorted other mod cons.

If you find yourself in the neighbourhood, please come and knock on our door. If it’s answered by a small, sarcastic and slightly smug balding person, you’ll have accidentally knocked on Private Eye’s office next door – we’re number 7.

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Lads lads lads… part two

April 30, 2019 Leave a comment

I blogged a little while ago about the Ladbrokes ad featuring the fella from the In Betweeners. It isn’t a very good ad, but it has now – thankfully – been replaced by some new executions that, while polarising, are significantly less lazy and annoying (I may be in a minority here if you’re not a Kriss Akabusi fan).

Anyhow, while the whys and wherefores of betting ads on TV continue to be debated, the blog piece is getting a fair few hits, so I would like to revisit my original position.

Although the Ladbrokes spots are irritating, they are hard to ignore, which, as well as delivering the primary requirement of any piece of advertising, these days puts them in a minority. And the more I see Betfair’s risible commercial, which combines unbearable smugness with possibly the worst example of printing the proposition I’ve ever seen, the more I think I picked the wrong target.

“Where gut instinct meets smarts” manages to be immediately forgettable and hugely irritating, as anyone thinking “hell, yes – I have smarts!” should be banned from possessing money, let alone gambling with it.

Betfair’s exchange has a USP that is hard to unpack in a 30 second TV spot – and they have tried – but this is the worst of all worlds in that it doesn’t explain it and doesn’t make it compelling. Must do better next season.


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.


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.



Winter is coming

October 31, 2018 Leave a comment

The baseball season in the States runs from the very start of April to the very end of October. Its beginning coincides with the first balmy days of spring; its end with the sharp dip in temperatures that signals the arrival of autumn proper and the earliest hint of winter.

As readers of this blog may know, I have become a huge baseball fan over the past ten years, with the MLB post season now, more or less, my favourite sporting event. Its conclusion is bittersweet: the World Series not only the culmination of a season but also the signal of an end – not just of baseball, but of summer. And, maybe, of more than that.

The melancholy that accompanies this passing of time is amplified by shorter days and longer nights; of falling temperatures and the prospect of three or four months spent trudging to work in the cold and rain.

This sense of an ending is not unique to baseball; I feel the same way when the English cricket season draws stumps a few weeks earlier. But I don’t get the same sense of loss when the football season draws to a close. It’s a summer thing.

Anyway, the reason for this post is this: an essay written by the late Bart Giamatti, read by the man himself. No, I had no idea who he was, either. I do now.

I heard this for the first time yesterday. Even if you have no interest in baseball, cricket or sport, take ten minutes out of your day and give it a listen.

 

Categories: blogging for Britain