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“And how was the campaign for you, Mrs May?”

Until recently, General Elections could be reliably guaranteed to produce ads – usually posters – that by virtue of media coverage, would end up being seen by more or less everyone in the country.

Not in 2017. Can you name a single memorable political poster? I can’t. While the Ed Miliband in Alex Salmond’s pocket ad from 2015 was a poor example of the form (I blogged about this here), it garnered some column inches and TV airtime.

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Now, it seems, our two main parties are devoting their resources to social media, with Labour in the ascendancy on Twitter (which tracks well with the better educated and metropolitan types) and the Tories ruling the roost on Facebook, which has a broader, more representative user base and might have something to do with the illegal use of data. If you believe what you read in The Observer

Anyhow, with no decent advertising to speak of, the most noticeable marketing-related efforts in this election have been slogans. I wrote back in 2015 about Nigel Farage being ahead of the game in terms of repeating a single, simple message and backing it up in words and deed. He might be a c*nt, but he’s not an idiot.

With that in mind, the Tories hit the ground running with “strong and stable” and “coalition of chaos”: snappy three-word slogans which (you might have spotted if you’re a sentient human) they repeated ad nauseam in the first week of the campaign, tethered not to the party, but to Theresa May, whose personal poll numbers must have been only slightly less impressive than Kim Jong Un’s in the weeks before her announcement of the election.

Unfortunately, this has turned out to be a classic case of assertion rather than demonstration, as May has made a mockery of her own USP by looking nervous and guarded in front of crowds and by executing a massive U-turn the day after the Conservatives’ manifesto launch.

Britain's Prime Minister Theresa May addresses Conservative parliamentary candidates for London and the south east at the Dhamecha Lohana Centre in Harrow, north west London

Theresa being charismatic

If (a little bit of politics now) she’d had the guts to stick to her guns and tell us that the only way we’ll be able to pay for social care in this country going forward is to ask those who can to pay for it, she’d have enabled strong and stable to ring true. Unfortunately, “strong and stable but unpopular with your core voters” was deemed a tad unwise in an election campaign, so she folded like an executive order by Donald Trump.

Subsequently, her team have taken her out of the firing line, avoiding TV and radio interviews and ensuring that only party members are present in most of her public appearances. Like many other people, I’ve always maintained that being comfortable in front of the media and able to connect with people on a human level does not necessarily make you a great leader. But it’s fair to say that we all feel a little uneasy when confronted by someone who exhibits all the empathy of a South African prison guard from the 1970s and a truly remarkable inability to think on her feet.

Anyway, back to slogans. “Coalition of chaos” was another catchy, well thought-out line of attack that has endured longer than “strong and stable”, although as soon as the various parties ruled out any deals or pacts the Conservative hierarchy dialled it back a bit.

The other problem the Tories have had is that Theresa May’s stodgy, “best of a bad bunch” message plays so poorly when contrasted with left of centre politicians saying popular, human, empathetic things. Which, when they’re in opposition (as they usually are) play well. Lots of irate right-wingers – and the Daily Mail – took to social media after the BBC leaders debate moaning about bias, but a) the Tories’ policies aren’t by and large the kind of things you’d cheer for, and b) even if they were, many people don’t like admitting they’re Tory in public. It wasn’t a biased audience: it was an audience where the Conservatives (comprising 35% of those in attendance) sat on their hands or clapped politely every so often, while the other 65% demonstrated understandably more enthusiasm for sentiments like “we’ll give you better healthcare/ schools and tax the rich.” It’s really not complicated.

Anyway, while “coalition of chaos” and “strong and stable” have endured a bumpy ride, Labour’s “For the many, not the few” has articulated the party’s USP pretty well, and grown more relevant as the campaign has progressed. Under Blair/ Brown, “the few” fared extremely well, so this slogan isn’t as facile as it might first seem.

Jeremy Corbyn’s unapologetic acknowledgment that the very wealthy are going to be paying for at least some of the largesse he has promised has had the effect of enthusing his base by reconnecting the party’s newly-minted membership with its core principles. It’s exactly what Nigel Farage did: take a truth, communicate it at every opportunity and back it up with your actions.

Unfortunately for Labour, for all UKIP’s mastery of their message in 2015, they didn’t manage to see their increased relevance reflected in the numer of parliamentary seats they secured. They have been a phenomenal success as a pressure group and an irrelevance as a political party. I may be wrong, but I suspect Corbyn’s Labour Party are about to suffer a similar fate. There’s only so much that a slogan – or an ad – can do.

 

It’s been emotional

A few years back, one of my former colleagues and I branched off to work on a football-related project. He had – and has – absolutely no interest in football; to the extent that he isn’t even familiar with the names of some of our nation’s world-famous clubs.

When I asked why, he said that he had enough ups, downs, happiness and pain in everyday life. Why would he want any more?

If you’re not a football fan, you won’t understand that supporting a team is not necessarily a choice, it’s just part of who you are. I’m Tottenham. I have been since the age of 7, and there’s not a fat lot I can do about it. My great-grandfather played in the victorious 1921 FA Cup winning side, both sides of my family originate from the Tottenham/ Edmonton/ Wood Green area and no one on my mum or dad’s side of the family has ever supported another team. It’s Spurs all the way.

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Jimmy Banks, my great-grandfather and Tottenham Hotspur footballer

I’m not given to displays of emotion in every day life. I don’t cry. I’m not very tactile – to say the least – and I don’t talk about emotions. I’m English, in other words.

Clearly, I am dealing with some deep-seated issues, and a work-related blog is not the place to get into those. But I don’t think I’m unique amongst a certain strain of my fellow countrymen, and like many of those fellas, the much needed outlet for my repressed feelings is football.

Was the best day of my life when my children were born or when I saw Spurs win the UEFA Cup in 1984? I can’t really answer that, but I only helplessly screamed myself hoarse in happiness on one of those occasions.

Do I still become disproportionately miserable when Spurs lose? I do. Does someone identifying themselves as a fellow fan make me predisposed to think well of them? It does. Have I employed someone on the spot when their football allegiance became clear? I don’t think that decision falls foul of any employment legislation.

Anyway, you get the picture.

This Sunday is Spurs’ final game at the stadium where I have spent a significant proportion of my life. I hadn’t been especially sentimental about this, as the amazing new ground taking shape next door will signal a long overdue step forward. But still…years sitting in the East Stand, next to my dad, watching Glenn Hoddle, Chris Waddle, Ossie Ardiles, Micky Hazard, Steve Archibald, Jurgen Klinsmann, Teddy Sheringham, Gary Mabbutt, Ledley King, Gareth Bale, Luka Modric… I have spent so much of my life there, experiencing every emotion under the sun (and that’s not an exaggeration – I was there on the evening that Fabrice Muamba collapsed and, we thought, died on the pitch at White Hart Lane), that for the stadium to be demolished this coming Monday can’t leave me unmoved.

I’ve mourned Bill Nicholson, seethed at the cynicism of Sam Allardyce’s Bolton side on that same day (the antithesis of “It’s all about glory…”), and, of course, erupted in happiness as crucial goals are scored, important saves are made and vital games are won.

If you don’t get it, fine; football isn’t for everyone. Sport isn’t for everyone. But there are few times or places  in our lives when we can forget the really important stuff and surrender ourselves to something that, while not actually a matter of life and death, certainly feels like it for 90 minutes every weekend.

Goodbye, White Hart Lane. I’ll miss you, but you’ll always be part of me.

Categories: blogging for Britain

I’ll keep this short

Here are some things I recommend you watch or listen to if you get the chance:

Athletico Mince – If you think Bob Mortimer is a comic genius, this podcast is for you. If you don’t, listen to it and you’ll change your mind. It is sometimes referred to as a football podcast, but it isn’t, although knowing what Sean Dyche and Steve McClaren (both below) look like will aid your enjoyment. Start at about episode 12 and enjoy the progression. And never look the laird in the eye.

Hell Or High Water and Get Out – The last two movies I watched have both been exceptional. I won’t summarise them for you – that’s what Rotten Tomatoes is for – but if you missed these, do what you can to see them.

Front Row Seat to Earth by Weyes Blood – Natalie Mering’s voice is transcendental. Play this with the lights off, or your eyes closed, or while taking in the bucolic view of your choice, and the world becomes a better place.

The Power of the Dog and The Cartel by Don Winslow – David Simon’s The Corner and Homicide used real life events on the streets of Baltimore to highlight the idiocy of The War Against Drugs, in a pair of books whose occasional departure from the narrative allowed the author to display some of the finest contemporary writing I have read. Don Winslow takes a slightly different tack by turning the exploits of Joaquin “El Chapo” Guzman into a pair of long, fictionalized accounts of Mexico’s drug trade, and the United States’ intermittent efforts to control/ exploit/ profit from this lucrative cross border powder trail. If you’ve ever bought illegal drugs, you’ve contributed to horrendous, violent, grisly deaths like those chronicled here. Just say no, kids.

That’s it. As you were.

 

 

My goat has been got

April 18, 2017 Leave a comment

SPOILER ALERT: What follows is a personal opinion, shared by the owner of my business (i.e. me). Discussion, debate and dissenting views welcome.

My goat has been got is not a Grandaddy song title; it’s my reaction to the announcement of a General Election on June 8th.

On the day that the UK offically triggered Article 50, Ed and I were present at a Brexit talk by Keir Starmer. Starmer impressed me, largely because he provided a bipartisan perspective on the situation the UK finds itself in.

Whatever you think of Jeremy Corbyn, Brexit, and the strange, fence-straddling position of the Labour Party, it was actually refreshing to hear a senior politician concentrate exclusively on getting the best deal for Britain. Starmer is clearly intent on using his powers of scrutiny to help achieve such a deal, and didn’t allude to any party political considerations. It was admirable, grown up stuff.

Instead, he talked about the message he’d heard all over the country, but especially from business* people, about the potentially catastrophic repercussions of a hard Brexit, and pledged to put pressure on the government to accept a deal that avoided the type of seismic shock that a hard Brexit will likely represent.

Indeed that very day at the despatch box, Theresa May had suggested that she would try and ensure Labour’s Brexit tests would be met, while continuing to parrot (understandably) her mantra about “the best deal for Britain”. What politician would promise anything else?

Starmer also described how David Davis – the man charged with delivering Brexit – was hearing the same messages about hard Brexit and adjusting his stance accordingly. I left the meeting feeling optimistic that Theresa May might just be playing a bit of a blinder, by allowing the harsh daylight of a hard Brexit to turn the living dead on the Tory right into ash: a gaunt, terrified line of John Redwoods and Jacob Rees Moggs spontaneously combusting and, hopefully, disappearing forever more. That’s one way of ensuring you don’t have to live in a changing world, isn’t it chaps?

It would be not only be possible to do this while satisfying everyone apart from the staunchest UKIP blowhards and retards, it’s clearly the right thing to do if you accept that the decision to leave the EU is final. In other words, this is going to hurt for a while but let’s not cut off our nose, arms, legs and genitals while we’re at it.

I should have realised that a politician capable of making the kind of brain dead intervention May made recently about Easter eggs would not be capable of using this delicate balance of power to achieve consensus. Instead, she’s taken the opportunistic and cynical political decision to hold a General Election while describing this as a move towards unity. May also misrepresented Labour’s position and, like most of the press, continues to paint any opposition to Brexit as a form of treason rather than an entirely reasonable response to the horrific prospect of people any normal person would jump in front of a train to avoid talking to dictating the terms of our exit from the EU.

All she is actually doing is providing another opportunity for the usual suspects to lie, cheat, steal (copyright Run the Jewels) and fool us into voting for more cuts in health, education, social care and basic fucking humanity while at the same time our economy undergoes a seismic shock.

As yet another Conservative who never actually mentions conserving the one thing we should all agree on – the environment – she has proved herself to be the ultimate short-termist, self-interested career politician; clearly hamstrung by a middling intellect and surrounded by men who have as much in common with modern Britain as Donald Trump has with coalminers in Virginia.

Meanwhile on Twitter, the type of people who park in a disabled space and then give you the middle-finger for calling them on it are harrumphing triumphantly about making sure UKIP’s agenda is followed, and the remnants of this once admirable, tolerant, humane and self-effacing nation slip from Dover’s white cliffs into a sea which will be two metres higher in 50 years.

Still, at least Spurs are playing well.

*Ed and I were attending a Labour Business event in Westminster.

Edit: This article makes many of the same points as I have, but with fewer swear words

Edit 2: Deutsche Bank (among others) think that May has called the election to secure an increased majority to ensure a softer Brexit. There are several highly-paid city analysts who subscribe to this view (hence Sterling’s recovery). If true, this would force me to assume my previously-held position, and acknowledge that Theresa is, indeed, an intellectual heavyweight and tactical genius. However, given that the existing tiny majority and resultant scrutiny will also lead to a soft Brexit, I think this is absolute bollocks. Of course city analysts have a well-known ability to predict seismic political and/ or socio-economic events…

 

Bet you hadn’t heard of Wayne Shaw before this week

February 22, 2017 Leave a comment

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I don’t know what it says about my television viewing habits these days, but I reckon every fourth ad I see is for a betting company. While TV ad budgets have shrunk in nearly every other sector, betting has grown massively; partly because until 2006 (or thereabouts) betting companies couldn’t advertise on the telly. (I wrote the first TV ad for a betting company to run in the UK. But that’s another story.)

Since then, the high street giants at Ladbrokes, William Hill and Coral have seen any number of new companies enter this burgeoning market. Paddy Power, Betfair, Bet 365… with barriers to entry so low following the arrival of online betting, it’s come down to a straight fight: whose ads are most successful?

And so to Wayne Shaw. The portly reserve goalkeeper had already attracted some attention during Sutton United’s FA Cup run, but nothing to rival the hoo-ha he caused in the final minutes of their fifth round game versus Arsenal. To general hilarity, he was observed munching on a meat pie while sitting on the subs bench. Naively, I assumed he was just engaging in some *arsehole-klaxon* banter, but in fact he was ensuring that several lucky punters landed their 8-1 punt with Sun Bets that he’d be seen eating a pie during the game.

Just as Wayne’s existence had been a mystery to me before this week, I was also unaware of Sun Bets. Naturally given their association with the newspaper of the same name, ethical concerns won’t have been front of mind when they dreamed up the idea for the bet.

Now the truth behind the bet/ stunt is still unclear. Suffice to say, the outcome for Wayne – losing his job for eating a pie – feels a tad harsh, regardless of the rules governing betting. The common sense response would be to ban bets that are subject to obvious manipulation and are thinly-veiled publicity stunts; or to let the firms offering such silly bets suffer for their own stupidity.

This bet did nothing to undermine the integrity of the game: it just made football (particularly Sutton) look humourless and allowed Piers Morgan to use the incident as an example of “PC”. (It’s not political correctness, Piers mate; stop with your overt ignorance-signalling.)

But it has to be said, this farrago has possibly done more for Sun Bets than any number of cheap TV ads would have, and for a tiny fraction of the cost – even if a hundred of Wayne’s mates had piled on. And that makes me as sad as the fact that Wayne Shaw is now without a job.

Why? Because if – and I suspect it’s possible – Sun Bets told Wayne to eat the pie, to generate publicity for them, it’s just very disappointing. The advertising professional within me should admire such lateral thinking, but instead I’m just disillusioned that such a seemingly impromptu and funny act was calculated, commerce-driven and cynical.

Maybe I should forgive William Hill their god awful TV spots. At least they only look cheap.

Here, Paul MacInnes in the Guardian makes lots of the same points as I did (as well as some other, more considered ones).

We hate to say we told you so…

February 14, 2017 Leave a comment

One of the most enjoyable aspects of our industry is the opportunity to work in myriad sectors and disciplines. It’s thanks to this that three years ago, the Breakfast team became immersed in the world of social care.

Our exposure to the challenges (for want of a better euphemism) in the world of care provision left us in no doubt that this would be one of the biggest issues facing our society going forward. You can read about it in several of our historical blog posts.

Anyhow, recently so many of the chickens in social care have come home to roost that even the most short sighted among us have realised someone’s going to have to build a new coop.

Our work in the sector was curtailed by our clients being among the first to recognise that the state was simply not allocating sufficient money to sustain care at levels which were already parlous. Effectively, they told us they didn’t want us to help them win new contracts: they couldn’t afford to fulfil them.

Subsequently, other providers have withdrawn from the sector. Carers remain hideously underpaid, undervalued and at the mercy of unscrupulous employers.

The government has acknowledged that “something must be done”, but this isn’t a party political issue. It’s a state of affairs that we, as a society, have allowed to fester over the past few decades. Our elderly and disabled – at least those without the means to provide for themselves – have been marginalised and left behind, while some families seem to have stopped caring for their own. If I hadn’t seen a carer open an old man’s fridge and discover that his nephews had stolen the food she’d bought for him the day before (from her own pocket), I wouldn’t believe it possible.

As for carers themselves, they’re victims of a market which invariably values the ability to empathise with, relate to and show compassion for their fellow humans at a fraction of its worth.

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           Sharon, one of many committed, skilled and invaluable care workers we encountered

So what to do? It seems to me that as a society, we have a decision to make: do we truly value health and social care – whether public or private – or not? The recent stand-off between Surrey County Council and the government is indicative of the tension between central and local government: who is going to risk the unpopularity that invariably accompanies asking taxpayers for more cash?

Our former clients spanned both the public and private sectors and it was clear to us that individuals with the ability to provide for themselves were going to have to do so without any help at all from the state. And the threshold at which that state help is withdrawn will be significantly lower than it used to be.

That brings us to another enjoyable aspect of advertising and marketing; that of employing creative thinking to solve seemingly intractable problems. Much in the way that an experiment in Stockholm rewarded drivers who obeyed the speed limit by using fines from speeding drivers to enter responsible drivers into a lottery, isn’t it time that government utilised our creative minds to solve seemingly impossible challenges, such as paying for social care and the NHS in a rapidly ageing population? It might save them – and us – a fortune.

Here at Breakfast, we found the opportunity to work in the broken care sector fascinating: we’d love to be part of a solution too. Creativity is one of our nation’s most valuable assets. Let’s deploy it  wisely.

 

Categories: blogging for Britain

Dry January?

January 27, 2017 Leave a comment

It’s been all quiet on the blog front for the past few weeks. Sorry.

None of the Breakfast team has, as far as I am aware, sworn off alcohol during January, but with a number of projects on the go it’s been all work and no play for the most part, save for the enthusiastic business-related consumption of several exotic Latvian alcopops (Chris). Blogging has had to take a back seat.

In December we turned around a video for medical equipment giants Omron, completed a large research product for our good friends at AutoRestore and embarked on two pitches (one down, one to go). A social media project for Moskovskaya kept us busy over Christmas and this year we’ve already conceived, written and produced an email campaign for Energy Scanner (see below).

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We’ve had the go ahead on jobs for four new clients and are pushing ahead on another exciting AutoRestore task, as well as beginning the next stage of our campaign for the National Museum of the Royal Navy.

In fact, 2017 has started so well that it’s tempting to think the only thing between Breakfast and world domination is the implosion of western democracy in the hands of an incompetent American President and a subsequent nuclear apocalypse.

Bugger.