Archive for the ‘online marketing’ Category

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?


Delete your account

March 19, 2018 Leave a comment

Long before ‘Delete your account’ became, fleetingly, the online riposte de nos jours, I knew, somewhere at the bottom of my cerebral hard drive, that committing so much personal information to various anonymous dotcom entities was something I might possibly look back on with regret.

I deleted my rarely used but occasionally browsed Facebook account back in 2009, but had to take it out of mothballs for professional reasons. It’s hard to develop an app for a platform you’re not on.

Anyway, here we are nine years later and I’ve just set the wheels in motion to delete my Facebook account all over again. During those nine years, my interactions with Facebook have largely comprised blocking any ‘friends’ who have shared content from Britain First, blocking friends whose posts break my fairly relaxed inanity rules, blocking friends who post pictures of their children in school uniform (harsh, but you know… standards), blocking friends who share anything that’s obviously ignorant/ written by a Russian bot, and trying hard not to block friends who simply overshare on an industrial scale. Yes, I can be a judgmental arsehole. So what?

In short, my feed had become a sorry list of work-related and/ or sponsored posts, interspersed with various sports teams/ bands I follow. Nothing I couldn’t find elsewhere – specifically on Twitter – in more succinct form.

I’d never posted my birthdate on Facebook, having once read that it is sensible to limit how much relatively hard to find personal information one should share, but that was torpedoed by some friends wishing me a happy birthday via the medium I’d tried to avoid. I’m sure they have an algorithm that picks up on clues like that.


Buuutttt… he looks so cuddly

Anyhow, my vaguely uncomfortable relationship with Facebook took on a more pronounced form when, shortly before Trump’s election, a friend explained to me at great length why Hillary Clinton shouldn’t be President, listing a number of reasons about which I had heard literally nothing. You know, the child abusing, FBI-murdering rumours that you could only find where he did – on Facebook.

I challenged the veracity, but he insisted it was true: “It came from a story in an American newspaper.” Reader, it didn’t.

You may know this already. You may know that Boris Johnson admitted inventing the “EU bans bendy bananas” story. That’s because, like me, you read stuff in “the mainstream media”, that much maligned ‘blob’ which actually comprises, by and large, credible news organisations staffed by intelligent, principled people. Not fake shit that’s posted to your timeline because you’ve shared content from Britain First or UKIP.

Back to the point. It’s ironic that in the week Facebook finally got round to banning the traitorous, ignorant, racist and inflammatory inadequates at Britain First, the Cambridge Analytica story was confirmed. Guess what? Facebook is, on balance, a bad thing. I’d explain why, but if you’re reading this, you’ll probably know.

In the meantime, I’ll be on Twitter for Bob Mortimer’s lists of cat names, and train delays in real time. See you there…

Feeling social?

December 8, 2017 Leave a comment

Social media isn’t necessarily right for all brands. Certainly, as my old mate* the Ad Contrarian has loudly proclaimed, many of the claims made on behalf of Facebook and its fellow data thieves a few years ago have turned out to be rather empty.

It transpires that social is a little more like old media than many people once thought. Maybe that’s why it’s taken this long for Breakfast to produce its first (a brief dalliance with the Phone Co-Op aside) fully-formed social campaign, for our favourite vodka, Moskovskaya.

In partnership with hungry upstarts Studio Appetite, we have been producing some ads (there’s no more appropriate term) for two or three months now, and having some fun while doing so.

(You’ll need to follow the brand on Facebook, Instagram or twitter to see the animated bits, links and accompanying text. Sorry.)

Having avoided being too vocal on the merits or otherwise of social media for building brands, I have now progressed from interested observer into an advocate of treating these channels as opportunities. They offer brands without big budgets (or even medium-sized budgets) the chance to reach a potentially massive audience with a relatively small spend.

We’re not mistaking our ‘likes’ for customers, or expecting our audience to become evangelists (the world has more than enough of those at the moment). But we are (we think) producing good work for a genuinely distinctive, strong vodka brand. It might take us a while to conquer the world, and we might not achieve domination via social alone.

But we’re in the game. And enjoying it.

*He’s not a mate: I’ve never met him. But I’m pretty sure we’d get on.

So long, solar

October 20, 2015 Leave a comment

I receive at least three emails a week asking me to add my signature to another worthy cause, and because I’m a predictably opinionated member of the liberal media elite (or if not elite, the Championship), the only surprise is that I don’t receive more of them. As Morrissey (almost) sang, Some Causes Are Bigger Than Others, and today’s inbox was illuminated – in an environmentally friendly way – by a request from Greenpeace that I object to the government’s batshit proposals to reduce the Feed-in Tariff for solar energy even more.

“Ordinary hard-working British people shouldn’t have to pay more on their energy bills to subsidise solar…blah blah blah”, prattled the latest minister too browbeaten by the Treasury to show some vision and leadership.

Oh yeah? Well, I have worked with people from the nuclear industry, some fossil fuel types and some budding biomassers over the past few years, and am fully cognisant of the minefield that is the electricity strike price, the EDF nuclear subsidy etc. etc. I get it. It’s complicated.

But the simple truth is this. More of us need to use renewable energy. (And by us, let’s restrict this to British people for now.) If we can generate it, we should. And if we can’t, well, because, as the government often tell us, “We’re all in this together,” we might just have to pay a few extra pennies to encourage those who can to do so. Via a subsidy. A subsidy that, I know very well, favours middle class homeowners in the south of the UK: a demographic that’s already holding several winning tickets in the lottery of UK life.

We have one planet. We’re frying it. Because we’re generally hardwired to avoid self-sacrifice, we aren’t going to give up our cars, our flights or our meat and two veg every night. If we are to maintain this planet for our children, we need to do something. And if that something also provides employment for thousands of people while reducing CO2 emissions, that has to be good, right? Right. So sign the petition.

“We need a viral”

November 13, 2014 Leave a comment

My friend Jon has been taking photographs for a few years now. He takes them because he enjoys doing so, and posts them on his blog ( Some of them he’s turned into pieces of art, which he’s sold; others have disappeared without trace (they’re still online, but were maybe viewed by 10 people, or thereabouts).

And then he published these:

I’ve used the Bored Panda link as they were the first to pick up on Jonny’s blog but the photos have also appeared in the Washington Post, the Huffington Post, the Daily Telegraph, Buzzfeed…there are more. He’s subsequently been interviewed on Sky, the BBC, Canadian radio and other media outlets. He’s been addressed as Babyface on Sky News. He now has a syndication agency for his photography, and the shots have been seen by several million people. And he has no idea why any of this has happened.

The moral of the story? It’s at the end of the previous paragraph.

I’m no Mike Smash

September 1, 2014 Leave a comment

Mike, as Harry Enfield and Paul Whitehouse fans will recall, did a lot of great work for charity, but didn’t like to talk about it. As the millionth ice bucket challenge appears on Facebook (rapidly followed by the millionth opinion on whether this is a good or bad thing), I find myself having to confront my own rather complex feelings about philanthropy.


                     An ice bucket yesterday

More specifically, I am worried that my visceral reaction to these viral charity stunts is a little uncharitable.

I’m not the only one. In the last couple of weeks, I have heard lots of people groan as another friend appears on Facebook and tips a bucket of water over their head. And lots of the objections to the ice bucket challenge (IBC) have had as much attention as the challenge itself.

But this isn’t about the IBC’s merits: I’m all in favour of people chucking a few quid at a worthy cause. My observation is simply that the proliferation of these requests seems to be in danger of biting the hand that’s feeding it.

I can’t speak for anyone else, but I suspect most of us are receiving an increasing number of pleas to support the charitable pursuits of friends and acquaintances. Each request comes with a link to donate, and most of the time I will. But it’s surely obvious that for every IBC that becomes a global phenomenon, there will be an onslaught of similar campaigns as other charities seek the elusive social media gold that sees their coffers overflowing.

The worst part of this is (and I feel terrible even typing this) that I find myself judging the merits of the request according to the relevance of that particular charity to me or the person asking for the cash.

Maybe that’s what we all do: I don’t know. I can’t believe I am alone in creating a private mental checklist that determines the size of my donation. And there are other issues too. Last year I must have had 15 people ask me to support their efforts for Movember. I donated once, but then probably mildly offended 14 other people by ignoring them. Awks!

Anyway, back to the point: it feels like we are approaching the point of diminishing returns. I suspect charities might have to open up a new front to persuade us to stick our hands in our collective pockets. It will be interesting to see how Movember fares this year, as it feels like that particular campaign might have peaked. That doesn’t make testicular cancer any less worthy of public support in 2014, but growing a moustache? That’s so 2012…

Finally – and again, this feels like some sort of confessional – I find the idea of asking people for money makes me extremely uncomfortable, no matter how laudable the cause. I’ve signed up for a charity event in October and the prospect of sending an email requesting donations has made me question whether I can take part. I’m not sure I’d support my cause, so how can I ask for others’ money in good faith?

See what you’ve done, ice bucket challenge? See what you’ve gone and done…?





Last of the true believers?

As I filed in to the Jayhawks‘ gig at the Shepherd’s Bush Empire last Friday, someone handed me a flier advertising an indie festival taking place in September. Indie Daze gathers many of the undisputed superstars of that long-lamented scene (Jesus Jones, Ned’s Atomic Dustbin, others) under one roof, hopefully with the intention of interring them so none of them can make any more music.

The aforementioned Jayhawks (who weren’t an indie band, by any definition) were fantastic; playing songs from their incomparable Sound of Lies record to restrained applause while the crowd went mad for their more celebrated, and to my ears, inferior songs. (The fact that the Jayhawks’ primary songwriter shares my opinion of his back catalogue cheered me up no end.) But quite why I was identified as someone who might like Ned’s troubled me greatly. Must have been the fact that I went alone.

Anyway, I thoroughly enjoyed the gig but am increasingly wary of my music tastes – certainly in terms of the bands I go to see live – getting stuck in the past. The current glut of bands reforming to play their old songs without daring to create anything new is possibly attributable to the ease of discovering music online, but if the average age of the audience at the Jayhawks is anything to go by, there aren’t many new listeners jostling for space at the front among the ageing hip-replacement-sters. If the Indie Daze crowd is full of youngsters it will only be because natural selection has seen off the original audience.

That’s why the evolution of one of my favourite bands, That Petrol Emotion, has cheered me up no end. The Petrols were themselves formed from the remnants of the Undertones, replacing Feargal Sharkey’s tremulous new wave yelp with the energetic Seattle babble of Steve Mack. If I’d ever appeared on Stars In Their Eyes, Steve would have been my chosen star. (That sentence may contain several obvious flights of fancy.)

I am such an advocate for my enthusiasms that by the time the Petrols called it a day, I was taking a bunch of friends to see them each time they played. Indeed I bought 12 tickets to watch them at the Clapham Grand in 1994 as my birthday present, and had no trouble finding willing attendees. Steve Mack obliged by stage diving into the arms of my pal Phil, who uttered a nonplussed “Hello” into the singer’s mic; possibly the only occasion in Phil’s life when he hasn’t been able to come up with something funny at short notice. You could dance to them, pogo to them, sing along to them, and once you’d finished doing that, play air guitar as they pulled another hook-laden, riff heavy gem from their catalogue. To say they didn’t get the attention they deserved is understating it (although compared to House of Freaks, another band I worshipped, they were practically the Beatles).

Anyway, back to the now. In another sign that I am possibly getting on a bit, talented musicians with a superb back catalogue are now having to ask for support from their fans before they release a record. Four fifths of That Petrol Emotion have reinvented themselves as The Everlasting Yeah, and if their track record is anything to go by, their debut album will be a) great; b) loud, and c) definitely worth playing air guitar to.

In order to get it made, they’ve launched a Pledge which I have just contributed to. Listen to this, this and this, and tell me it’s not worth the price of three caffe lattes to help these guys get their record out there.