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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.



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Hey, how about another Brexit post?

July 6, 2018 3 comments

Over a year ago, I listened to Keir Starmer talk eloquently about Brexit. Last night (5th July) at the Brand Exchange, I did so again.

Like Keir, I’m not going to argue about the rights or wrongs of voting for Brexit. I’m sure among our many readers there are those who voted leave and those who voted remain. Also like Keir, I’m not going to get into debating the rights or wrongs of the reasons – perceived or actual – why people voted the way they did. Many people were, and are, generally dissatisfied with the state of their lives, and voted for change. Any change.

That’s certainly what they’re going to get. For the second time, I was impressed by the non-partisan, considered and calm approach the former Director of the CPS is taking to his thankless task, but blimey, this was a depressing evening.

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Peter Kellner and Sir Keir Starmer, MP, telling it like it is

It was always highly likely that Brexit, hard or soft, would lead to an economic contraction in the period after our departure. That’s not to say it isn’t in our long term interests as a nation – you’ll have your own thoughts on that – but even the softest Brexit will result, in the short term at least, in logistical costs and a economic adjustment that will outweigh any putative ‘Brexit dividend’. The EU is not designed to be cheap, or easy, to leave. I guess the question is how long this period will last. If you listen to the business community, it may be a while.

Most businesses wanted to remain. They still want to remain. As was pointed out last night, most business leaders stress that they actively don’t want the deregulation that the arch-Brexiters champion; they want consistency of regulation with EU countries and with trading blocs outside the EU. Anything else will require large-scale adjustment and potentially unsustainable rises in costs.

And, of course, businesses want access to the biggest possible labour markets and the best global employees. That’s completely understandable, even if it’s bad news for economies in eastern Europe and leads (obviously) to an increase in immigration. This is the economic model we have chosen. Unless we maintain reasonably high levels of immigration, it’s almost certain we’ll have to pay more tax or watch our denuded public services collapse. That isn’t ideology, it’s maths.

Here’s a recipe for a recession: take one ageing population, throw in a smaller GDP, add a lower tax take (fewer immigrants, a smaller workforce, not to mention the highly probable rise in unemployment thanks to the economic shock), and, well, things are going to be tough. For at least 5-10 years. Maybe more. Starting, at a guess, with a recession in q4 2019.

That is certainly change. But is it the change people voted for? If your life was already shit, maybe it is. I’m no fan of neoliberal economics, and all in favour of creating a new model, but maybe stripping out and replacing the parts over an extended period of time might be preferable to driving into a wall at high speed.

The ‘business community’ doesn’t always speak for me. Too often, it’s focused on profit at the expense of everything else. But as Airbus, Land Rover et al line up to say that a hard Brexit is going to be a catastrophe for them, and, by extension, their employees and the communities in which they’re based, couldn’t the ideologues within the government at least acknowledge that Brexit is not what they sold us?

What piece of bad news – such as, for example, three or four car manufacturers saying they’re definitely leaving – would be enough for Liam Fox to stop using the phrase ‘Project Fear’? What scenario would be gloomy enough for Boris Johnson to say that on reflection, a hard Brexit would be too damaging?

Like those Republicans keeping Trump in power, the hard Brexiters are too cowardly, craven and self-interested to change course. What’s more, they don’t care about you. They never have and they never will. And to hell with the consequences of their actions.

Now that’s depressing.

 

 

 

 

 

 

“Fuck business”

Whether you’re pro- or anti-Brexit, I think we can all agree that Boris “These are my principles. If you don’t like them, I have others” Johnson has very much lived up to his his personal brand values this week; assuming that these values comprise hypocrisy, self-interest and perpetually demonstrating your utter unsuitability for any public office. You may have read his response to the anything but idle threats of assorted businesses (Airbus, BMW etc.) to do one in the event of a no deal Brexit.

“Fuck business”, said Boris. I thought his indiscriminate fucking days were over. These days, it seems Boris won’t lie down for anything; even the prevention of a runway being built next to his constituency. But I digress.

As a business owner, I particularly resent Johnson’s dismissal of business concerns, especially as his party has traditionally been regarded as the party of business. In truth, all parties are “the party of business”; until we stop measuring our prosperity according to GDP figures, they have to be.

And despite my personal antipathy to many of the excesses of present-day capitalism, I and my Breakfast colleagues couldn’t be more pro-business if we tried.

Every working day, we spend our time trying to grow our clients’ businesses – and our own – while hoping that our politicians do their best to make that task as simple as possible. That doesn’t mean removing red tape or slashing corporation tax: it means providing a stable, predictable and safe business environment where our innate optimism can flourish.

It means allowing us to advertise our clients’ brands to customers all over the world; to attract people here and enable them to move freely; to reduce barriers and borders rather than increase them, and to provide a progressive and inclusive society in which everyone enjoys the spoils of our undoubted wealth.

Is that too much to ask? According to Boris, it is.

 

 

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.

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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…

“The next station stop for this train is Daily Mail Island.”

January 10, 2018 Leave a comment

I’ve read a lot of tosh from people whose opinions I usually respect suggesting that Virgin’s decision to remove the Daily Mail from the very shortlist of newspapers it sells on its trains is censorship.

I work with brands. Brands are very keen on producing lists of their ‘Brand Values’. Often, these can be pretty banal statements of the obvious, usually with the word ‘Passion’ somewhere near the top, setting my teeth on edge and causing an imperceptible twitch at the corner of my left eye.

But equally often, they’ll talk about respect, equality and suchlike.

Very few brands espouse regularly fomenting hatred by continually spreading misinformation and prejudice, often based on factual inaccuracies, leading to the persecution and bullying of vulnerable, weak or disadvantaged people with the objective of making our country and the world less tolerant and kind. I’m assuming those are the Daily Mail’s values – or somewhere close.

I’m fairly certain they’re not Virgin’s.

If those values are diametrically opposed to your brand’s, you’d have a duty not to stock the shitrag.

2) Virgin operates a train service, not a newsagents. They’re not censoring the Daily Mail; they’re choosing not to stock it, just as they don’t stock the Guardian, the Sun or the Telegraph. That’s not censorship, either.

3) 99% of Virgin’s passengers have smartphones and, should the Wifi occasionally kick in, are able to read MailOnline on their phone, getting their regular dose of innuendo-laden photography of pubescent women and bullshit political opinion dressed up as news.

4) Virgin trains’ journeys involve train stations, where newsagents can often be found.

God knows it’s hard to take Richard Branson’s side in a fight, but in this one I’m firmly in the corner of the Necker Island-dwelling bearded totem.

 

 

 

“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.

 

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…