European Elections: All about bread and circuses?

With European elections nearly upon us once again pundits are siting a new low in voter apathy. In addition, opinion polls in the UK show that many UK voters don’t even want to be in Europe. No one has asked them where else they would like to be?

In sharp contrast to this voter apathy is the interest lavished on the Eurovision song contest. It has grown so big they have had to hold a qualifier round. Terry Wogan’s witty commentary and a strong element of schaedenfraude at some truly dreadful performances have made it compelling television. The European parliament should get a committee to learn lessons on how the song contest has managed to move from Eurovulsion to big business, the Eurovision website is sponsored by Tiscali and audiences from all over Europe can vote for their favourite artist by premium rate SMS.

What a bunch of hypocrites we are! Whilst you are waiting for the Eurovision results why not have a go at the Terryisms generator here.

Apologies and Connection


First of all, an apology – I have not been contributing here much because I am in the middle of selling my house and moving closer in to London. Any of you who have dealt with British estate agents will have felt my pain. More news on the woes of house buying in the future.

Since my last post there have been lots of interesting things happening like the media being surprised that systematic torture has been occuring in Iraq. I’ve got some news for you its war, that means that its dirty, bloody and thoroughly unpleasant – try reading the works of Wilfred Owen or watching the Battle of Algiers to get a sense of how nasty it can get.

On RTE radio one this morning, they had an expert comment about some CIA torture manuals that had been found. The main themes were that you used peoples fear against themselves – rather than torturing them, use the threat of torture because people had a greater capacity to withstand pain than they realised. Nice.

Sony has launched its Connect service, a rival to Apple’s iTunes Music Service. According to the Washington Post the service is ‘unworthy’ of the corporation who gave us the Walkman(TM). If it gets the kiss of death from Walter Mossberg at the Wall Street Journal you can bet your bottom dollar that there will be more salarymen falling on their swords than a Kurosawa samurai film.

Think your week is bad?


Spare a thought for the ‘performers’ in the adult entertainment industry. According to the Sydney Morning Herald and Reuters, two of the industry’s stars have been found to be HIV+; the first since 1999. Although the mainstream American porn industry has a rigorous testing regime orchestrated by the AIM Foundation where 1,200 stars get tested every three weeks the two people had managed to have sex with 48 other performers since their last test three weeks earlier. A 60-day halt has been called to filming so that anyone who has been in contact with these performers during this time (and their partners etc) can be tested to keep the outbreak under control.

The HIV has been blamed on a non-condom shoot one of the performers was involved in held in Brazil. The industry has been especially conscious of HIV since John Holmes the ‘Elvis of porn’ died of AIDS in the late 1980’s, bringing to an end what many view as the industry’s golden era. What I think is more frightening is the trend towards gonzo, low rent amateur material that is the rising star in the industry since the advent of the web. This part of the business does not undergo the same rigorous regime as its mainstream counterpart is a health timebomb waiting to go off.

While we are on about things of an industrious nature Rainier PR have launched the Cambridge Confidence Index. According to them this will cover both business and quality-of-life issues.

Blind man’s tap dance/slice-and-dice epic and other fun stuff


I went to see Zatoichi over the weekend. It is a modern Japanese interpretation of a a series within the Japanese Chambara tradition of films. Zatoichi is similar to the ‘One Armed Swordsman’ of Hong Kong cinema or Django in the spaghetti western genre.

The new version of Zatoichi is much more than an action movie, there are well developed characters and sub-plots and a surreal but effective dance motif that runs throughout the film. Highly recommended viewing.

This also brings me on to a more serious matter. The key to stopping employment migration to cheaper countries according to globalisation ‘experts’ is the creative sectors – at its crudest – foreigners (sic) can work but they can’t innovate. Wrong, wrong – very wrong indeed. The two best films that I have seen this year have come from Asia – (Infernal Affairs – a Hong Kong film with a twisting plot worthy of The Usual Suspects and Zatoichi). A recent edition of Creative Business (the FT’s media and marketing supplement) highlighted the number of creative teams in London’s top ad agencies that hail from Thailand and South America. The Halifax (a UK bank) has shot many of its television advertisements at a Bollywood studio to keep costs down and domestic electronics firms in China like Haier and Ningbo Bird are giving both Nokia and Motorola mobile phones a pasting in product design and innovation. The market share loss in China is a source of embarrassment for Nokia, more information on this can be found in this Wired Magazine article link. If we are not careful we could find the creative industries going the way of back office and IT jobs. I have posted a bit more about this on AlwaysOn (free registration may be required).

Mixed news on the Apple front, some good – some bad. Someone has developed a proof-of-concept trojan horse for MacOS X to stop MacEvangelists being so smug. OpenOSX have released a free (as in beer) antidote. Mini iPod users have been complaining of cracking sound on the new devices – not exactly cool and the bargain basement eMac has been given a much needed upgrade (however its still really, really bulky).

Leiderhosen Review – indepth special

Actually, the title was total fiction: there is no leiderhosen related content here and I will not be putting any up in the future. I was inspired to write the title after having received a mail from a former colleague of mine – Jacqui. And no I won’t write about Dunlop Greenflash trainers (running shoes to our non-British readers).

Back to reality, I attended a seminar by marketing group these4walls on research versus creativity. These4walls are lovely people and have some groovy video clips here. The evening went well, with the audience plied with a modicum of wine, Becks bier or mineral water (in my case). The crux of much of the discussion revolved around poor problem definition, client realpolitik and ignorance intruding on strategic thought and how innovation can be ‘ironed’ out through research. I decided to pose the question: how do you improve your client? Given that the underlying form of my parts of the discussion was that clients were at the root of many problems. Steps that I have taken in the past have included:

– bringing the client in to sample agency life (I had to skip my three-hour lunch at Hakkasan that day, I couldn’t disappear to the gents to have a line of creative pick-me-up every 15 minutes and had to book some meetings in to pretend that I provided creative input and drove campaigns forward)

– get a feel for the realpolitik clientside and suggesting ways around it in a constructive manner whilst still delivering a programme aimed at providing business benefits (usually for Americans)

– resign the account

As the great PR maestro Larry Weber once said to me “Agency life is great, you work five years and then go in house and demand a fortune. When your in an agency to get to work on a range of clients and if one of them is an a55h01e you can tell them to go fcuk themselves”. Like the magic shopkeeper in Mr Benn my governor Cathy Pittham appeared and explained that telling a client to perform a sexual act on themselves was a career limiting move. (But I can dare to dream)

In the UK we have holidays on the Friday through to the Monday, so expect little if any content to be added to this blog.

Ricky V Valentine’s Ghetto Classics & Other Strange Fruit


It’s Friday and its been a hellish week with new business pitches, client meetings and an April Fool’s media stunt gone pear-shaped (when a certain national newspaper pulled out at the last minute) – big props to the editorial teams at AlwaysOn and ZDNet for running with it; so allowing us to snatch a last minute draw in the face of certain defeat.

As its the weekend I will be retreating behind the decks fulfilling my true vocation as a reverend in the church of House and the Souvenirs EP from C Side Trax has already a smile on my face and a shimmy in my gait. First up there was a skit advert for a boxed set collection by fictional lounge singer Ricky V Valentine singing hip hop standards such as NWA’s Straight outta Compton and Jay-Z’s Girls Girls Girls.

Then there was an unusual and way cool latin house groover Hugo Maldoro – I know a little Cuban, eerie lonesome vibe to the track but in the box all the same. Its a bargain buy!

Update on Fopp Vinyl

Further to my posting regarding Fopp and its vinyl section. As you can see from the mail below they will still be keeping their LPs, it is only 12″ singles that they are no longer selling.

Hi

just so you know it’s just the 12″ singles that were are losing not the LP’s

Hopefully, you’ll still shop at Fopp.

Cheers

Fopp
1 Earlham Street
Covent Garden
London
WC2H 9LL
T: 020 7379 0883
F: 020 7240 8355
E: earlham.street at fopp.co.uk
W: www.fopp.co.uk

THIS E-MAIL AND ANY ATTACHED FILES ARE CONFIDENTIAL, PROTECTED BY COPYRIGHT AND MAY BE LEGALLY PRIVILEGED. If you are not the intended addressee or have received the e-mail in error,
any use of this e-mail or any copying, distribution or other dissemination of it is strictly prohibited.
If you have received this transmission in error, please notify the sender immediately and then delete the e-mail.
E-mail cannot be guaranteed to be secure, error free or free from viruses. Neither the sending company nor its employees accepts any liability whatsoever for any loss or damage which may be caused as a result of the transmission of this message by e-mail. If verification is required, please request a hard copy version.

—– Original Message —–
From:
To:
Sent: Saturday, March 27, 2004 11:01 PM
Subject: store_londoncoventgarden – Posted : 22:01:51 27/03/2004

=================================================
store_londoncoventgarden – Posted : 22:01:51 27/03/2004
=================================================
First Name : Rorsharch
Email address : rorsharch at rorsharch.com
=================================================
Enquiries
=================================================
Enquiry CD :
Enquiry Vinyl :
Enquiry DVD
Enquiry Book :
General Enquiry :
Hi, I was very disappointed to hear today that you will be getting rid of
the vinyl section. You have gone to the trouble of building it up and having
a top quality team to run it alongside a really good selection, not a pile
of crap like many stores. I go to Fopp because I can buy my DVDs, vinyl and
books under one roof. SAVE THE VINYL or I’ll shop elsewhere. Who do I need
to take it up with at your head office?
=================================================

You dancing? No I’m textin’

According to The Business, the youth in the UK are spending more (600GBP) on SMS than they are on CDs. Most of this is going on flirting. They say its the business phenomena of the always-on age. I say its because record companies are not developing enough artists and the kids don’t have the social skills to flirt face-to-face.

Tracks of the Week

Paul Raymond continues his super disco breaks series with volume three re-editing Chicago’s street player and re-tempoing it for modern beat mixers (like me). For those of you who haven’t heard the original, chances are you have heard Kenny Dope’s Bucketheads project cut up ‘the bomb’. The horn stabs, melody and vocals all came from street player. One to stay in the box as an intelligent and classy crowd pleaser.

Los Hermanos have recorded a very melodic techno record called Influence EP featuring ‘my mothers guitarra’ on the a-side. Pitch this down on the 1200s and you have a really good quality deep house groover. This is out on Underground Resistance (or you can go to United Rentals and check out some heavy plant.)

Disaster has struck, the nice people at the vinyl section in Fopp (corner of Earlham Street and Shaftsbury Avenue) are losing their space instore, this to allow them to sell more DVD’s. In preparation for this three of the listening stations have already been removed. Now I like my DVDs but this is real loss:
– The guys down there are the most helpful record shop staff in London (well now that Anthony@Flying has disappeared on a Far East odyssey)
– They had really competitive pricing and a really good selection
– Many of the customers wont go and support other independent shops but are likely instead to go to Virgin or HMV

I have been been told by insiders that the beast of mammon (otherwise known as head office management) are intractable in their decision.

Media tart Ged in PR Week (yet again)

News of our recent new client win corporate branding outfit Henrion Ludlow Schmidt was covered in the PR industry’s preeminent read ‘PR Week’ (page three on the side bar).

Orange has to suck it up or suffer the consequences

According to the latest edition of Mobile magazine, carrier Orange and Avon have a bit of a marketing disaster on their hands with a new mobile phone offer that has been too successful.

For every 15GBP spent on ANEW beauty products range customers get a voucher for a new Siemens A55 to be claimed at Orange stores. Both parties underestimated the redemption rate on the offer and consequently the amounts of handsets involved and the vouchers are even being traded on eBay. Orange has struggled to meet demand for the offer.

Orange has just gained some very expensive low-yield customers – a veritable pikey army. Fortunately, Orange has done the right thing by honouring the deal, so is unlikely to suffer the fate of white goods manufacturer Hoover whose reputation was tarnished beyond repair with an over subscribed international flight deal. Next time they should partner with someone who has more aspirational brand values like Loncome, Chanel or Clinique.

You can read my contribution to AlwaysOn about this here

Loss of Motown Legend

The Independent carried the obituary for Johnny Bristol a Motown era producer, singer and songwriter. He was best known to Heart 103 listeners for ‘Hang on in there baby’. Despite this he was a well respected artist beloved by fans of rare groove. My own personal favourite was ‘If I can’t stop you’, which is is an interesting mix with blues in its lyrics, disco in its tempo and jazz-funk in the instrumental arrangement.

Johnny also contributed to Ian Levine’s motor city records label. (Before producing High Energy and Take That tunes, Ian was one of the biggest DJ’s on the northern soul circuit (and also responsible for a religious schism within it) with a residency at the Blackpool Mecca). Motor city records made new records by some of Tamla Motown’s legends

If this kind of thing works for you then I would recommend the Strange Games and Funky Things compilations on BBE records.

The Evil Weed


Come Monday, smokers will become second class citizens in Ireland. It will be illegal to smoke in the workplace, enclosed public places and on public transport or get fined 7,000 Euros.

Country publicans are understandably upset – tabacco sales are a handy sideline to alcohol sales. Also the traditional Irish pub has nicotine coated walls and woodwork from years of punters Woodbines, Major and Carroll’s No.1 cigarettes; people died so that you can sit in a darkened pub. The blue haze of tabacco smoke gives it a mysterious air, a cigarette fills up your spare hand that could otherwise require another full pint glass. Even with punitive tabacco taxes a cigarette is still cheaper than a second pint of the dark stuff.

Reuters take on the tabacco ban.

Next stop – fried breakfasts and people who eat white bread criminalised.

Not so smartphone


I had to share this link that Bob sent through. You go out and have a few drinks, do you need a software program to tell you that you are likely to be drunk? Well according to TA Cybernetic Solutions, you may well do. For the princely sum of 2.45 USD you too can buy Blood Alcohol Level 1.0. According to the blurb. “If you love the taste of alcohol and love drinking. This application is the best for you.” Wrong, wrong, wrong – if you need to monitor your blood alcohol level you’re probably a designated driver. Step back from the beer now! To quote from Fosters lager marketing collateral – ‘If you drink and drive you’re a bloody idiot’ – couldn’t have put it better myself.

I guess that people are really scrapping the barrel for finding compelling applications for the latest smart phones. What next? New 3 phone with built-in Leatherman multi-tool and shot glass – a phone ready for any emergency.

Makes the 3 billion USD spent on ringtones worldwide last year seem worthy of a Nobel peace prize in comparison