Tuesday, February 6, 2007

Happy bikes

After 3 months of back and shoulder injuries, I got out on my bike this weekend.
Lance Armstrong wouldn't be worried.
To be fair, neither would his grandma.

But it was nice to be a kid again.

Today I was going to write about the new Walkers promotion. I thought it was nice that they'd made a real effort and redone the packs for comic relief. I thought that red ears was OK, but felt sorry that little kids were going to get their ears flicked in the playground. Yada Yada.

Then I saw this promotion in the metro. And I followed the link to the discovery channel.

So what, you say. Climbing documentary. Metro promotion by the production company. Woo woo what a tomato.

Ah, but its a can of worms you see. read this.

Now its most definitely not for me to comment on the morality of people leaving others on a mountain to die. I've read Touching The Void, I've had to sort people out when they've dislocated a shoulder climbing 10 minutes from a road in the Lakes, and seen rescue teams searching for people in the Alps. There's lots of things at play in these situations and what seems easy in front of a laptop is much more difficult when you're faced with someone's death, and potentially your own during a rescue.

However I find the democratisation of the high Himalaya truly frightening. Chris Bonington wrote in the Everest Years about Everest Base camp being polluted to a point where drinking from streams caused illness. Berghaus ran a campaign to clear it up in the 90's - making a replica mountain out of all the rubbish they'd carried off. Now you read about high numbers of deaths, people queuing on fixed ropes and arguing with their guides. I find the whole situation quite shocking.

High altitude mountaineering isn't skiing for a week in an Italian resort. It isn't even a trip skiing off piste in Canada. The early pioneers had a shocking death rate, and they knew what they were doing. Just because you can afford, doesn't mean you can.

Now I don't want to put down anyones achievement, especially when they've probably saved all their lives to go. But I look back to the time when people climbed with a group who'd chosen each other. If it went wrong, they were on their own. You looked after each other, or you died.

Anyway, I started this thinking about promotions. Particularly the metro one for the discovery channel. And then thought I'd give my perspective on the issues behind what looks like a normal promotion.

Tuesday, January 30, 2007

Scrambling in Snowdonia

And so, it came to be that 3 aging bears climbed again.

We gathered at Papa Bears house on the hill; Papa, me and Big Dave Bear, kissed goodbye to the kids, admired their dinosaur underpants and rocketed of to the wilds of Wales. Papa is having a bit of a mid-life crisis, and revelled in the velocity of his new car. I did not share his glee - the Ogwen valley was never designed to be seen at the start of a jump into hyperspace.

Big Dave just looked sick.

The car park arrived somewhat quicker than necessary and we shrugged our fur under further layers of fur whilst cursing the student mini buses and reminiscing about our own studying days. Avoiding the potential irony of this situation we quickly moved to a dicussion of espresso machines whilst trundling to the heald of the valley.

Caffeine doesn't agree with Big Dave Bear, so he looked sick again.

Its fair to say that the weather was not clement. In North Yorkshire, they call the penetrating mist and drizzle The Rauk. The capitals are definitely well earned and we were most certainly flat of fur by the time climbing started in earnest.

Still, hardy little bears that we are, the weather did not dampen our spirits and we revelled in the romance of the mountains. Well, Papa and Big Dave Bear did, I revelled in casual observations that "it was maybe time for lunch" and "mmm, I've got some lovely sandwiches and tea in my bag.

I was ignored until we reached about half way, when the view under the clouds was quite a reward. The other bears felt that it was still far too early for lunch, and pressed on upwards.

The clouds seemed overjoyed to see us and raced down in greeting, just as we scampered upwards with empty stomachs. Papa and Big Dave Bear finally succumbed to lunchtime pangs and called a halt in a wind tunnel with. I expressed my joy at this beautiful dinner setting by pouring tea in Papa's rucksack and showering Big Dave bear with cheese crumbs.

To ensure our fur was supplied with warmth we endeavoured to stock up on calories. A rather piquant mixture of bagels, onion baguettes, cheese, chicken, stuffing, cup a soup, crisps, crunchy bars, fuit and unsheathed bananas was consumed before we continued into the growing murk.

Papa had a little meander near the top and we thought we'd lost him. However this opportunity to wander around in the fog shouting failed to materialise as he bestrode the mountain like a colossal teddy bear.

And thus we arrived at the top. And began our descent.

Well no, that's not true.

And thus we arrived at the top. And fell in some unsuspected snowdrifts. And nearly lost each other again. And walked slowly looking for the path down. And walked slowly looking for the path down again. And again. Eventually we found it.

And began our descent.

Anyway, we blundered down, got in the car and drove home.

The End.

Thursday, January 25, 2007

What comes first

...the review or the stars.

I was disappointed by The TImes today. On the front cover they ran with a header that Blood Diamond had got 2 stars.

Now, I'm all for teasing the reader and getting them to turn the page, but giving the score away on the front page.

Reviews should be read.

The point of reading them is to find out someone elses point of view. And, you get a few stars to remind you of that view. You get to read about all the other films they've seen and how they interrelate. How Jimi Hendrix joined with James brown and funk and Grandmaster Flash and further into Hip Hop and then to bling culture and then to the growth of diamond sales and war zones cashing in and the abuse of workers. And on and on...

Lets put the stars at the end please.

Tuesday, January 23, 2007


I was in a coffee shop the other day.

Drinking coffee.

I chose cappuccino.

Anyway I remembered a time when I first moved to London and I watched an older couple walk into Starbucks.
"What can I get you" said the helpful person
"Cofffee" said the old couple.

Cue blank looks all round.

Anyway, I saw a stat the other day which said you can order 2400 types of coffee in Starbucks. And another which said that in London their are 300 starbucks within 15 minutes (or something similar - you get the idea).

And it occurs to me that, how do things which confuse everyone on their first visit become so successful.

I've always believed that customers need brands to take the choice out of choosing. Make it easy. Coffee shops make it complicated.

I suppose there's huge customer need been created. And all coffee shops serve the same level of complexity. So customers settle into acceptance of this and understand the language. So customers get complexity immunity early on in their starbucks life.

I guess also that there's a decision making tree at play here. One about coffee or tea or fruit juice. Then one about latte or cappuccino or americano. Then one about exra flavours - which you're never going to do at first... And so on with more decisions as you get more confident. Then you go back and order the same thing every time.

I like that decision tree idea.

Monday, January 22, 2007

Ear muffs

Twas very cold on the train platform this morning. I drove through snow, managed the frustration of the ticket man's computer death and the cancellation of the train, then shivered in a manly fashion whilst waiting.

My day was brightened by a pair of pink earmuffs.

I've not seen them for years, and I must say, they're overdue a return. A pair were donated to me a while ago during an ear piercing incident.

I like the idea of ear warmth without that recurring issue of overheated head. I'm wondering what style a chap should sport this winter.

Friday, January 19, 2007

A good blow

Hannah's being the wind.
Yesterday it dislodged a tile on the roof, blew away her shed and smashed up the fence. The bit I rebuilt last weekend is still there though, so I'm feeling smug in a man/wood/nails/testosterone way.
Power lines down, car crashes; its all very exciting and scary. And with snow on the the way its fuelling my weather obsession in an unhealthy fashion. Just need to speak to my Dad now and see if he's seen any mysterious portents in the way moss is growing in the shrubs and we won't be short of conversation for months.

Its a nice distraction from Big Brother, but since I've started, here's my take on the media manipulation going on.
Endemol/Channel 4 wanted more ratings, so they probably placed the original story. They got what they wanted, and why not. Their job's not to be guardians of our opinions.
Carphone Warehouse wanted airtime, brand presence and fame. Now they've pulled out so evidently it got out of their control.
The unholy trinity of Jade/Danielle and Jo wanted TV and media contracts. That'll now bite them on the bum.
Shilpa wanted increased fame in Britain but didn't imagine that she'd be taking part in what has, ever since the first series, become a freakshow - that's what the people want folks.

And the moral of the story. I guess its to be very careful what you wish for, and how you get it. In the end, its hard to control everything.

Life in a northern town

I've been playing whith my cameraphone whilst on some trips round the north west

Friday, January 12, 2007


Ben got me thinking about driving obsessions.

Its pretty clear what his is, and instantly that sets you thinking what drives you.

I'm often obsessed, over the last year or so:
Brewing beer
Making bread
Growing vegetables

Its a strange list, so what 's the start point.

Well, when I was a kid I'd always take new pens to bits. I'd click them a few times, draw a bit then start unscrewing. Often I couldn't get them back together, a spring would fire across the room, or a little plastic bit would vanish under the fridge.
That didn't matter, knowing how it worked was enough.

And that drives the obsessions.
Its not about riding the bike, its about how the gears work, or how the tour de france was won in 1935. Its not online poker, its understanding chance and bluffing and how fixed limit should be played differently to pot limit.

I like to soak up stuff, to find out why, how and where, the next bit - what - that drives Ben is fascinating to me but to be fair, I'm pretty rubbish at it.

Thursday, January 11, 2007

Tomorrows chip paper

Big news today.

Not George Bush's new approach to the Iraq situation.
Or the Bank of Englands base rate hike.

But Mr. David Beckham.

Now, I'm not the worlds greatest fan of football, however, Beckham's probably the most famous sports person in the world, and has moved to the most lucrative sporting market in the world. So you've got to take note.

He must be the biggest sporting brand on the planet. He'd certainly rank as one of the biggest brands in Britain; more awareness and clearer perceptions than any brand I've worked for anyway.

Endorsements with David Beckham are no longer endorsements, they're copromotions. If you sign him, the balance of power is not with you.

Imagine you take the Corrie sponsorship when Cadbury's bow out. You have to stick with it for a long period of time before anyone realises its you, and not a chocolate bar. Now, take David Beckham - he's had so many endorsements that when you see him, there's conflicting top-of-mind information coming through. Do you think of Adidas (or Nike - confusion reigns for me with most athletes), or Gillette, or Brylcreme, or Police shades. Nothing stands out, so the only benefit you get is when he's on the TV ad or the poster in your shop. Its a lot of money for media you have to pay for anyway.

Sure, during that spot, you're getting all the positive Beckham associations rubbing off on you, but wouldn't it be better if you invested in creating your own perceptions over time.

Beckham endorsement thus looks like a quick fix for a brand who needs a rapid positive gain in perceptions.

Unless you're in the US, where people have heard of him, but aren't fully into the David/Victoria powerbrand.
He's the biggest star in soccer.
They want to push soccer to the masses.
Cue lots of exposure.
Cue some really neat brand endorsements untainted by the perceptions we've all spent 10 years building up.

How much money does he need though. I'm skint, with a broken car and leaking windows. Lend us a few grand Dave.

Monday, January 8, 2007


I've not been a very fierce dinosaur recently.

Life's been getting on top of me a bit.

You know the feeling, its been one of those times when little things seem big. I'm not going to publish these tales of woe, because I'm from Yorkshire and we don't have feelings, so this' pushing against a lifetime of psychological development.

Anyway, I reckon that big changes don't happen without lots of little ones building up, so I'm doing some little things now.

I've booked to do a run with Steve.
I've put some borders up on the kids walls.
I've started building a fence.
I'm planning the veggie patch.

Who'd have thought that growing veggies would turn me back into a fierce dinosaur ready to regain his place in the world. There you go then.

Changing world or media bandwagon

On West Yorkshires Pulse FM today (Cheesy local radio DJ voice there.) they had a scheme where Johnsons cleaners take in old kids coats, clean them and pass them on to people who need them. No web link for you, sorry.
On Sky TV today, its green britain week.
My local recycling site is full. To the brim.

Clearly things are a bit different this January. Whilst people aren't consuming less, they're at least thinking about the mess they make post consumption binge.

Now I've always been a semi-green - aware but slack, interested in recycling but a bit lazy. But I've been getting better, making an effort. Fretting about fair trade and organic in a middle class angsty way. Watching Live 8 on the telly and doing sod all (pretty much like the G8). Every now and then you think that everyone is doing the same, then you see rising SUV sales and the balloon is burst (sold mine 3 years ago, decided that 2 of-road trips per year didn't warrant running a refinery).

There's a big trap you see, for people in the marketing industry, we see so much cultural commentary and focus groups, that we believe we are everyman. Actually, most of the time we're creating for ourselves and people like us, which is why we get it wrong.

But with all the recent events, I'm starting to believe.

That's a good thing.

I hope green britain isn't just a bunch of Sky News people talking to themselves and their mates. I hope that under the frothing of commentators, politicians and the media, real cultural currents are changing.

You see, currently its too early to call it. Marks and Sparks might sell organic jeans, but nobody is saying "we'll walk away if you don't do it". This to me is an example of a consumer group acting based upon what they've been told, not what they believe. Over the next few years we'll see if corporate social responsibility moves from cashing in to corporate belief.

I read Yvon Chouinard's book last year which is a great take on all this stuff.

Thursday, January 4, 2007

More TV

Well, I quite enjoyed bits of Torchwood last night. Apart from the pretend Godzilla style ending, which was weak.
Despite being a geek, and admiring the programme for its detail I reckon most of its missed the mark. Only by a bit. However, a bit makes all the difference.

Last night was typical, plenty of geek talk about time rifts, loads of angst and self interest from all the characters. An obvious bad guy, who everyone seems to miss, lots of will they/won't they infighting.

Then they can't resist bunging in some demon CGI whilst the evil bloke you've been worried about for an hour and a half is stood on the road spouting some weak devil worship sermon.

Ages ago these people did some work on some ad scripts for us. Apart from being brilliant explanations as to why we liked the ads we liked, the semiotic guys wrote about light, dark, and light/dark tones.

Light/dark for me was the reason one script worked. A truly nice situation painted over a dark world which starts to show through as it progresses. I suppose its the reason why 6 feet under and desperate housewives work, and I find most british sitcoms as funny as having my nostril hair pulled out.

Anyway, I reckon Torchwood could get the balance right if it kept the dark dark.

CGI demons isn't dark, its not even shadowed.

Wednesday, January 3, 2007

Watercooler TV

Last night i watched This Life again for the first time in 10 years.

I can't really make up my mind as to whether this episode was any good or not (on balance probably closer to not than good). But that's not really the point of this is it. To coin the phrase used in the programme, BBC wanted loads of fucked up mid 30's metrosexuals to bask in nostalgia for their early 20's.

So I did.

And I felt better for it.

Because, I look back with fondness to events (weddings, parties) or trips (climbing, surfing), or stuff I did (work - no that's bollocks, sorry). And if I reminisce about a time, its usually school, or college, or recently, when my kids were born.

Its seldom those just finished uni, got a job, got money days of the early 90's.

But that time in my life was brilliant. Utterly brilliant.

So I've been feeling fuzzy today. Not worrying about what the next wave of culture will leave, not worrying about what people will think or do tomorrow. Just happy about what I did 10 years ago.

Anyway whilst I'm reminiscing

My brains been full.

Its been a month since I last posted.

A bit gutted about that.

December has been a bit hard really, we've had births, deaths, weddings, christmas and new year.
On top of which I've got a new job (Head of Strategy for a Media Company in Manchester)

There's been no room for anything else.

But no more.

New year, new kettle for the fish.

I've been out on my bike for the first time since Novembers big crash. (Hints on rotator cuff rehabilitation still required.) I've started writing again. I've got my brain out and picked the fluff and bits of cheese from the back.

Here we go.