Archive for July, 2012|Monthly archive page

Olympic brand circumvention

Time to “celebrate” those who are trying to get round the exclusivity of all things Olympics. I’m not endorsing this. I would be no happier with alternative corporate behemoths sponsoring relative to the ones that are. But I do like spoilers.

Top of the list seems to be Google. Each day on the UK Google site used by millions each day is some cartoon image that Google-ises the olympics. Today’s is the swimming and I have reproduced it on the left – unless Google has a problem with that.

Puma is the natural rival to Olympics sponsor, Adidas. They have gone with Usain Bolt’s image who is sponsored by them. He also endorsed Virgin Media in a recent campaign. Haribo (sweets) is trading on Union Jack packaging in contrast to official sweet, Cadburys.

Nike’s Olympic campaign is as good as they come (right). No Olympic colours, rings. No mention of London or the year. However, the postcode is remarkably Wimbledon where the Olympic tennis tournament is taking place. Nike has a good pedigree when it comes to ambush marketing.

source: thedrum.co.uk

I direct readers to The Drum, a website that has found a few good examples of circumvention. Again, I take an image from the website – square olympic rings with inverted letters for a tailor, of all businesses. There are many more to see on the website for amusement. Equally, Manifested Marketing (http://manifestedmarketing.com/), has lots of examples.

Olympics opening ceremony

I am going to be one of the moaners. This was a most ghastly show. Contrived, silly, over-engineered and incoherent. Or was it? Despite the Queen sitting in the arena, John Lydon could be heard singing God Save the Queen and then cut off before “she ain’t no human being…fascist regime” – but Boyle got it in. We were treated to a little bit more of the Sex Pistols when Pretty Vacant was segued like one of those 80s chart topping medley hits, ‘Stars on 45’. Then there was a big kissing scene – some of which might not have gone down too well in some countries taking part. It was deliberate, was it not?

Those were the high points. What is to be made of the NHS scene with children being looked after by larger-than-life dancing nurses in 1930s uniforms and read stories by JK Rowling? In front of David Cameron, was that a warning to back off? The NHS is now immortalised in the opening ceremony of the Olympic Games. Now untouchable. Or was it folly and plain stupid?

Rowan Atkinson as unfunny Mr Bean distracting from Simon Rattle conducting the London Symphony Orchestra; Kenneth Branagh as Isambard Kingdom Brunel spouting Shakespeare; a forlorn Tim Berners-Lee and a desktop computer; Mike Oldfield, good grief; Mary Poppins; David Beckham as James Bond, etc. No sign of Richard Branson, Tony Blair. Very strange.

£27m

It is now Saturday and this ceremony still bothers me. I’ve had to find an antidote. I’m listening to the Manic Street Preachers and it is working.

I reflect on what Boyle was trying to do last night. The newspapers are full of glowing reports. It is clear with so many plaudits he has achieved only to vindicate further the organisers for the event. Boyle has effectively lanced the boil that is this event in the eyes of its critics. It turns out to have been a master stroke by Seb Coe and company to appoint Boyle as artistc director. He delivered the critics to their table.

And then there is the question the depiction of ‘our’ history and our acquiescence in the changes that lead inexorably to the innanities of love by losing a mobile phone! Rest assured, the linearity of Boyles depiction of us is not real. There is a lot of struggle in us.

I reflect that Cameron is not embarrassed over the NHS scene. He does not believe that he is dismantling the NHS.

It was sickening to see such a large role played by the armed forces, many of whom have been involved in conflicts that have killed and maimed the compartriots of athletes representing their country at the ceremony. Maybe that was British irony. It seemed to me at the very least insensitive.

It has been an awful summer of cod and ignorant patriotism.

Dead seagulls

Source: Andreas Trepte

I live on the seafront road. It is dangerous. If you are a furry or feathery creature, particularly so. So it was not surprising to see a dead adult Herring Gull on the pavement adjacent to the house when I arrived home last night. I assume that it had been hit by a large truck and deposited there by the impact.

It disturbed quite a few people. I know that the local council pick up road casualties as a matter of course on a daily basis. And so it was with this creature, I assume, as it disppeared somewhere between 2200 and midnight. Or was it the Council? I say this because, whilst ironing a pair of trousers last night, I heard some talking outside the window. I took a moment out to look. There was an elderly woman with a small terrier dog, stroking it and talking to it (the dead gull, not the dog). It was difficult to decipher exactly what she was saying, but I sense there was disbelief that it was dead. She then stood back and looked at it and the surroundings unsure about what to do. The dog was no help. Maybe she took it home to nurse back to health?

Vauxhall Vivaros and their engines

These vehicles are bad news. Having just got the gearbox fixed (see post 1 April, 2012), the engine suddenly malfunctioned. I lost power, sometimes altogether whilst driving, and the engine warning light kept coming on.

My regular garage was unable accurately to diagnose the problem. I then booked myself into a diesel specialist. I had to wait two weeks to get a slot. The day I took it in, there was another Vivaro in there with the same problem. Diagnosis? I know not too much about vehicles, but I was told that it was an ‘injector’ of which there are four. Replacing one does not mean that the other three will not also fail. The bill was in the region of £500.

G4S – Nick Buckles on the BBC’s Bottom Line

It was a weekend of undertaking a few dull jobs. On these occasions, I usually catch up with a backlog of BBC podcasts. I can recommend In Our Time discussing Camus. But I had not realised that Nick Buckles of G4S notoriety was a bit of a radio personality. On 7 June he appeared not for the first time on The Bottom Line with Evan Davis to discuss the theme of employment. And what a treat – untarnished by the recent Olympics failure with respect to the failure to recruit – here he is talking about the Olympic contract and the contracts of employees. Buckles_1_TBL_17Jun2012; Buckles_2_TBL_17Jun2012

John Player Special innovation

In England the cigarette companies are lobbying hard against the proposal to force standard packaging. Their defence is that standard packaging would make counterfeiting easier and make the consumption of cigarettes even more dangerous than it already is. However, the current campaign for JSP in Germany shows how important the packaging can be. JSP packs now have an interesting innovation, GLIDE TEC. The poster (left) indicates that cigarettes are ‘dispensed’ when the pack is pressed at a particular point. The implication here is that this makes smoking even more sociable – seductive – as can be seen in the face of the woman on the billboard.

iPad development

Source: Evan-Amos, Wikipedia

Some firms are opaque, understandably so. Apple is particularly good at keeping secrets. But when firms go head-to-head where patent infringements are concerned, a truer picture emerges. In one interesting case – Apple v Samsung – we now learn that the iPad as an idea and prototype predates the iPhone. In fact, it might be that the iPhone only exists because the touch screen technology was thought to be too expensive for the market to bear. The logic goes like this: a touch screen tablet would be a niche product because users would likely be those who already have a desktop and laptop. A tablet would be an expensive complement to these. However, a touch screen phone is viable, not least because it is smaller, and therefore requires less in the way of expensive materials.

Pictures of the prototype iPad have been released. You can view them here: http://www.guardian.co.uk/technology/2012/jul/19/ipad-prototype-ive-2002

G4S song

The spectacle of G4S gets worse by the day. Nick Buckles, G4S’s embattled CEO, was mauled yesterday before the Home Affairs Select Committee. He committed his company to considerable additional expenditure putting up the army and police in hotels and paying them bonuses on a par with London Bus drivers. All this to make up for the company’s failure to provide the necessary security staff for the forthcoming Olympics. Even though Mr Buckles has made himself rich by expanding this firm, one wonders whether the company’s success is because of him or despite him.

Adding insult to injury is the discovery of the G4S song that just makes one wonder and marvel at this firm even more. Whilst the tune has been unexpectedly removed from youtube, the song is out there! The BBC played it this morning, and I, courtesy of the New Statesman courtesy of someone on Soundcloud keeps the tune accessible to us all. I provide a link at the bottom of this page; however, here are the lyrics:

You love your job and the people too; Making a difference is what you do; But consider all you have at stake; The time is now don’t make a mistake; Because the enemy prowls, wanting to attack; But we’re on the wall, we’ve got your back;  So get out front and take the lead; And be the winner you were born to be. G4S! protecting the world; G4S! so dreams can unfurl; 24/7 every night and day; A warrior stands ready so don’t be afraid; G4S! secure in your world G4S! let your dreams unfurl; We’re guarding you with all our might; Keeping watch throughout the night.

A Eurovision song contest winner, for sure.

http://www.newstatesman.com/blogs/politics/2012/07/g4s-has-theme-song-it-awful-you-would-expect

The easyJet cancellation approach

It is the first cancellation that I have experienced this year with easyJet on the Munich route. EasyJet got through all of last winter’s snow only to be felled this time by an English summer. I was due to fly on Wednesday 11 July at 1835. It had been rather a stormy day and this had impacted on Gatwick Airport. The pilot said that the ‘Terminal’ had been closed for some of the day. Suffice to say, we had to take a bus from South Terminal to North Terminal where the plane was parked. Certainly out of position.

Once on board, the pilot told us that we did not have permission to fly. But clearly as an old hand on this route, he knew that if he did not get the plane in the air by 2030 we would not be going because of Munich airport’s strict night closures. Intriguingly, the pilot took us to a holding position near to the start of the runway. He communicated his thinking and his communications with both air traffic control and easyJet control in Luton. 10/10 for initiative and communication. It was not enough. We were cancelled.

Unfortunately, easyJet are a bit like their planes – great in the air, not very versatile on the ground. I opted to go home, a luxury most people do not have. They had to join a queue of around 200 people or so to try to get on another flight and find a hotel. In all, I counted 8 easyJet cancellations that evening.

By the time I had got home, the cancellation was confirmed and I was able to get on a flight on Friday 13 July. So not so bad. Unfortunately, my partner had attempted to book me on another flight and – in the heat of the moment – got the wrong direction (Munich – London). Changing bookings with easyJet is not difficult, unlike other airlines, but they do charge for the pleasure. In this case 86 Euros (changing name and date so that she can fly to me next month). All credit to easyJet on this occasion, they have refunded the charges, having accepted the ‘heat of the moment’ decision-making. Always worth writing to them.

Protecting the Olympics (2)

Source: Holger.Ellgaard, Wikipedia

The Olympic debacle continues. Not only are there missiles ready to shoot down unauthorised aeroplanes over East London housing estates, but now army personnel are checking bags as people enter the Olympic village. G4S – a company to which the state has outsourced a lot of public sector work over the years – cannot meet its contractual obligations to supply 10,000 ‘guards’; though waits until 2 weeks before the event to tell anyone.

Its chief executive, Nick Buckles, went on the Today programme yesterday to answer some benign and straightforward questions from Justin Webb. Clearly, over the preceding 24 hours he had had some media training. The advice was – “tell your story and stick to it. Repeat it and then repeat it again; go for the sympathy thing, the company will take a big hit, maybe £50m.”

We wait to see if Keith Vaz, chair of the Home Affairs Select Committee – can get any more out of him next week when he appears before them.

The interview can be heard here.