Tell me why I don’t like Saturdays..

because having got up early all week (5am yesterday for a 7am rehearsal) I always wake at 6 and am too wired to sleep – Sunday I can sometimes persuade my body that another couple of hours sleep would be really peachy.

But not having  posted for so long I thought I’d summarise some of the highlights of the last 3 weeks.

Bank Holiday weekend when I was at Greenbelt festival – traditionally a time for meeting lots of mates from adland. This year was quite quiet – Jon Howard of Quiet Storm and Chas Bayfield of Heresy. One of the themes of the festival was the coming 200 year anniversary of the abolition of the slave trade. Actually slavery is now worse than it has ever been. Eduardo Martino with whom I teach the multimedia training course was in Brazil doing a photography project on slavery in the Amazonian hinterlands. And this came out in the Sunday Times supplement the weekend after the festival.

I’ve covered the topic of Romania several times on the blog having been there at the start of July.  But while at Greenbelt I caught up with a mate who is deputy editor of one of the Sunday papers. He had been down into the sewers in Bucharest main station where some of the street children were sleeping so they could stay warm. We had a very disturbing conversation about why the Romanian orphanages were still full more than a decade after the end of the Ceaucescu era – his take was that parents were selling babies to the orphanages for 3,000 euros so they could be sold on to childless American couples for 10,000 euros plus.  So is this the ultimate emigration package – ‘giving my babies a better life in America’ or another facet of the human slave trade? Sheesh I couldn’t decide.

The day after a British tourists got shot in Amman I got an email invite from the Jordan chapter of the International Advertising Association to attend a paint balling event. Think I’ll sit this one out chaps…

There was a pitch at the end of the first week in September which involved a most peculiar blend of elements: point of sale, trade comms via the web, viral activity and broadcast sponsorship. But it did require me to start getting my head around interactive TV for the first time – costing it and business casing it. Which was nice…. and complicated. Interactive is still sold as an overlay on broadcast TV which is daft really since you can use it in so many other ways than conventional TV advertising.  But you have to scope up a basic media package before the interactive people can cost it and you can business case it. The numbers still look horrible when you factor in the cost of advertising but sponsorship + interactivity has a lot of merit and you can use SMS rather than the red button. But the complexity is as much of a reason for the poor takeup by advertisers as the cost. What is the point of working out your impact ratings if you then lose more than 25% of your audience because they haven’t got the right kind of TV set yadda yadda yadda. Interactive TV isn’t going to go mainstream any time soon.

Dropped into Burnetts and caught up with a couple of people including Gurdeep Puri Head of Effectiveness who was rejoicing in having 2 submissions shortlisted in IPA ad effectiveness awards. Richard Huntingdon has sounded off that any planner who doesn’t know who Bill Bernbach is should be sacked. Gurdeep gave me another. Namely that any planner who doesn’t know who Simon Broadbent is ought to be sacked.  Broadbent can claim to be the 3rd founder of planning or more correctly the father of communications planning because of the work he did optimising and business casing media during the 60s through the 80s. I have a couple of Broadbent’s books on my shelves but was racking my brains about whether I’d actually read one of them!

I’m doing research in the public sector – which has been fascinating – of course its chalk and cheese  with business. But as I picked my way through the minefield of joint ventures, local government, centrally funded quangos and what have you I was reminded of the Whitehead quote about civilisation being all the things you don’t need to think about. Public services are arcane, often bureaucratic but obsessed with the ideal of probity and fairness. How can you have a contractor who is simultaneously a partner and an owner? Well you can. Grudgingly I have to admit that our public services are one of the wonders of the civilised world.

Anything else? Well I suppose I should mention the Royal Mail pissing in their own drinking water by disciplining a postman for distributing a flyer telling you how to sign up for the MPS stopping the sending of direct mail to your house. They were right of course – teetotal barmen ought to be sacked but much good did it do them when it became a national debate – and now more than 100,000 people have signed up for the MPS. And this covers mail only not the door drops. But the writing is on the wall (not the doormat). You can’t send pieces of paper to people endlessly, theoretically provide a mechanism for turning it off then make it as difficult as possible for them to opt out. Willing recipients are a lot more valuable than resentful ones. This is going to get a lot worse. And its going to hurt the Royal Mail brand big time. Because they can’t bring themselves to treat their customers with respect.

Ooh and thanks to Iain Dunne for taking me to see John Martyn doing the Solid Air album at the Barbican on a work jolly. Magical  – even if Martyn is in a wheelchair, his roady has to put his guitars on him and his voice and guitar technique isn’t what it was.

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