I have recently read thousands of words written by marketing and advertising people, as part of a judging panel for some business awards. Here are a few of the modest claims I have encountered.

“We changed the law”. This is a popular one. A very large charity said their online petition led to a change in a different law. That’s some going for a petition that collected fewer signatures than, say, the petition against a puppy farm in Hull – I don’t think that one has worked yet, Read More

Comment | August 2015

That pouting blonde in the yellow bikini has attracted a lot of attention. Nothing new there. But the row about Protein World’s poster, “Are you beach body ready?” has had a lot more coverage than she has in the poster. Apparently it’s offensive. I really can’t see why it’s more offensive than a Dove ad.

How can I say that? Dove and its campaign for everyday beauty has been hailed as some sort of feminist icon. Read More

Comment | May 2015

Effective marketing communications are getting harder to do. It can be hard to find anything (other than price) that’s really worth shouting about. There are whole advertising campaigns built around seemingly marginal features. Take The Ford Motor Company. “Keys”, says the woman in the Ford Focus ad, and I start watching because it is charming and true. Or that buff chap climbing the steps to the diving board, to the opening riff of Hawkwind’s Master of the Universe – Read More

Comment | March 2015

The trailer for the new Call of Duty game, Advanced Warfare, says it is expected to get a “mature” rating. If an Xbox shooting game is mature, what’s immature?

A film I saw recently warned upfront that it contained sex, violence and “mature themes”. So sex and violence are no longer considered mature, but shoot ‘em up games are. What exactly are mature themes? Whether to buy an annuity with your pension pot? Read More

Comment | August 2014

I have a relationship manager at the bank where I have my business account. I wonder what relationship he’s managing.

Is that unfair? Here’s a bank trying to do better. The problem with their monthly courtesy call is that it is content-free. They offer me nothing – no information, no news, nothing that could be useful to me. In truth it’s unlikely they’ll chance upon something I want to hear anyway. It feels like something they’re measuring for their own purposes: “We call all our business customers at least six times a year and check all is well.” The presumption here is that I will value the calls, Read More

Comment | January 2014

Where do you stand on the debate about whether brands, in their role as advertisers, should use their influence to make Twitter and Facebook clean up the nastiness that’s to be found there?

Let’s review the situation. Most media channels need advertising revenue. So brands have power and influence. Equally, brands want to reach their target markets efficiently, i.e. cheaply. Media that get attention, for whatever reason, can offer large audiences, which attract brands. Read More

Thought leadership | August 2013

Ever had a boss who habitually seizes on something another business is doing and says:“Should we be doing that?” Social media is causing the same insecurity complex in the digital immigrant generation. It’s a sort of digital Fear Of Missing Out. Questions often asked include: how many Facebook friends does the brand have? Is everyone moving to Instagram? Will being on Pinterest make us cool? Can we do a partnership with Foursquare? Or, more likely: Now that we have our Facebook page/Twitter feeds/app, Read More

Comment | May 2013

The death of the 30 second TV ad was recently declared (again), this time by an advertising guru, Trevor Beattie. Yes, online overtook TV in its share of advertising spend some time ago, and YouTube is now the second largest search engine, as Google love to tell us. Along with the rise of social media and two-screen activity, Sky+ and TiVo, it seems quite plausible that the TV commercial should be replaced by advertising that we either choose – like online search – or can’t avoid – like the first five seconds on YouTube, Read More

Comment | May 2013

It’s hardly the end of capitalism, but the horsemeat scandal is showing large food retailers and manufacturers how it feels to be a banker. Meanwhile consumers – or people, as we might style ourselves– don’t know who we can trust. Marketing is seen as manipulative, and delivering profits is represented in the media as exploitation of customers. Sam Laidlaw of Centrica announced decent but hardly sensational results last week – and had to explain to John Humphreys on the Today programme why they hadn’t forgone profits for the sake of “the squeezed middle”.   Read More

Comment | March 2013

This advertisement was on the outside back cover of the Independent’s Saturday listings magazine, Radar, on 16th Nov. If these are deliberate mistakes then I don’t get the joke. Can anyone explain it to me?  Call me old-fashioned, but a book retailer that can’t spell its own name somehow isn’t as appealing as it might be…

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Books, Comment | November 2012