Tuesday, 28 July 2009

All Just A Load of Pants…

So in case you haven’t heard, the latest must have item to hit our streets are pants!...very hot pants at that!

The knickers costing up to £30 a pair, use a form of crystal to heat the skin and melt cellulite. Just what we ladies need!!

But the question is do they really work?

Those of you who pay attention to adverts and magazines will know that the female species is inundated on a regular basis with various gadgets, underwear and exercise techniques in order to banish cellulite. I for one have often fallen victim to the majority of these suggestions, having purchased a number of products, all of which came with a hefty price tag, only to discover very few results!

Yes, I stood for ten minutes every morning and night for a whole month rubbing Bliss Fat Girl Sleep into my thighs, and let me tell you….nothing!

So could this latest initiative be just another cruel ploy to entice us into stores under the false illusion that our cellulite could actually be eradicated just by sporting a pair of rather unattractive pants for a month?

If they don’t work, do the chiefs at John Lewis have a refund policy in place, or will they simply be hiding under their desks, calculating the profits they have made thanks to the nation who were foolish enough to believe that the latest hype could actually work?

What do you think? Worth a go, or just a whole load of pants?

Tuesday, 21 July 2009

Cripes! Boris is an inspiration!

Does Boris Johnson have the best PR in the country at the moment? Despite his eccentricities and frequent embarrassments, he always seems to come out on top, whether in his role as a politician, journalist or now as a member of the Eastenders cast!

Last Friday, Boris filmed a cameo for the popular soup, during which he has a run-in with the legendary Barbara Windsor, as the Queen Vic’s feisty landlady Peggy Mitchell. “It was a tremendous honour,” said Boris. “'EastEnders is a true London icon and I was delighted to highlight to its huge audience the part the mayoralty plays in the city's rich tapestry.”

What next, Gordon Brown turning up at the Rovers Return? Somehow I can’t see it myself! And that’s the beauty of Boris’ reputation – he can get away with so much more than your average politician. If it was Boris who had claimed a duck house on expenses, I wouldn’t be surprised if the nation had just laughed.

The extremely media-savvy Boris is a famously dedicated Twitterer, and recently received praise for contacting the Transport for London office and getting them to turn off their bus heaters after receiving complaints on Twitter about how hot they were during the heatwave. This was a fantastic PR opportunity, gaining coverage throughout the media and portraying Boris in a very flattering light. He listens! He cares! He has the power to change things! (Arguably, the people who originally complained could have just contacted TFL directly, but that just wouldn’t be as newsworthy. Nor would it be as newsworthy if – gasp! – Boris doesn’t actually manage his own Twitter account…)

For an Old Etonian and politician, Boris is doing an incredible job of being seen as a man of the people. This year, when politicians have been lambasted even more than usual, Boris has risen above it. When he was running for London Mayor, in a time when politics is not exactly popular with younger generations, Facebook was awash with support.
Despite the controversies, Boris is an inspiration as a public figure, demonstrating at every turn an involvement with the people and a seemingly genuine desire to help make London a better place, appealing to people in a way the Prime Minister never will. Whether you’re Gordon Brown or Katie Price, there may be a lesson in there somewhere!

Monday, 20 July 2009

Half Blood Prince is no Half Attempt!

I for one have been a dedicated Harry Potter fan since the start, back in 2001 when the unknown JK Rowling appeared from nowhere, and released her first ever book; Harry Potter and the Philosopher’s Stone. Whilst some lesser fans have criticised the films’ ability to transform our favourite novels from page to screen, I have always long awaited the sequel, and never to this day been disappointed.

So having taken 3 hours out of my Sunday afternoon to view the latest movie, I can tell you that it was in no way a let down!
Since the Harry Potter hype began, each new film has been heralded as the darkest one to date, however the Half-Blood Prince really is sinister throughout, with the occasional hair raising moments! Right from the start, when sooty-black Death Eaters soar through London’s skies, destroying the Millennium Bridge in the process, it is evident that there is much doom and gloom to follow…

As always, the film manages to bring every minor, creative detail to life, in this case Fred and George’s Weasley’s Whizzard Wheezes joke shop which leaves nothing to the imagination!

If the film release wasn’t enough of a hype in its own right, the cast members’ attempt to put the awful British weather aside and brace the crowds at their premiere last week was more than admirable. Poor Emma Watson and Daniel Radcliffe were soaked to the core, but still managed to put on a brave face and take the time to meet their adoring fans on their way in. Professional through and through…

So whilst the cast continue to revel in the films, fully immersing themselves into the roles required, we will of course wait with baited breath for the final two films that are shortly due to follow. But one thing is for sure – the PR activity conducted around the film for the last few months has certainly helped to create the anticipation the film so rightly deserved.

Tuesday, 14 July 2009

Death: The Ultimate PR?

The news of Michael Jackson’s death three weeks ago was met with disbelief and shock the world over. Fans mourned, other artists paid tribute and the story dominated the front pages for days. And yet, as our own Kate pointed out on this blog, it could be argued that it was the very same media and fickle fans that caused MJ (as he seems to have become known post-mortem) so much grief over the last ten years.

MJ had been hounded by the media for most of his life. Reports of his bizarre and eccentric lifestyle together with allegations and court cases had distanced once-adoring fans. Indeed, it was widely rumoured amongst a cynical public that his upcoming 50-date tour was very little to do with having a final send-off for a musical genius, and much more to do with the fact that MJ was, allegedly, millions of pounds in debt.

The painful irony is that, now that MJ is no longer with us, his star is on the rise like never before. Even in the Thriller days, MJ wasn’t this big. This week, he has no less than eleven of the top 40 singles in the UK. He has six of the top ten selling albums over the last seven days. And his official Facebook page has stormed to the being the biggest on the planet, with over 9 million registered fans to date.

From a media perspective, the newspapers went ballistic when MJ died on 26th June and didn’t let up until after the memorial on 8th July. Everyone from The Daily Mail to The Guardian wanted a piece of the action and competed to come up with new angles on the story. There were picture articles about MJ’s life, his childhood within The Jackson Five, his music, his troubled personal life, his children and even his death certificate. The story overshadowed anything and everything else in the media. If anyone had bad news, now was the time to announce it as it was inevitably buried deep inside the press.

In short, MJ’s death has shown two things. First, just how good and how bad the press can be. Some parts have published superb coverage of a major story, others have resorted to puerile and sensationalist headlines. And second, it’s shown us just how fickle the public is. With even a quarter of the supposed ‘dedication’ we’ve seen over the last couple of weeks, MJ may never have sunk so deep. Just like Elvis before him, MJ's death has probably been the best PR his career ever had.

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What's Your Student Debt Really Worth?

In the last few days, the government has announced plans to waive university fees for students who live at home throughout their years of studying. These students won’t have any financial help in the forms of loans or bursary grants, but they will leave university debt-free, something which is becoming almost impossible these days even for the luckiest of students.

In theory it sounds like a good option to have, but there are some serious issues to consider. In an age when you can do a degree in pretty much any subject (Twitter, anyone?), there is an argument that these degrees just aren’t worth it. I myself did a PR degree. Did it teach me how to do PR? It’s questionable!

However, what it did teach me was independence, confidence and how to boil an egg. With increasing numbers of twenty-somethings living at home because they can’t afford to get on the property ladder, those few years in a grotty shared house can be the only chance for young people to get a taste of freedom. Studying the ‘dynamics of persuasion’ may not have had an obvious effect on my ability to handle my day-to-day job, but living away from home taught me a lot of essential life lessons – who I am, what I want from life, how to survive living with seven other students and never to use Smart Price washing powder. Debt free or not, I just don’t think living at home would have had the same effect.

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Monday, 13 July 2009

Ryanair Joins The Credit Crunch!

Ryanair boss, Michael O'Leary has insisted that efforts to cut costs on the airline will now mean that passengers will be asked to pay a pound to spend a penny as he confirmed plans to charge for toilets within two years.

The chief executive of Europe's largest budget carrier said the airline would generate extra revenues by removing two out of the three toilets on its Boeing 737-800 jets and filling the space with up to six seats. If that wasn’t bad enough, the low-cost airline also plans to charge passengers less by creating an area of "bar stools" with seat belts that passengers could sit at throughout the flight. So for those of you that thought Ryanair economy seats were as economy as you can get…think again!

And just when you thought things couldn’t get any worse, the no frills airline has decided to make passengers carry their own luggage all the way to the plane! So you can forget freeing up your hands at check in to allow you to carry bag loads of duty free… Going forward you will be required to lug your suitcases through security departure lounges and even to the foot of the aeroplane where it will then be loaded on for you.

Oddly enough, Ryanair believes that this latest move will help to avoid waiting at the carousel, and reduce the number of bags which go missing each year. However, as a consumer, I’m not so sure how eager I am to test out the alternative?

In light of the current financial climate, these latest cost saving attempts by Ryanair are a sure fire way to encourage passengers to spend their summers at home. So much for trying to entice us to travel afar in spite of our limited budget! But if their outrageous credit crunch suggestions weren’t enough to detract us from flying abroad, the Government’s latest plans to increase the cost of passport renewals by more than £5 should certainly help put the final nail in the coffin!

For an airline looking to increase its number of passengers via a series of economising techniques, it does make me wonder if the associated negative publicity will really help them to achieve that? Happy Holidays!

Friday, 10 July 2009

The Show Must Go On…But Who’s Judging It?

With reality shows set to hit our screens again in September, those of you without Sky Plus (seriously, it’s a great investment!) will undoubtedly be torn between channels as prime time TV sets in at the weekend. As many of you will have seen, today’s headlines herald Alesha Dixon as the latest judge to high kick her way on to the Strictly Come Dancing panel, knocking Arlene Phillips off the dance floor.

Obviously Alesha Dixon, one time winner of Strictly is considered far more well equipped to comment on the dancing ability of the show’s latest contestants, exercising all of her five months experience, over Arlene, world renowned choreographer! And the reason behind Alesha’s appointment? - ’her charisma and charm’ say BBC1. So is the focus of the show being placed on the contestants’ actual dancing abilities judged by its panel of well equipped and leading experts, or on the way in which the judges can present themselves? If we are to assume the latter, then this year’s show should certainly be interesting to watch – let’s hope Alesha Dixon’s ‘charisma and charm’ can offer the celebrity contestants the choreography advice that they need to help them dance their way to the top!

If that wasn’t enough, we are also faced with the ongoing battle of X Factor judges! Remind us, are they searching for that ‘X’ factor amongst a sea of unknown faces, or amongst the judging panel? If you cast your minds back to the days of Pop Idol, we were watching the likes of Neil Fox (long-time radio and TV presenter), Pete Waterman (songwriter and record producer), Nicki Chapman (famously managed the Spice Girls) and of course music industry guru Simon Cowell. Even its progression into X Factor started off well with Boyzone and Westlife band manager Louis Walsh and the well renowned Sharon Osborne who of course spent years managing rock legend husband Ozzy. But remind me – what experience does Home & Away star Danni Minogue have to offer? Maybe it’s just me but I’m sure it was her sister Kylie that was the pop legend? Or cast your mind over to Cheryl Cole? Yes she herself faced the wrath of the judges as she headed for stardom via reality TV, but do her famous footballer husband and few short lived years in the music industry really give her the credentials that she needs to identify the next big thing?

These days, it seems that all too much importance is being placed on the panel of judges that the show has to offer, when in fact all we mere mortals are interested in are the actual contestants themselves! Is all of the ongoing publicity and hype around the latest recruit on the panel of judges just a mere PR ploy to up the ante on the battle of the channels? Is the logic behind recruiting the judges to have someone that looks good, or someone that is well respected in the industry? When did the focus switch to being about the judges, and not about the actual talent demonstrated on the show? Could it be that reality TV now opts for style over substance?
Do we honestly believe that Cheryl Cole, Danni Minogue and even Alesha Dixon, whilst being pleasing to the eye, are better placed to judge the UK’s talent over world renowned music industry experts? Personally, and don’t get me wrong, I am indeed a fan of Cheryl Cole, but I do believe that we should leave the talent spotting to the ones who really do know best and let celebrities such as Cheryl do what they do best…

But hey, who knows…maybe next year the new reality show initiative to hit our TV screens really will just focus on the judges; The Judge Factor? Strictly Judging? Britain’s Got Glamorous Judges? Or perhaps we can look forward to ten years of ‘Big Judge’ accompanied of course by ‘Big Judge’s Little Judge?’

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Thursday, 9 July 2009

And Finally...

Maybe it’s because it’s summer and people are getting a bit hot and bothered, but the world of news seems to have gone a little bonkers just recently. While the front pages are dominated by Michael Jackson’s death and the swine flu epidemic, and the back pages are plastered with Aussies and the Ashes, take a read of the inside pages of any paper and you’ll find some extremely weird stories.

The Daily Express has now started an ‘odd news’ section on its website that gathers together all the ‘Freddie Starr Ate My Hamster’ type headlines into one place. And speaking of hamsters, a good example of the type of story making the nationals at present includes ‘Police, Help: My Hamster Got Out of Its Cage’ from Saturday. Then there’s ‘Shopper Who Wanted Slippers Gets Bondage Catalogue Too’, ‘Passenger Fixes Stranded Holiday Jet’, ‘Sex Swap Soldiers to Get New Medals’ and my personal favourite, ‘Wallabies With The Wobblies’.

A Wallaby: Stoner?The latter is a story about mysterious crop circles appearing in poppy fields in Tasmania. After investigation it was discovered that, far from being caused by aliens from Mars, it is in fact wallabies eating the poppy flowers, getting stoned on the opiates and then hopping round in circles that are causing them! Worthy of news in a national British newspaper? Someone at The Express thinks so…

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Wednesday, 8 July 2009

The End of Men?

Well, as women have long suspected, soon we will be able to do away with the male species all together! Scientists have developed new technology that allows sperm to be created from stem cells.

Joking aside, the good news is, if the procedure goes on to be fully developed, infertile men would be able to biologically father their own children –currently impossible.

The bad news is, this is one more example of how man is constantly interfering with Mother Nature – and we all know that with too much messing, Mother Nature can get p*d off.

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Tuesday, 7 July 2009

Peter Andre – Playing The PR Game Perfectly Or Going Too Far?

I have to admit I am firmly in Camp Andre over the whole Jordan/Peter split. That isn’t because I am a woman-hating female, I have in the past thought Katie Price was an honest, successful modern day woman.

Photos of Andre crying as he handed his children back to a nanny whilst Jordon flashed her thong in Ibiza proved to the world that he was a lovely man who had tried his best at being married to somebody who can’t even breathe without the attention of the mass public (however I must admit, in the depths of my subconscious, even those crying pictures made my cynical-self think Andre was playing this story out perfectly to make sure he emerged from this with a fan base to rival Michael Jackson. Not bad for a man known only for ‘Mysterious Girl’ – in the last century no less!).

So today when I read quotes from the man himself (not even leaked rumours) that he is going to remain celibate until his divorce is finalised as it the ‘honourable thing to do by Kate’ I started to think ‘hang on a minute Pete, we’re not morons – stop playing us like a banjo, its insulting’.

Don’t get me wrong, it IS great that he is honouring his wedding vows but a) why tell us if its not to drum up publicity in the same way we are constantly damning Jordon for these days and b) its only 2 months until the divorce is finalised so its not the grandest statement of love I’ve ever heard!

Maybe ‘I am remaining celibate until I find love again and meet the person I am happy to introduce my children to’ would have kept up the ‘Saint Peter’ image a bit better.

Anyway, I hear he is writing a book about all the reasons why they broke up – now that is surely the act of a man who doesn’t want to drag his children through unnecessary upset…

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Babies Rollerskate for Evian

It’s one of the most well-recognised advertising campaigns of the last decade, but the Evian babies have never really done it for me. Until now.

The babies are back for a new campaign, and the latest creative is perhaps one of the most well-executed ads I’ve ever seen. It blends the ‘cuteness’ of the babies (the part I’ve always struggled with, but then I’m not target market) with a classic soundtrack (a new remix of Rappers Delight) and some fantastic computer wizardry for a minute-long baby rollerskating extravaganza.

Not convinced? Then check out the new ad below.

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Thursday, 2 July 2009

Is The Media Tackling Obesity?

It’s no secret that the UK is fast turning into a nation of fatties. Research suggests that by 2012, ironically when the Olympics arrive on our shores for the first time in 64 years, one in three UK adults will be grossly overweight. The problem already costs the NHS £1 billion per annum and causes an estimated 9000 premature deaths every year. And Britain is even predicted to overtake the much-maligned USA as the fattest nation on Earth.

But the British Retail Consortium (BRC) has said that its promotional efforts to tackle the problem are paying off. Programs by the likes of Sainsbury’s, Tesco, Waitrose and even Supersize Me ‘victim’ McDonald’s are having an impact on the public consciousness, according to the BRC. It says that its initiatives surrounding portion sizes, product labelling and nutritional information on menus, and the subsequent media coverage these are gaining, are getting the obesity message across “more effectively than any law could”.

The Consortium says that it has a “substantial catalogue of evidence” that shows that its members efforts (these also include the likes of Marks & Spencer and Burger King) to promote a healthy lifestyle are having a major impact. I can’t, however, help but be a little sceptical. In fact, when I read this I nearly spat out my doughnut.

There’s no doubting that media coverage about obesity has increased substantially over the last few years, whether it’s been Gillian McKeith trying to bully us all into eating mung beans or more subtle, healthy recipes in the print media. But these have arguably been tempered by the negative publicity surrounding the likes of confusion around product labelling standards. Can the power of the media beat the power of a take-away Chicken Tikka? Time will tell...

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