Friday, 26 March 2010

The changing ‘celebrity’ face of advertising

Celebrities have always been a popular choice for big spend advertising campaign; we have Cheryl Cole and her ‘I’m worth it’ hair, Coleen Nolan showing us that mums go to Iceland, and of course the ‘blink and you won’t even notice them in the ad’ Redknapps on holiday for Thomas Cook. But as a recent article in Marketing Week shows (Character Building, 25th March) long running characters such as Aleksandr Orlov the Meerkat prove a great hit with consumers.

As the Compare the Market campaign proves, advertising needs to be more engaging with consumers, and using a celebrity to simply say they ‘love’ using a product doesn’t wash with the public. However, there are brands that are using celebrities in interesting ways that get consumers talking about and even tweeting about them.

Walkers recently aired an ad with a host of celebrities paying a surprise visit to the town of Sandwich, Kent reflecting how Walkers can make a sandwich more exciting. Celebrities were there simply to engage with the townsfolk to generate a reaction for the cameras. Jensen Button had a woman screaming as he turned up in a black cab, Pamela Anderson proved a sight for pub goers eyes as she poured a perfect British pint and JLS performed at a sixth form college.

Premier Foods, is about to embark on a celebrity filled advertising campaign for its brand initiative ‘Great Little Ideas’. Celebrities they have signed up include Diversity, Lynda Bellingham and Liz Dawn (aka Vera Duckworth) to offer consumers tips to make their recipes a little bit more exciting.

Meerkats aside, I think we will still be seeing celebrities during ad breaks for a very long time, but perhaps in a more exciting and engaging way…

Thursday, 18 March 2010

Generation Y needs to take responsibility for our own happiness

We don’t want to put in any extra hours. We moan about how we feel, but we don’t bother doing anything about it.

Over the last week, I’ve been following Steve Earl’s series of blogs on Generation Y PRs with interest. I’m Gen Y myself – according to Earl’s definition, the generation includes anyone born after 1983 – and all the accusations above were made by Gen X bosses about their Gen Y staff.

As far as I can see, the Gen X vs Gen Y problems focus around three things: attitude, motivation and understanding. Some of Gen X think that we have an attitude problem. We’re not dedicated, we don’t have the same work ethic that they do, and we want someone else (our bosses? Our mummies?) to sort our lives out. Fair? I would say absolutely not, but those of us who fall into the Gen Y bracket (or even just the mindset) need to remember that perception is reality. If our Gen X bosses think we’re whining slackers, they’ll treat us as such, and that really isn’t fair.

As for motivation, it’s been said that work/life balance is more important to us than it is to Gen X, but I think that’s misleading. The problem is that in this economy, Gen Y can’t afford houses or pensions anyway, so we’re likely to be working until we’re 80. If we don’t enjoy our jobs as much as we enjoy our free time, what’s the point? We don’t want a work/life balance – we want a LIFE.

This brings me neatly on to the third, and possibly most important point: understanding. Most of Gen Y aren’t lazy. We know we have to work hard if we want a promotion or a pay rise, but the real point is that what we really want is recognition of our abilities, and reward for doing a good job. The promotion and the pay rise are nice, because they show us that we’re valued, but they’re not the be all and end all, and generally we’d rather be happy than be running the company.

Interestingly, Earl admits in his final blog on the subject that his initial thoughts were that Gen Y PRs should “suck it up, snap out of it and get back to the harsh realities of toil”, but that wasn’t his final conclusion. In fact, he recommended that agency bosses need to take responsibility for understanding and motivating their Gen Y staff if they don’t want us to just give up and move on, because the very nature of Gen Y is that we won’t hang around if we’re not fulfilled.

I don’t think that any of us should give up responsibility for our own happiness though. If a whole generation just sits back and waits for their bosses to change, we’re going to be waiting a hell of a long time. It’s up to us to facilitate the understanding of what drives us and what we want out of our careers, and of course we need to show ourselves to be valuable members of staff with a comprehensive understanding of the business and why it works (or doesn’t work). If we commit to helping Gen X see us in a different light, life will be a lot easier for everyone.

I’d love to hear your thoughts on this. Do you think that Gen Y is getting an unfair reputation, or should we just stop whining and start working harder?

Note: This blog first appeared on Steve Earl’s blog as part of Twitter’s Be My Guest month.

Friday, 12 March 2010

Celebrities stealing the thunder from hardworking PR's?

Unless you’ve been hiding out under a rock for the past few weeks, you won’t have failed to notice that the majority of the media has been filled to the brim with stories of celebrities. Or more specifically, celebrities and their cheating antics.

Tiger Woods set the ball rolling way back in November 2009 with that now infamous story of his ‘car crash’, but since then we’ve also had revelations from John Terry, Vernon Kay, Ashley Cole and even the saintly Mark Owen. It seems no-one is immune from the temptations that fame and fortune bring!

However, whilst these stories are all well and good for a few days, they leave behind a legacy of ‘follow up’ stories for the press. Yes, we know that Ashley Cole has indeed been a very naughty boy, but do we really need to have daily updates on what he is texting Cheryl, how Cheryl feels, whether she is going to take him back and so on? What about some real stories?! There are thousands of PR’s out there crying out with interesting stories for the press but we’re not getting any column inches because the share of voice is being hogged by celebrity affairs!

It’s not just the tabloids either. Even the consumer magazines are dedicating quality page space to the celebs because there is just so much scandal. Regular pages have been significantly reduced to make room for more pictures of these badly behaved celebs and their partners so the battle is really on for PR’s to continue to make our clients’ products shine. Not that we don’t love a challenge, but here is a plea for the celebs: Come on guys, behave yourselves so we can have our pages back!

Monday, 8 March 2010

Last night witnessed the biggest movie event of the year as the hottest celebrities arrived en mass, many of whom were hopeful of taking home a little ray of gold.

The 82nd annual academy awards were broadcast live from Hollywood's Kodak theatre, highlighting the year's biggest successes within the film industry. And if the prospect of winning an Oscar didn’t raise quite enough anxiety amongst the world's most famous movie stars, they first had to run the gauntlet; ambushed by flashing lights and a vast array of TV presenters, all of whom were waiting with baited breath to review the outfits which dominated the red carpet . The fashion stakes were at an all time high!

But whilst the Oscars may be the movie event of the year, showcasing both the best actors, and more often these days, the best 'dressers', we have to feel for the leading British actors who are sometimes overlooked amidst some of America's more publicised A-listers.

Specifically, my heart goes out to Colin Firth, Helen Mirren, Carey Mulligan and even the cast of Harry Potter - all of whom displayed award winning performances over the last year, but who lost out in each of their categories.

Whilst it is without a doubt a great achievement to have even been nominated, it does pose the question as to whether the smaller British films are perhaps just considered too small for the whirlwind academy, resulting in them never really getting further than a nomination. After the wealth of awards won by Slumdog Millionaire last year, we Brits seem to have been cast by the wayside this year.

Don't get me wrong, each of these actors are most certainly rewarded come the Baftas, but isn’t it about time that the Oscars started to pay more attention to the efforts of smaller, yet equally impressive British films?