Thursday, 25 November 2010


As I devoured my weekly fix of the Sunday Telegraph’s Stella magazine, the ‘Stella Loves’ page bigged-up the latest trend for Oriental Glamour. With tempting editorial hailing the Nars bento-box lipstick duo as this week’s ‘must buy’, I couldn’t wait to rush to Selfridges to part with £95. I really believed the editorial hype … that the ‘hand-poured, highly pigmented red and pink pots of colour look delicious and great on the lips’. Having been in beauty PR for the last 20 years, it struck me that even us hardened PR’s are still influenced by the PR! Great stuff … which also got me thinking about the adage that ‘no publicity is bad publicity’ – not so sure in the case of the McGrief that the fake McKeith is causing in I’m A Celeb … but our agency of 30 PR’s are still talking about her – again the PR is working.

Friday, 19 November 2010

The Curse of the Public Vote!

Last weekend saw two shocking exits, with Michelle and Brendan waltzing out of Strictly, whilst over on ITV Aiden Grimshaw left the X Factor stage after Louis Walsh sent it to deadlock resulting in the ‘marmite’ of the show Katie Waissel moving through to fight another week.

In recent months, Saturday nights have given us a reason to stay in with friends to ‘sofalise’ in front of the nation’s favourites Strictly and X Factor. Yet this weekend’s shock exits of Michelle and Aiden, (leading Anne Widdecombe and Wagner to fly through to the next round), have caused an almighty uproar amongst the British public who feel that BBC and ITV have manipulated the results of their shows in order to aid viewing figures!

Whilst Anne Widdecombe and her ‘disaster’ of a Charleston may be entertaining to some, not to mention Wagner’s amateur performance, is that really why we watch these shows? And if it is, is it fair to say it’s a fix when the final results ultimately rely on the public vote?

It is fair to say that the ongoing war between BBC and ITV has further fuelled this year with even more tactics and PR stories being used to up the ratings. But what lengths will they go to hit their targets? Whilst Michelle and Aiden undoubtedly have the talent, with our favourites being pushed out in favour of more ‘entertaining’ and controversial acts, will we still take the time to tune in?

As much as I love watching the talented people make it through to the final, I do believe that these shows have just become a huge publicity stunt. These days you can’t open a national paper on a Monday morning without the judges and contestants of Strictly and X Factor dominating the first 6 pages! And whilst that is clearly their aim, are we still paying attention?

Whether we take the time to call or not, are the BBC and ITV continuing to fix their shows in such a way, that we actually have very little choice in who stays and who goes? You decide…

Thursday, 18 November 2010

Back to basics

Was it just a matter of time before the backlash began? Well it may have just started as this week saw the launch of the new ‘John’s Phone’ – the world’s simplest mobile phone on which you can only make phone calls and has been aptly dubbed the ‘anti-iPhone’.

Multi-functional iPhones, Blackberrys and Androids have become an everyday staple that some claim they couldn’t live without as you can make calls, text, listen to music, watch films, email, play games and surf the net - not to forget the whole host of apps available too. None of which can be done on John’s phone – even the contacts function is old school with a mini address book and pen incorporated into the back of the phone. However, on the upside, the battery will last you an impressive three weeks!

The brainchild of a Dutch advertising agency, is it a genuine, serious mobile product that will sell in its thousands or just a bit of a gimmick? I can see it having both pros and cons for various users. In theory it may be just for thing for the more mature mobile user that doesn’t want to embrace all the whizz bang technology of modern day phones and simply wants to make calls. Or at the other end of the spectrum for young children who may simply need to make a call in an emergency. If I were a parent I think I would feel much happier in the knowledge that I could give my young child a way of getting in touch if they should need to without them having the access to the wider web world from which I might want to protect them from for a little longer. Or it may be just the ticket for those elusive types who hate the fact that they are contactable 24 hours a day as this puts them back in control as you can only make outgoing calls on the John’s Phone.On the other hand, doesn’t it seem a little mad that you can’t even receive incoming calls? Plus there’s the argument that £70 seems like quite a hefty price for a one trick pony phone when there are other multifunctional phones available out there for a fraction of a price - are you paying the price for the novelty?

The bigger argument here is whether or not trends will emerge where things, more specifically technology and media, go full circle. In a year or so time can we predict that library memberships soar as people revert back to more traditional methods of media consumption as opposed to reading your latest novel on an iPad? Personally, and as with most things, I believe it all comes in waves but guess we’ll just have to wait and see.

Friday, 12 November 2010

To Uni, or not to Uni?
That’s the £9,000-a-year question

What started off as a peaceful protest against the proposed plans to increase student fees, this week ended in scenes of sheer violence and vandalism with 14 casualties, including police officers, taken to hospital. So what’s all the fuss about?

The new Government coalition has proposed to increase University fees to a maximum of £9,000 a year, almost trebling the figure it is now, in order to release budget to pay off debts run up by its predecessor. The new plans will mean that students will leave University with a debt in the region of £30,000 however they will not have to pay any fees up front; instead they will begin to pay back the costs once they start earning £21,000 a year. Some claim this will take the system back to a time when only the wealthy will be able to go to University.

As someone who went to University and doesn’t come from a wealthy background, it does sadden me to think that I wouldn’t have been able to go if the fees were as high as they’re proposed to be. However, at the same time, I also do not think that we should take it for granted that the Government will subsidise our Uni fees. UK schooling is completely free so there’s no reason why a teenager can’t leave school having gained amazing A-Level grades and be able to get a top job. With so many people going to Uni these days, and sometimes to study irrelevant courses such as “Ghostbusting” and “Harry Potter”, degrees are losing their prestige and I don’t feel it is as important to have that level on your CV as it used to be. Indeed, research has shown that three years after finishing their studies, 40 per cent of recent graduates are in jobs that don’t require a degree.

At the end of the day, wherever the Government makes the cuts they’re going to face backlash so, in my own personal opinion, I think cutting funding on a “non-essential” like University makes much more sense than emergency services and hospitals.

What do you think? Are my views a little too naive? Was University worthwhile for you?

Wednesday, 10 November 2010

Cheap and Cheerful...

Last week, Cirkle's home town of Beaconsfield played host to several real life 'Spidermen'. I don't want to mislead anyone here - I don't mean to say that they were swinging from the rooftops and saving us all from evil villains (now that really would have been something!). They were quite simply attired in lycra Spiderman costumes with Domino's Pizza sandwich boards advertising a new store and its latest deals.

With the vast array of publicity methods now available to brands, this at first may seem like a strange way of promoting the opening of a new store but, upon closer inspection, it actually reveals itself as a simple, cost effective, creative and, most of all, memorable campaign. From dawn 'til dusk, several Spidermen were stationed around Beaconsfield at key roundabouts where traffic flow was highest and all displayed information on Domino's latest deals. It certainly made the drive into work that little bit more colourful and, I have to admit, brought a smile to my face. Not because of the thought of pizza (although that alone would probably have done it...) but because of the chirpy demeanour of these Spidermen. The first roundabout gave me a 'jigging' Spiderman - dancing around from foot to foot - and the second roundabout gave me a smiley, waving Spiderman. They were certainly giving it their all and not just standing like statues. It almost made me want to continue my journey down the A40 to see if there were anymore waiting to cheer up my day!

This campaign got everyone in our office, and no doubt in offices through the town, talking. It was something new, quirky and engaging. And it just goes to prove that sometimes the simple ideas are the best and don't have to cost the earth. A little bit of creativity can go along way in creating talkability and ultimately making a successful campaign.

And it worked. I went home that night and ordered a Domino's Pizza!

Monday, 8 November 2010

Food Inflation Time Bomb

As if the current economic climate isn’t enough of a challenge for foodservice operators to contend with, the relentless inflation of global food prices is adding to the pressure.

The latest United Nations’ Food and Agriculture Organisation’s index of 55 food commodities has jumped 197.1 points to the highest level since 2008.

This is clearly going to hurt the purse strings of households throughout the UK but it will also have a huge impact on the foodservice industry, at a time when the high street is obsessed with discounting and promotions to get customers through the door - surely this is not a sustainable.

When combined with 60% rise in wheat prices over the last 12 months and the BRC warning of further commodity prices, “still in the pipeline” it is likely that food inflation will run ahead of general inflation, which spells difficult times

The challenge for operators will be how to absorb these price rises without compromising on quality or passing it on to cash strapped customers. Part of the solution will be sourcing as much local produce as possible to keep costs down and driving a hard bargain with suppliers, shopping around for the best deals.

Inevitably these increased food prices will have to be passed on to the customer at some point, but given the climate of austerity the country find’s itself, will customers be willing to foot the bill? Or will they simply pop down to M&S and dine in for a tenner or venture into Waitrose to try and recreate the latest gastronomic delights from Heston / Delia?

The foodservice industry and suppliers need to lobby government for an international approach to address the food inflation time bomb that is affecting households and the out of home market. Failure to address the problem could see the UK’s £30bn foodservice industry contract as struggling operators go out of business, resulting in significant loss of revenue to the UK economy. Action is needed and fast!