Author: electricginger

People Power 3 – someone who actually knows what they are talking about

OK, this is the last from me on this, but I just found this blog post from an actual lawyer who might just know what he is talking about and it seems to support the assumptions I have been making in previous posts

“In general, an injunction made against a defendant does not affect a third party. That proposition is, however, subject to the well-known Spycatcher principle, which is that an interlocutory injunction preventing a person from disclosing private and/or confidential information also prevents third parties from disclosing the information provided they have been given notice of the injunction. The principle is based on the need to ‘hold the ring’ pending trial: if other people publish the information the claimant is seeking to protect, that will frustrate the purpose of the claimant’s proceedings. This is of course the reason why lawyers representing claimants in privacy cases normally circulate to media organisations the details of any injunction they have obtained as soon as possible after it has been made.”

So unless the lawyers contact everyone on twitter to inform them of the details of the injunction then they cannot prevent people on twitter disclosing the information. Bit of a Catch 22 really.

People Power 2

As you might be able to tell from the last post, I’ve been spending a lot of time thinking about this, and it is impossible to get away from. My understand of the legal side of this has clarified further in the past 24 hours, particularly after reading the following article: Revealed: The four celebrities who could face huge legal bills for naming Ryan Giggs on Twitter over Imogen affair

A Couple of things struck me

1) Only the Daily Mail and the Evening Standard seem to be running this slant on the story at the moment
2) Most of the “celebrities” named are actually employed in some fashion by a newspaper

I’m trying to discover exactly how an injunction works, but the more I think about it, the more that I am convinced that the only twitter users that could possibly be prosecuted for breaching the gagging order are people who are employed by a newspaper or other media body.

My understanding of how injunctions work are as follows

Party A goes to court to obtain an injunction to stop Party B telling people Fact X.
The Court grants party A the injunction.
The Court must in some way communicate that injunction to Party B in order that Party B understands the nature of Fact X – exactly what it is they are not allowed to say.
If Party B now still publishes Fact X they are in contempt of court and can be prosecuted with criminal charges.

What I am not clear on is the following.

Party C has, through a completely independent source, discovered Fact X to be true. They have never had a injunction order communicated to them, nor can they discover the exact details of that injunction because the key pertinent points are subject to the secrecy of the injunction. Therefore Party C decides to communicate Fact X to people known to him using the means of communication that he typically uses. How can Party C be guilty of breaching an injunction, the details of which he had no way of knowing?

To put this into English, the injunction sought by Ryan Giggs’ Lawyers (Party A) was directed and communicated to the news media (Party B) in the UK. I assume in doing so the name of Ryan Giggs was also communicated to those institutions in order that they understood exactly who they were not allowed to name. The wide variety of users of twitter (Party C) came upon the name Ryan Giggs through rumour and gossip on the internet and some will have had it direct from the horse’s mouth. Twitter users have no way of knowing for sure that Ryan Giggs was the actual subject of the injunction until it was discussed in Parliament. They believed it to be true, but without having seen the full injunction for themselves they could not KNOW it to be true. The only exception to this rule is those Twitter users that are employed by the news media.

I do not believe therefore that any twitter users who were not employed by the news media can be considered to be in contempt of court (clearly they are contemptuous of the court but that is a different matter)

What is interesting though is that the news media are determined to make Joe Public twitter users feel that they are in the same boat as the journalist twitter users who breached the injunction. Giles Coren works for the Times – he would have been privy to the information conveyed in the injunction and therefore would be subject to it. The fact that he has not used an official channel of his employer does not necessarily exempt him from the injunction (although I don’t even know this for sure, it depends on the detail of the injunction which – as explained above – I have no way of reading!).

Giles Coren however is in a completely different boat from the the 75,000 other people who tweed Ryan Giggs name. The vast majority of them are not employed by news media, cannot have read the injunction, cannot know what action is not permitted and so cannot be held liable for taking that action. They could be held liable under other areas of UK law such as libel and defamation law if they can be shown to be either a) wrong or b) malicious in their actions, but they are not liable for breaching the injunction.

The Daily Mail and it’s tabloid Ugly Sisters would love us all to believe that we are all in the same boat as them and they are standing up for our rights, but I do not believe that to be the case. The country’s perception of this case has been completely skewed by the news coverage of it, (which only serves to highlight the continuing power of the press) but that doesn’t mean they are right. They may quote the Attorney General who said:

“Those who I think may take an idea that modern methods of communication mean they can act with impunity may well find themselves in for a rude shock…The courts do have the power to punish those who breach injunctions. Those who decide flagrantly to do so should bear that in mind”

My reading of this is that the news media cannot resort to new technologies to get around a court order and should rightfully be punished if they do so, but nothing in his statement necessarily suggests that I could be liable for naming Ryan Giggs in this blog post for example because I cannot breach an injunction that I cannot read! The Daily Mail would love me to believe that it does, but that’s the Daily Hate for you.

However all of this highlights that a legal system based on “secret” injunctions are unsustainable in a world where everyone has the ability to broadcast content anonymously and with impunity. Such secret measures should be reserved for those case that it was originally intended – to protect the vulnerable (small children in abuse cases for example) and national security. Wasting this power on philandering footballers is frankly negligent. Instead we need to apply a proper privacy law which protects people’s truly private behaviour that is not in the public interest to be broadcast. And just to be clear – shagging a Big Brother housemate is not a private activity!

People Power vs Paper Power

I’ve been wanting to write a blog-post on the crazy snowballing story that is the “premiership footballer and Big Brother “star”” story for a while now, but each time I try to start a new development comes along that forces me to start again, frankly at this point I’ve decided to follow the example of the Scottish newspaper – The Sunday Herald – and “publish and be damned”. I warn you, this is a long one – (Shout out to Jen who encouraged me to keep going with it – enjoy!)

I have been fascinated by the constant developments in this story, not because I have any interest whatsoever in who has had their wicked way with Imogen Thomas – (Frankly I’d be more interested in who hasn’t) but because of the potential ramifications for the global media landscape.

My problem is knowing where exactly to start on this one – and I’ve decided that a timeline would make sense to help anyone who has been quite happily oblivious until they started talking about it in Parliament.


Stage 1 – at some point in the past year and for a number of months, a premiership footballer (married with children) has allegedly been engaging in an extra-marital affair with sweet, innocent Big brother contestant Imogen Thomas

Stage 2 –

April 14th 2011
-this footballer is granted an injunction forbidding the publication of his name or allegations he had an affair with Imogen Thomas
From what I can tell, the very same day, the existence of the injunction was reported by most national newspapers – they mentioned Imogen Thomas’s name, but in keeping with the letter of the law they referred to the footballer only as “CBT”. Now this is crucial to the story. This injunction was NOT a super injunction even though the papers have been calling it that. A “Super” injunction also bans the mention of the injunction existing at all. The fact that this injunction only banned the mention of the premiership footballers names left vast acres of room for newspaper to prompt speculation, gossip and rumour, which frankly was all they cared about.

For the next 3 or 4 weeks people who were interested or otherwise could go online and with minimal searching could have a pretty good idea of which footballer was hiding behind the courts, although there was room for some doubt. Frankly though a lot more people seemed to give a damn BECAUSE of the injunction than they otherwise would have done. Imogen Thomas managed to get herself all over TV and the newspapers looking suitably distraught at being named and shamed on her own and that was how things continued until…

Stage 3 – 8th May – a Twitter User – @injunctionsuper named the footballer who allegedly slept with Imogen Thomas. Now this wasn’t particularly interesting because there were many different places that that information could be found, but this twitter feed had two key differences

1) He listed a number of different injunctions that had been granted, but (and I think this is most important thing)…

…2) One of them was apparently completely false. The allegation that “Jeremy Clarkson has an injunction preventing the publication or mention of intimate photographs of him and Jemima Khan.”

This allegation prompted Jemima Khan and Jeremy Clarkson to both publicly announce the falsehood of the claims. In doing so they did 2 things 1) They sent lots of people to this twitter users feed – he was up to about 100,000 at the last count which apparently has led to a further 75,000 re-tweets, and 2) they gave credence to all the other claims on the feed that weren’t being denied. In hindsight I now assume that the Jemima Khan story was a known and obvious falsehood that was placed in a classing “trolling” attack. It gave the newspapers a way of writing about the twitter feed and it’s other contents without actually pointing anyone at the twitter feed in question.

Since then there have been a series of events in quick succession

Stage 4

May 17th – Imogen Thomas’s appeal against the injunction turned down on the basis that there were claims (no evidence mind) that she had been blackmailing the man in question (apparently she wanted a signed football shirt? Really?)
May 20th Newspapers report that the footballer’s lawyers have applied to acquire the information that would identify the Twitter users who breached the court order
May 22nd – The Sunday Herald print a picture of the footballer in question
May 23rd – MP John Hemming has named Ryan Giggs as the footballer subject to an injunction over his alleged affair with Big Brother star Imogen Thomas. Parliamentary privilege protects him and I believe that also means that I can report those basic facts.

In the past week, this has effectively become the biggest story in the news – literally front page news on every newspaper of every quality in the country. Something that would only ever have warranted a mention in the Sun and maybe the opinion section of the Times is now a matter of gossip for half the country. And the funny thing is, most of us don’t even care who shagged who, what we are all talking about is what this means for our legal system, our newspapers, new media technologies and most importantly our personal freedoms and rights and how they conflict with each other.

The first question then:

“What does this mean for our legal system?”

OK, I’m not going to pretend that I know the answer to this one, my law degree finished 12 years ago and frankly hadn’t even considered the impact of the internet, but there are a number of questions that this case raises that are fascinating.

1) How can an injunction take effect against unnamed parties? Surely the point of an injunction is to be able to compel one or more named parties to desist from an action (or in some cases take action). If I am not a named party and do not receive an order, how does that order somehow still apply to me? If I am Imogen Thomas’s best friend and I already know the nature of the relationship and I choose to twitter about it after the newspapers were served with an injunction, am I somehow in contempt of a court order that told someone else to do something but who never spoke to me about it? The only reason I would be aware of the injunction at all is because of the newspapers reporting it!

Surely if an injunction has general effect on the entire population, then it is a “law” by any other name and from what I remember from constitutional law (not much admittedly) it is a fundamental rule of our constitution that powers be separate and the judiciary must NOT make laws.

The only way for an injunction order to truly take affect against me as a twitter user is for me to recieve that order against my twitter name. this would mean that every twitter user would have to be contacted with the injunction order to tell them exactly what it is that there weren’t allowed to talk about. That would kind of defeat the point…

(Don’t confuse this with the idea that the courts are bringing in a Privacy law from Europe by stealth – I have no constitutional issue with Judges applying a law that has been handed to them by whichever legislature they have been instructed to answer to, my problem is with them creating lots of laws that affect me.)

Question2 (more pertinently as a media strategist):

“what does this mean for news institutions?”

The knee-jerk reaction is that this whole debacle is a the death knell for our news industry. I actually think quite the opposite. I think that in the past few weeks the newspaper industry has demonstrated their continuing power and resiliance. Only newspapers can reach tens of millions of people with the same headline in a given day. If it weren’t for the Sun, then no-one would have been on Twitter trying to find out the news that they couldn’t publish. I think that newspapers are catching up fast and are as able and willing to embrace new technologies as any of their readers might be. I actually think that in the Jemima Khan story we have witnessed an inspired piece of “trolling“. By placing that crazy story, they managed to get the typical response of the “trolled” to overreact and protest vehemently at the wrongness of the troll. In turn that gave the newspapers some tangible names to write about. Maybe that’s all a bit conspiracy theory, but given the recent phone-tapping outbreaks, would we really be surprised if those same people had been responsible for something like that?

It is the newspapers that are driving the agenda here, it is the newspapers who are broadcasting the relatively private and inconsequential twitterings of the masses. Twitter didn’t make this happen, they just talked about it a bit. I think that it is particularly interesting that only 100,000 people are following @injunctionsuper, but I reckon that the Sun has added siginificantly more readers than that during this period.

So what does it mean for new media technologies?

Do we think that Twitter users in the UK are going to suddenly have to watch what they say? Frankly, no. a) Twitter is based in America and it will require an almighty effort to force them to release the relevant information to identify Twitter users and b) The legal system will always be too slow to keep up with new developments. The internet is like the Hydra, if you cut off one head about 12 more would happily jump into its place and no amount of legalese would be able to fill the loopholes that individuals would find to get round the specifics of the laws. That’s the beauty of our legal system, people need to know that laws apply to them and so they have to be crafted in a specific and precise manner. That also means that you can’t legislate for crimes that don’t even exist yet, so future technologies are safe. If you could legislate against future crimes, then new creations such as “legal highs” would already be illegal before they had even been invented.

So what does it mean for our personal freedoms and rights?

It seems to be a conflict between a freedom of speech and a right to privacy.

At the moment I’m most worried about the freedom of speech, mainly because some judges in our legal system think that they have the right to pass judgment not just on what newspapers can print, but the conversations I can have with my friends, family and associates. That’s just scary.

Since 9/11 there have been repeated attempts to pass laws about what private individuals can and cannot say to each other – the “incitement to racial hatred” laws being the notable example that caused significant controversy, and this case seems to be continuing that trend.

I don’t see how there is an easy fix for either the courts or Parliament to legislate around the likes of Twitter though and so I worry that they could take the more draconian option of placing legislative restriction on social media usage or insist upon the right of surveillance. As long as the US uphold their constitionally enshrined freedoms we’re probably safe from that, but the US government and Supreme court have been known to throw those principles out of the window when it suits them. The case against Wikileaks and the foolish Private who released half of their military secrets is such an example.

The right to privacy is another potential casualty here and I’m slightly less worried about this. The right to privacy is NOT the right to have everything that you would prefer to be private to stay private. Surely the right to privacy is the right to not have your privacy invaded when you have every normal expectation of it remaining safe. If someone is sleeping with a renowned publicity whore then they cannot have any expectation that information around that will stay private. Imogen Thomas was on Big Brother for god’s sake, doing anything with her if you are a celebrity is the definition of public.

Surely therefore the legislation should not focus on the information that is disseminated by our news broadcasters, but instead should focus on the invasive practices they use to extract that information. We should enforce with the full strength of the law the laws against phone tapping and entrapment and maybe make some new ones about any other “spying” type technologies. We should not allow our press to invade the lives of people who are doing their best to live it out of the public eye, but equally, freedom of speech is such an important freedom that we must protect it at all costs and if that means we lose some of our right to privacy (that we never really had anyway) then so be it.

OK that’s it for now!

Straying into an alternative territory

OK, I don’t normally blog about political issues because frankly there are many people who know an awful lot more than me in that area and I’d be opening myself up to a barrage of criticism. Then again, I figured that to get a barrage of criticism would mean that lots of people would have to read this and there is no danger of that, so here goes

Tomorrow is the big referendum on the new AV (Alternative vote) system and the media have today finally decided to try to explain to people what they are voting for.

Today,the Independent printed a list of the arguments for and against the Alternative Vote. This article in itself was quite interesting. By presenting both sides of the argument, the newspaper was trying to live up to its name however, when you got into the meat of the article (seen here) then it is difficult to not conclude that the Independent are firmly in favour of reform as they proceed to debunk all of the “No” arguments and support all but the least convincing of the “Yes” arguments.

I’m happy to state that I will be voting “Yes” tomorrow because I agree with the simple argument that “It is a step in the right direction” and that the “If it aint broke don’t fix it” attitude is fundamentally flawed as the current system is “broke” and I’m also pretty sure that the same argument was used against the suffragettes 100 years ago.

However, there is one argument that I think is missing from the “Yes” vote and this is the main reason that I will be voting:

A great deal of commentary has suggested that AV would have produced very similar results in the last few elections as to the result that we actually got. It would have exaggerated the Labour swing in 1997 even further and we would still have a Coalition government today. However, that analysis assumes that people would have kept their same first preference vote if they were able to record a 2nd, 3rd and 4th preference vote. But I simply don’t believe that would be the case. A lot of younger voters vote for Labour or Conservative, not because they believe they are the best party to represent their interests, but because they believe that they only really have a choice of two. If you have to place up to 4 preferences then people will have to start to consider the relative merits of more than just two parties and so might start to consider the realistic possibility that it doesn’t have to be a two party system any more.

If I have an alternative vote, I will be liberated to place my first vote where my true convictions lie rather than just place a vote in order to keep my most hated party out.

All too often in FPTP elections I have voted for Labour, not because I approved of their policies, but because I couldn’t stomach the Tory ones and a vote for anyone else was completely wasted. Under AV I could vote for the independent candidate or the Green candidate or the Liberal candidate and use my vote as a statement of my true beliefs and at the same time I can place 2nd, 3rd or 4th preference vote which might also affect the final result. The big question is, how many other people would have done the same, how many people have in the past voted for their 2nd or even 3rd preference because it was the only party with a chance of winning?

AV might not show a huge change in voting patterns in the next election, because a lot of people will justify their previous voting behaviour and continue to vote according to habits, not beliefs, but I believe that in 3 or 4 elections time as new generations of voter arrive without the baggage of their parents we could start to see a shift towards a wider spectrum of voting habits that more accurately reflects the nations attitudes.

I know that AV won’t solve the problem of getting a truly representative government, but in my idealised world I would hope that as people start to value their vote more highly they will start to see the benefits of a truly proportionate and representative system and there will be enough minority representatives in our government, that maybe, just maybe, we can make it happen.

Well, fingers crossed for a miracle, all the bookies are suggesting that my hope is forlorn, but stranger things have happened.


Marketing is 21st century alchemy

It’s been over 6 weeks since my last blog post – “too long!” I hear all one of you shout (Thanks Stuart). It’s been a busy few weeks at work and it just dropped down the list of things to do especially as I now have a nesting wife who is merrily filling my spare time with DIY duties!

However I was wakened from my writing slumber by the anger I felt when I watched this ad from the makers of Nurofen.

In it, a voice that sounds disconcertingly like the guide in Hitchhikers guide to the galaxy explains that over many years scientists have been searching for a better combination of painkillers after talking to wisdom teeth sufferers. They show lots of nice pictures of chemical formulas and molecules and a whizzy gold robot (you’ve got to have a whizzy gold robot!) that draws the following graph

In this graph it “demonstrates” that one nuromol tablet gets to work faster than ibuprofen and lasts longer than paracetamol. What it also shows however is that it gets to work exactly as quickly as paracetamol and lasts exactly as long as ibuprofen. That is very easy to explain – nuromol is simply paracetamol and ibuprofen combined, so it works exactly like taking paracetamol and ibuprofen together would do!

By throwing in scientific references and mention of research done on people with dental pain, they imply that this is something amazingly new fangled, but it is just paracetamol and ibuprofen in the normal dosages that you typically buy those tablets. They must think/know that we’re all completely stupid. Doctors and dentist have been telling people for ages that you can combine both of these as they work on the body in different ways, and my interpretation of that ad, if I didn’t know already, was that all I need to do is buy one of each.

But instead they are suggesting for the priviledge of consuming one large tablet as opposed to two smaller ones I get the joy of a shiny gold box (hence the alchemy reference) and paying lots of money!

16 200mg Ibuprofen tablets – £0.99
32 500mg Paracetamol tablets – £0.69

12 200mg/400mg Ibuprofen and Paracetamol Nuramol tablets – £4.07

And yet it will be a roaring success, that’s what is so depressing – people in pain will, in their desperation, try this product and be adamant that it works better than any over the counter drugs that they have ever tried before. They will tell me that there is something in the “synchro, something wotsit” that makes it work faster/better/longer and that the other stuff “just doesn’t work as well”. I will argue until I’m blue in the face that they are wrong, but they will choose to believe what they think their own personal experience is. The crazy thing is, they are probably right but for all the wrong reasons.

And here’s the rub: Pharmaceutical and supplement products truly are the world leaders in demonstrating the power of marketing. Not only, NOT ONLY can they make otherwise intelligent people pay nearly 250% more for a chemically identical product, but in actual fact marketing makes these products better!

Pain relief is only in part caused by a chemical reaction in people’s bodies. The placebo effect is phenomenaly powerful and the simple act of taking a tablet will on some level reduce a sufferer’s perception of pain. We also know that believing that the painkiller will work will increase it’s effectiveness and marketing is one of the biggest drivers of that belief – therefore Marketing makes painkillers better at their job!

Damn that’s some clever shit.

[Scientists]+ [blah blah graph]+ [blah blah research] = my tooth doesn’t hurt so much, thankyou Nuromol

I don’t crave my mother’s disapproval any more…

Dead Space 2 has been released in the past few days to significant critical acclaim and is expected to be one of the big sellers this month. But the more I see of their marketing campaign the more I hope that it fails.

For those of you who don’t know, this is a multi-format console game that is firmly set in the adventure-horror genre. As such it is filled with plenty of gore and violence and content that would probably be disturbing for most people who haven’t played loads of these games before. I haven’t played it, but according to the reviews it does a really good job of actually getting players to experience tension and fear and shock in the same way that a good horror movie can. This is quite an achievement when it has to be balanced with giving the consumer control of the game. Getting a genuine emotional reaction to any kind of gaming content is something that has only been explored in very recent times and EA (notoriously mass-market in their approach) should be applauded for this

The problems here however have come once the marketing team have got their hands on it and produced this nasty effort

You can watch it if you want, but basically the gist is that they get a bunch of real mums (apparently) to watch a full length trailer of Dead Space 2 under the guise of market research and then record their response. Unsurprisingly the mums are horrified and upset just as much as if you’d got them to sit through Saw 27 or the Human Millipede! This is a game where the key weapon is an engineering cutting laser – so most of the time you are dismembering a variety of aliens and “infected” humans. It’s gross and that’s OK, but no-one is ever going to expect your mum to like it.

There is a behind the scenes version of this that explains that “A Mum’s disapproval has always been an accurate barometer of what is cool”

I think they’ve got this very wrong indeed.

1) Surely teenagers know that their mums will disapprove of this. Do they really need a marketing campaign to spell it out for them
2) Rebellion against your mum is just part of a bigger rebellion at that age, what will happen when these teenagers realise that they are just being manipulated by a much bigger institution – won’t they reject having their motivations being dissected in this way?
3) We all now know that the majority of core gamers (ones who buy this sort of game) are now in their 20s and even 30s. Are those kinds of men still really trying to get a reaction of disapproval from their parents? Aren’t they in fact trying to hide the fact from their girlfriend or wife that they enjoy such childish pursuits?
4) Does anyone else feel uncomfortable about subjecting a perfectly nice group of mums to a series of what (in their minds) can only be described as offensive images and upsetting them in the process? It’s unneccesary and childish and I’m just glad that my mum wasn’t subjected to it.

It’s clear where this campaign originated – the marketing team at EA will have looked at the commercial success of some of the most controversial games (including the obvious GTA series) and have decided that the negative publicity in the likes of the Daily Mail was a big driver of that success. And they are probably right. The problem is, you can’t fake that sort of reactionary disapproval, and if you try, you’re trying too hard. The Daily Mail don’t want to sell more games for you, so as soon as they realise that you are seeking their disapproval in order to create more hype around your product they will just stop talking about you at all and you’ll end up paying people to talk about how shocking your game is rather than getting them to do it for free.

The fact is this game should do really well anyway, and word of mouth will grow around the true quality of the gameplay experience, not some marketing hype. I can’t help but feel that this is a case of a creative agency trying too hard to create a role for themselves when all that was needed is a good trailer and demo.

UPDATE: I’ve just watched a few more of the films of different mums and the more I see, the more I feel that this whole campaign was just mean spirited. These were perfectly good natured mums who have been scared and upset for the amusement of some creative agency execs. I really don’t approve and I hope it doesn’t work.

How to really piss off your “fans” -about time Facebook invented a “Dislike” button

Just saw this news piece from CNN

The quick summary is that Facebook will be allowing advertisers to use status updates that mention their brand as part of a “sponsored story” to any friends of the person who posted the update.

I’m half hoping that that is a spoof news story, because if it is true it is slightly horrifying, and a major shot in the foot by Facebook. It smacks of greed and desperation as Facebook continue to try to monetise their huge audience but without thinking about how their cash cow might react.

You can imagine the kind of discussion that led to this initiative

“Word of mouth is the single biggest influence on consumer brand preference isn’t it?”
“Yeah, so what brands want is to get as many advocates as possible right?”
“Right, so how about we allow brands to hijack positive user attitudes and stick a badge on it, surely that will work?”
“Yeah and we can charge them shit loads for the priviledge”
“Right… so will our users get upset that we are making money out of their status updates?”
“Who gives a fuck, it’s our site, if they don’t like it they can use MySpace!”
“Ho Ho Ho!”

It’s just wrong on so many levels

1) The power of WOM is that it is natural and spontaneous – If people have already bothered to include a brand in their status then a lot of their friends will already have seen it in a natural organic way and it has done it’s job. Taking that status out of context and treating it as a “sponsored story” can’t really add anything to the intial impact and instead makes it forced and unnatural and defeats the power of WOM

2) Consumers consider themselves to be the owners of any content they put on Facebook (or any other social network for that matter). To highlight to them in such a blatant way that as far as Facebook is concerned they own all content on the site is highly dangerous.

3) Who knows what the consumer response might be a) They might stop using any brand mentions because they don’t want to be associated with the advertising, b) They might start actively putting up negative brand mentions in the hope that they are accidentally paid for by the brand that has been mentioned, c) It might become the final straw for some people who are sick of the invasion of privacy and they’ll just leave Facebook

I’ve got more thoughts than time on this, I’ll have to come back to it later, but I do think that Facebook need to be incredibly careful here. You get the sense that they think they are invincible and untouchable, which is incredible considering their swift rise to prominence at the expense of other networks. No-one is indispensible in the digital world – just ask Lycos, AltaVista, IBM, Friendster, MySpace, MTV, AOL, Teletext – please feel free to add many more examples.

Shame on you Facebook

Marketing Assumptions – making an ass of you and mption.

I was involved in a discussion today about a client of mine that shall remain nameless, but has caused me to think about some of the basic assumptions that we tend to make in the marketing and particularly advertising industries and whether or not they are still (or were ever) true.

I was told today in a fairly categorical way that there are 3 basic things that every brand needs to do

1) It needs to make itself visible
2) It needs to make itself findable
3) It needs to stand for something

The assertion was that if a brand was not delivering on one of these areas then it would be fundamentally failing. This point was particularly being used to push home point 3) i.e. that we needed to do some Brand led advertising to establish the “positioning” of our brand in the category.

Initially it was quite easy just to go along with this as it supports pretty much all of the campaigns I have ever worked on, but then I started to ask the simple question “Why?”

Once I started to do that I realised that there were very successful and growing brands that “failed” on one, two or even all three counts.

I considered the energy category in the UK (I happen to work on one of the leading brands) and realised that the number 2 brand which has come out of nowhere in the past 5 years is Scottish and Southern. Scottish and Southern have virtually no brand advertising, well certainly none that I’ve ever seen, they don’t sponsor anything that I’m aware of either. And they don’t “stand for” anything that is differentiated in any way, their product is identical to everyone elses, Yet by simply focusing on getting their costs down and taking advantage of the online brokers, they have managed to steal a huge amount of market share. So of the 3 “must-do’s” they actually only do one and are very successful in doing so.

I then thought of a brand that actually has managed to be incredibly successful without making any effort to succeed at any of the 3. You all wear it and Bloomberg rated it as one of the top 30 most influential companies in the world a couple of years ago, you’ve even seen it on this page, yet there is a significant chance that you’ve never heard of it – YKK (stands for Yoshida Kōgyō Kabushikigaisha) are the initials that adorn most of the zippers in the world, but as far as I’m aware, they’ve never had a brand advertising campaign, they don’t have a brand positioning and I can’t even see a search strategy when I type zippers into Google, but I believe that they are one of the most prolific brands in the world.

And before you say “they aren’t a brand, they are just a product” then why are they now facing a counterfeiting problem with people making fake YKK zips.

Now you could argue that YKK stands for quality and Scottish and Southern stand for cheapness, but that could be just our marketing heads trying to force these brands into the models that we understand. I’m pretty sure that YKK never sat down and created a brand “onion” or compared themselves to a famous personality, they just got on with making good zips and getting clothing companies to put them on their products (Oh and a bit of illegal price fixing along the way leading to a €150million fine from the European courts!)

Anyway, the point is that we so quickly jump to answers in our industry that we simply don’t stop and ask “Why?” enough. Sometimes it is because we think that the client doesn’t know the answer and sometimes it is because we know that they do and we won’t like it. I don’t think that’s good enough. If we really want to make a difference for our clients and the brands we work on we have to start to challenge the fundamental assumptions sometimes and it just takes one word.

It’s Easy!

The future is here! (And it belongs to the gamers!)

Sorry for the absence, it has been the busiest end to a year that I can remember and now I’m off on holiday for a few weeks, so I thought I’d take this opportunity to wish everyone a happy Xmas. Mine is particularly happy because I got given a great early Christmas present.

In my role I’ve been talking with Microsoft on and off for the past couple of years and spent a lot of time discussing the Xbox platform and its value as an advertising medium. Those of you who have perused any of these pages in the past will know that I’m a bit of a gaming geek, but also that I’ve tried to champion the use of games as a potentially powerful marketing vehicle for a huge variety of products and brands.

In the spirit of that Microsoft were kind enough to send me their brand new Kinect peripheral to a) see what I thought of the product and b) see what I thought the opportunities could be for brands to use it to engage with consumers. I have to say I’m impressed!

I was just like a kid at Christmas as I got home and instantly plugged it in to my well loved Xbox. Within less than 5 minutes it had fully calibrated itself to the size and shape of my lounge, it had learnt to recognise me, and I was talking to my TV and it was listening! The talking to (well shouting at) my TV is nothing new, but this was definitely the first time it responded.

I probably spent about 2 hours just playing around with this new interface and convincing myself that I was Tom Cruise in Minority report. Very Exciting.

Once that excitement had worn off (OK it didn’t really, but it subsided slightly), I was able to actually get into the gaming side of things and again I was suitably impressed. The games had an instant intuitive feel that meant that I was able to get the wife to play along and she was even beating me. It has a very natural feel and because it analyses your entire body shape and movement in 3 dimensions, you can’t cheat it which means that us gamers can’t get better except the hard way. That’s great because it levels the playing field and allows me to share my enjoyment of gaming with my wife when previously I’d have had to wait until she was out or in bed!

So the first thing to think about from an advertising point of view is that gaming can now be seen as a way of targeting multiple users in a shared occasion rather than just solo-geeks, and that is potentially very powerful for a number of brands that would otherwise have never considered games to be a relevant medium

Obviously the Wii has been doing this for the past few years, but they’ve always been very protective of their environment with regards to brand partners. Wii Sports has always been off limits to us which has been a source of some frustration, but with Kinect Sports, they’ve made it very clear that there are distinct opportunities for advertisers. Currently Rare (the developer) owns all of the billboards, and they are very noticeable, but I’m assuming that they are just placeholders for paying clients.

The thing is though, that this still probably won’t be enough for most clients if all we can do is just stick some billboards into the games. It’s just more eyeballs and I believe that games have to offer something different if they want to get more than just novelty spend.

The fact is that when people are playing Kinect, they are more immersed than in any other entertainment medium. They are using their entire bodies to control on-screen avatars and they have a much more heightened sense of their virtual surroundings than in any other game type I have ever played. To this point I’d want to be able to engage and interact with the advertising formats in a way that reflects this immersion.

At one point in the game you have to choose between different game types and the menu system just requires you to hover over choice A or B. However if you move your hand so that the on-screen pointer moves off either A or B then it is hovering over the “crowd”. When you do that you find that the crowd respond to the presence of your pointer and perform a mexican wave that you can then effectively “conduct”. This small touch is disproportionately rewarding and surprising and fun. Again I probably spent a few minutes just experimenting with the menu system to see what other treats there were. If you could apply this type of interaction to the advertising formats then the players would not only choose to engage with the advertising but they would start to seek it out and feel much more positively towards it. That’s half the battle surely!

The opportunities for the Kinect are huge both from a gaming point of view and a marketing one. It is an incredibly powerful and sophisticated piece of technology that is sitting in family spaces and it could have incredible ramifications for not just gaming, but social media, communications, e-commerce, and most forms of entertainment. I’ve merely scratched the surface above and expect to write numerous articles on this before I’m done.

Well done Microsoft!

I really do put that *&%$ on everything!

Coming out of Charing Cross station this morning I was delighted to be presented with a free sample of Frank’s Red Hot sauce. Now for those of you who don’t know, Frank’s Red Hot is a brand of pepper sauce that works on just about everything. Milder than Tabasco, it doesn’t blow your head off, but just adds an extra something to any savoury dish. I recently discovered it in my local Sainsburys and I’ve been addicted ever since. My wife actually thinks I’ve ruined my tastebuds because of it.

Considering that, I was very pleased to see this new ad campaign from Frank’s

This campaign just brought home to me something that I’ve known for a while but have only really been putting into practice recently – that often the most important role of advertising is to engage with loyal supporters rather than acquiring new users. My good friend at Mediation (see left) once ran a debate where he stated that THE ONLY role of advertising was to reward and engage with loyal users. At the time he was shouted down, but I have to say I’m starting to agree with him.

Take this Franks example. I first became aware of their campaign on the radio earlier this week whilst doing DIY on my kitchen. I was more excited than is reasonable to be about a radio ad saying “I do, I do, I do put that shit on everything”. I proceeded to tell my wife about it and then look it up on the internet and found the US TV ads which I “Liked” on my Facebook profile. Suddenly in my head I went from being a weird bloke who put pepper sauce on all his food to being part of a club of weird blokes and one potty mouthed granny who put pepper sauce on all their food.

Then when I received two free sachets at Charing Cross this morning, I received them with glee and put them straight into my bag, then when I got to work I gave one to a colleague who I know likes spicy food and I’ve told at least 4 or 5 people today about it.(I told you, I’m weird) Suddenly, this ad campaign has changed my relationship with this brand. It has changed me from being someone who just consumed a pepper sauce product regularly to someone who is a now a Frank’s Evangelist. I’ve now discovered that the person who sits next to me is also a lover of Frank’s but until this campaign came around I’ve had no reason to bring it up so lived in tragic ignorance of the pepper soul mate to my left.

OK, maybe I’m getting a bit too excited about this, but to a certain extent it has turned my perception of the role of certain comms channels on it’s head. I would always assumed that the role of product sampling was to get new users to try a product – surely it wasn’t about generating loyalty with existing consumers, but certainly in this instance, I believe that the primary benefit to the brand of this sampling activity will be the effect that it has on loyal users. I struggle to believe that many people will douse their favourite food in an obscure condiment just because it was handed to them at a tube station, but I do believe that there will be a number of people like me who now feel empowered and enabled to tell their friends about their dirty little habit and even pass them a sample – even write a blog that at least one person might read.

I believe that this principle applies to a great deal of advertising. Most people’s true brand perceptions are formed by their hands on experience of that brand. Trial drives awareness more than awareness drives trial. Therefore often the role of advertising is actually to enable fans of a product to crystallise their existing opinion of a product and feel comfortable both consuming and recommending it rather than creating the perception in the first place. This is starting to seem more and more obvious to me, but it simply isn’t the way that any of my clients talk about the role of communications at the moment.

OK, Food geek out!