Category: technology

Samsung Galaxy Note 10.1 – The best advertising is a great product

I wrote a post a few weeks back after the launch of the “new” ipad, where I bemoaned the fact that Apple seemed to have fallen in to a trap of marketing “more” rather than “new” or “different” – so the “new” iPad was just the old ipad but with more pixels and the faster processor required to cope with more pixels. I compared it to the Galaxy Note 10.1 which incorporated a digitizer and “smart” stylus that I really could see having a revolutionary role in work life.

The problem with the Galaxy Note 10.1 however is that they had forgotten the “more” part. So as Apple were redefining the standard of screen technology, Samsung’s 1280×800 screen seemed positively archaic – It is barely better than their new Galaxy s3 which is a quarter of the screen area. It is a similar mistake that Samsung have made with the Galaxy s3 – by all accounts a brilliant device, but the thing that has got the fanboys foaming is that they haven’t upgraded the camera beyond the original 8MP. The fact that improving the number of pixels beyond 8MP usually has a detrimental effect on picture quality is lost on most people – all they understand is “more”

So it is really interesting to see that Samsung have actually delayed the release of their new tablet in order to make it a truly competitive device and add “more” to “different”. Early rumours were that they were just delaying it in order to incorporate a faster quad core processor, but in the past 24 hours runours have emerged that they are also incorporating one of the fastest Graphics chips on the market, which would only be necessary if they were also significantly increasing the screen size. As a gadget geek who would really rather never buy an Apple product this is exciting as it sounds like this new tablet could be a product that I can buy without compromise, where no-one with an iPad can have any sense of superiority.

It’s a brave move, but given the success of the 10.1’s baby brother (the Confusingly named Galaxy Note) it suggests that there is a market for this product and it could finally bring some diversity could open up the market and challenge Apple’s dominance.

All that, and yet no advertising or promotions or any form of formal communications. Just a great product.

here’s hoping

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If only Apple had been around in the 1880s, We’d have the fastest, prettiest iHorse ever by now.

I haven’t had an Apple rant in about a year, so those fanboys out there can look away now, you know what to expect. Except the next line might surprise you.

Apple’s NEW iPad went on sale last week to rapturous acclaim from all the Apple acolytes around the world, and for the first time ever, I wanted one. I’ve never truly desired any product made by Apple, (I know, I’m weird,) but when I saw this NEW iPad I had an irrational urge to own one. Well for about 5 minutes anyway.

After a period of soul-searching to try to understand this deviation in my character I realised that it was just one simple thing –

It’s “more” pretty.

That’s it.

OK if you are going to push it, it is prettier due to a really impressive high-resolution so called “retina” display.

And that is it. Just like the iPad 2 (and the original iPad) but a bit “More”

As far as I can tell the NEW iPad is nothing except a series of incremental improvements to the iPad 2 with one big incremental improvement to the screen. All the other improvements to camera and processing power are just to make sure that the experience of using the NEW iPad lives up to the experience of using the old one (because 4 times as many pixels requires a lot more processing power to render and photos from a 3 megapixel camera would look pretty crap on that screen)

As far as I can tell, there is absolutely nothing new or inventive or innovative about the NEW iPad. And yet people will buy it in their droves because of that screen. It is a truly breathtaking piece of technology with images displayed in the usual slick Apple way and people will have a visceral gut reaction to it that will overcome any rational objections to the rest of it. Apparently 16,000 iPad2s recently landed on ebay as all the leading majority decided that they just HAD to upgrade.

And that in a nutshell is what Apple do best. They make faster horses, because that’s what everyone wants. They’ve realised that they could spend vast amounts on R&D creating completely new product functionality 90% of which would be a commercial failure, or they can just wait for Samsung or Sony or Acer or Archos or HTC or even Nokia to develop something new that is a commercial success and then they’ll spend a couple of years thinking about it and eventually release it (in an admittedly perfect incarnation) as a great new innovation.

What they would never do for example is release something like the Samsung Galaxy Note 10.1.

This is a new Android tablet from Samsung that incorporates a true digital stylus with a digitised screen (the technology used by CAD Draftsmen to design pretty much everything). It looks pretty amazing and I can see a huge amount of potential functionality that it provides that no other tablet can do. I also think that there is a good chance that it will be reasonably commercial successful. The original Galaxy Note has seen pretty respectable sales (after an admittedly slow start) considering that it is a fairly niche product that sits half way between a phone and a tablet and I actually think that the market for the 10.1 is significantly bigger. I’m pretty sure that I want one.

The thing is, it’s fine to have a corporation that just make perfected, more expensive versions of products that other companies invented. It’s absolutely fine and frankly we deserve products that just WORK the way that Apple products do. It was absolutely great for Apple to be the way they are when they were the challenger brand, forcing Microsoft to stay honest.

The problem comes when that corporation becomes the biggest company in the world.

It’s a problem when they move from being a niche minority product for rich people to being the market leader that has a vested interest in maintaining the status quo. It is a problem when their sales volumes are so high that they can actually price traditionally cheaper more innovative competitors out of the market. That is when you start to see a stagnation in innovation.

And I think that we are already seeing it. Take a look at the new HTC range. HTC has been a really interesting challenger to Apple’s domination over the past few years, but their recent showing at the technology expo’s is worrying. The new HTC One X is their new flagship phone and what does it actually do that is new? More pixels on the screen, better camera, faster processer. Sound familiar? It’s just another faster horse.

The problem also is an issue for Apple itself: Apple are the most valuable company in the world and yet they only really make about 4 products. There is zero room for failure in that model. If the next iPad or iPhone or Airbook came out and bombed, that would be 25% of their business in serious jeopardy. So they will always err on the side of caution and keep making faster horses rather than take any real risks. They’ve tried it once or twice with products such as Apple TV, but there was very little conviction in that effort. Apple are stuck in a cycle where they have to keep making the same product with just a bit “more” over and over again. They actually need the other companies to test new innovations on the public or they will have nothing to copy!

Well I for one will be supporting the true innovators, the companies that are willing to take a chance, that accept the fact that with true progress comes the chance of failure. I might end up buying a shit product, true, but I might just end up supporting something that actually moves the pace of technology forwards a tiny bit and I can feel good about that.

Giving the Finger to Rules of Thumb

I work in an industry where we seem to rely an awful lot on rules of thumb to make important and expensive decisions about how to spend marketing budgets. The next 1000 words are a bit of a rant about why I hate that, but also why it means I love my job! For those of you who don’t work in media or marketing this one might not be as fun as some of my other rants – don’t say I didn’t warn you.

Now rules of thumb are useful. They are useful so that you don’t have to start from scratch every time you look to make a budget decision. They are useful to spot something that is completely out of line with efficient and effective media principles. They are really useful when you are inevitably asked to pull together a recommendation by yesterday as they provide a shortcut to an answer which will probably be 70-80% correct (which is a damn sight better than if the client made it up themselves.)

Where they are really not useful, where they are in fact a hindrance, is when planners and marketers choose to abdicate their own intuitive sense and reasoning capabilities and instead use rules of thumb as planning LAW.

So some examples.

As a rule of thumb, IPA Datamine 2 (Marketing in an age of accountability) suggests that 3 media channels is the optimum number of channels to maximise the likelihood of delivering a positive business ROI for a campaign (This is also broadly supported in Datamine 3).

This is a useful rule. It tells me that if I spend a £20million budget exclusively on TV then I could probably improve my chances of success by diverting some of the budget into a different support medium. It also tells me that if my £10 million campaign has 8 different bought media channels on it then I should probably think about focusing or prioritising, ensuring that each of them is adding something new and valuable to the overall campaign. What it doesn’t mean is that a campaign which uses 5 different media is fundamentally wrong in all circumstances. From the graph we can obviously see that isn’t the case as over 50% of the case studies that used 5 media WERE successful, but it is just that the likelihood of success starts to decrease.

I was recently told that we shouldn’t add a “video marketing” strand to a TV campaign because we already were using press and radio in support of the TV campaign and so “online” would be an extra channel too far. This fundamentally misunderstood a) how the rule of thumb works and b) how people consume audio visual content in the 21st century. I’ve also been told variously that we shouldn’t include social media, PPC search and even SEO using the same rationale.

A number of things are to blame here

1) there is a mis-understanding by marketeers of the term “media channel” in the Datamine study. Media channels as defined in that context are traditional paid for advertising channels that allow you to broadcast a message to many people. Unfortunately “media channels” has been applied by the marketeers to anything that is managed for them by their Media Planning and Buying agency. In a world where the media agency remit is expanding far beyond the 5 traditional advertising media, this needs to change. Marketeers wouldn’t lump PR or sales promotions or CRM or any of the other core marketing functions into this “only 3 media” rule, so neither should they with social media or search

2) There is another form of siloing happening here as well – In this example, online video marketing is seen as a separate “channel” from television. However if all you are doing is ensuring that your TVC is discoverable in all places that people view AV content then it is clearly just an extension of “TV”. Unfortunately, fear of the unknown causes people to create false media segmentation and in doing so can miss out on a golden opportunity for cost effective amplification of their core advertising message.

The fundamental problem here is that people aren’t interrogating the rule. They aren’t asking “Why is 3 the optimum number” they are just accepting it as a shorcut and lazily using it as “the answer”. I’ve even heard of agencies where the mandate from the very top is “we do not use more than 3 media channels in any campaign” and they take great pride in their lazy inflexibility. I agree with the principle of “do fewer things, better” but to have such a coarse rule offends my natural tendency to question, explore and push the boundaries of what communications can do.

It isn’t just in broad planning that we see these “rules of thumb” being used badly.

I’ve recently heard them used to justify quite specific media implementation. The product was an NPD for an FMCG brand that a colleague of mine works on and specifically it had a brand spanking new innovation which needed a bit of explanation. The team rightly identified that part of the role for communications was to demonstrate this functionality and so they allocated a portion of the budget for “demonstration” media. Where this fell down was by using rules of thumb badly. The logic went something like this

1) Digital media is good at “demonstration” because it can be animated (TV wasn’t an option due to budget constraints),
2) Women spend a lot of time shopping

ergo: We should do digital 6-sheet posters in Malls – obviously

To have gone ahead with this would have been completely wrong for a number of reasons: 1)the 5 seconds of animation on the poster simply wouldn’t have been adequate for the message; 2) the attention of the average Mall shopper is being demanded constantly by hundreds of more interesting items – primarily the shop windows that they are gazing into – they aren’t going to spend any time watching a reel of posters in case something relevant pops up; 3)this audience is in “fun” shopping mode, they are thinking about buying the stuff that makes them feel sexy/cool/young etc – what they aren’t thinking about is what they are going to feed their kids that evening. I could go on.

The point is that the “rules of thumb” suggested that this was a relevant media, but intuitively it is really clear that it would be a inappropriate use of marketing money against those comms objectives. The problem is that some people had just stopped at the answer that the rule of thumb delivered, without really applying any understanding of why the rule of thumb existed and whether or not it truly applied to the human behaviour in question.

And this in turn brings me to my final conclusion – Why I love my job. Yes I hate the way that too many marketing services professionals use lazy rules of thumb to make their media decisions for them, but the nature of the media industry means that there will always be a place for people to question received wisdom as we work in an industry that is constantly evolving and changing. Since I started in media 12 years ago, the media opportunities are virtually unrecognisable in so many ways. As new media channels constantly come to the fore, any “rule of thumb” inevitably has to be re-evaluated and there will always be a place for people who understand not just the basic rules about what works in communications, but for people who always ask why it works so that they can intuitively understand whether the latest greatest media phenomenon is actually relevant or a big noisy red herring. No computer or “Black Box” planning tool is ever going to be able to do that, well not in my lifetime anyway!

Bring on the next 12 years.

Sustainable Communications vs Media Exploitation – a Manifesto

I’ve been working in media and communications strategy for over 11 years now and I’ve been writing this blog for about 3 or 4 years on and off and I’ve never thought to write a manifesto; Something that puts in writing the basic principles of what I believe to be best practice in our industry and the fundamentals against which I hope to measure my own actions.

There are a few reasons why I haven’t done this:

1) It never occured to me before

2) Even if it had I wouldn’t have expected anyone to have any desire to read it

3) I didn’t really ever consolidate these “basic principles” in any way that didn’t involve a beer fuelled chat with media buddies in the pub.

Well that’s changed recently and here I am trying to set out my manifesto because:

1) It’s occured to me to do so

2) It doesn’t matter how many people read it, but many thanks if you are

3) I think that our industry really needs to start looking at the consequences of our behaviour and start to invest in the future.

The source of this manifesto (well it’s more of a mission statement really) came from a conversation with the Chief Architect of Bing in the UK, Dave Coplin. We were discussing recent developments with Bing’s equivalent of Streetview and he was outlining his strategy for ensuring that the privacy of individuals was protected as far as possible, whilst maintaining maximum utility for users (which could potentially invade their privacy.) What became clear is that he considered ” a right to privacy” (in the digital media world) to be an implied contract between individual and service provider. People actually give up their right to privacy all the time as long as they are getting clear value in return and they are in control of what happens to the information they divulge. What became clear in our conversation was the care and attention that Microsoft were investing in ensuring that the “contract” with consumers was always preserved -that they always knew what they were giving up and what value they were receiving in return.

The words “value exchange” are bandied around an awful lot, but in Dave’s eyes it was fundamental to Microsoft’s entire relationship as a media owner with consumers.

This formed the spark for the philosophy and manifesto that I’m about to deliver so here goes:

Here’s what I believe:

1) Human attention is a valuable natural resource, allowing us to learn about the world around us, adapt our behaviour for optimal utility of that world and to evolve our attitudes for maximum enjoyment of the world

2) Human attention is NOT an infinite resource, there is only so much new information we can take in at any time and only so many things that we can be persuaded to care about

3) All marketing and communications require that we capture that human attention

4) Human attention naturally concentrates and clusters around certain content and media because of the value it contributes to their lives, NOT because of the amount of advertising they find there

5) Just like any natural resource, over-exploitation of the human attention to media will inevitably lead to the dilution and eventual destruction of that attention and make it impossible for us to harness it any way, positive or negative.

(Yeah I love that pic!)

6) It should therefore be the responsibility of advertisers to not just exploit a medium for the audience that it attracts, but to invest in that medium with sustainable communications to ensure that it continues to deliver value to consumers and in turn provide a continuing resource for brands to communicate to those audiences.

Some advertisers might claim that they already do this – by paying to advertise in a medium they say they are investing in the quality of content that medium can provide.  And maybe that used to be true. Maybe some consumers do watch advertising in the knowledge that they are entering into a contract with the media channel to “pay” for the content they choose to watch by also watching content that they would rather not. However I think we are deluding ourselves if we think this is true of most advertising messages.

As advertisers we “buy” an audience that media owners “sell” to us. Because of that we think we have a right to put pretty much anything we can get away with in front of that audience and we approach every consumer contact with the question  “what can my brand get out of this?”.

A perfect example of this is the recent news story that Ford had “secured” a corporate page on Google+. What I found remarkable about this was that a) Ford had ignored Google’s request for advertisers to back off until they had worked out how to showcase corporate accounts and b) No-one seems to have a clue what Ford are doing there and what they hope to get out of it. All that they seem interested in is the fact that there are 10 million+ people already signed up and that it is currently unexploited so they get to be first. No-one knows how people are using Google+, what it is all about and what they can get out of it, but Ford are happy to steam in and plant their corporate size 9 footprints over everything.

This shouldn’t be surprising. As soon as an emerging technology develops into something that looks a bit like a “medium” then every client I have wants to know “How should I be using it?” There is an assumption that if there is an audience then we should be exploiting it. The same happened with Twitter and I can’t even think about doing a campaign without being asked “what will my facebook page look like”.

I also look  at the dead and dying media brands that have failed to keep up with the ever increasing demands of advertisers and investors and so have been abandoned by the wayside. Internet brands such as Myspace that has effectively been ditched – at a loss of half a billion dollars –  because no-one could work out how to make it work for advertisers.

I start to feel an element of responsibility for this. If every  new medium is disected and assessed solely based on it’s ability to generate advertising income then potentially viable media products and businesses that could have had another business model are simply allowed to fade away.

Now maybe this isn’t a problem whilst there is a steady flow of sacrificial lambs for us to exploit, plunder and destroy, and maybe it is fine when consumers don’t have a choice whether or not we target them, but I believe the days of being able to exploit media with impunity are numbered. Consumers have more and more tools that enable them to choose whether to engage with advertisers or not and the longer we abuse their good will and force interruption to their media consumption with unwelcome messages, the quicker they will learn how to switch us off. Indeed there is legislation coming which will force consumers to make that choice (see anti-cookie European legislation)

So here’s where I start my campaign for sustainable communication (I got here eventually!).

I believe that the most successful advertisers in the next 20 years will be those that understand that we have a duty to respect the contract between advertisers and consumers and deliver true value in our communications.

We need to ensure that we are investing in successful media, not just by buying media space, but by delivering content and messages that in and of themselves increase the value that consumers take out of that media space. Rather than saying “what’s the next big thing” all the time, we should be saying “how do we make the current big thing work better for consumers” so that we don’t have to start all over again when we have bullied them out of the media that they used to love.

For my part, whenever I am asked to consider a new media opportunity, I am going to endeavour to start with the question “How can I make that media better for the consumers who are consuming it” rather than “How can I make a quick buck here”. And let me be clear – another generic TV ad with animated animals or a beautiful woman selling perfume does not make my experience of that medium better. Most ads that your average advertiser likes are frankly wallpaper for your average consumer.

Over the next few weeks and months I will be adding examples of campaigns that are either examples of great sustainable communications or worrying examples of media exploitation.

Please feel free to send me any good examples of either.

As a starter for 10, please check out the mediaweek award shortlisted Panasonic Advertiser funded programme “How to take stunning pictures”. This was a piece of TV content on channel 5 that out-performed it’s alloted programming slot and was hugely popular with consumers and client alike. In addition Panasonic were able to clearly convey their commitment to helping the average photography enthusiasts get the most out of amateur photography. And it sold Panasonic Lumix cameras – lots of them.

In #myextrahour I’ll disect this new twitter campaign

I returned from new York last Sunday to discover this campaign from Europcar had cropped up all over London.

For those of you not in London, the basic premise is that Europcar’s new service “FreeDeliver” will save you time, essentially giving you an extra hour in your day to do with as you will. I first saw this campaign on a fairly standard panel on a train and noticed at the bottom it suggested that I should twitter what I would do with #myextrahour.

My initial reaction was somewhat cynical “Really? People are going to bother tweating about Europcar? and are Europcar’s audience really on Twitter anyway?”. I believe that social media can be a powerful force in the right campaigns, but it has to be an organic process. Surely the UK public aren’t going to fall for this are they?

But the general commentary amongst my peer-group was pretty positive and when I looked into it, this was a well structured media campaign. The static posters drove people to twitter, but in turn their tweets were being displayed on Digital 6 sheets and billboards across London allowing consumers to broadcast their ideas for how to spend their spare time. I also thought that this was a pretty brave approach and at least they are trying to do something a bit different. It definitely stands them apart from their competitors.

But then my cynicism kicked back in and I decided to follow #myextrahour to find out what people were saying. I discovered that people tweeting it divided up into 5 groups

1) People who work for Ogilvy (the creative agency running the campaign) complying with the spirit of the campaign and suggesting activities for the extra hour that ranged from the banal to the inane
2) People who work in social media and web marketing hooking up with Ogilvy in a mutual love-in and orgy of self congratulation
3) People who suggested defacing the campaign in their extra hour
4) People trying to get past the moderator and get profanity onto a London Billboard
5) One guy who was using it to send people to a competitor site (enterprise) and lots of people re-tweeting the “Corporate Twitterbot FAIL” that ensued.

oh and 6) Europcar

In total since Saturday there have been about 60 tweets, and I can’t find one that is from an actual member of the public who has engaged with this campaign in a non-cynical and genuine way.

This a) makes me happy because I was right and b) makes me sad because I was right.

I just don’t think that a brand like Europcar which has no defined brand identity or personality (or none that exists outside of their own marketing team) can drive a social media movement in this way and expect people to actually bother engaging. We are a cynical bunch, particularly in London and we won’t be told what to think, what to share or how. Fundamentally people don’t have an overwhelming urge to engage with advertising campaigns and to get them to do so you need to deliver a great deal more value to them than this campaign does.

Whenever I look at campaigns like this I revert to my standard motto which is “what does the consumer actually get out of this”, and in this case, I really have no answer.

I also think that if you insist on trying something like this you need a much clearer call to action and use a media that can really bring “an extra hour” to life in an emotionally engaging way. This seems to be crying out for a full-on “Bisto” style emotional TV treatment that might just cut through our cynicism, bring a moment of laughter, joy, nostalgia, etc into people’s lives and maybe, just maybe get people to share some truly inspirational and worthwhile thoughts.

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!

Introducing the very aptly named HTC Sense

So the follow up to the HTC Desire is nearly upon us – the HTC Desire HD. Not very imaginatively named I know, and you could be mistaken for thinking that this was just another iterative update, but I think that this new phone actually represents a landmark in the smartphone market, a quiet changing of the guard even.

HTC have been around for a while making loads of different smartphones of consistently high quality, but they’ve never really managed to get people excited about them as a brand.

The first HTC Desire started to change all that. It was the first phone that really started to compete with and even outdo the iPhone. One of HTCs biggest problems however was one of branding. HTC isn’t a brand it’s an acronym – the High Tech Company. And each phone they brought out tried so hard to sound exciting, but just ended up sounding a bit naff – the Hero, the Magic, the Legend, Nexus One, the Desire.

None of these phones quite lived up to their names, none of them was the giant killer that they were supposed to be (even the Desire) and none of them managed to become a brand in their own right. There’s nothing that was able to compete on a brand level with “iPhone”

So what is different now?

1) The first thing that has gone right for them is that they managed to land during a lull in the Apple marketing machine and indeed when Apple did come back into the frame it was a with a bit of a mixed bag. Bias aside, the iphone 4 is a admittedlygreat bit of kit, but not without it’s highly publicised technical flaws, and the iPad, though a joy to use is always going to have the “It’s just a big iPhone” type comparison. In this context, HTC and the Desire have managed to compete on a more level PR playing field with Apple, which would just have been unheard of 18 months ago

2) They’ve stuck with the Desire name and turned it into a franchise – the Desire HD and the Desire Z both come out in the next few weeks and their respective marketing campaigns will start to generate significant recognition for the name. This might not seem significant, but when you look at all the different names they and their competitors are using, it’s probably the first non-apple phone since the Motorola RAZR to achieve such a thing.

3) They are bringing out different models for different consumers – the Desire HD is clearly aimed at the entertainment focused user, the Desire Z (with a slide out Qwerty keyboard) is aimed at the business user and frankly I’m surprised they didn’t call the Wildfire a Desire Mini to appeal to the financially challenged teen market. This enables consumers to buy into a successful franchise without having to make compromises and represents a significant departure from the iPhone way of doing things.

These are all interesting developments and important for establishing HTC as a brand, but I think the most exciting thing they’ve done is not to do with the actual phone but instead is a piece of news that I just found out about

With the launch of the two new Desire models they are also launching a website called http://www.HTCSense.com . This website, (named after the highly acclaimed “Sense” user interface that HTC have created for their windows and android phones) will provide some really compelling functionality for all users of HTC phones. Examples of this functionality include:

– The ability to make your phone ring loudly if you have lost it – even if you have it on silent.

– The ability to find your phone on Google Maps if you have lost it further afield

– The ability to post a “REWARD” message onto the screen of a lost phone for anyone who finds it

– Not just limited to finding lost phones, if you leave your phone at home, you will also be able to send and receive text messages and see any missed calls that you have

As people become more and more dependent on their phones these are all highly valuable functions and services that will really start to make the HTC brand really sticky. I assume that the services will also include an automatic syncing of their contacts with their online account.

This is HTC really planning for the long term. When consumers come to upgrade their current HTC Sense driven phones, they will be incredibly reluctant to have to leave all of those services behind and have to install them in a new device. The HTCSense.com can expect to generate a powerful sense of loyalty and stickiness that only Apple has come close to so far

This is the first time since the launch of the first iPhone that I’ve seen a mobile technology provider really start to do something different for it’s consumers. I for one really hope it works