Miscellany and detritus, from the writer of Is This Mutton?com

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Monday, October 24, 2011

From butlers to Football League glory

Butlers to football sponsorship.....it's in all in a day of unsolicited emails from agencies and publishers desperate to win the business of my company.

I decided to keep a tally of how many emails I received in one day: Friday, 21 Oct. The number was 14, which was fairly average. It's never less than 10 a day and sometimes more than 25. Plus there are numerous cold calls a day to my office number, which, unsurprisingly, I don't return.

The first approach on Friday was a sweet one, coming from sweetsandcandy.co.uk, and offering tasty promotional treats for corporate hospitality.

A recruitment agency, Consumer Recruitment,  then contacted me saying they've recently had great success in placing butlers and clubbers. Well, could always be useful.....

There was a biggie before lunch, an offer of "The Intel Cup" if we decided to sponsor the Football League. I didn't like to highlight our very small scale sponsorship of struggling local team Swindon Town FC.

Now behind the daily deluge is the sad story of agencies going to the wall because of the recession, and desperate people trying to win new business. And I know what it's like being set targets for getting credentials meetings because there was a brief time when I had to do this, and it was torture.

A few tips to agencies on how to get breakthrough. Organising lunches with compelling speakers and networking opportunities is always a good way to get interest. But not giving 2 days' notice because, yep, we know why you've done that and it doesn't make us feel good, so we'll always say we're busy.

Basic research helps. A more personal approach, based on a quick Google search of what Intel has been up to in the UK, is bound to win my attention. I won't be impressed if you emailed my predecessor  (who left the role three years ago) because if your database is out of date, I'm sure the rest of your marketing will be too.

Boasting about you have "turned round" other companies doesn't do it for me. An agency recently sent me a lurid case study about how Nokia is in dire straits and they plan to relaunch the company. Ouch.

I don't like the hard nosed,  "assumptive close" practiced by US companies. I seem to be on a database in the US and the favoured approach there is to send me a meeting invitation "on behalf" of someone senior who can only offer me 30 minutes. As if they're doing me a favour!

Here's one I had on Friday: "I'd like to get on your calendar - please let me know a DATE and a TIME that works for you" - a vice president of Saving the Day Mobilezapp Apps (in the US). Whoa, stop shouting!

Spelling and punctuation mistakes will never endear any agency that is offering to approach consumers on our behalf. I automatically delete any emails where the humble apostrophe has been abused.

My top tip for agencies would be:- you're in it for the long haul. If a company is happy with its agencies, that might change in a couple of years. So keep a friendly dialogue going. Don't keep sending me PDFs to read. Remember some small personal details. Don't get peevish about me not returning your calls. If I'm not shopping for an agency, with the best will in the world I'm not going to call you back just because you want to pitch your business.

One of the best approaches I had recently was from OgilvyOne. The UK chief executive had read my entry in the Little Black Book of Marketing and referred to it. This established a bond, and I have kept their details on file.....which is not something I do very often.

Monday, October 17, 2011

Here come the girls

Had a fabulous catch-up in Tavistock with four former colleagues (left). It may have been more years than we care to remember since we first met in a portakabin in Plymouth, but we look darned good!  Back then, we were embarking on our journalists' training, and on Saturday night as we reminisced, we realised how fortunate we were to do  it and what a marvellous training it was.

One of the questions we asked at the weekend was "who still has their cuttings book?"  I still have mine, and the stories are typical of a small local paper of record. The South Devon Times cost twelve pence in 1980 and carried stories about local organisations, weddings, dog shows, the WI. We were sent on "prowls" of our particular patch, which I hated with a vengeance. In these pre-Google days, journalists were expected to go and find news.

One of my biggest stories was about a railwaymen's social club which forgot to renew its alcohol licence and was "dry" for a month. This story was picked up by the sister paper, the Daily Mirror.

Another of my most memorable stories was about the Yealm harbourmaster coming under fire at a local council meeting. I was sitting at the back of the room, unnoticed by the councillors, and came away with a story about "what had he been doing on the night two boats sank?!"

When the story was published there was a local outcry, and the next story was "Harbourmaster defended." The story ran for weeks and was even discussed at a public inquiry which I covered. I was persona non grata in the village of Noss Mayo, populated by a good many surgeon rear admirals and people with double barrelled names.

I was lucky enough to have my own column in the paper every week, where, as a 19 year old, I expatiated in pompous vein on a range of topics including cats, men's socks, and - right - defending parents from smug and silly teenagers.


Wednesday, October 12, 2011

Autumn viewing

Nancy Dell 'Ollio
As we look forward to the bitterly cold winter that we are promised,
the autumn TV viewing schedules are now in full swing.

Strictly Come Dancing as always launched with the predictable "best ever line-up." It's as predictable as the message "cooking doesn't get much tougher than this" over at Celebrity Masterchef.

The problem I see with SCD is that there's already one performer who is literally streets ahead of everyone else. Cheesy old Jason Donovan, who is determined to win. I can already see him in the final.

Holly Valance should probably also be there, but to my mind she comes across as lacking in energy. She doesn't fizz like the effervescent Chelsee Healey  (yes, I also asked "who?").

The most elegant dancer among the mature ladies is Anita Dobson, who is not only lithe and graceful but seems genuinely sweet. Lulu of course thought her experience and dynamism would make up for not knowing the steps in week 1 and was soundly punished. Nancy Dell 'Ollio, well, where do we start? She is apparently having regular hissy fits backstage, the latest being that she wanted to sue judge Bruno for saying it looked as if she had drunk a vat of champagne before her performance on Saturday.  (It did).

The thing with Nancy is that most of us think that when she says how fascinating and beautiful she is, she doesn't really mean it. But she actually does! The woman is completely delusional. J couldn't understand why she didn't get booted out right away, "because she's not a nice person." But that's exactly why she'll probably stay in for a while.

As for the others: well, Edina Currie severely over-egged the cougar bit and it became embarrassing, so that's why she went. I am worried about Russell Grant: I worry for his health and sanity. I love Robbie Savage. Beneath that brash extrerior, all teeth and hair and "I wuz a bad boy" he is quite vulnerable and couldn't believe the positive vibes his improved performance garnered. There's a couple of boring ones (to my mind) - Alex Jones and Dan Lobb from Daybreak. Oh and the drummer from McFly. But all in all, a compelling line-up!

Then there is Downton Abbey. Now I came late to this, having caught up with it when ITV repeated the first series a few months ago. Unfortunately, the new series is nowhere near as good. A lot of it makes me laugh outloud because it looks so much like the Comic Relief spoof. All those side glances.
The plot advances too quickly, like we're in a race. Lady Edith somehow managed to have a fling with a married man in the first episode which was history by the time the credits rolled.  After the acrimony in the first series created by upstart heir Matthew, we're suddenly led to believe that everyone adores him in the second series. And I'm fed up with the "will they won't they" business with him and Lady Mary. That's one bit of the plot that could advance.

A couple of other gems I am watching.  "The Department Store" is a fascinating little documentary on BBC 4. It's a gentle, wry look at three old-fashioned family-run department stores. The narrator says he is finding out if they will survive, but it's more about finding out about the people who run the stores. The first programme featured a store called Milner's and wondered if David Milner was serious about retiring at 65. Mr Milner is exactly the sort of mature employee who gives the over 60s a bad name. He was dogmatic, entirely resistant to change and unwilling to hand over the store to his daughter - exactly as his own father had refused to do with him. Even during his own retirement party, he slipped out to go back to work.

I really don't remember much about the pop group Steps so I was amazed to hear in Steps Reunion how they considered themselves to be about as big as the Beatles with numerous number one hits. They broke up amid acrimony over 10 years ago when Claire "serial dieter" Richards and the absurdly named "H" suddenly announced they were leaving, an hour before the last show.

As none of them has done much since then, "Steps Reunion" is a series that gives us the chance to witness them bitching and fighting about the break-up, with Lee even going so far as to magically produce H's resignation letter; and then presumably they kiss and make-up, because I see a tour has now been announced.  The series has been strangely compelling, though I feel a bit guilty for watching what J calls "proper rubbish."

Monday, October 03, 2011

Ditch the cougar talk

Three fabulous ladies were in the news this week - and not for the right reasons.

The bitchy female columnists were whipping themselves up into a frenzy over the news that Demi Moore's husband appears to have cheated on her. They seemed to be of one mind: Demi could now stop making herself look young and glamorous; put on an old dressing gown, have a cup of tea and find an old codger.

Frankly Demi, you're way too good for him. He might look cute but his films are rubbish and his behaviour, if it's true, is childish and arrogant.

Meanwhile Elizabeth Hurley, 48, is thrilled to be engaged to Aussie Shane Warne. But the newspapers decided to run the views of "friends" who seem to think that Hurley is rushing into things and it will all end in tears.

And finally the redoubtable Anne Robinson, 67, was under fire for wearing fabulous clothes. A (gasp!) tote bag costing over fifteen hundred pounds. A beautifully flattering Michael Kors dress. And (shock!) high heels.

Yes ladies, feminism is well and truly dead when it's the female writers who can't wait to get their claws into three ladies whose only crime is discipline and focus on looking good.

Anyone could put on a dressing gown and let it all hang out over 40. But Demi, Elizabeth and Anne have imposed rigorous discipline on their lives to look good. And they'll be fitter and more athletic than all their blobby counterparts. Who cares if they've had help along the way? All three are a great advert for the best in cosmetic surgery, fillers or whatever they're using.

I can't understand this obsession with criticising women who spend money on the odd handbag. Do we castigate Jeremy Clarkson and his ilk for buying flash cars? Yet if you're saying that Anne Robinson et al should buy some old tote from Dorothy Perkins, then Clarkson and his gang could equally drive a Clio or Smart car.

If the ladies have earned their money, let them enjoy it!
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