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Wednesday, 29 June 2011

Is it free or isn’t it? To me it reads exactly like a big fat lie. And other things that don't seem right

Why pay for Wi-FI when you can get it for free?” said the message that appeared on my screen. It was there because my connection with the BT Home Hub – God, how I hate these names – had vanished. God, how I hate BT.

It went on with more lick-your-own-arse bilge.

“BT Total Broadband provides you with a great broadband service in and out of the home. You'll become part of the award winning BTFON network and be able to use hundreds of thousands of Openzone and BTFON hotspots for free.”

Wow! The very apex of my ambition – to become part of their award-winning network. What part can I play? Can I be a humble plug? Or a sturdy cable? Or a little flashing light? Or a thingy that connects me to the wrong place? Or a tenth rate copywriter whose work is made even worse by a clueless marketing tosser?

For the thousandth time I ask myself: what moron writes this stuff or lets it out of the door?

Hang on, though, what is this I see? At the bottom it says “1 hour £3; 1 day £5; all the way up to £30 days £39”.

Is this free? I think not. What I do think is that the person who authorised this should be fined and then thrown out on the street. If it were a financial ad they would get hit for tens, maybe hundreds of thousands.

Other things that don't seem right to me on this sunny morning:

That public servants whose pay is on average higher than that of us who pay them and who have on average infinitely better pension provisions than us (who mostly have none) are going on strike.

That the boss of Nationwide Building Society gets paid a million a year and wants more. That the lowest paid of his fellow directors gets £800,000. I imagine there's pension provisions on top. And phoney payments specially devised to fatten their wodges even more.

Throw those grasping wretches out, too. What new idea did they ever come up with? They just crawled their way to the top of the heap. They're no better than the bankers - just haven't had the chance to screw it up as much.

Monday, 27 June 2011

One of the great mysteries of the universe - and what it costs. Plus an opportunity if you are a charity

Two weeks ago I was interviewed by bvo.com - the bv stands for business visions, or in my case nightmares.

Actually it was a rather good interview, but it's not up yet - I think they're still removing the bad language.

Much of this was provoked by a question about marketing directors - or more exactly - how they are chosen.

There appears to be little rhyme and less reason in the process. I sometimes think firms take more trouble with references for secretaries than for marketing directors. To give you an example, a charity recently hired as marketing director someone with no experience in direct mail or direct marketing - but experience in re-branding.

I confidently predict tears before bedtime.

It is VERY hard to raise money nowadays. If you have no experience of the essential discpilines, I imagine it will be much harder. And if one of your first acts is to fire the agency which has done an outstanding job for nine years and knows more about the charity than you do, you really are taking chances.

Of course, I could be wrong - I am regularly. But if you're interested in results. check these out.

This is how much money they have pulled in over the last nine years the agency has held the account. Look how consistent the performance is. The old agency used to raise about £700-800k a year and a couple of million in legacies.

YearDirect FRGift AidLegacies

Direct FR Total£13,876,724.65

Grand Total

All this they did with an annual budget of around £350,000. If you know about these things you know that, unless your charity is about animals, kids or cancer, those are pretty amazing figures.

The man responsible is called Bill Fryer -
I have known him for about 15 years.

I am biased as I'm his chairman - but the only reason I became his chairman is because he rarely - if ever - fails to beat what he is up against.

You can email me if you want to know more - or go straight to him - bill@billfryer.com.

His website is full of interesting info, too.

He's very reasonable because his agency is Warminster a few miles down from Bath - and because he never pays me any money.

I have known him for about 15 years. Very quiet, and very good.

Tuesday, 21 June 2011

The cloud of unknowing - more damn "creativity" than I need, thank you kindly. Plus Call Centre Frolics

I would be astounded if you hadn't seen umpteen references to The Cloud.

There have been ads and posters promoting it all over the place. I have actually been benefiting from it unknowingly.

But the one thing I have never seen until now in any of this great creative outpouring is a simple explanation of what it is and why it's so important.

To find that I had to turn to my favourite source of what's going on in the world - The Week.

They edited a description in The Guardian down to: "Your data - emails, documents, photos, music are stored remotely on line rather than on your computer's hard drive so you can access them from anywhere with an internet connection."

Why didn't they just say that somewhere in the ads?

On a completely different topic, I keep being asked to enter the European Call Centre and Customer Service Awards.

Is there one for bad targeting? I hope there is for Least Helpful Bank with the Grand Prix for Most Buttons Pressed Before You Talk To A Live Person plus the Special Award for Least Comprehensible Explanation of Something Simple.

Who will win the biggie for Most Impossible Question Asked To Identify Yourself. And what about The System that Caused Most Customers to Smash Their Phones To Bits?

The field is wide open - as it is for my next copy seminar. The one in Bristol had 105 people. One person wanted his money back as it was too advanced. That is the first-ever money back request I think I have ever had. Thank God it wasn't because it was just bloody awful.

Anyhow, a lot of people who couldn't come to Bristol have asked if I'd do one in London or somewhere in the North.

If I were able to think today, I could work out what's best to do - but I can't. Trying to talk sense and be pleasant from first thing in the morning till late at night is bloody exhausting, believe me.

And in two days I'm doing it all over again in Sofia. I think I'll go back to bed.

Sunday, 19 June 2011

Isn't it time your dog had his own wristwatch? And how about Stink-o-vision?

Don't laugh. I'm fairly serious.

Last week I went with my beloved to a splendid restaurant near us in Bristol that was running a Portuguese evening, and this is one of the useful ideas we picked up.

The wristwatch in question runs seven times faster than an ordinary one, because it works - but you guessed, didn't you? - on dog years.

Equally indispensable are: an indicator for cars that tells people you're going straight ahead, tights with three legs - if you ladder one leg, there's always a spare hanging around - and TV with smells.

How did I come by these ideas for the busy lunatic?

Because we got into conversation with two chaps on our table who both work for the U. K. patent office, and these are some of the ideas they told us about that have been submitted in all seriousness by questing minds.

In fact the indicator idea has been suggested quite a few times.

But none of these fine ideas can compete with a comedian called Adeel Chowdhry.

This philanthropist just "revealed" his rare secret that will "add $459,625 to your bottom line every month with hardly any effort and no investment, as well a key loophole" that he "taps into" into five times a month to flood his site with 1,261,863 visitors on demand.

Pull my other leg. It's got bells on it.

Friday, 17 June 2011

Sold out - and a mystery that never fails to astonish: the paradox of the clueless

I was going to write again about the appalling Berlusconi, because my last piece only gave a faint idea of what a shameless crook he is, but it's hard work trying to explain the complexities of politics, mafioso style.

However, the chance to explain why everyone in Italy has had the pleasure of hearing the man running Italy called a piece of shit by one of the ladies who was procuring his hookers - and not once but several times on the most popular TV show in the country - is too good to miss, so I hope to return to that.

At a loss as to what to write I have meanwhile - with commendable restraint - quelled my urge to keep bombarding folk with compelling reasons why they should be savouring every syllable at my copy seminar next Monday, as it seems pretty well sold out - assuming we can agree with each other on the numbers.

So at a loss for something to do, my partner Al and I whacked out an email this morning to find a handful of business partners for something he has been quietly perfecting behind my back.

The results were predictable.

By predictable, I mean that those who need least help are always most likely to reply; and those who need it most show no interest whatsoever. It's a phenomenon I have noticed repeatedly over the half century I've been in marketing. I guess it's one reason why the rich get rich and vice versa.

The key to success in marketing , as in all else in life, is to know how well or badly you're doing, and which respects. Without this knowledge you cannot possibly know what to change and the results of such changes.

The great blessing of the internet, from a marketing perspective, is that you can very quickly see in far greater detail than was possible previously what happens and often why.

The results can be startling. Al once suggested to a client that he move 8 words from the beginning of a questionnaire to the end. By so doing, the orders went up from 2.7% to 4.2%. Within four years that client sold the business for the high tens of millions.

But most of the people we talk to have no idea of their numbers. They are like people driving blindfold in the middle of a wet night on the wrong side of the road with blindfolds on.

Predictably, almost the first person to reply to our email today was a man who knows his numbers back to front. And as a rather sad postscript we have just given up on a man who, despite part of his business losing money hand over fist not only has no clue about his numbers, and no intention, as far as I can see, of doing anything about it.

The paradox of the clueless!

By the way, this is not a devious pitch to get you to ask what Al's up to. We got plenty of replies in the first hour after sending out the email.

Sunday, 12 June 2011

New marketing jargon to mystify your friends, a regret - and some laughs for Sunday

Yesterday someone wrote asking if I could recommend a book about "brand activation".

"WTF is that?" I asked myself, with my uncanny mastery of internet lingo. So I replied suggesting my friend James Hammond's book - but asking "what is brand activation?"

My correspondent helpfully informed me it is "the marketing process of bringing a brand to life through creating brand experience with ATL and BTL activities. It usually consists of consumer engagement."

The phrase "consumer engagement" makes me breathe fire, and I responded, "Ah! Another load of pretentious marketing jargon designed to impress." This was true, but doesn't go far enough. Pretentious jargon not only impresses the gullible - no shortage in marketing - it also convinces them to shell out more cash.

Anyhow, I went on to say that I am chairman of a firm that does that, only we call it experiential marketing. It is nothing new - just getting people to use the product. For instance, we do work for a big car firm that includes driving lessons for children. Actually, over the last twelve years we've run this sort of thing for most of the big car marques everywhere from California to Lapland.

Whatever you call it, the best way to sell is to get people to try stuff. Every salesman knows that; nothing is more convincing. What's more, people tell their friends, and more products are bought through personal recommendation than in any other way. So your customers become an unpaid sales force. My Managing Director has a plethora of statistics that show why this works better than almost any other marketing investment.


I'm flying back to London tonight. That's a shame, as I've been invited to a celebration of what would have been David Ogilvy's 100th birthday tomorrow here in New York. One thing you can bet on: if anyone had asked him about brand activation he would have given the phrase short shrift.


From those thoughts to something a friend in Singapore - well, a client, really - just sent me this morning. You sophisticates may find it childish, but I got a few laughs. It's a selection of bloopers from church bulletins and announcements:

The Fasting & Prayer Conference includes meals.

The sermon this morning: 'Jesus Walks on the Water.' The sermon tonight: 'Searching for Jesus.'

Ladies, don't forget the rummage sale. It's a chance to get rid of those things not worth keeping around the house. Bring your husbands.

Remember in prayer the many who are sick of our community. Smile at someone who is hard to love. Say 'Hell' to someone who doesn't care much about you.

Don't let worry kill you off - let the Church help.

Miss Charlene Mason sang 'I will not pass this way again,' giving obvious pleasure to the congregation.

For those of you who have children and don't know it, we have a nursery downstairs.

Next Thursday there will be tryouts for the choir. They need all the help they can get.

Irving Benson and Jessie Carter were married on October 24 in the church. So ends a friendship that began in their school days.

A bean supper will be held on Tuesday evening in the church hall. Music will follow.

At the evening service tonight, the sermon topic will be 'What Is Hell?' Come early and listen to our choir practice.

Eight new choir robes are currently needed due to the addition of several new members and to the deterioration of some older ones.

Scouts are saving aluminum cans, bottles and other items to be recycled. Proceeds will be used to cripple children.

Please place your donation in the envelope along with the deceased person you want remembered.

The church will host an evening of fine dining, super entertainment and gracious hostility.

Potluck supper Sunday at 5:00 PM - prayer and medication to follow.

The ladies of the Church have cast off clothing of every kind. They may be seen in the basement on Friday afternoon.

This evening at 7 PM there will be a hymn singing in the park across from the Church. Bring a blanket and come prepared to sin.

Ladies Bible Study will be held Thursday morning at 10 AM . All ladies are invited to lunch in the Fellowship Hall after the B. S. Is done.

The pastor would appreciate it if the ladies of the Congregation would lend him their electric girdles for the pancake breakfast next Sunday.

Low Self Esteem Support Group will meet Thursday at 7 PM. Please use the back door.

The eighth-graders will be presenting Shakespeare's Hamlet in the Church basement Friday at 7 PM . The congregation is invited to attend this tragedy.

Weight Watchers will meet at 7 PM at the First Presbyterian Church. Please use large double door at the side entrance.

The Associate Minister unveiled the church's new campaign slogan last Sunday: 'I Upped My Pledge - Up Yours.

P. S. My jokes are rarely that good, but if anyone's still ruminating on whether they should come to Bristol, there are 5 places left.

Thursday, 9 June 2011

God, the tears were streaming down my face as I received this heart-rending message. Then I threw up

Well, I'm sitting here in the humid heat of Brooklyn banging out the odd syllable, but here's something from someone I've never met, never spoken to, never bought off.

I just read their stuff because I collect this kind of thing - and some of it's quite clever. On the other hand. some of it's utterly nauseating, as you will see.

It reads:

Dear Drayton,

I don’t say it often enough, Drayton — but THANK YOU!

Thank you for the loyalty you’ve shown to my company in general — and to me in particular.

You have no idea how much your friendship means to me. But I have found a way to show you in a very valuable, very practical way.

I must ask you NOT to share this with anybody outside of your immediate family. I’m only doing this for a tiny handful of our very best friends. Telling others will only cause them to be disappointed.

For my entire big idea and all my thoughts about it, please see the entirety of the confidential letter that I have just written to you. I’ve posted it on this hidden page on my website:

Good luck and God bless!


Well, I must say that brings a new depths of meaning to the word "insincere". You can imagine how many thousands comprised the handful of friends referred to. I will not swell their number by passing it on to my family who need all the money they can get.

Compared to that mawkish tripe my invitation to a "last minute webinar" is downright stark in its naked appeal to the gullible.

This epic event (with ten attendees at the moment) "Reveals How YOU Can Gain Top Rankings in Google... For Almost Any Niche You Go After And How You Can Earn Hundreds, If Not Thousands A Month In Passive Commissions In Just 45-Days (or Less).

It forgot to mention you can also walk on water, slay dragons, empty bars, rescue virgins and become sought after by desirable members of the opposite sex - or indeed any sex you like

I guess this stuff appeals to some of the idiots out there, which is rather depressing, don't you think?

I would like to propose the recipe suggested by Charles E Brower, one-time boss of BBDO, and a good copywriter:

"Honesty is not only the best policy. It is rare enough nowadays to make you pleasantly conspicuous."

Saturday, 4 June 2011

Berlusconi: if he weren’t a criminal and a menace to democracy it would be funny

Groucho Marx’s most famous joke was “I don't care to belong to a club that accepts people like me as members”.

Well, I don't care to belong to a club that has someone like Silvio Berlusconi as part of the management.

By club I mean the European Community. There are other good reasons - it is run by an unelected bureaucracy, it pisses away my money like there’s no tomorrow, it’s screwing up our legal system, other European countries do better outside it – but Berlusconi is a very good one.

You don’t spend much time studying Italian affairs, I imagine, but if you did you would be horrified. By affairs I do not mean that Silvio pays for pussy. Many do and it’s not a crime. Nor even that he had it away with someone of 16. That is not illegal either. What he is actually charged with is encouraging underage prostitution.

But there are much greater concerns.

He has from his start as a property developer been closely involved with the Mafia – unless he has a secret fairy Godmother with a few billion to spare. In Sicily last year Massimo Ciancimino, a don’s son, said the Mafia gave Berlusconi the capital that founded his business by laundering dirty money through front companies. He is only one of many mafiosi who have confirmed these links over the years

Berlusconi’s rise was also facilitated by his links with Bettino Craxi, a Prime Minister so corrupt that he had to flee Italy and died in exile in Tunisia.

So what was the first thing he did when getting control of Italy? Make it harder for the courageous Italian magistrates to fight the Mafia. What do I mean by courageous? Quite a number have been murdered for doing their jobs. How many British ones have that problem to worry about?

Over the years Berlusconi has, besides his links with the mafia, been accused of false accounting, tax fraud, corruption and bribery of police officers and judges - including the bribery case in which David Mills, husband of Tessa Jowell is involved.

How has he escaped? By repeatedly pushing through laws preventing him from being prosecuted for all sorts of ingenious reasons. Every time the law is about to catch up with him, hey presto! A new law gets passed in the nick of time

It now looks as though he is about to be brought down, though, and there is an ironic twist.

Berlusconi controls or owns not some but most Italian media. Even over those he does not own he exercises control. Take RAI, the equivalent of the BBC. Recorded conversations exist in which he tells the president of RAI what to do.

But it is worse, because he also controls all the government advertising and a great deal more - and channels it to his own media and away from others. He actually stated in public that nobody should advertise in media critical of him. Italy’s highest tribunal, the Constitutional Court, has ruled many times that this concentration is illegal. But its decisions have not been enforced.

Ten years ago Berlusconi said in public that three leading RAI journalists critical of him were “criminals” and should not be on TV. And, miracle of miracles, they were fired. One – the most distinguished commentator in Italy - actually died soon afterwards.

The other two, though, managed to get back on TV and continued to tell the truth.

In elections last Sunday and Monday Berlusconi suffered a grave defeat. This was although he pushed through gagging orders that stopped RAI’s talk shows and investigative programmes from making comment during the campaign.

None of it worked.

His home town and power base is Milan, where among other things he owns AC Milan, Italy’s most successful team. He personally managed the campaign and said the vote there would effectively be a referendum on his government.

His nominee lost 55:45. In the third largest city, Naples, where he was expected to win, he lost by 65:35. (There were no elections in Rome).

Here is the irony, though.

After the vote he blamed the media. This is hilarious because of his stranglehold over all the main commercial channels and RAI.

It is hard to comprehend the grip and the malign influence of Berlusconi over Italy.

Imagine if Rupert Murdoch, who owns Sky Television, also had controlling shares in ITV and Channel 4, and controlled much of the advertising that media rely on to survive. Imagine that he also owned Manchester United. Imagine that he was financed by, and had close links with drug lords, murderers, the organisers of prostitution and every racket in the country.

And then imagine he became Prime Minister and ended the independence of the BBC. That is what has happened in Italy.

The revelations about his sexual capers obscure the fact that this is an evil man.

Italy is a land full of wonderful people. How they survive being ruled by an almost unending succession of shits and crooks is a tribute to their inventiveness. Pray God they have woken up.

Wednesday, 1 June 2011

Some simple reasons why the internet is still a land of opportunity - with a lesson in copywriting basics

A few months ago I was given a Lifetime Achievement Award in Florida.

This gave me childish pleasure. I cannot say doing well in marketing is an astounding achievement, but managing to keep at it for so many years is, believe me. Can you imagine how many unspeakably dull meetings my buttocks have suffered through?

Anyhow, by the time I was handed the prize I was feeling somewhat "elevated" as they used to say in the 18th century, so although my speech was admirably short I did not say what I meant to.

This was that it is not my abilities that have got me by for so long. It is other people's sloth. So I meant to toast and thank all the people too damned idle to study, thus making old fogies like me look good.

Can you believe that in any other field of any importance people are so unprofessional? Though now that I think of it, there are two. One is financial services and the other is politics. The overwhelming majority of independent financial advisers are utterly unqualified, and as far as I can see there are no requirements for success in high office beyond reptilian cunning and the ability to lie with a straight face.

Our former Prime Minister Gordon Bloated McToad Brown exemplified both, being Chancellor of the Exchequer for longer than anyone I can remember despite having no qualifications in finance at all. We will all be paying for that for years.

But within marketing nowhere is this disinclination to learn more apparent than on the internet, a chief reason why so many rogues thrive there, and why there are still so many opportunities left.

Take, for instance, this subject line: Internet and Social Media Workshop for Online Customer Service, Fund Raising and Communication - Workshops in Exeter and London.

That is not persuasion. It is a statement, rather as if Heinz were to run ads with the heading Baked Beans in the local supermarket.

If baked beans had never been seen before in a supermarket, that might work, just as the Workshop may attract attendees because the subjects are of some interest. It's unlikely to, though, as it makes the kindergarten error of trying to cover too many things at once.

In the same way, many internet marketers are doing well with poor copy because they have huge lists. But it will not last.

It makes me happy and it is good that, in the end, those who study most do best, and those who don't are punished.

On the matter of copy, have a look at this. There are rare exceptions to what you will hear , but very, very few.

Sorry if I seem to be trying to sell you something. But it will be VERY GOOD FOR YOU.