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Monday, 30 June 2008

Is this a good idea – or just plain bad taste?

An old friend and colleague sent me this.

I imagine every witless, drunken, lecher who has even been to Phuket makes the same joke, but this is the first time I have seen it harnessed by an advertising genius.

Maybe I am a boring old fart, but I hated it.

No need to make jokes about why a lot of can't-get-it-at-home losers go to Thailand. I thought it an insult to the Thais - and a summary of the attitude of a lot of Western tourists.

Wednesday, 25 June 2008

Just for a change, a helpful marketing idea

I'm a bit shattered, recovering from a trip to Riga which called for a 22 hour day. Not to be recommended for elderly gentlemen. So for a change, here's something about business.

The picture - taken on my cheap mobile phone - is of an ad aimed at visitors that I saw when I was in Sofia twelve days ago.

See what you think of it.

I often find little things teach interesting lessons, so I used for one of my endless stream of helpful marketing ideas. I started these about 15 months ago, planning to put together 51.

I have no idea why I said 51, but anyhow I've just kept going, and this is number 79.

While I was in Sofia, I was interviewed by a magazine.

Unless you speak Bulgarian (which I certainly don’t) you won’t appreciate the intellectual depth, uncanny perception and wit of my responses to a number of questions.

One of them, however, was: “Have you ever failed in something; what was it, and what happened?”

I answered that there probably wasn’t space in their magazine to list all my failures, let alone describe them in the exuberant, comic detail they merit.

However, many were due to what that wonderful retail (and direct marketing) expert Murray Raphel called “the curse of assumption”.

He pointed out that all too often we assume people know all about we are selling when they don’t. And if people don’t know what you’re selling, they are hardly likely to buy it, are they?

Because we live with what we sell all the time and think about it constantly, we presume that others do. As a result we fail to mention things we know which are small but crucial and without which people simply will not buy.

For instance I once wrote a mailing for Management Today which was wonderful in every respect except that it failed to say whether it was a weekly or a monthly magazine or how many pages it contained. The mailing did reasonably well because what they were doing before was so dire. But still, pretty damn stupid, eh?

So look at the tasteful, elegant ad I reproduced at the top. It gives you four useful phrases in Bulgarian. Very helpful.

Except there is no translation. Very silly.

The moral is, always show your stuff to someone who knows nothing about it and ask if they understand. You’ll be amazed what you can miss out or ignore.

One practical thing to do that is very boring but utterly necessary is to describe your offering in complete detail before you start.

Tuesday, 24 June 2008

Who will bring these remote, irresponsible, money-grubbing wretches to account?

Did you, like me, jump for joy when the Irish said “No” to the European constitution, misleadingly re-packaged as the Lisbon Treaty?

Are you, like me, enraged by the way our lives are constantly being interfered with by bureaucrats we never elected?

Do you, like me, feel the liberties our ancestors died for and we took for granted are being stolen away one by one?

Do you, like me, feel that the world is more and more being divided between us and them.

Who are they?

The opinion formers, the pundits, the politicians, the committee members, the Eurocrats, those who know better.

The great European scam is only one example, where out of all the many millions affected throughout Europe, only in one small country, Ireland, were the people allowed to give their views. In every other case we were just told, “This may stink to high heaven and taste nauseating, but it is good for you. Swallow it.”

And when the Irish said “no” the bureaucrats said, “Never mind the rules, we’re going ahead anyhow, because we make up the rules to suit ourselves. Go away, stupid Irish who don't know what's good for you as well as we do and we'll wait for you to come to your senses."

For those not involved, I should explain that a while ago a European constitution was formulated by the people who run Europe – people who are not elected but nominated. (The parliament is just a talking shop with no power, populated by failed national politicians - mostly crooks who fiddle their expenses.)

This new constitution involved Europe taking control of a number of important areas – like defence and foreign policy - from the individual member countries. When it was put to the vote it was rejected in some countries, so the wretches in charge repackaged it with a new name - even they admitted it retained 97% of the original, some even boasted of how they had fooled us - and re-presented in a way that allowed them to push it through without a vote. This the reptiles – Gordon Brown is one, naturally – did.

Happily, the Irish constitution made this illegal, and they alone voted – with a big “no”.

Some dictatorial Brussels Sprouts suggested the Irish didn't know what they were voting against. There are two answers. One is that they were teaching the odious bossy Sprouts a lesson. The other is that if they didn't understand it is because the Sprouts deliberately avoided explaining it clearly.

In many countries in Europe, notably Germany and France, there is a tradition of central control. In fact the closest thing to the current European arrangement was proposed by a certain A. Hitler, also to be put through without a vote. Prior to that, N. Buonaparte had a try.

But many nations, especially the Scandinavian ones, have a more democratic tradition. Significantly the Danes have never joined the Eurozone, and seem none the worse for it - in fact for the last two years they were voted the happiest place in the world. (And as an aside, if you want to be a Danish citizen you have to speak Danish).

But in nearly all countries, no matter how they are run, I suspect there is a growing gap between those who run things and the rest of us.

We ask ourselves why thieving bankers are given millions as a reward for ruining our lives. We wonder why the difference between the salaries of the bosses and the workers gets greater every year, even though the bosses have screwed things up. We wonder why our voices are heard less and less. We wonder why when elections come the choice is too often between equally unpalatable alternatives. We wonder why central power ignores local needs and overrides local views.

We ask ourselves why the simple, obvious, right things are not done, and the stupid ones are. Why are millions pissed away on silly "initiatives", while soldiers go ill-equipped into battles we never should have fought? Why are the trains slower and the postal service far worse now than they were 100 years ago? Why do we pay hundreds of thousands to protect fanatics who would destroy us without a thought - and have urged others to do so.

“Every action has an equal and opposite reaction."

In 1848 there was a great rising in many European countries which sought to change the autocratic way of things. Today in Europe the move towards central control is resented by many. This country itself is increasingly run by diktat, where central planners constantly override local views.

You can tell there is a real problem because the jargon-mongers have coined an ugly new word for all this: it is called a "disconnect". We are disconnected from our rulers. Rather, they have uncoupled their luxurious Pullman car from our crowded cattle wagons.

I wonder what form the reaction to all this will take.

Will it be the terrorist way - blow things up and kill people as there is no alternative? If we are not allowed to vote on things that affect us, what choices will we have in the end?

Sunday, 22 June 2008

An insane linguistic omelette - and other miseries of the modern world

It is the privilege and one of the few pleasures of the old and useless – ie, people like me – to have a good moan, so here goes.

This morning I saw four things that irritate me currently combined in one phrase. These things are: stupid slogans, jargon, social networks and the current worship of cooks.

What touched it all off was an invitation from someone to add them to my list of friends on Facebook.

I only belong to this because someone asked me, and I was taught never to be rude, so I complied. Ever since I have been embarrassed and irriteted becaase I keep getting more invitations, some of which for some mysterious reason I can accept and others of which I can’t.

In the latter case I go to my page and a message says ”This invitation is not intended for you”. Which makes me wonder how the hell I got it. How many drayton@draytonbird.coms are there?

It happened again this morning. Then I saw a message saying Richard Hill had “poked” me. Now the word poke has a certain meaning to us here in England, and I can only say a) that my tastes are heterosexual and b) as sexual experiences go, Richard, this was unsatisfactory, especially as c) when I tried to reciprocate I got a message saying I couldn’t. Just as well, Richard. It would have ben an ugly sight.

My irritation was not lessened when I saw an ad on my page reading Empowering chefs globally followed by Chefsworld A world created by chefs for chefs, and the explanation Chefsworld is the largest independant resource available for chefs.

This opening impelled me, as a collector of linguistic debris, to click through. I got the following tasteless verbal bouillabaisse:

Welcome to our world, A world created by chefs for chefs. The purpose of ChefsWorlds is to empower chefs in the marketplace by opening up communication channels between chefs globally. Membership is free and gives you access to all facilities listed below. ChefsWorld™ is not a recruitment site, but we do provide this facility.

“The aim of ChefsWorld is to empower chefs in the Global Market. ChefsWorld is an independent Resource for Chefs, free from magazine, association and PR influence. So Welcome to your World, a World created by Chefs for Chefs.”

Set aside the fact that the twat who wrote this can’t spell independent, keeps repeating him or herself and capitalising the "w" in world for no reason, and that the ONLY purpose of this site is to make money through recruitment advertising, and I would like to say the following.

1. Anybody using the word “empowering” should be burnt to death. This nasty word should be locked up where it belongs - in politics and corporate masturbation, with other linguistic garbage like "strategic", “proactive”, "ongoing" and “initiative.

2. Chefs have far too much power already. They are just cooks, for God’s sake, Get them off television. Put them back in the kitchen where they belong, on a sensible wage. Then UK restaurant prices might come down to sane levels. If we had all our evening meals in a London restaurant that cooks as well as my two flat-sharers we would be paying £80 a night.

3. Chefs are welcome to their world, which would be full of bad-tempered, drunken, ill-mannered, rapacious egomaniacs. A bloody nightmare.

4. Gordon Ramsay is a foul-mouthed if quick-witted oaf who should be locked up for six months in a small room with Alan Sugar and a selection of Big Brother contestants. The only restaurants of his I have been in were absurdly overpriced for what they provided.

5. I don’t want ads of any kind on what is supposed to be a place to meet people. Piss off, illiterates who want to make money out of unemployable chefs - or anyone else. Leave us to our mutual poking.

Next week: A new government strategic initiative led by Hazel Blears and Ed Balls: Empowering transgendered sewage workers proactively.

NOTE FOR NON-ENGLISH READERS: Ed Balls is not a joke name I made up. The UK is in deep economic shit. Largely responsible is this man Balls who was economic adviser and surrogate brain to Mr. Gordon Brown. Mr. Balls is now the Minister for Children, Schools and Families.

When I was young we had parents and children who made up families. The parents sent their children to school. Now we have ministers.

Mr. Balls' economic wisdom helped create a tax system which actively discriminates against marriage. This does not help, and has led to soaring rates of delinquency, lower educational standards which have been concealed by rigging the examination results and criteria.

Having fucked up the country, Mr Balls' new job is to fuck up what he has not yet got round to fucking up. He has never had a proper job, but I have every confidence in him.

Hazel Blears is a bit of a joke, but very nice apparently. She started out as a lawyer before giving up work. She used to be in charge of crime reduction.

Crime has risen inexorably in this country and will continue to do so because of Mr. Balls and his like.

Now she is Secretary of State for Communities and Local Government. Not a worry. They are already in such a mess that she can't do too much harm there

Wednesday, 18 June 2008

Three deeply moving experiences

The last time I wrote I was in Sofia, preparing for a seminar.

All seminars are worrying. As you probably know, speaking in public is only marginally less terrifying to most people than encountering poisonous snakes. Experience makes it a little easier- but the prospect is still enough to keep you awake the night before.

This worry is compounded if you don’t know the audience and there is simultaneous translation, which was the case in Bulgaria. We had a full house - in fact they had to turn people away - and I had just got into my stride when the sound system collapsed

For fifteen minutes I had to keep the audience entertained, not made easier by the fact that many did not understand English. No fun for me, though they were pretty sympathetic. But as a result I did something I hardly ever do: I overran by 30 minutes, which made it harder for my partner who had to follow me and had to speak faster than she intended.

The day before we had visited yet another church in the city, and maybe I should have said my prayers. But I was so transfixed by what was going on that I forgot.

It was a wedding. Once again there was a splendid choir, a lot of candles and much elaborate ceremony. It made an English wedding look very shabby and casual. There were crowns to be worn by bride and groom, drinking of wine and eating of bread, kissing of crosses and ikons, repeated circling of the altar and a most distinguished and benevolent -looking priest.

It was all filmed and photographed from every angle. If they look closely at the results they will see a sentimental old Englishman looking rather tearful in the background. Believe me, when you get married in a Bulgarian Orthodox church, you know it’s a solemn commitment. If everyone did it that way in England, divorce rates would plummet.

I underwent another religious experience last night in a bar in Soho - the France versus Italy football match. The place was packed. My partner and her sister ended up sitting on the floor. I would say half the people were Italian fans and half French. Italy won – rightly, because though France had slightly more of the ball, they never managed to do much with it.

If it had been England who lost, no doubt there would have been fights and arrests, and if I were French I’m not sure I would have appreciated the Italian merriment, accompanied by derisive shouts of “Va fan culo” – and if you don’t know what that means, find a cultured friend who can tell you.

Sunday, 15 June 2008

Did I forget to tell you where to get the video on how to get a job?

It wouldn’t surprise me. I have the attention span of a gnat with Alzheimer’s.

If you go to www.eadim.com, you will find the report, with a charming video of me telling you a little about it.

And at the top here is the blurry picture I mentioned yesterday of me having my few remaining hairs removed by a lady in Sofia.

Note that she, on the other hand, is not at all short of hair – and note also the hair style, which appears, in a number of variations, to be quite popular here among ladies of all ages. Come back Charlie’s Angels.

Anyhow, what the hell am I doing in Bulgaria, you may reasonably ask? Trouble with the creditors again?

Well, I am rushing round Europe promoting the Eadim educational programme. In the last two or three weeks I’ve done seminars in Slovenia (twice), Croatia, the Czech Republic, Hungary and now here. Poland, Portugal and Latvia are next, whilst the people in Ukraine had a basinful of me last year and said they’d settle for a video.

I rather like Sofia. In a curious way it reminds us of Cuba – lots of sunshine, crumbling socialist monuments and crumbling buildings of all ages. I expect when they get some European money they’ll smarten up no end.

Like Cuba, too, they seem to have been exploited by all and sundry for centuries, and people like s drink. Here it’s beer and rakia rather than rum.

But unlike Cuba - or the parts we saw - they have one or two wonderful churches. We entered a small one yesterday and attended a service, which was splendid, with absolutely no shortage of candles, genuflection, crossing in the orthodox manner, kissing of ikons, ringing of bells and a magnificent choir of ordinary people with some grand bass voices.

I was particularly taken with a lady who not only bowed after crossing herself but touched her feet each time. And there were plenty of times - about one every 30 seconds. The priest, fittingly, was very tall, full-bellied, distinguished-looking, bearded of course, with an wonderfully disdainful imperviousness to the many onlookers.

It all reminded me of seeing Boris Christoff, the great Bulgarian bass many years ago in Boris Godunov at Covent Garden.

That’s enough for now. I have to write a script for a client.

Saturday, 14 June 2008

Glad you can't spell, either, dear anonymous

This is in response to the question from anonymous of Altrincham (not Altringham) about the results of The Apprentice.

I see you have the same trouble with typing as me. My sympathy!

For those of you not familiar with it, this show is a sort of second-rate English rip off of the dreadful show featuring Donald Trump's bizarre hair, appalling clothes, bad manners and mean little pursed mouth.

The "star" is an English version of Trump, called Sir Alan Sugar, who has only ever had one half-success, the Amstrad computer, a cheap, primitive early machine which he never had the wit to follow up on.

Even by the low standards set by Trump he is a thoroughly obnoxious bully; and in the last series the winner he chose was, as anonymous says, a man who lied in his CV.

They deserve each other, but I think that making a liar your winner casts a revealing light on what is left of morality in business - and I am not exactly a prude.

And if Alan Sugar is someone to emulate and a measure of success, God help us all.

I am quite fascinated by the popularity of these shows, which are an interesting expression on what I think is called schadenfreude - delight in the misfortunes of others.

Mind you, many of the people who appear in some of these shows - Big Brother especially - seem to be carefully chosen by a machine that measures your IQ - Ignorance Quotient - on a scale of one to minus three thousand.

I am actually typing this in bed in a hotel in Sofia, Bulgaria, where I had my hair cut today. This job takes about two minutes as I have no hair anyhow, but later I'll post a rather blurry picture of the whole event, taken by my partner.

Friday, 6 June 2008

More on "How to Get a Job"

Quite a few people seem interested in this, so here goes.

After a ghastly week confronting the realities of the U.K. divorce laws, which may be summed up by saying that no good deed goes unpunished we have almost completed the report that goes with the 5 minute video I did on Wednesday.

The report is based on 5 years of getting jobs I didn't always deserve, followed by 40 years of reading stupid letters from people who wanted jobs but had no idea how to get them.

Because of the vagaries of this blogging racket I can't reply to you directly, so just email me at drayton@draytonbird.com to get info on how to get it. We like the video so much we're going to put it on You Tube. I'll be interested in what you think.

If you like it, I'm going to do something on how to succeed in your career which I found lurking in my files. It's based on a talk I used to give to graduate trainees who worked for me. I'll be interested to see what you think about that, too.

Incidentally, if you don't get an immediate answer about the job-seeking report it's because I'm off to Italy for a meeting with some of my business partners. Can't wait!

Wednesday, 4 June 2008

Would a new job interest you - or anyone you know?

A few years ago I created a website which had 400 and odd pages, mostly just advice. Then I decided to improve it - and my life has never been the same since, as everything went wrong.

The new site is up - but I was always rather fond of the old one. But I recall that out of all the helpful stuff we had on that site, the most read was a piece on how to get a job.

Most people haven't got a clue. The young ones because they've never done it before. The old ones because they've forgotten whatever they once knew. They nearly all make the same mistakes.

So today I spent a little time doing a short video to introduce a report on that subject. In the report I give a few examples of what works and what doesn't.

It is actually aimed at prospects for a programme my partners and I are putting together which you can read about on www.eadim.com.

This mammoth venture is taking me on a whistle stop tour of Europe as we have got twelve different countries involved. But in the first place, if anyone is interested in how you get a new job - not necessarily for yourself - let me know and I'll point you in the direction of the video. It isn't up yet but it will be in the next day or so. I'd really appreciate your opinion.

By the way, do you think Obama can beat McCain?

I don't. And if he does, I shudder to think of the effect of his naive protectionist policies on the world economy. Just as I shudder to think of McCain continuing Bush's manifold lunacies. Worrying.

On the subject of lunacies, I spent a day in the divorce courts on Tuesday. That deserves a piece on its own.

Sunday, 1 June 2008

What earthly use is better marketing anyhow?

Last week before I started to bore a crowd of Croatians into submission for five and half hours, a charming lady TV interviewer stuck a camera in front of me and asked if what I was talking about was important.

A good question: how do you explain quickly why better marketing really matters in when people are dying in Burma and Zimbabwe because of evil politicians.

But I wish I could have shown her this week’s issue of The Week magazine, which I will come to in a moment.

People talk a lot about the earth’s precious resources, referring to the obvious, like oil or water. But every penny squandered on stupidity could be spent better elsewhere; every penny takes a little nibble out of those resources.

That’s why I think it is important that companies don’t piss away money on foolish marketing, one obvious example being costly, inane commercials nobody understands. I only have to mention car commercials in just about any advanced country and people laughingly agree that most are a wank.

But print advertising is often even worse; I suspect it is a dying skill. In The Week two of those who are involved in selling those resources we are all so worried about ran expensive ads that were a complete waste of shareholders and customers’ money.

There are a few simple rules in advertising (or any other communication, for that matter) but they seem to be completely unknown to many of those employed to write advertisements, choose the pictures or approve the result.

You might think this is odd in an industry where people get very well paid. But this thought will pass when you recall that bankers have been paid millions for fucking up the world’s economy and ruining the lives of millions.

Even the head of the British Royal Mail has just got paid a seven figure sum – with, astoundingly, a bonus - for making the service even worse than it was. Mind you, this is an achievement of a kind, as it was astonishingly bad already - and coincidentally, the smooth operator in question was previously an advertising man.

But back to the ads.

It has been known for at least a century that good ads – which means ones that persuade - must be utterly clear at a glance, promise a clear, immediate benefit to readers, and that vague waffle spells sudden death, boasting is bad, pictures should immediately relate to the subject and you shouldn’t treat readers like idiots.

Total Oil were losers on all scores in an ad with the heading Common interests, with a picture of an iceberg and, where the reflection should be, an upside down city, followed by some boastful waffle about how they are guided by concern for the environment when we all know they care first and last about profit. The bold "Co" was a little touch somebody no doubt hugged themselves with delight over. Sad.

Shell pissed away a goodly sum on a mysterious confection with a childish diagram followed by the headline, “Creative thinking one of the most precious resources we have.” (Really? How brilliant!) Followed by some boasts about all the things they sponsor, in the hope that we will like them. We won't.

Somebody called EADS whom hardly anyone sane has ever heard of or wants to wasted two pages on a picture of something strange in space with the fatuous (and boastful) line “Answers, made by EADS” followed by some drivel about satellite technology.

“It’s time for transparency” said another waste of two pages paid for by an organisation called clearfleet, in which they managed to say the square root of sod-all about something nobody cares about except them.

Actually, it is high time - for frontal lobotomy on those who perpetrate this mindless pap.

It all reminds me of my old boss David Ogilvy who was once asked by the head of American Express what to do about his marketing. “Why not hire somebody who understands advertising,” the great man suggested.

Mind you, I salute those who can sell this rubbish to those who buy it. They may know nothing about advertising, but they do recognise cash-rich mugs when they meet them. Trouble is, one way or another, this money comes from you and me, and it could be better used.