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Wednesday, 31 March 2010

Sorry, but a good idea is NOT enough

Like most of you, I get a lot of stuff trying to sell me things.

I would cheerfully strangle whoever unleashes those bloody recorded messages just about that time in the late afternoon when I think I really need a drink.

And I would grant full-time unemployment to the people who send me messages about how to manage disgruntled employees - because they wouldn't be disgruntled if they were managed properly.

But the people I feel sympathy for are those who get it almost right - like the case on the left.

Whoever it is (and I have no idea - giving me a clue would be a step in the direction of sanity) had a neat idea and took some trouble.

As you can see, it's a tiny envelope - visiting card size, handwritten, with my name on it. It jumped the greatest hurdle with ease. It got my attention - which believe me is not easy on a day when I had one important meeting, a webinar to run and an insert to write, plus the usual flood of emails to reply to.

Then what? I open the damn envelope - couldn't ignore it. And got this utterly cryptic message inside. To start with, why the hell would I want over 59 million customers? I assume this is the population of this country, and is some dubious calculation. If so, many of them are either babies, senile, penniless or criminals in jail or the Houses of Parliament. None of them any use, really.

I imagine this is the start of a series of teasers. If so, I will keep you posted ... no pun intended.

Monday, 29 March 2010

When it's party time, an idea for you from a tragic musical failure

Life has a strange way of working.

One of my greatest passions is music. I come from a musical family. I love jazz, opera, classics, R and B, Soul, Blues, even a bit of rap and rock - pretty much everything except "light" music and C & W.

I've seen everyone from Louis Armstrong to Miles Davis to Otis Redding to Kiri te Kanawa and Pavarotti. But one of my personal tragedies was that since the minute I lost that boyish treble my vocal skills have been not unlike that of a corncrake in pain.

Happily, my children have made up for this. I may have mentioned Martina here before. I think she's wandering round the world with Massive Attack right now, but here's another.

The picture at the top is of a group called The Word. The moody one on the left is my son Nick. If you want a party band, they're for you- they do 60's and 70's stuff. If you'd like to hear what they're like, you'll be agreeably surprised at http://thewordpartyband.co.uk/Video.html. I certainly was.

And I was even more surprised when my youngest, who's in New Jersey, told me she's been approached by a record label there. Martina started at 15. Chantal is even younger.

I don't know. My father and two of my uncles were excellent musicans. So was my grandfather. Talent has skipped a generation.

Saturday, 27 March 2010

Who is the odd man out - and more important - WHY? Plus a relevant free webinar

My old pal Glenmore sent me this.

One of these people is different from the others in many important respects.

Lord Stevenson: former chairman,

Sir Fred Goodwin: former chief executive,

Hornby: former chief executive, HBOS

Sir Tom
McKillop: former chairman, RBS

McFall MP: chairman of Treasury Select Committee

Alastair Darling: Chancellor of the Exchequer

Gordon Brown: Prime Minister and former Chancellor of the Exchequer

Sir Terry
Wogan: former presenter of Radio 2's Breakfast Show

It's not hard to guess that the answer is Sir Terry

He's liked. He was excellent at his job. He's honest. He's charming and funny. Everyone missed him when he quit.

But what is REALLY interesting is that he is the only one of this bunch of shits, chancers and no-hopers who holds ANY formal banking qualification.

By the way, I see Cameron's lead over Brown has dwindled to 2 points.

Whilst it is true that Gordon Brown is the most disastrous economic manager I can recall, he is blessed with the worst possible opposition.

Now they have called in M & C Saatchi to solve the problem.

Hmm. I suspect a letter to every household pointing out the economic and social consequences of 13 years of Blair-Brown - and would you like another helping? - might do the trick.

Cameron seems to operate on the basis that every voter is a halfwit. I mean does it really alarm YOU that drunks are going to have to pay more for White Lightning cider? Do I give a shit that he's able to produce a baby if that seems his only productive attribute?

Aren't you a little more concerned that half your likely pension has been stolen and invested in a public sector which has increased by 26% - and still does a shit job?

Aren't you a little more bothered that your household owes £47,000 to pay for the rogues' pensions?

Don't you worry about about the current - and promised spate of strikes? Do you really want a man in charge again who, for sheer blatant dishonesty is only outdone by his immediate predecessor?

Those are the sort of arguments that may, just may, strike a chord. They'll do better than slick ads, I suspect.

Next Wednesday at 3.00 p.m I'll be running a free webinar analysing just such a letter I wrote for John Major's lot, which assumed that voters are not idiots and did the trick.

Friday, 26 March 2010

Advice to a copywriter - from a tired old hack who's still banging it out

I get sent so many questions I'm thinking of becoming an Agony Aunt.

An Aussie copywriter wrote today saying "I have been writing copy for micro business clients, however, in nearly all of the training I have had I have been told that controls for big companies is the way to go to make real money in copywriting.

I just don't know how to go about approaching these big companies, as an unknown, and asking to challenge their controls. Any advice on how to go about it?

Well one thing this man has done right (which most don't) is
study. He's been at it for 5 years - in fact I felt almost embarrassed by his list of teachers.

Anyhow, for anyone looking for copy jobs of any kind, here's my advice.

“Make an offer so good only an idiot would refuse” – or words to that effect - said Claude Hopkins.

I have always suggested people offer to do something for nothing – clients don’t pay unless they use it.

But first they must be convinced you’re worth trying.

1. Study the client. See what they are doing and what is working for them.

2. Find out who exactly you should be talking to. Learn something about them.

3. Give them proof – examples of work that did well, testimonials, and results.

4. Send something (be it a letter or an original mailing pack/gimmick*) they cannot ignore.

Make sure you say something relevant to them and to their business and problems. Relevance matters more than cleverness.

44 years ago I got an immediate interview offer from David Ogilvy by sending 5 pieces of work, with results, because that is what he said he liked to see, plus a testimonial from Peter Mayle (now a famous novelist) who had worked for him.

The letter began, if memory serves me right: “Dear Mr. Ogilvy, You have never heard of me, but I have an ability I know you prize. I know how to make people buy things.

I hardly ever see people not because I don’t need anyone but because virtually none send me anything that follows these rules – and most of the stuff on their sites is rubbish.

* Be very careful with gimmicks. People often remember them - but not what you're selling. And NEVER neglect to send a letter.

Wednesday, 24 March 2010

I'm sorry, I haven't a clue - but I'm not alone

The other day I commented on what I consider two dumb, pretentious slogans: "I am Mercedes" - and "We are Santander."

They remind me of one of Noel Coward's very best lines. He was sitting in the Ivy with friends when the ludicrous actor Chuck Norris came up to his table, saying, "Hi, Mr. Coward, I'm Chuck Norris."

"Of course you are, dear boy," Noel replied, and carried on with his conversation.

Anyhow, just to show that stupid ideas span the generations I put up the picture of the same crappy idea as carried out in the'70's. Actually, it is a better execution, since the face of any Airline is the cabin staff.

But I digress - before I have even got started on what I planned to write about, which is Andrew Anderson, who you may recall I wrote about a while ago.

Andrew said he is going to prove that Twitter really does the business - at least I think he did, because like a lot of other people I haven't a clue. He send me regular messages about what he's doing, and I can see stuff happening twitter-wise - but I still haven't a clue.

So let me tell you my dream.

I want to make Twitter and stuff like that as easy to understand as I can, which is what I tried to do 28 years ago with the first (blessedly short) edition of Commonsense Direct Marketing.

I want to show how these media help do the only three things you have to do to succeed in marketing.

1. Get new customers.

2. Get them to spend more.

3. Get them to stay longer.

I often say my secret weapon is stupidity. If I can understand it, I can explain it - and everyone - even idiots like me - will understand.

That is Andrew's challenge.

"Show me" - as they say in Missouri.

Tuesday, 23 March 2010

Success, failure and copywriting - The Marketing Sleuth grills me. You may find solutions to a few puzzles

Rezbi the Marketing Sleuth interviewed me a year or so ago, but with my usual scrupulous attention to detail I never even looked at what he printed.

Maybe this was because I laughed when I saw myself called Drayton Bird – Direct Marketing Legend. But now that I've read the whole thing, it seems quite helpful to me - and maybe it will to you.

1. In your experience, what proportion of the people who enter DM succeed?

A. Depends on what you mean. I have no idea. I suspect no more than one in ten, as it seems so simple – if you don’t understand it.

But businesses owners who are spending their money and risking the roof over their heads may do better – probably because they only care about results; they have to succeed.

2. What do you think are the biggest mistakes people make which prevent them being successful?

• Over optimism.

• Lack of persistence.

• Lack of study

• Falling in love with their own products.

• Trying to be clever and “creative”

• Having a background in a firm, or with firms that don’t understand and appreciate direct marketing – especially a large one. They’ll always dilute your efforts and lean towards puffery.

3. In a nutshell, what are the basic steps to success in direct marketing?

• Find something you like – that interests you.

• Steep yourself in it

• Study your market deeply – possible customers, prospects, competition.

• Talk to those customers and prospects

• Become a customer of your competition.

• Try to meet people succeeding in similar areas and pick their brains

• Arrive at a proposition that beats what is available in some significant way

• Determine who it will appeal to and how you will reach them

• Consider what may go wrong. Hope for the best; plan for the worst.

• Measure everything.

• Establish how you can constantly improve.

• Pay remorseless attention to detail.

• Find good people

• Motivate and keep them

• Get rid of the ones that are no good – quickly but kindly

4. How important is copywriting to this business and, more importantly, how important is it for us as direct marketers to know at least something about copywriting?

Copywriting is no use if you want to manage a business. But without understanding it you can’t succeed. It is in a way the glue that sticks good DM together.

5. In principle, what type of products are good for the beginning direct marketer to aim to sell?

Ones with a big margin requiring little investment (ie anything on paper or online).

Don’t be a pioneer. Till you know better, copy and improve.

Find something that appeals to a clearly definable group you can reach

This interview goes on and on - so if you'd like to see the rest. go to


Monday, 22 March 2010

What I told Julie about how to get ahead - it may help someone you know

I get a lot of requests for advice, and try to answer all of them.

It always makes me feel good when people come back and tell me what happened - which Julie in Australia did.

She said, "You gave me some good advice about 12 months ago regarding my career and you opened doors".

So what advice did I give? It was very brief, and read:

"During the few years when I was employable (I was an incorrigible rebel) I decided I should only work for two kinds of company:

1. Those that are so good you are bound to learn something and meet the right kind of colleague.

2. Those that are desperate for help, know they need it,and will pay you very well for giving it.

My old boss David Ogilvy always said "When you are young, what you learn is more important than what you earn."

Therefore, look for companies whose marketing you admire - be they agency or marketer - and do a little research on them, then try and find out what they're like to work for.

By the way, I am old, and I still think what I learn matters more than anything else."

What is interesting is that Julie didn't go for a new job. She decided to study - and enjoyed it. Me too.

Sunday, 21 March 2010

Who makes the best role model for us today?

The front pages of two papers today summed up the net benefits of the great Blair-Brown project, which of course started with vows of all kinds, to do with getting rid of sleaze, improving education, ending crime, removing inequality, walking on water and so on.

Britain's best-selling newspaper is the News of the World, a favoured comic among those who somehow failed to get the benefits of the promised education. They devoted their entire front page to tell us that Jade Goody's Mum celebrated the anniversary of her sainted daughter's death by snorting a few lines of coke.

(Jade Goody, for overseas readers, was the Princess Diana of latter years - a semi-literate plump strumpet who won notoriety principally by means of making racist remarks on a TV programme - and then gained a nation's love by dying of cancer and leaving a couple of million to her children. Much of the country- the part that thinks American Idol is better entertainment than Shakespeare - shed bitter tears when she croaked.)

Be that as it may I imagine we shall wait in vain for any signs of prosecution, just as we saw little effort to prosecute Kate Moss after she got caught hoovering away on camera, and the occasional slap on the wrist for her ex-boyfriend Pete Doherty, who has a sort of revolving door arrangement with the courts .

In the Sunday Times the pampered elite were not entirely astounded by the news that former socialist ministers have - no doubt inspired by the boundless avarice of their globe-trotting multi-millionaire ex-leader - been selling the limp shreds of their honesty to the first bidder, promising to pervert legislation, change policies and do anything for cash.

No doubt they will be prosecuted as enthusiastically as all the expenses crooks have been. Come to think of it, they've already got away with it once, why not twice?

Meanwhile, the boy Cameron says he is going to tax the banks. This is what is technically known in the political milieu as licking the voters' arses - a silly idea that (like everything else he does) is aimed at getting votes. One wonders if it has occurred to him that this will have only one certain effect: we, the customers, will end up paying that tax, as the banks will simply put their prices up - just as we, the customers, are paying for loony Gordon's big bail-out.

Which hasn't worked that well, by the way. There's more shit on the way. Now the idea is that, not satisfied with bailing out banks, we're going to bail out entire countries, like Greece.

Incidentally, I think the News of the World probably knows what is real news better than the Sunday Times. Who would really be surprised that the wretched Labour crooks are on the take? The chief offender, Stephen Byers, was exposed as a damned liar long ago, when he screwed up the remnants of the British car industry.

Whereas I saw Jade Goody's mum as more of the two bottles of vodka a day type. You never can tell, can you?

Wednesday, 17 March 2010

A Child's Guide to Modern Britain - reprinted verbatim from that glorious creation The Daily Mash

RUB a dub dub, three men in a tub - Which is a perfectly normal domestic arrangement and exactly the same as a mummy and daddy who are married. Now here's a cartoon that will educate your five year-old about how three men can have sex with each other at the same time. In a bath.

There was an old woman who lived in a shoe. She was the worst person ever.
Old Mother Hubbard
Went to the cupboard
To get her poor doggie a bone,
When she got there the cupboard was bare because she had spent 13 years creating public sector non-jobs for people with worthless degrees. So the poor little doggie shat in her bed.

There was a crooked man and he walked a crooked mile,
He found a crooked sixpence upon a crooked stile.
He bought a crooked cat, which caught a crooked mouse
And they all lived together in a little crooked house that he bought with a secret loan from a millionaire chum that he didn't declare to his mortgage lender because he's a sleazy prick who thinks he's better than you.

Old King Cole was a merry old soul and a merry old soul was he; He called for his pipe, and he called for his bowl but he only got his bowl because some bullshit statistics showed that if he smoked his pipe then at least two of his fiddlers would die of cancer.

As I was going to St. Ives
I met a man with seven wives,
They were all sitting on the platform at Bristol Temple Meads and had been there for about three hours because the rail system in this country is a pile of fucking shit.

Humpty Dumpty sat on a wall,
Humpty Dumpty had a great fall.
All the King's horses, And all the King's men
Did not have enough helicopters to put Humpty together again and anyway it's a waste of time because it is a vicious tribal dispute that will continue long after we have been forced to withdraw.

This little piggy went to market,
This little piggy stayed at home,
This little piggy had roast beef,
And this little piggy flipped his London flat and his constituency home eight times and used your money to pay for a new conservatory, a massive telly and a vibrating chair and then tried to stop you finding out about it,
All the way home.

Half a pound of tuppenny rice,
Half a pound of treacle.
By the way, the chief medical officer says that amount of treacle is really bad for you and that excessive treacle eating is costing this country £14bn a day in lost productivity and exploding children.

Baa baa black sheep, have you any wool?
Yes sir, yes sir, but it will cost you £1.20 a bag because of the government's latest hike in wool duty and the fact that sterling is now worth less than the Albanian Lek.

Doctor Foster
Went to Gloucester
In a shower of rain.
He would have stepped in a puddle
Right up to his middle
But luckily he was a GP so was driving one of his Range Rovers to the golf course while his receptionist referred all his patients to the local chemist.

One, two buckle my shoe
Three, four, knock at the door
Five, seven is it? I'm sorry, I went to a state school that felt that arithmetic was not as important as teaching me about lesbians and socialism.

Rock a bye baby on the tree top,
When the wind blows the cradle will rock,
When the bough breaks the cradle will fall,
But the police and fire brigade won't be able to do anything in case they breach the latest health and safety directive from the Department of Fucking Arseholes.

Tuesday, 16 March 2010

A little taste of heaven for corporate coprophiles. Or are your turds granular, baby?

Lester Wunderman is the man who coined the phrase Direct Marketing - a very wise man and a pretty good writer.

I imagine he would throw up if he saw the following ripe sample of corporate horseshit which emerged from the reeking fundament of the agency that traduces his good name.

Anyhow, here goes - sick bags at the ready

Search, Social, Mobile and Lady Gaga are all integral parts of a “new normal” for marketers spawned by the recession.

Wunderman chairman and CEO Daniel Morel told the audience at Microsoft’s Annual Marketing Summit that the new normal is about messaging that focuses more on substance than flash and on tools that deliver an unprecedented granularity that enable us connect locally in cost effective and authentic ways.

He talked about the roles of Search and Social and how the battle raging between Google and Facebook is not just a battle for big brand marketing dollars but for Internet control and domination. He also talked about the impact of the convergence of the two… the role of data … and how Mobile changes everything.

If there were a Pseud's Corner for marketers that would be a perfect candidate. Unfortunately, no corner could ever be vast enough to encompass the amount of pretentious tripe the industry spews out.

Almost as interesting is the fact that anyone even vaguely familiar with what has been happening recently - even an old dinosaur like me - knows that beneath the silly jargon there is nothing, absolutely nothing, even vaguely original.

Monday, 15 March 2010

Happy Mondays

How are you? I'm in a good mood for two reasons. First, an old colleague sent me some posters that were good fun - but the idiot machine that lets you upload things said they were "dangerous" so I can't upload them.

Anyhow, I got another good laugh from an email headed "To whom it may concern" followed by some copy whose style I instantly spotted as that of my old boss Zebediah Snodgrass, Chief Copywriter at Land-Of-The-Dead-Creative (Wigan, 1923) Ltd.

To get the full effect it most be read very slowly, with dramatic pauses.

Firstly, I would like to thank you for taking the time to read our email. At our office we pride ourselves on being able to create a strategy to deliver the right messages to the right people at the right time.

We understand that businesses will continue to make use of traditional marketing methods, such as exhibitions & advertising but we feel email marketing adds a whole new element to the marketing mix.

At this point I said to myself, "Well, fancy that!" before reading on:

We have helped many businesses produce great results with email marketing and its flexible and cost-effective (packages start from 195 per month) nature makes it particularly suitable for all businesses.

In addition, we can also offer specialist lead generation to take away the hassle of chasing the leads generated by your campaign. Speak to us today about our lead generation packages.

We consider our data to be of the highest quality, so if you are not looking for email marketing but are looking for specifically tailored data that could help your business, our sales staff would love to talk to you!

If Email marketing is still a mystery to you or if you like to see how to do it properly then please view our demonstration of how we do it.

It then whisked me off to a white landing page with a flash video that took time to load and gave a cartoon demo for the simple-minded.

All good fun - and no doubt it will find the appropriate prospects.

Saturday, 13 March 2010

A fact which seems to have escaped Mr. Cameron - related to the purpose of marketing

A phrase sprang to mind this morning, and I checked to see if I had got it right.

I had.

It was said, or so his son alleged, by Winston Churchill's father, Lord Randolph:

"It is the duty of an opposition to oppose."

This is, you would imagine. somewhat obvious. But it is ignored.

It means more than making smart-arse remarks at Prime Minister's question time, or pretending you ride a bike through London when you've got a car following you, or hoping your wife is a better vote-catcher than the other man's, or mewling in public about what should be decently kept as your personal tragedies less insincerely than the other creep.

It means adhering to what I have long stated is the primary purpose in marketing - and winning elections is about marketing - which is to answer the question in everyone's mind, "Why should we choose you?"

If the Mendacious McToad proposes one thing, you must propose the other. If the Incompetent McToad claims printing money is the way to solve the consequences of his folly, you must say it is not. If the Slithery McToad offers to bribe the public with this or that, you must say what is obvious to every vaguely sentient person - we can't afford it.

And so on.

Only 60% of all those who could vote did last time. The Avaricious Bliar was elected by a minority. Many people don't vote because there is no choice, and those who do tend to choose the best liar - and only Clinton was better at that than Big Ears.

The trouble with Cameron is that he is seen as a man who lacks that old-fashioned quality known as "bottom". He is seen as a lightweight. His only passion I can detect is a passion to be elected. That is NOT a unique selling proposition.

One wonderful vote getter would be to say that no matter what has happened so far the crooks who stole money and are now being given rigged pardons should be retroactively brought to book, not forgetting the bushy-browed home flipper Alastair Darling and cupid-lipped Osborne.

Right now my pal Ian's dog Moose is looking increasingly attractive as a PM. He can't speak, so he can't lie.

Friday, 12 March 2010

Laura Craik, Ian's Dog Moose - and who should really run the countrynext PM

Well, a bit of a pot-pourri for you today.

First of all, Laura Craik who I thought must be either suffering from extreme PMT or be completely bananas - or both - and who writes a column in The Evening Standard. Not exactly H. L. Mencken or even Alan Littlejohn - but quite competent.

Yesterday, though, she went completely ballistic about getting direct mail. It's certainly not PMT - she is pregnant and people are sending her catalogues "each one addressed to me by name". This is "positively evil" ... "junk mail of the most evil sort." And, guess what? "Someone is making a tidy living selling contact details to businesses prepared to pay handsomely for the privilege."

Fancy that! If that's what a few catalogues do, I wonder how she reacts to something like child rape. Maybe someone should take her aside, put a friendly arm round her bowed shoulders and say something along the lines of "You know what, Laura: you don't have to read this stuff - any more than anyone has to read your column. Grow up and get a life, dear."

Anyhow, back to politics.

A few years ago I won £50 off one of my partners when he bet I couldn't mention his amazingly stupid Labrador, Moose, during a speech to 2,000 sales people in Birmingham. I won, by saying, "This is so simple even my partner's Ian's dog Moose could understand it."

I remembered this last night when considering the question I raised yesterday: whether the country should be run by David Cameron, Les, the dead Guinea Pig or Mystic Mary. On reflection, I think Moose should throw his hat into the ring, except that he's probably chewed it to bits.

I asked Ian for a photograph so we can do a proper election campaign, and as you can see Moose is a cert for the sympathy vote, having just had an operation. First, though, I need to buy some lists from somebody who makes a tidy living out of junk mail - and tell Laura Craik about something called the Mail Preference Scheme which has been around for 20 odd years now.

Unfortunately they have nothing to stop people thrusting copies of the
Evening Standard in your face when you're on your way home. But I think I'll survive.

Thursday, 11 March 2010

Well, who do you think is more likely to sort out the economy? Mr. Can't Count McToad - or my candidates?

Today I read with incredulity that Loopy Brown thinks he is the man to sort out the economy. This is like putting forward Jack the Ripper to run a Home for Fallen Women.

I guess Cameron thinks he could do a better job - but I'm not impressed with him either, are you?

Happily, I have two candidates who would surely suit us better, brought to my attention by my friend Michael Rhodes, to whom all praise.

Cast your votes for a) Les, the Late Guineapig or b) Mystic Mary.

Here is a little background info from www.pickmeupmagazine.co.uk/psychics/ - a publication with about ten times more intellectual rigour than both Houses of Parliament. It is in the form of question and answer.

Is Les at peace?

Wednesday 19th August 2009

I lost my guinea pig, Les, a while ago, while he was in the vet hospital.

I miss my little man, and am desperate to know if he's OK, and whether he forgives me for the fact that he wasn't at home when he died.

Josephine, Crewe, Cheshire

Mystic Mary replies:

I have a message to you from Les: 'Dear Jo, there's nothing to forgive because you were a wonderful mum.

When it was time for me to go, I just saw a door, and beyond it was a big, green field with lots of animals in it.

Everything was peaceful and now I've been here a while, I know that every one of us lives together in harmony.

I've met a cat and a hamster who say they lived with you too, and we all agree that you're the best.

So don't worry any more, Jo. We're OK.'

Who would make a better economic manager, do you think, gentle readers? Les can do no damage, being distinctly defunct.

On the other hand, Mystic Mary is even better at making up Fairy Tales than the Lying Toad. Tricky, eh?

By the way, I happened to see Boris Johnson on TV the other night. It was an Any Questions programme where they were discussing the Bliar's wars.

There was a man called Lord Adonis on who was a total waste of space - never answered any questions, just kept on reading his party line script like a talking clock. Obviously got his title for arse-licking.

Boris J was even worse. He just kept on blathering on about what he was doing in London. Doesn't he know that's in England , the idiot? The programme was about Iraq and Afghanistan. What a berk.

What's REALLY worrying is that he's reckoned to be brighter than Cameron.

Wednesday, 10 March 2010

Something from Winston - and why the recovery is a chimera

"Democracy is the worst possible form of government - except for all the others," said Churchill.

To gain and retain power in a democracy politicians tell people what they want to hear, not the truth, and give them what they want, not what is good for them.

That is one reason why we're in a mess, and this, by Bill Bonner in The Daily Reckoning shows why things are unlikely to improve. It's about the U.S. economy, but applies to the U.K., Italy, Greece and God knows where else.

"The US is insolvent," says a report from a hedge fund. As of the third quarter of last year, the federal government had assets of $2.67 trillion and total liabilities of $14.12 trillion.

That leaves a net negative position of more than $11 trillion. By the way, this is projected to get a lot worse, fast. The feds are expected to increase their debts by about $3 trillion more over the next 2 years. Federal spending is out of control...the feds have lost control of their own budget, let alone the economy.

Typically lenders look for what they call 'debt coverage' - debt compared to revenue. If you take the US revenue as a whole, you find federal debt currently equal to a bit more than 80% of GDP. But that number is going up quickly. It will be over one hundred percent in just 2 or 3 years.

Well, so what? As long as you have the income to support it, you don't worry, right? Well, let's look at it from that angle.

Hmmm... Doesn't look so good from that perspective either. The income tax only generates 43% of the budget. The feds get a little more from corporate and other taxes, but the deficit is enormous...from a third to a half of all expenditures.

This is not looking good. Most of the deficits do not come as emergency reactions to a financial crisis. Most of red ink is 'structural' - the result of programs already in place before the crisis hit. They are hard to curtail, since it requires major acts of political will to undo them. So, they tend to continue.

Which means, the US needs to borrow huge amounts of money just to continue drifting along in the style to which it has become accustomed. There is no end in sight to the deficits...no practical way to reduce them...and no way out of the debt whirlpool. Which means, financing them has got to be a losing proposition for the lenders.

Nothing new in that...

Still, we drift...we wander...we float from one bank to the other...and wonder when we will finally sink.

The £ fell because our figures don't make sense; but none of the parties is proposing nasty medicine.

The following makes sense to me. How about you?

1. Every thinking person knows in their personal life that when things get tough they have to cut back and make the best of what they have rathert than run up more debt.

2. The people who vote tend to think a little more than those who don't.

It will not be too hard for them to understand that if the economy is in the toilet promises that, for example, the National Health Service will not be affected, are silly.

And it will not be hard for them to understand that this need not mean the end of the world. It will probably need sensible thinking about how you use limited resources.

As William Rutherford remarked when addressing his colleagues at the Cavendish Laboratory : "We have no money. Therefore we must think."

But if you spend your time watching the polls, concocting lies and dreaming up silly, catch-camera wheezes, thinking doesn't get much of a look-in.

Tuesday, 9 March 2010

Commonsense advice on Twitter and Facebook from the highly talented Ian Denny

My friend Ian Denny turned 40 last Friday. I wasn't able to go to the party in Liverpool - which surely saved me a train fare and a life-threatening hangover.

However, I predict his life is about to begin, as he is one of the smartest people I know; a highly imaginative copywriter with far more ideas than he knows what to do with.

Yesterday he sent something that rang enough bells to fill a cathedral belfry. I've edited it slightly, but the suggestion that Facebook is like a giant pub is brilliantly perceptive.

Just had to share this annoyance with someone! I find Facebook gets me lots of business and I'm too busy to figure out whether Twitter etc. work.

I just get annoyed being asked to become friends of something as dull as a CCTV camera supplier.

I can get to know John Smith who happens to supply CCTV cameras, and if I ever need one, I'll buy one from John. But not i-Security, Liverpool.

I don't fancy going to the pub to watch the match and have a pint with i-Security Liverpool. I may pop along with John though.

Anyway, I'm sure when the social media gurus eventually create some REAL rules, they may be something along these lines:

1) Make sure you use a real person's name when creating a Facebook presence. I just cannot relate to a logo or silly name. I find people far more interesting.

2) I'm sure somebody will give a load of money-making reasons why people may relate more to a brand. But I don't feel like talking to a brand unless I want to complain.

Do I buy from a brand? I do. But I'd much rather buy from a person. And on Facebook, I'm more interested in hearing from people - even when they're pitching something.

3) Social media like Facebook reflect real-life. People buy people. But not always instantly. It's about building rapport first.

4) Facebook is like a huge pub. Full of people. All listening, watching and making judgements. Some very loud and controversial characters do well from a noisy approach. It reflects their business and personality.
Be yourself. But don't get pissed, dance on the tables for all to see. Unless of course your business benefits from being loud and brash!

But in some lines of work, it simply isn't appropriate to be like that. Reflect your audience, but don't be completely dull and stale.

5) Post personal updates. It shouldn't always be about work. It should be opinion. It should be about football. Politics. A funny incident while walking the dog that morning. Anything that you would normally say to people if you were chatting face-to-face.

Mundane stuff which many gurus are bound to frown upon like "Had a BLT for lunch - delicious" may still get replies and build rapport, even though it's actually rather a dull thing to say. There's a subtle line to draw.

Personally, an awful lot of what I now do is underpinned by Facebook. It develops relationships. People attend the events I do as a result. Those people buy other stuff I do after they've been to an event - not always immediately.

Some who have become Facebook friends AFTER first meeting them have become customers afterwards. And without Facebook, I doubt that would have happened.

Out of interest, what's on your list? Am I right?

Has anyone proved yet that Twitter works? Am I alone noticing that Facebook complements other DM activity?

I agree with every word of that. Facebook does complement other activity. Within reason I think the more relevant media you use, the better you will do, as they create synergy. One of my clients just had a record month in the middle of this dire recession - or slump, which is the right word - because of this.

At my EADIM event here in London last year we managed to get Lucy Stafford, MD of WPP's Mindshare, to do a presentation which covered this very subject - and quite a few others.

Since I drafted this, someone wrote saying they could do amazing things for me via Twitter. So I've invited him to have a go.

If he accepts the challenge. I will feature his progress, so we can all learn.

Lastly, thanks to the 279 people who signed up at ludicrously short notice for my webinar yesterday. Not all of you made it, but judging by the comments you loved it.

I did record it, and will be doing regular ones for Commonsense Marketing members.

Sunday, 7 March 2010

Ever been “dying to go” – but couldn’t find anywhere?

The most exciting thing that ever happened to me in a public toilet was in Singapore in 1976.

I had flown out for an interview with Leo Burnett there - they wanted to hire me as a creative director.

When I arrived late at night (after a 30 hour trip via Kuala Lumpur) the MD took me out for a meal in an outdoor restaurant in Bugis Street, the outdoor street market famed for its transvestites.

It was a wonderful place, now closed down by the puritanical government that has substituted efficiency and hypocrisy for liveliness and character there. At one point I went to relieve myself, only to find a soft hand reaching from behind to give me a little help, which I gracefully refused. The meal was excellent.

Yesterday I was astounded to find a free public toilet in Church Street market, Edgware Road, here in London. I went to get some cheap herbs and baklava there (the market, not the toilet).

“This must be the last one of these left in London,” I said to the bloke next to me.

I haven’t seen one for ages. This is because years ago one of the stream of half-wits who have run London decided they weren’t necessary – as though prosperity banishes bladders.

“That’s why all the pavements are covered with piss every Saturday night,” my neighbour remarked.

Almost everything done by British governments in the last 65 years has been foolish. They introduced a free health service open to everyone whether they had money or not –which was not the idea. Then just to utterly destroy it they put “managers” in to interfere with the perfectly competent nurses and doctors.

But there is more.

They destroyed the excellent grammar schools. They turned excellent polytechnics into second rate universities. They failed to get into Europe when we could have influenced its shape. They pissed away the riches of North Sea Oil. They nationalised everything, then denationalised it – and sold its assets at silly prices, privatising without creating the competition that stimulates improvement. I could go on – and unfortunately they will, because they don’t know what they’ve done wrong.

After buying my stuff I walked to the block of council flats where my last wife was living with five kids before I took her away from all that so she could surgically extract all my assets a couple of years ago. I remember those flats being built. They won lots of architectural awards in the ‘60s and quickly turned into vertical slums.

The area round there is no longer predominantly black and Irish; it’s now Muslim. I saw a group –the girls wearing headscarves - busy working on a local community garden. Good stuff. Maybe they can make something of the awful mess the planners created for us all. I have far more faith in immigrants than most. They built this country. But will they survive its politicians?

Saturday, 6 March 2010

At last! The world's problems solved! Look no further!

Well, the two things I have learned in the last few days are that if you mention anything about masturbation or David Cameron it gets an immediate reaction; and second, that there is a clear link between the two in many people's minds.

It has been observed by wiser people than me that almost everything that happens in the U.S. eventually comes to pass here. So it should be no surprise that just as we have drive-by shootings, oafish youths sporting the "I've just shat in my jeans" look, a massive drug problem and growing numbers of people waddling around and taking up two seats on airplanes, we also have a corrupt political class held in utter contempt by most normal people and the alarming prospect of a general election where the choices are between a manifestly unhinged serial liar, bully and financial incompetent and an oily PR man whose only recommendation is that he hasn't yet had the chance to fuck things up. The parallels with the Bush-Gore election are enough to make you emigrate. But where?

However, help is at hand for all of us. Forget raising taxes because I have been getting facebook messages promoting The Unlimited Money System, which shows how You can now Get ANY AMOUNT Of Interest-Free Money, Without Collateral Security in 1 hour, solve your biggest business challenges Overnight and achieve 12 months financial/revenue goals in 1 hour using the most REVOLUTIONARY SYSTEM; sophisticated technological tool, and leverage in the world, Instantly, starting TODAY!

Jesus, if only the Bloated McThug had known about this he'd never have had to sell off our Gold Reserves for diddly-squat all those years ago!

Wednesday, 3 March 2010

Wank, wank, wank. It is IMPOSSIBLE to make some of this stuff up.

I'm at my wits' end.

Day after day when I'm not reminding you that I have about three weeks left to live so you'd better sign up for at least three of my Commonsense marketing programmes each I look for follies to poke fun at.

But great tidal waves of drivel keep flooding over me, making me increasingly sure that the future for these islands is vanishing so fast that my prospects are almost irrelevant.

"Does my limp member need a brand identity?" I asked myself, after reading that "The London Sperm Bank (LSB)" - you know total bollocks is not far behind when obscure organisations give themselves initials - "has launched a standalone brand, created by Silk Pearce, designed to recruit more male donors."

Love the "standalone" - unconscious humour combined with pretentious poppycock.

But let us move on to the next collection of turgid cliche:

"The bank is looking to answer the British Fertility Society’s call for clinics to invest in dedicated recruitment programmes to address a national shortage of donors.

As a result, the Colchester consultancy was tasked with designing a brand identity as well as a dedicated website which raises awareness of the banks role within the wider community."

Hardly a phrase that has not been lovingly culled from the Oxford University Golden Anthology of Big Business and Local Government Tripe.

The website is dedicated to what? The
wider community? As compared to what? Who writes this drivel? Why don't they know where apostrophes go? Who pays them? Why do I care? What is it about the phrase "brand identity" that so lures the ignorant onto the rocks of fatuity? Why is David Cameron so fucking useless?

Monday, 1 March 2010

How would you like a new orgasmic illuminator?

They’re on sale round the corner. Really. I’m not kidding.

You probably thought all agitated, thinking I had sunk to flogging something you get in porn shops, didn't you?

But there’s a place round the corner from me on the Kings Road in Chelsea where they sell overpriced cosmetics, and that’s what it is. I don't know in what way it's better than the old orgasmic illuminator I've been using, but it made me think about the unfairness of life. To be honest, I don't care if my orgasms light up – I’m quite happy however they arrive - but some industries, like cosmetics get away with the most outrageous promises, and others can’t even tell the truth.

For instance the other day someone either died or was seriously injured (can’t remember which) as a result of some treatment they got from one of those Chinese herbal medicine places that have sprung up like toadstools all over the country.

However, the prosecution collapsed because there are no rules for these places. Why? If a doctor did anything like that he’d be in immediate trouble. Is there no law against fraud? Is there something special about these wily rogues that gives them immunity. Or is it, as I suspect, yet another case of one PC rule for all of us and another for anyone not actually born here?

I spend a lot of time writing stuff in the financial field, and you can’t get away with anything even vaguely suspect because of the ogre known as Compliance. Practically all large organisations have their Compliance departments, pullulating pools of negativism staffed by petty bureaucrats whose main task is to justify their existence.

They drive the good people in the marketing departments crazy. It generally takes far longer to get agreement from “compliance” than to write the copy and create the layout. Last year we did a job where two large organisations were doing a joint promotion. It never ran because after a month or two of wrangling the compliance departments couldn’t agree. We're doing one now that took me less than a day to write and has taken up weeks with silly questions.

In Shanghai they told me the Chinese compliance rules are very simple. “Work hard today or tomorrow there will be no work.”One explanation why their economy is growing and ours is shrinking.

There is no compliance on the internet, on which the messages never cease to amaze me. The latest scam is one that says the tax people have got a refund for you. Chance’d be a fine thing. My favourite message today is one that reads "this video from Tellman kicked me in the hiney!" Clearly aimed at the intellectual wing of the business fraternity. Any fool who falls for that deserves to get what's coming.