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Saturday, 30 October 2010

What you can learn from the Mafia, a toilet bowl, a successful madam - and other business lessons

What a desperate old sod I must be!

I've been in marketing one way or another for over 50 years, but I still happily sit through EADIM talks hoping I'll learn something - and I usually do.

In the last 90 minutes I have learned - between bouts of laughter - from the marketing techniques of the Mafia, the New York Madam Sydney Biddle Barrows, penis enlargement ads, how the postman helped a firm sell more dog food, parking spaces for women, a simple way to discover your USP - and why there are images of flies in the toilets of some of the world's biggest airports.

If I had the time to write down all the examples I've heard during these three days I know I'd come up with literally hundreds of good ideas from the most unexpected, even bizarre places.

Why am I telling you this? Because if ever you have to explain to people what works in marketing - or anything else - don't just rely on the usual case histories and examples. Such predictable stuff doesn't stick in the memory.

For instance an hour ago Ales Lisac - who used the examples I listed above - analysed the techniques of a carpet seller in Istanbul to look at questions like whether you should discount your offer or try to give something away.

I always get surprises during these days: I just discovered that not only had Ales interviewed Ms. Barrows: so had Tony Gedge, one of our delegates who advised dentists on how to market their services.

Friday, 29 October 2010

More from the School of Advanced Corporate Bollocks: How does a man who writes like this come to run a great publisher?

Conde Montrose Nast was one of THE great publishers.

He didn't found Vogue, but he did make it successful, as he did Vanity Fair, Travel and other publications. You could say he originated the idea of the lifestyle magazine.

So, this is how the current boss "Chuck" Townsend writes to his staff

Subject: Business Update – Strategic Realignment

In July, we announced a strategic refocus of our Company and identified three clear priorities to ensure our future growth and success: a consumer-centric business model, a holistic brand management approach and the establishment of a multi-platform, integrated sales and marketing organization.

Today, we made a significant step toward accomplishing our goals by setting in motion a structural realignment of the organization, and I wanted to take this opportunity to share my thoughts on the importance of our mission.

Our commitment to consumer centricity is evident in the talent we have assembled in the short time since Bob Sauerberg became President. We have named Joe Simon as our new Chief Technology Officer – combining all of our technology capabilities under his leadership. We appointed Monica Ray, EVP, Consumer Marketing, to spearhead our consumer-driven strategies in both print and digital, and tapped Julie Michalowski, SVP, Consumer Business Development, to lead our efforts in licensing and the expansion of product offerings. As technology continues to facilitate greater connectivity with our consumers, Sarah Chubb and Debi Chirichella will be instrumental to this effort as we work to ensure that our digital capabilities are seamlessly integrated into all that we do. Sarah Chubb, President of Condé Nast Digital, will be responsible for developing and implementing the corporate digital growth strategy. She will continue to oversee content and operations for our emerging digital businesses, such as Wired.com, Brides.com, Epicurious, Concierge, Ars Technica, Reddit, Gourmet Live, and expand our portfolio via the acquisition or start-up of other digital businesses. Debi Chirichella, COO, Condé Nast Digital, assumes the lead for all digital finance and operations – handling P&L management for websites and digital products. This includes financial planning, investment approval to maximize ROI, and metrics-based tracking and measurement. (Debi also continues in her role as COO, Fairchild Fashion Group.)

· To optimize brand revenue growth, we will shift responsibility for single-site, digital sales and marketing to the brand level. Publishers can now fully leverage their offerings across all platforms. Next month, we will begin newly established brand management meetings where the publishers and editors jointly discuss the growth strategies for their brands.

· The Condé Nast Media Group, under the direction of Lou Cona, our Chief Marketing Officer, will become an integrated, multi-platform, multi-brand sales and marketing powerhouse. Our clients expect us to lead the way with a seamless, go-to-market strategy and we are fulfilling that promise. Drew Schutte is being named EVP, Chief Integration Officer of CNMG. In this newly created role, Drew will serve as the primary liaison between the CN brand publishers and the CNMG. He will oversee all pricing, planning and creative marketing in support of the integration of our print and digital, single-site brands. Josh Stinchcomb has been appointed VP, Digital Sales of CNMG. As we integrate digital sales, Josh will work in tandem with Tom Hartman to transform the group.

These changes are certain to stimulate higher levels of growth and encourage innovation in all that we do – but perhaps most importantly, they will ensure the brightest future for Condé Nast.

I look forward to working with all of you to realize our greatest potential.

Angels and Ministers of Grace Defend us!

Thursday, 28 October 2010

Bean-Counter Management Madness: take care of the details and let other people drone on about strategy

Ever wondered how U.S. lawyers are able to extract lunatic sums of money for the smallest injuries?

Why do supermarkets put the booze at the last aisle? How could Eurostar have saved a few billion - and made passengers wish the journey was longer?

How could people think a thumping great big Rolls Royce Phantom is actually a good deal at £327,000? Why do you sell more TV sets when your ad appears on a page selling holidays? How do hotels get people to reuse their towels?

These are just a few of the subjects Rory Sutherland covered with us yesterday evening.

In fact he entertained us yesterday for 79 minutes without a single note - in the process revealing quite a few things I didn't know, one of which I found deeply depressing.

It seems Britain has a higher proportion of firms run by financial people than any other country. That explains a lot - like why we're in such a mess.

He gave quite a number of reasons - and some telling examples - to prove that in this and quite a few other ways the way things are run is stupid.

He showed why numbers are often a dreadful basis on which to make decisions; that people rarely if ever act for logical reasons and that attention to detail is often far more effective than strategy if you want to make more money.

I didn't give him a brief - just asked him to make single helpful suggestion. After all, if you do just one important thing better next year than this, you'll probably outperform your competitors.

His plea was that firms ought to have a director of detail, and have one meeting a year devoted to nothing but detail. Few people worry more about things that are really quite unimportant than your aged correspondent, so Amen to that.

If ever you want your mind stretched a lot of laughs, some hilarious examples and a fair old dollop of good ideas, try and see him one day if you possibly can .

Wednesday, 27 October 2010

Well, fancy that! What I found in yesterday's Evening Standard

I wonder what the late Lord Beaverbrook would have thought of what they run nowadays in his old paper, The Evening Standard.

I think it's probably the best paper around today, full of interesting stuff.

For example on page 36 I see The Tory Council in Bromley objects to the idea of parents doing what the Tory party in parliament wants them to do - set up an independent school. An apparatchik - or should it be chick - called Gillian Pearson who is director of education and children's services objects because she wants the school kept in "the local collaborative framework."

What the hell is that, pray? What she really means is that if people start doing things for themselves she'll be out of her overpaid non-job. There should be a government mandate that all people who use expressions like that be fired instantly. Nobody would notice the difference and the savings would be huge.

The only problem is, Cameron talks like that too.

On page 27 a pile of assorted rubbish is touted as being one of the few good things in the new Saatchi exhibition. Makes you wonder about the rest of the garbage there; and makes me recall that when I went last year I saw another load of rubbish - only that time it was old clothes. I wonder what a real artist like Turner who used to live down the road would have thought of it all.

On page 7 I learn that Cherie "cheap as chips" Blair has sold Tony's signature for £10, whilst on page 15 her half-witted half-sister Lauren is busy praising the enlightened regime in Iran where torture comes as standard.

On page 16 Sally Bercow - would-be M.P. and wife of the creepy speaker - says doing a parachute jump for Stonewall was "totally awesome". She obviously has the same gift for language as the people who write the ads in the paper - which I'll come to in a minute.

On page 39 the paper's resident gay blade, Richard Dennen, reveals that he is going gay speed-dating on Duke Street, Mayfair.

Thanks for that, Rich. I have mixed memories of Duke Street. In the late '60's my partner Martin was so pie-eyed in a restaurant there that he fell asleep into his meal. And 8 years later in a first floor flat opposite that restaurant he killed himself. Every time I go past there - which I do regularly - I think of him. He was clever, funny, talented - but fell in with a pair of crooks. What a sad, sad shame.

On page 16 I see that some rogues are trying to transform St. Barnabas House a beautiful 18th century house which is "a hostel for fallen women" off Soho Square - and which I also walk past most days - into a "Life Skills Centre" whatever that may be. They want to make it a private club.

There are enough clubs in Soho already, and I recommend The Green Carnation 20 yards away, where we had a birthday party two years ago - and where Richard Dennen would certainly have fun.

Only the ads spoil everything.

Amongst them we find an ugly reversed-out job with American Express offering "a mind-blowing 5% cash back". Whatever happened to their premium positioning?

Vodaphone's copy on page 24 resuscitates one of the corniest old lines: "Mobile broadband just got more mobile". No talent required to write their stuff, clearly. Not much competition, though. All of page 18 is devoted to "Better for Mobile Broadband. Don't just take our word for it." Then 21 words of dull copy.

A whole half page is wasted by ING to say "Try as we might, we just couldn't make a mortgage application fun, so we made it simple instead" followed by 50 odd words of the same kind of thing. Why don't they say "Introducing the 25 minute mortgage"? Run that in small spaces and they'd triple their ROI (if they bother to measure it).

Have any of these people ever studied what copywriting is about? The same applies to the design which is mostly of Olympics logo standard.

I would say that virtually every headline in the editorial is better than all the headlines of the ads. Features editor David Cohen is up for an award - deservedly so - and the paper has already won two awards this year.

Ironically, one of the poorest ads is for the Standard's new sister paper, which is called i. The headline is "i doesn't do information overload."

They should get some help from the editorial people.

Monday, 25 October 2010

Sad falling-off in the quality of horseshit

This is how Cameron is going to create a thriving, flourishing Britain.

See if you can make a word of sense out of it. By which I mean what is he going to do exactly?

"First, using all available policy levers to create the right framework for enterprise and business investment.

"Second, using our resources to get behind those industries where Britain enjoys competitive advantages.

"Third, using our power and muscle to make it easier for new companies and innovations to flourish."

Wow! This is going to get the country charged up and ready to go, isn't it? We all know what to do now!

Just how many management/political clichés can you get into three fairly short sentences? He's really Bliar-Lite, isn't he? Different face, same old waffle. Why should the results be any different?

What worries me is that not just the country but the quality of horseshit spewed out by politicians has deteriorated appallingly in my lifetime.

Nearly 50 years ago we had as Prime Minister one of this country's best-ever conmen - Harold Wilson. He said we were going to "harness the white heat of technology" to put Britain on top again.

How exactly he was going to go about this nobody knew - least of all him, as he proceeded to demonstrate - but at least it sounded good and original.

Cameron's stuff is much poorer. He borrows U.S. president Lyndon B. Johnson's line about building a Great Society - and weakens it by promising a Big Society. I mean, "Big" and "Great"? Not the same, are they?

We know we're going to grow alright: 20 million more of us are on the way. Maybe he should promise The Crowded Society. That's one thing he can deliver.

Sunday, 24 October 2010

The state we're in - which is unlikely to improve

It's 5 am-ish here in Chelsea and I hear outside the usual drunken oafs lurching their way home - as I do any morning around this time.

When the Great Bliar came in to wreak his magic 14 years ago one of his propagandists was a Scot called "Will" Hutton (not William, please note: Will is more working class) .

"Will" - an MBA and sociologist who worked for the BBC (where else - he's never had a private sector job) before going to run a talking shop called The Work Foundation - wrote a book called The State We're In to explain all the things that had gone wrong with Britain that Tony and Gordon were about to put right.

At that time we were suffering from pubs that closed at 11 p. m. and a strong economy with the biggest surplus in my lifetime.

How things have changed!

Now we have drunkenness night and day, junkies walking past my office every evening, a police force filling in forms rather than catching thieves, health and safety regulations that prevent people doing their jobs, the worst recession since before I was born, people telling me I can't cook bacon in case I upset their religious susceptibilities, a pension that's been slashed by two thirds, subservience to an unelected horde of statist bureaucrats on Brussels, sky-high taxation to pay for it all, the Bank of England printing money and a government run by a pair of rich boys which has pulled off the tricky feat of pissing off all the unions without taking enough steps to put things right.

What state is Will in? you may ask. He is busy sucking at the state's tit, of course, having been appointed by Cameron to "run an enquiry" into cutting pay amongst the top ponces in the public sector whose pensions I am subsidising.

A look into the nature of his thinking is that the Work Foundation used to be called The Industrial Society.

Hey, who needs industry when you can conduct a re-branding exercise? Remember the Bliar's Cool Britannia? What a bunch of plonkers.

Friday, 22 October 2010

Whose country is it anyway? How the British are giving up - and other thoughts

A lady running a cafe in Stockport has been told by council fuckwits to stop serving bacon because it might cause offence to Muslims next door.

It is "unacceptable on the grounds of residential amenity". I cannot say that Stockport - a place where my brother used to run a pub - is a hotbed of Christian sentiment. But I am pretty sure it is not situated in the middle of Saudi Arabia.

Meanwhile, in Tower Hamlets two politicians of Bangladeshi origin are squabbling over which should become council leader. The chief areas of dispute are whether one of them - allied to a religious fanatic - has or has not arranged for some of his cronies to falsely accuse the other of being a rapist.

Neither would stand a chance of winning if the British born population bothered to vote. But the British have given up, being chiefly concerned, as far as I can see, with our one great national success story: getting more obese than the Germans.

Elsewhere I see one of my old clients has died. Bob Guccione was the founder of Penthouse and I wrote the first ever advertisement for his naughty publication back in 1965. Golden days when a few nude pictures could cause questions to be asked in the Houses of Parliament. I described it as "the fastest moving target in publishing". What a creative little creature I was, to be sure.

But not as creative, it seems, as Tory MP Nadine Dorries. She was up for the usual expenses rip-offs but got away with it. In the course of the investigation she revealed without irony that her blog, which she uses as "a tool to enable my constituents to know me better", is 70 percent fiction.

How rare and refreshing to have an M.P. who may be a liar like the rest of them but at least confesses it straight out.

My best laugh of the day, though, came from the Nigerian High Commissioner, Dr. Dalhatu Sarki Tafida who has complained that Alan Sugar was defaming his countrymen by suggesting that Nigerians couldn't be trusted.

I am sure some Nigerians can be trusted, but is there anyone in the world with an email address who has not been approached by Nigerian conmen? And has anyone ever heard of an honest Nigerian politician?

Come to that, I wonder how High Commissioners get their jobs. No doubt in the same way as everyone else over there.

Thursday, 21 October 2010

At last! Crap creative makes its entrance, a good joke from Slovenia - and a quick preview for you

My colleague Carol, who has put up with me for over a decade now, has an eagle eye for the ludicrous.

So I must thank her for showing me this example of how not to advertise.

As so often the perpetrator doesn't have enough confidence to sell what is a good proposition - besides knowing nothing about what works and what doesn't.


In France and Belgium the unions have decided with even more enthusiasm than our lot that the way to save a failing economy is to stop work.

So their strikes meant that on Tuesday I had to get up at some insane hour to go to La Hulpe, the home of Kodak in Belgium and do a talk.

My friend Ales Lisac was on before me - a tough act to follow as he's very funny. He brought his wife Natalie on the trip.

As he explained, "This is a workshop. I work. My wife shops."


Besides being very entertaining, Ales knows a lot about making money in tricky times and will speak at EADIM - a subject you're probably sick to death of.

However, I know one or two people in the U.S. and Australia are miffed that they can't make it.

So to see what you're missing, just go here.

Wednesday, 20 October 2010

"You there in the back row, pay attention. You are at the magic crossroads".

I just got an email from not one, but two of my old clients, making a big mistake.

It read:

Tell Us What You Think

At American Express, we want to know what you think of our service - and what we can do to make it better.

We noticed you recently contacted our Customer Service Centre with an enquiry. We hope we were able to help you and that you were satisfied with the service you experienced. But could we have done more?

To help us do more, we would like to invite you to complete a short survey. It will only take a few moments and we will use your comments to improve our service to you. We will not use your responses for marketing purposes.

Thank you in advance for your participation. We look forward to hearing from you.

The survey was run by Synovate and the message ignored the facts. I did not make an enquiry. My P.A. cancelled the card.

The magic crossroads in marketing - any kind of marketing - is the point at which you use your knowledge about someone to talk to them in a relevant way.

Relevance matters far more than "creativity". If you ignore the facts, you pay the price.

Monday, 18 October 2010

My second Lucky Owl at David Ogilvy’s Chateau

I apologise for the quality of the pictures: they were taken with my mobile phone, an antique by today’s standards – four years old.

I keep asking my colleagues for a new one with all the trimmings, but they refuse because they say I would drive them crazy by asking stupid questions about how it works.

I thought you might like the views, though. They were taken at Touffou, David Ogilvy’s chateau where I spent the weekend. The one showing the old geezer is a view of the courtyard; the other is a view from my bedroom at 6. a.m.

The first time I went there I recall that we rescued a baby barn owl that had fallen out of its nest and put him somewhere warm to recover.

In the middle of Saturday night – Sunday, really, I suppose – I heard a noise at the window. When I went to investigate I saw, to my astonishment, a big white or greyish owl, who looked at me gravely for a second or so before flying away.

Nowadays I guess people associate the owl with Harry Potter. In ancient Greece they were the symbol of Athena, goddess of wisdom. At breakfast Herta Ogilvy told me that owls are a harbinger of good fortune.

For nearly four years I have wanted to run an event at Touffou; I have even had some discussions about it. Maybe I should ask the wise and lucky owl’s advice on what to do.

Friday, 15 October 2010

Why monkeys are smarter than people

My friend Ian Ramsden is a very able direct marketer who lives in Colombo, Sri Lanka.

I was hoping to visit him last year to entertain the locals with voice and gesture, but they have even less money to spend on bad jokes there than here, so no dice.

Here is a story from his blog.

This morning, for the first time, I saw a monkey in a tree outside my home.

For many of our readers that might be a big yawn, but for this foreigner it was a source of delight and the usual cry of “Let’s give it some food” went up.

First on the menu was a large slice of red apple that was immediately consumed.

This was followed by a slice of mango (one nibble and dropped on the floor), a slice of freshly cut pineapple (picked up and put down again), a cabbage leaf (thrown down with a look of disgust – and I can’t blame it either) and, finally, a green apple that was again nibbled and then taken away into the tree.

This wonderful little experiment was of interest to this old marketer because it shows the value of testing. Here’s something that has absolutely no comprehension** of marketing whatsoever so the results of the test are totally valid. All the primate wanted was something that tasted good.

It made its choice from a range offered and gave a ranking order of preference in return.

First, it’s quite safe to leave cabbages on the dining room table because they won’t be stolen.

Secondly, that businesses who only make one offer to consumers run the risk of it being rejected. It was only through testing different offers against the same consumer that an acceptable product offer was discovered.

Research says we are only 2 chromosomes away from our nearest relatives.

I do wonder at times, (

** I wonder too sometimes.

A famous firm were worried that since their copywriter left and they started doing it themselves sales had gone down. Isn't that amazing?

They approached a friend and said: "We'd like you to write a sales piece for us. But before you do write a short piece for us and send it over. But don't spend too much time on research."

Of course they expected to get this free, because they all come in to work for fuck-all every day. Then they wanted to pay him about one third of what the job is worth.

The question is, how much
less smart are these people than the average monkey?

By the way, on the matter of tests, I am thinking of offering a choice of one day at EADIM for people who can't spare three. Can't decide on the price.

Thursday, 14 October 2010

"My father called it art. I call it child abuse."

Yesterday I saw an article about an avant garde Scandinavian artist who has "created" what I suppose they call an installation consisting of all the furniture of her apartment.

How much talent did that take? How much thought? Have a guess. Two minutes? Three?

Nowadays you just have an idea, the more ludicrous the better - and that's art.

Or you think up something disgusting - do it, and that's art. Gilbert and George are good at that - leaders of what you might call the shit-stirrers movement.

Robert Mapplethorpe decided that photographing someone sticking their fist up someone's arse is art and was acclaimed as a genius.

Maybe so, maybe not - but at least his technique was excellent.

Very little art now seems to have any relationship to - or respect - for technique.

All this brings me to my heading, from an interview with a lady whose father revelled in filming her in the nude when she was 11 - asking questions like "have men started noticing your breasts?" - claiming this was art.

New York University now has a 45 minute film of her which they are refusing to give her - no doubt for reasons of "artistic integrity." Maybe all child molesters are misunderstood geniuses engaged in their own special type of performance art.

If like me you think they - and other abusers - should be sought out and prevented from exercising their artistic tendencies join the Stop Abuse campaign, started by a friend - with a logo by another friend.

Wednesday, 13 October 2010

Does the Internet make idiots of us all? My answer is a resounding "I need no help in that department"

Here's a good insult for you.

My great favourite Dr. Johnson said unkindly of the playwright Sheridan (who was actually brilliant) :

"Why, Sir, Sherry is dull, naturally dull. But it must have taken a deal of effort to become as we see him now. Such an excess of stupidity is not in nature."

This brings me to my favourite subject - me.

You probably never noticed, but yesterday I sent out a blog heading without copy which read "Another magnificent display of incompetence from the man who has infuriated" - then stopped.

You could call this "art imitating life". It may not have infuriated anyone - we get an ample supply of garbage in our in-boxes already - but it certainly was incompetent.

The question is, though, can I blame the internet for my excess of stupidity?

I think it enables me to make the sort of mistakes I've always made - but much faster.

For instance, years ago I wrote a mailing for
Management Today. After it went out (instead of before, which would have been intelligent) I rang my friend Victor Ross, former chairman of The Reader's Digest to ask if he'd look over the mailing.

He had actually received it, and said: "You have not said whether it's a weekly or a monthly."

Luckily the mailing did pretty well - but no thanks to my stupidity.

With the help of the internet I could have made the mistake much faster (and less expensively).

Tuesday, 12 October 2010

Another magnificent display of incompetence from the man who has infuriated

Monday, 11 October 2010

More on marketing buffoonery from the entirely wonderful Tom Fishburne

Few people comment more perceptively or hilariously than Tom Fishburne on the assorted lunacies of marketing.

One, of course, is that promotions are a quick fix - but, like cocaine, a long-term killer - with one exception, which I shall come to in a moment.

Another is that all you need is a website - and away you go. The fact is that most websites suffer from two dire diseases.

First, people don't give enough thought to how they get people to their website in the first place. That is why I have persuaded Bradley Long to analyse and give five pieces of personalised free advice on SEO to every EADIM attendee.

The other is that once they've got people there they do damn-all with them. They don't find anything about them. They don't do anything to keep them there longer. They don't harvest names. They don't do tests. Often they don't follow them up. And even when they do, they don't persist for long enough.

That is why I've got Ben Hunt to come to EADIM
http://directmarketingcourse.com/, discuss what ails your website and reveal the seven deadly website sins. In fact we have a whole day devoted to how you can do better online.

But enough of this sales talk. You are surely the exception to these rules, and torrents of people are flooding into your site, staying for hours at a time and buying by the bucket-full.

Anyhow, here's the answer to the question I posed just now.

The only time promotion doesn't kill your brand is when everyone else is relying on it too. Then you must do two things.

1. Come up with better promotions than the competition.

2. Do something to build your brand.

One of our clients is doing that with record results in this depression. If you're interested, we'll touch on that, too, at EADIM http://directmarketingcourse.com/

By the way, don't run away with the idea that I do everything right myself. I don't.

I kid myself I am an example of the tailor being the worst-dressed man in the room. On balance, though I fear I am best placed somewhere between the absent-minded scientist and the village idiot.

Saturday, 9 October 2010

How jargon (with a dash of political correctness) killed a nice man

Last year I did a talk to some Syracuse University students about Ethics in Advertising.

Quite a challenge. I had to start by confessing to having done a few things in my time that I am ashamed of, but then told a true story about how bad advertising killed a good man.

And now it seems that jargon can have much the same effect

If you read my witterings you know that I hate jargon. I often quote Confucius who said that if he had the power to do anything he would ensure that language was used correctly,

"Because if language is not used correctly, what is said is not what is meant; that which should be done is left undone; justice and morals are led astray; and the people stand around in helpless confusion."

This seems to pretty well sum up what is happening in our society except that in the places where I live and work the people are often drunk as well as being confused.

Well, yesterday I read how poor use of language - jargon, to be exact - killed one of my neighbours. I didn't know the victim, but one of my two best friends says he was, besides being very able, a very nice man.

Let me tell you the story in case you haven't heard it. The man in question was a brilliant lawyer called Mark Saunders who lived near me in Chelsea, and last year he was surrounded by a small army of 59 police including a number of trained marksmen and shot dead.

This happened because he was out of his head after ingesting an alarming combination of Prozac, Cocaine and booze and aimed a few rather haphazard shots with a shotgun out of his window.

The question is, why was he killed? He need not have been. Any one of these highly trained marksmen could have wounded him, but seven aimed to kill, and succeeded almost simultaneously.

It is not quite clear who was in charge of this sad business, but it seems a corrupt copper called Ali Dizaei (promoted to a very high level, no doubt for reasons of political correctness) had muscled in and taken over.

But the main reason for the tragedy is that no-one knew quite what they should be doing. It seems police have to wade through over 300 pages of badly written waffle in at least six different manuals to know what to do in these circumstances.

Compare this with the way in 1940 Churchill asked the head of the Admiralty to "write down on one side of a sheet of paper what the Royal Navy is doing to prepare for war

The coroner - whose job it is to determine why people die on these occasions - suggested police be told what to do in "simple, unsophisticated language thereby minimising jargon – indeed, encouraging more common sense rather than slavish adherence to written documents and protocols."

I realise that many people who attend business meetings may feel like killing themselves as a result of the dreary tripe they have to listen to, but so far nobody's had to call the police in.

Just as well.

Friday, 8 October 2010

Yack-fest reveals Clabeaux's secrets - and a little something from Bangkok for you

Did I mention Dave Clabeaux to you before?

He's the guy who with his partner Ben Moskel runs an affiliate marketing business off a kitchen table that turns over something in excess of a million a year.

(Folk claim they've bought a desk, but I don't believe they're that extravagant.)

Well, yesterday we had a bit of a yack-fest over the phone to find out how the heck they do it. You can listen to his pearls of wisdom and my bad jokes here.

Also yesterday I got a message from old friend and client Paul Leadbitter who is running around the Far East dispensing wisdom to a big financial services firm. Just to liven up proceedings I did a 4 minute video for his audience.

I was talking about the relationship between online and offline marketing. It's here - and you may find it interesting.

He is in Bangkok today, which reminds me that many years ago I was giving a talk to agency people in that fair city, in which I suggested a recipe for success.

"All you have to do is think of three ideas each morning for any of your clients, then ring them up and tell them. You will be hugely successful."

One of my audience said, "That doesn't sound easy."

"I didn't say it was easy. But it is bloody simple," I replied.

When you listen to Dave you will realise that, yes, you can make a lot of money with no product and no list.

Internet frauds will tell you it's easy. It isn't. But as Dave reveals, it is simple.

To hear the full story, you need to be at EADIM, of course

Wednesday, 6 October 2010

What you can learn from how to sell a brick

A few weeks back I went to New York to interview "the world's greatest salesman".

His name is Todd Herman and he's the guy on the left.

The guy on the right has done even better. He's Mark Zuckerberg. Yes; the Facebook man.

Todd won a contest run by my old agency, OgilvyOne. His challenge was to sell a brick.

After winning the contest Todd was whisked off to Cannes by the Ogilvy people, where he was quite a celebrity. So much so that Mark Z came up to him and said, "Aren't you the guy that's the world's greatest salesman?"

Todd bashfully confessed to this, then reverted to type. "Why don't you buy me a drink?" And Mark did.

You can see how Todd sells bricks here - and yes, he got people to part with good money http://www.youtube.com/watchv=DYnazMDvGsI

There is a great lesson- especially for copywriters - in that little clip. Don't sell the thing. Sell the dream. And the best dream to sell is the dream people have of themselves

It turns out that Todd's a successful internet marketer and quite a few big firms (especially ad agencies) could learn a lot from his website, as you will see if you go http://www.thepeakathlete.com.

In short, he's pretty smart.

I like to think that's because - so he told me - he's been studying me for years.

But you know these super-salesmen: they are masters at the gentle art of flattery.

Which brings me to my next amazing trick. Tonight I'll be interviewing Dave Clabeaux who, with his partner Ben Moskel, turns over something in excess of a million a year as an affiliate marketer.

Their business is admirably simple - run from a kitchen table.

So why aren't we all doing that well? That's one thing I'll be asking him. Watch this space for news of when you can hear the interview.

Tuesday, 5 October 2010

Don't have your copy written by a speak-your-weight-machine

My old friend Glenmore sent me something interesting today, as he often does, about a campaign aimed at "40-plus" women.

After making sure this referred to age not measurements - you never know, do you? - I went to see more.

I read a message from the excellent Patti Boulaye saying that "a wonderful woman Caryn Franklyn is trying to fight the battle of ageism in the fashion and media industry" and has convinced Debenhams to "lead the way"

It is many years since Debenhams led the way in anything, and certainly no battle. So being translated I suppose this means they scent the possibility of making a few quid.

But they are pushing at an open door. M & S started using Twiggy years ago with much the same thinking in mind.

And what a shame Debenhams ruined it so comprehensively with copy opening in the following crass way:

"As a department store we pride ourselves on offering a great range of clothing for all ages. That's why we've launched an incredible new project called The Style List, in partnership with fashion expert Caryn Franklin."

Is that really the way your customers speak, Debenhams? Is it really "incredible"? "Utterly predictable" would be more like it.

The other week I heard that agencies have found a new way of extracting money from clients by helping them with their "brand conversations" - jargon, I guess, for how to speak to their customers.

On the evidence of this, there is a big market out there. Now I think of it, we did some work for one of Sir Philip Green's store chains a while back to help them in this

I advise these folk to bear in mind the motto of perhaps the greatest retailer of the 20th century, Julius Rosenwald of Sears, who said "My ambition is to stand on both sides of the counter at once".

And I recall that Feargal Quinn who built up Ireland's best supermarket chain by attending to customer service used to spend much of his time in the stores watching customers.

You won't learn much sitting in meetings talking rubbish about social media, believe me. Watch the customers. Talk to the customers. They are the only profit centre. They will tell you.