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Wednesday, 29 February 2012

LEAP DAY FLASH SALE to celebrate the 18th birthday of a splendid man

This is a great day for one of my oldest friends - Daz Valladares.

It is his 18th, which is weird, because he looks much, much older.

That's because he was born on February 29th. Leap Day.

If you don't know Daz, well you should get to know him if ever you want to get great deals on media.

He runs Britain's largest independent media planning and buying business.

When he arrived he had nothing; he used to work 18 hours a day to make ends meet.

He is one of the most generous people I know. I have many world class hangovers to thank him for. It actually took about 30 years before I could find a way of paying for lunch when we met (which was pretty frequently).

We met in 1975, when I was at one of my lowest ebbs (there have been two or three). I actually wrote an e-book to explain how I managed to crawl out of that particular hole and make a few quid.

If you buy this book - which is half price for just today - I will be able to buy him a good birthday lunch, and have a bit left over.

Whilst you will know a few useful things I learned, like:

- How to get started - even if you are a natural born procrastinator like me
- How to stay focused
- The question you must answer before you start any new venture
- How to plan
- And how to carry out your plan
- Your biggest asset in business
- How to have a smart office and not pay rent (perfectly legal)

And if that's not enough, I was quite amazed when I saw how much was in the book.

- How to position your brand as profitably as possible
- How to sell your business
- What mistakes to avoid with a few entertaining horror stories
- A little known marketing fact about PR
- How I sold my agency for a few million
- Surprising news about mergers and acquisitions

All this is information I wish I had acquired a lot, lot sooner.

Because it would have saved me God knows how much money, misery and confusion. And I would have worried so much less

You don't have to worry, though.

If you don't think the book delivers 100 x its price to you in profits during the Leap Year, simply let me know, any time and I will happily refund your money without a quibble.

Go here to buy it now.

Sunday, 26 February 2012

Here's a comic (and lying) name for a business. Plus, yes, bankers really DO p**s away your money - and a countdown or two

Are you jaded and bored, or easily entertained? I get fun practically everywhere I turn.

Last night I watched a BBC 4 programme - Sicily Explored - a gastro-historical feast about one of my favourite islands followed by the latest Camilleri story. Three hours of sheer delight.

But one thing never fails to deliver little bites of pleasure. It is the endless stream of brazen lies from the internet hucksters. For example, an email from the Land of Useless Exclamation Marks saying "drayton, as promised here is your Video Secrets Revealed Download!" They say "Professional video is a must when trying to create your own Brand!"

No, it bloody well isn't. Quite a few brands have been built without them: walk round any supermarket or department store and you'll see some. In fact there is a fair bit of evidence to suggest that unprofessional videos are more convincing and may do more for you.

But the best bit of that email is the name of the illiterate senders' website: EliminateMLMfailure.com. If anyone wants to know how you do that, the answer is simple. Don't get involved. Or, if you must, start your own.

Before that they sent me a message saying "drayton, thanks for joining our VIP list!" - which of course I never had - before explaining that their new scam will be the largest MLM launch online. Nice to know that besides ripping me off with some dodgy rubbish they're going to con me on some video deal.

One thing I always imagined until they proved me wrong was that it was impossible not to make money by running a bank. I am full of s**t, as you know from reading this blog - but so are they, it seems. See http://www.dailymail.co.uk/news/article-2106237/Loo-view-The-dizzying-heights-bankers-ivory-tower-toilet.html.

You will notice that part of the story talks about a very tall building. Tall buildings are often harbingers of catastrophe. Years ago Sears Roebuck moved into what was then the tallest building in the world - and almost immediately got into trouble. The minute you start thinking more about your office than your customers, you're in trouble. I actually share an office - which I only visit once a week, to general relief.

That banking story was sent to me by Michael Rhodes who sends me so much interesting stuff, I'm thinking of making it a regular feature.

Another regular feature of this is my repeated intention of moving over to Wordpress - but I'm worried that you'll all desert me. Both of you. I think I'll start one of those wonderful countdowns with a ticking clock.

Talking of which, if you want to make the savings on my EADIM tapes, the opportunity ends at midnight, Pacific Time. I didn't actually tell you much about who was involved, but here's a bit more.

Besides Rory Sutherland who is so funny and perceptive that I have heard he's about to star in a TV series and Steve Harrison, the world's most awarded direct copywriter, I did something nobody ever seems to do.

I explained the whole scope of marketing and the roles of all 12 disciplines. You cannot succeed knowing only one or - even more ludicrous, only part of one. The kind of people who think that are perfect MLM prospects.

Money comes from customers. Martin Chillcott, formerly a top dog with American Express, M & G, Thomas Cook and others talked about them.

Brian Thomas, whom I once hired because he knew a lot more about marketing than me, probably still does - and explains what you need to know with wonderful clarity.

Michael Leander, founder of MarkEdu is such a witty commentator on what's really happening online that I've had him speak every year.

I flew in Mike Marshall from the U.S. - a good investment because he explained a lot about the internet that I never understood - and made us all laugh in doing so. How nice to meet someone who writes software and speaks English.

Marta Caricato, the only PhD I know in marketing besides Steve Harrison, explained how to plan. Formerly with Coral/Eurobet she worked with me for 7 years before moving to the largest direct investment firm in Britain, Hargreaves Lansdown where she works directly with the founder.

Bill Fryer, whose agency gets you better results, or you don't pay, shows you how to optimise everything. Peter Hobday of Subscriptions Strategy Magazine - to whom I always turn when working in that particular minefield - made us all think.

And, to add a little tone to proceedings, Rowan Gormley, co-founder of three Virgin brands with Richard Branson and now boss of the wildly successful naked Wines business, made a cameo appearance.

When I promoted the event I made two guarantees.

One, if by lunchtime on the first day people didn't think it was worth twice what they paid, they could have their money back plus travel expenses. Two, that you simply will not find any group of speakers of this calibre anywhere in the world. Nobody disagreed or wanted a refund.

If you reply now to the one-minute questionnaire here you qualify for the discounts I promised - and I'll tell you more during the week. But this opportunity ends at midnight, Pacific Time.

Friday, 24 February 2012

Friday’s assorted marketing garbage: what IS going on these people’s heads? And some beautiful writing

If Smirking Dave wanted to know what is going on outside the Great Dream Cocoon in which he lives he could do a lot worse than take a walk around Bristol.

One feature besides the groups of half-dressed drunken sluts and their lurching soul-mates most nights is the large number of empty office buildings, failed restaurants and so on. These have spawned some sad attempts at "creativity" by estate agents. I've started collecting them, as the two examples here show.

The one with the lady and the dog needs no explanation and there can be no excuse. The other one promising a bit of WOW is fatuous without further comment; but even more so if you realise that it is stuck on a fine old building in Queen Square, Bristol's largest and grandest, with buildings dating back to the 18th century. It is the last place you would find WOW - or want to, even if it would do you any good.

Other examples of promotional garbage I came across - or which came across me - are an e-mail this morning from some people called the Advertising Club. They are nothing of the sort. They are some recruitment people who want me to take part in a salary survey.

They say "Let your voice be heard! Your perspective matters!" You can always spot bad copy a) by the irrelevant application of exclamation marks and b) by poor use of language. The copy begins, "As a strategic member of the workforce, we invite you to participate in our annual Salary and Job Market study."

What on God's green earth is a strategic member of the workforce? What the hell has perspective got to do with me telling you what I earn? Kindly piss off.

The same school of copy is clearly responsible for a poster at London Bridge tube station, headed, "Work in a fast-paced multilingual environment". And what, pray, does that conjure up? Lots of demented souls rushing about aimlessly, pausing intermittently to gabble at each other in any one of sixteen different languages? Sounds like environmental hell to me.

Re Smirking Dave, how hilarious that Emma Harrison his "Work Czar" - whose idea of motivating people to work is to pay herself £4 million - is caught up in a fraud enquiry. Did Camron not do any checks? The company has undergone five serious investigations into financial irregularity since 2005. But doing your homework is anathema if you believe in government by gesture

The more I see of Cameron, the more I realise that he really is like his idol Tony the Greedy Bliar, but not quite as good at misrepresentation. How fortunate that his opponent Miliband is as poor at opposition as he was himself.

Incidentally, this idea of appointing Czars for everything is, like a lot of bad ideas, just copying what doesn't work in America. Do any of these people realise just how many of the Czars were murderous bastards or reactionary incompetents and that the last one got slaughtered with all his family?

The people who can change things in a society are not tax-dodging multi-millionaires who have nothing to prove. And giving them silly titles won't help either.

But let us turn with relief from the ridiculous to the sublime. I am very keen on books about crime, especially Italian ones. Italian crime has a sophistication and ingenuity all its own, and so does Leonardo Sciascia. His books are so good that she who governs my every step studied them at University.

I have just read and re-read with growing joy a sentence in one of his books describing an important man who has been interrupted in his morning routine by a visit from the police.

"There hovered in the air around him an irritation at being compelled to delay his customary, almost legendarily punctual departure for the offices of United Industries, from whose top floor, as though in confidential familiarity with heaven, he took the daily, almost invariably correct, decisions which kept the whole country on the road to affluence and well-being; even if it was besieged on one side by the spectre of poverty and on the other by that of plague."

It is very hard to manage a paragraph that long without losing the reader, and my heart goes out to the translator, but that phrase "in confidential familiarity with heaven" really made me happy.

Sciascia does require one to use the brain, but if you like something easier, try Andrea Camilleri. Very funny and very good - the best living Italian crime writer. They have made TV shows out of his books.


Have a splendid weekend.

Wednesday, 22 February 2012

Mindless Meanderings in the Shiny Marketing Wonderland: Who Else Walks on Water? Plus a Mickey Mouse Job Opportunity

I don't know why but I get invitations to speak in little spurts. You know how these things are - like waiting for buses. You stand in the freezing cold for twenty minutes, then three come all at once. You can't get on one because it's full, and the other two sail on past.

Anyhow, I have four invitations on the boil at the moment. What to talk about? One person said they had heard I was very funny, and could I be so for an hour? Another asked me to talk about The State of Direct Marketing. A third asked me to teach people what they need to know in a morning.

I think I could do something very similar for the first two, as every time I have contemplated the state of direct marketing in the last 40-odd years I have found it hilarious.

My younger daughter used to love books called "Lemony Snicket's A series of unfortunate events". This pretty much sums up what I have seen of direct marketing. When I first got involved everyone talked about it, but hardly anybody knew what it was, let alone how to go about it. Lucky for me, as I wrote a book to explain both and have made a modest living ever since as a result.

This pervasive ignorance did not stop people making absurd claims to extract money from clients who for the most part to this day don't take kindly to study. Not much has changed, as far as I can make out. Yesterday I was invited to befriend someone on one of the social networks. This was how they described themselves:

"An established marketer with a thorough understanding of Brand, Strategy, ATL, DM, CRM and Digital. Drawing from extensive experience both Client and Agency side in the UK, Europe and Australia."

Pretty amazing, eh? But there was more, under "Specialties" came the following modest list: "Integrated Communications, Digital Marketing, CRM & Loyalty, Strategy & Planning, Financial Management, Team leadership, B2C and B2B, Retail, Tourism, Finance & Insurance, Telecommunications, Beauty, FMCG."

Giants walk among us, friends.

Anyhow besides being asked to crack jokes here and there, I saw an ad yesterday reading, Picture yourself with a New Job at Disney English. Next to it was, Drayton Bird Newest Employee Disney English. It also showed my picture in case I don't know what I look like.

Well, of course, I look ghastly. But I see that the film of "Lemony Snicket's A series of unfortunate events" won an Oscar for Best Make-up. Maybe that is the solution. I have little doubt that the person whose talents I listed above can do that, too. After all, the word Beauty was included.

But do I want to go to China to teach English in a Mickey Mouse costume? Maybe not.

I cannot leave you without mentioning that if you want to know what marketing, and direct marketing in particular, are all about, you should go here.

Monday, 20 February 2012

A competition to find the biggest crooks and fools. Who would win? And an investment puzzle

I don't know what quirk in me makes for this never-ending fascination with rogues and fools.

Anyhow the funniest things I read on Saturday covered both. First, a headline saying "FTSE settles above 5,900 on Greece optimism."

It is my sincere belief that anyone who thinks Greece is not going down the pan is a fool.

And second an email from a charitable well-wisher which read:

This Money Maker is Going CRAZY!!

And it has something for EVERYONE!

1) Don't spend a cent, and learn how to become more successful - online and offline!

That means absolutely FREE!!

Actually you will get $10 in your account to start... on the house.

2) Be passive and...
Triple your money in a few months!

3) Promote actively and...
Earn hundreds per month, right from the start!

Earn thousands per month, with just a little more time...

There's nothing like it on the web!

This is not quite true, actually. There's a LOT like it on the web and clearly a lot of fools fall for it.

But there are also a lot of fools in the investment world - a point beautifully made by the radiant Merryn Somerset-Webb a week or so ago.

"Invest in a Hedge Fund and you will get what you pay for in the sense that someone in Mayfair will randomly shift your money around to save you the effort of losing it yourself."

She then went on to point out that Private Equity Funds are if anything an ever bigger rip-off, as they charge you a thumping great fee whether they invest your money or not.

Years ago when I was writing stuff for an investment firm I read that you would be better off with a blindfold throwing darts a board than taking advice from the average fund manager.

Anyhow I don't understand what goes on in people's heads. Four months or so ago I asked if anyone would like to employ our services on a no-win, no fee basis.

The offer was to do with getting better results on the internet, with us sharing the savings or profits produced.

Quite a few people said yes, but few went ahead.

One who did go ahead has since saved over £50,000. Some of the others didn't want to share the necessary information - their analytics. Others, as far as I can make out, just found the idea of someone else making money out of them obnoxious.

There's nowt so queer as folk.

Saturday, 18 February 2012

A good joke; a bunch of criminally negligent rogues; which way to turn?

I do not know who coined this definition of the stages of a project, but I have seen several variations.

Like all good jokes it works because we recognise its truth.

The stages are:

  1. Wild enthusiasm
  2. Disillusionment
  3. Confusion
  4. Panic
  5. Search for the guilty
  6. Punishment of the innocent
  7. Promotion for the uninvolved
At the start of the Second World War Michael Foot - a fine writer who like his hero Jonathan Swift made the mistake of going into politics - co-wrote a best seller called The Guilty Men.

The book named the British politicians they blamed for the war. It was a huge best-seller.

If, like me, you are interested in history, you can go to http://www.amazon.co.uk/Guilty-Men-CATO/dp/0571270204/ref=sr_1_1?s=books&ie=UTF8&qid=1329557712&sr=1-1 and learn about the book.

If you are not interested in history I can only quote George Santayana: Those who cannot remember the past are condemned to repeat it.

I wonder what write-up our present bunch will get. They seem startlingly unaware of what history teaches.

Ordinary folk, aware that they owe too much money, have learned their lesson, stopped spending and started paying back their debts.

Government, conversely, is pissing away more money than ever. They promised to cut back but the truth is a stranger to them, as to all politicians. As Merryn Somerset Webb pointed out recently, they (that's you and me) are paying interest on the interest they owe. And by printing billions they are punishing savers and transferring wealth from the poor to the rich.

One unquestionably guilty wretch is the Great Bloated Haggis Gordon Brown, who greatly reduced the incentive to save by stealing £5 billion a year from pensions to help fund a huge growth in unproductive public "service" drones.

To my horror I hear Osborne is thinking of removing even more tax-free benefits from savers. He has learned nothing from Brown's mistake, nor does he understand the inevitable consequences of his action.

First: fewer people will save for their old age. Second: those who do will save less. Third: he will therefore raise less money. Fourth: it will cost millions for the lumbering tax people to change things.

And in the end the state will end up having to support countless more people in their old age.

One thing that will save money - which is better than raising more tax - is to simplify the world's most complex tax system, freeing God knows how many people to do something more useful than filling in forms, checking forms, lying about tax or trying to catch people lying about tax.

Osborne has never had to worry about money in his life, and is thus supremely unfitted to understand it. The same applies to Cameron. How the hell they have the gall to suggest "we are all in this together" I cannot believe.

Worryingly, the alternative financial expert, Ed Balls-the-well-named, is a bigger liar than they are - and was Gordon Brown's financial adviser.

We are in shit. They are in clover. But guilty as sin.

Friday, 17 February 2012

Corporate bollocks Down Under. And who, pray, pays your wages? Plus a good Kelvin McKenzie joke

Kim Williams: "I bore for Murdoch"
More years ago than I care to remember a big cheese at American Express came into our offices in 20, Soho Square to give us - rapt and breathless with excitement, oh yes - a presentation.

Since they were one of our larger accounts and I was in charge, I had to attend.

Those were the days before Death by Powerpoint, but given enough charts senior executives were pretty good at talking dreary corporate rubbish and my client did not fail to sink to the occasion.

He explained at some length with as much jargon as he could reasonably manage that the firm was going to reorganise itself around the Cardmember, which is Amex-speak for their customers.

The client was a friend, and no fool with a good sense of humour. He went on to run BUPA the big private health firm.

As I shepherded him out of our office afterwards I said, "So you're organising things around the Cardmembers, eh, Rog. Where else did you all think the money comes from?"

I was reminded of this when I just read a turgid statement from Australia, reading as follows.

Newly appointed News Limited chief executive Kim Williams has projected the business will become "one united company" under his leadership. 

According to a report in The Australian, Williams sent an email to staff that demonstrated a very customer centric view of his vision for the company. 

Williams said News Limited is entering an ongoing transformation program , moving into "a remarkable era which will reflect renewed energetic devotion to our customers with continuing commitment to innovation in the diverse products we produce.

"I have been developing this program with the executive team in order to respond in a connected, appropriate, fashion to the incredibly competitive, rapidly changing world in which we all live." 

According to The Australian, Williams said the business strategy will be confirmed in the coming weeks and will include "structural changes, clearly defined business goals and commercial targets, a practical set of company values, and a substantial transformation in our systems and behaviours." 

In line with Williams' focus on the customer he said to staff: "The key to our ongoing success will be seen in ensuring every one of us puts customers at the heart of everything we do.

"For our editorial teams, this means our consumers. For our sales teams, our advertisers, and for support functions like HR and IT, it means for our own people."

Williams acknowledged that he had a large challenge to confront, concluding with the statement: "Frankly I wouldn't swap this role or the challenges it provides for anything else!"

I should say that every time I read the expression "customer centric" I feel like throwing up, but all in all I think we can say that now silly cliché was left out of that load of old tripe. By the sound of it, our Kim believes in leadership by boredom.

This reminds me of a time when at short notice I was asked to present some awards in London. Sitting next to me was Kelvin McKenzie, former editor of The Sun who was giving the main speech. He stood up and told the audience that he had prepared two speeches, and we could choose which one we wanted to hear.

One was "A view of the future for Digital Radio" and the other was "Let's pour a bucket of shit over Janet Street-Porter."

Much more fun than Kim Williams.

Wednesday, 15 February 2012

A week or so late for the great man's birthday ... this seems appropriate

With thanks to Peter Hobday, the Subscription Strategy Wizard.

Tuesday, 14 February 2012

At the risk of boring you, this is what is happening to your future

In one of my helpful marketing ideas I quote the French Artist, Writer and Film Director Jean Cocteau who once began a speech by saying, "I have said this many times before, but nobody listened, so I will say it again."

I have been saying for a long time that what politicians on both sides of the Atlantic are doing is short-sighted madness. Last week while she who loves to shop with friends was on a nostalgic trip down the King's Road I spent a little time resting in the Chelsea Library, a haven I love.

In there I read The Spectator which has some comments about what it calls "perhaps the biggest financial gamble in British economic history."

They refer to the fact that the little gnomes at the Bank of England are busy printing another £50 billion. Their contributor Bill Jamieson believes Quantitative Easing has pulled Britain into a Zero Era: low interest rates, low growth and low employment.

The price is to be paid by savers, pensioners and consumers. "This is not scrutinised because Sir Mervyn King is seen as being above politics, and his great gamble comes with a long and boring name."

Nassim Taleb, the author of 'Black Swan' whose admirers include David Cameron, has a few choice words for the government: Osborne's five-year plans are 'bulls**t', debt-fuelled growth is 'a Ponzi scheme' and QE is 'a transfer of wealth from the poor to the rich.'

Mr. Taleb is careful to say that he remains an admirer of Cameron. I wonder why.

By the way, if you want to see a very good film, go and get Beauty and the Beast by Cocteau. Then when you've watched that there is a newly remastered version of Les Enfants du Paradis - Children of Paradise, a wonderful film made in the last days of the German Occupation.

How I have loved my time in France!

Friday, 10 February 2012

What goes around comes around. Why GroupOn is the kiss of death - or something damn close

About 1,100 years ago, a little before my time, this country was ravaged by Vikings who would sail over from Scandinavia each spring and rove around burning, looting, killing, raping, enslaving and generally having a good time.

The inhabitants, whose ancestors had done much the same thing after the Romans left 300 years previously, used to pay Danegeld - bribes to keep the villains away. This had little effect, other than encouraging the Vikings to demand more and more money each season. 

This went on until the locals finally fought back and what eventually because England started to emerge

70-odd years ago when I was an infant, the newspaper industry engaged in a ruinous promotional war, with huge give-aways to attract subscribers.

I have to admit I wasn't paying much attention but before they all came to their senses and stopped, some nearly went broke. I read somewhere that one paper was giving away complete sets of Encyclopaedias to attract subscribers.

About 30 years ago when I was paying attention, the Ogilvy Centre for Research in San Francisco was engaged in a joint project with the late Professor Andrew Ehrenberg and colleagues, at that time with the London Business School. It was called PIMS, and stood for Profit Impact of Marketing Strategies and was conducted among (if memory serves) some 200 large firms in the U.S. and Europe.

What they discovered was that on average the 25% of firms that spent most on discounting and least on advertising were half as profitable as those that did the opposite. 

This does not mean you should never discount and put all your money into advertising. Proctor & Gamble have upped their advertising spend by (I think) 24% in the last two years and their profits have taken a terrible hit. 

However I have always said that you should generally incentivise sparingly. Incentives are like crack cocaine. Firms get addicted and can't get off them. They also end up telling shocking lies. For one of my clients in the home improvements industry - which is largely driven by phoney discounts - my main creative task for years was to invent excuses for the latest wave of money-off deals.

I strongly believe that Groupon in  particular is for the most part only good for Groupon. Ryan Healy has put up an illuminating case history I suggest you read at http://www.ryanhealy.com/better-than-groupon-restaurant-case-study. Just check out how Groupon make their money and ask yourself how you can..

Ryan's stuff is so much better than some of the other stuff I come across.  I just saw something by one man who misquoted David Ogilvy as saying "A huge promise is the soul of an advertisement". In fact Dr. Johnson said "Promise, large promise is the soul of an advertisementsome two centuries before David arrived on the scene.

Thursday, 9 February 2012

A little gentle chauvinism for you. Advice from a retired husband

It is important for men to remember that as women grow older, it becomes harder for them to maintain the same quality of housekeeping as when they were younger.  When you notice this, try not to yell at them.  Some are oversensitive, and there's nothing worse than an oversensitive woman. 

My name is Paul.  Let me relate how I handled the situation with my wife, Lin.  

When I retired a few  years ago, it became necessary for Lin to get a full-time job along with her part-time job, both for extra income and for the health benefits that we needed. 

Shortly after she started working I noticed she was beginning to show her age.  I usually get home from the golf club about the same time she gets home from work. Although she knows how hungry I am, she almost always says she has to rest for half an hour or so before she starts dinner.  

I don't yell at her.  Instead, I tell her to take her time and just wake me when she gets dinner on the  table.  I generally have lunch in the Men's Grill at the club so eating out is not reasonable.  I'm ready for some home-cooked grub when I hit that door. 
She used to do the dishes as soon as we finished eating, but now it's not unusual for them to sit on the table for several hours after dinner.  I do what I can by diplomatically reminding her several times each evening that they won't clean themselves.  I know she really appreciates this, as it does seem to motivate her to get them done before she goes to bed

Another symptom of aging is complaining,  I  think.   For example she will say that it is difficult for her to find time to pay the monthly bills during her lunch hour. 

But, boys, we take 'em for better or worse don’t we? So I just smile and offer encouragement.  I tell her to stretch it out over two or even three days.  That way she won't have to rush so much.  I also remind her that missing lunch completely now and then wouldn't hurt her any -- if you know what I mean.  I like to think tact is one of my  strong points.

When doing simple jobs, she seems to think she needs more rest periods.  She had to take a break when she was only half-finished mowing the lawn.  I try not to make a scene.  I'm a fair man.  I tell her to fix herself a nice, big, cold glass of freshly squeezed lemonade and just sit for a while.  And, as long as she is making one for herself, she  may as well make one for me too.

I know that I probably look like a saint in the way I support Lin.  I'm not saying that showing this much consideration is easy. Many men will find it difficult.  Some will find it impossible!  Nobody knows better than I do how frustrating women get as they get older.  

However, guys, even if you just use a little more tact and less criticism of your aging wife because of this article, I will  consider that writing it was well worthwhile.  After all, we are put on this earth to help each other.



Wednesday, 8 February 2012

Where did I go wrong? Where did they go right?.

About 24 hours ago I got an email from Sydney, with these two pictures.

The writer was the spiv in the white suit, my old partner, Glenmore Trenear-Harvey. The other two old geezers are a pair of ornaments of the Direct Marketing scene in Oz - Ian Kennedy and Eddy Boas.

They were all reminiscing about people they and I knew well.

As Glenmore put it, "From Bill Jayme to Sam Josefowitz, mammoths of direct marketing were de-iced and re-examined by three old codgers as they slurped delicious Australian 'champagne' at the Odyssey Wine Bar, at the Rocks, in Sydney last evening.

Eddy Boas, Ian Kennedy and me had a nostalgia rush as we chortled our way through the pantheons of international direct marketers we've been privileged to have known.

What titans; what rogues and scallywags; visionaries, snake-oil salesmen; comedians, kind, generous people, dumbasses and long-time friends.

You were part of it and would have added more anecdotes to savour."

And what was I doing when I received the email? Revising some copy.

Some mistake, surely.

A heartrendingly brilliant, funny letter. Thanks Andy Owen for sharing. Please read right to the endd

In August of 1865, a Colonel P.H. Anderson of Big Spring, Tennessee, wrote to his former slave, Jourdon Anderson, and requested that he come back to work on his farm. Jourdon — who, since being emancipated, had moved to Ohio, found paid work, and was now supporting his family — responded spectacularly by way of the letter seen below (a letter which, according to newspapers at the time, he dictated).

(Source: The Freedmen's Book; Image: A group of escaped slaves in Virginia in 1862, courtesy of the Library of Congress.)

Dayton, Ohio,

August 7, 1865

To My Old Master, Colonel P.H. Anderson, Big Spring, Tennessee

Sir: I got your letter, and was glad to find that you had not forgotten Jourdon, and that you wanted me to come back and live with you again, promising to do better for me than anybody else can. I have often felt uneasy about you. I thought the Yankees would have hung you long before this, for harboring Rebs they found at your house. I suppose they never heard about your going to Colonel Martin's to kill the Union soldier that was left by his company in their stable. Although you shot at me twice before I left you, I did not want to hear of your being hurt, and am glad you are still living. It would do me good to go back to the dear old home again, and see Miss Mary and Miss Martha and Allen, Esther, Green, and Lee. Give my love to them all, and tell them I hope we will meet in the better world, if not in this. I would have gone back to see you all when I was working in the Nashville Hospital, but one of the neighbors told me that Henry intended to shoot me if he ever got a chance.

I want to know particularly what the good chance is you propose to give me. I am doing tolerably well here. I get twenty-five dollars a month, with victuals and clothing; have a comfortable home for Mandy,—the folks call her Mrs. Anderson,—and the children—Milly, Jane, and Grundy—go to school and are learning well. The teacher says Grundy has a head for a preacher. They go to Sunday school, and Mandy and me attend church regularly. We are kindly treated. Sometimes we overhear others saying, "Them colored people were slaves" down in Tennessee. The children feel hurt when they hear such remarks; but I tell them it was no disgrace in Tennessee to belong to Colonel Anderson. Many darkeys would have been proud, as I used to be, to call you master. Now if you will write and say what wages you will give me, I will be better able to decide whether it would be to my advantage to move back again.

As to my freedom, which you say I can have, there is nothing to be gained on that score, as I got my free papers in 1864 from the Provost-Marshal-General of the Department of Nashville. Mandy says she would be afraid to go back without some proof that you were disposed to treat us justly and kindly; and we have concluded to test your sincerity by asking you to send us our wages for the time we served you. This will make us forget and forgive old scores, and rely on your justice and friendship in the future. I served you faithfully for thirty-two years, and Mandy twenty years. At twenty-five dollars a month for me, and two dollars a week for Mandy, our earnings would amount to eleven thousand six hundred and eighty dollars. Add to this the interest for the time our wages have been kept back, and deduct what you paid for our clothing, and three doctor's visits to me, and pulling a tooth for Mandy, and the balance will show what we are in justice entitled to. Please send the money by Adams's Express, in care of V. Winters, Esq., Dayton, Ohio. If you fail to pay us for faithful labors in the past, we can have little faith in your promises in the future. We trust the good Maker has opened your eyes to the wrongs which you and your fathers have done to me and my fathers, in making us toil for you for generations without recompense. Here I draw my wages every Saturday night; but in Tennessee there was never any pay-day for the negroes any more than for the horses and cows. Surely there will be a day of reckoning for those who defraud the laborer of his hire.

In answering this letter, please state if there would be any safety for my Milly and Jane, who are now grown up, and both good-looking girls. You know how it was with poor Matilda and Catherine. I would rather stay here and starve—and die, if it come to that—than have my girls brought to shame by the violence and wickedness of their young masters. You will also please state if there has been any schools opened for the colored children in your neighborhood. The great desire of my life now is to give my children an education, and have them form virtuous habits.

Say howdy to George Carter, and thank him for taking the pistol from you when you were shooting at me.

From your old servant,

Jourdon Anderson.

Sunday, 5 February 2012

The March of Folly continues apace ... and what propels it? Confucius say "fancy language".

Pay attention while I tell you about inflation.

They paid me £340 a year (less tax) in my first job. Less than a Bristol bus driver gets a week now. But enough for me to go out dancing and drinking seven days a week.

Six years later as a copy chief I had a high time on £2,200 year, even with a wife and three kids to support.

Now they wonder whether £26,000 a year is enough for people out of work. And I see there is more "Quantitative Easing" in store.

That is just inflation. We are mortgaging our future to pay for our present.

As Merryn Somerset Webb wrote the other day in Money Week, we are paying interest on the interest on the money we owe.

"Imagine what your grandmother would say if you ran your personal finances like that."

Our leaders are not as smart as our grandmothers; and they are robbing our grandchildren. They are compounding our debt, not reducing it. They "compound for sins they are inclined to by damning those they have no mind to" as Samuel Butler wrote in Hudibras.

And what are they are inclined to? They love to piss away other people's money. India has just refused the aid we have been giving them because they don't need it. Anyhow it could never have gone to the poor in that playground of corrupt politicians.

What are they not inclined to? Tell the truth and upset voters. The last person willing to do that was the much underrated John Major who may have lost an election but retains more honour than the tax dodger and serial liar who followed him.

Confucius observed that "The beginning of wisdom is to call things by their proper name." When you give fancy names people don't understand to simple things this is just a way of lying.

Marketers are very good at this, as I shall now explain.

In the first edition of Commonsense Direct Marketing back in 1982 I described a test we had run. We wanted to see which of 12 lists would work best, which of three prices, which of two ways of paying, which of two envelopes, which of two response gimmicks and which of three ways of replying.

We tested all these things simultaneously, using a test matrix. The best combination in theory worked 58 times better than the worst. I say "in theory" because results like this cannibalise each other.

When we analysed the results we discovered some surprising facts. The more initials people had before their surnames the more likely they were to reply; people with ethnic names were more likely to reply than those with English; and people in houses with names were more likely to reply than those with just numbers.

Maybe 20 years after this marketing people started talking about "kaizen" and "multivariate" testing. These sounded very impressive and mysterious - until I asked what they were. They were just what we had been doing all those years earlier - and we were by no means the first: we copied the idea from our clients The Readers' Digest.

As a matter of interest Kaizen eno yon dankai, which means "improvement in four steps" comes from an approach to manufacturing introduced in Japan by American statisticians after World War 2.

It is not at all the same thing. You can improve more than four things simultaneously through the kind of testing I have mentioned, but a fancy name will always do better at extracting money from people than the plain facts.

Friday, 3 February 2012

More British Gas lunacy. Also: False Gods and Groucho Marx: why I laugh at the idea that this marketing leader is a good guide for you or me

Yesterday I spent an insane hour (for the second day running) talking to four different departments at British Gas.

They had broken into my home to install an electricity meter because I hadn't paid a bill they hadn't sent. They had the gall to try and charge me for their ineptitude. I felt sorry for all the poor folk who have to talk to aggrieved souls like me. But not for the overpaid people who run the business.

The person I would most like to see run over by a bus is whoever commissioned and approved the answer-phone messages I spent most of time listening to during this ordeal by gross incompetence.

If you are trying to sort out some phantasmagorical cock-up it is no joy to listen to some patronising out-of-work actress lying to you about how wonderful their service and prices are. Eventually when some buffoon asked me for my details I lost my patience.

Talking of which, while all this was going on I was emailed an invitation to a big Internet Marketing event.

It will do well for three reasons.

First - and most important - because of the subject.

Even the teeming hordes who have yet to understand the basics of any kind of marketing know that online is where much of the action is today.

Second, because entry is free if you reply now - but £30 if you pay at the door.

Third because of a testimonial from the Head of Online Customer Marketing at 02, who gushed:

"This is really the only event worth attending for me. It's the only barometer on what's really going on with the development at the Internet."

Now this may impress many people, but I instantly recalled Groucho Marx's line: "I don't care to belong to a club that accepts people like me as members." Except I would change me to him.

You see, you and I live in a different world to this person. His is the corporate world. Ours is the real world. He is probably brilliant at climbing the corporate ladder. But that's no use to me; I'm unemployable.

What I wonder (and doubt) is: has he ever read Claude Hopkins or John Caples? Has he ever risked his own money on anything? Those are the only people whose views interest me.

That was what made Steve Jobs so fascinating. That is why Richard Branson something of a hero. They are entrepreneurs. In the world of phones I can only know one such person: James Dunstone, of Carphone Warehouse.

Dunstone saw an opportunity and grasped it. The corporate drones in that field are just fortunate enough to be in an industry with insanely high margins. Few are anywhere long enough to do much anyhow. The average length of tenure as a marketing director is 14 months: just long enough to screw everything up and get found out.

At random I just looked at the CV of one of these high flyers. Average length in his last six jobs: 16 months. His current employer (one of the world's biggest brands) has been losing market share ever since he got there. I doubt if he can be blamed. He probably spends his time in meetings rather than doing anything useful.

One problem is simple but much overlooked. Titles. How can you (or anyone else) know what the hell you do when your title is Head of Online Channel Insight?

Of course, there are advantages. I know someone who was given a new title he did not understand during one of those "let's rearrange the deckchairs" sessions companies love. I asked him what he thought he was supposed to do. "Anything I like", he replied.

Wednesday, 1 February 2012

"Lifestyles of the Not-So-Rich-and-Famous". And more political B.S. we will pay for - with out money or our lives

Did you ever watch Lifestyles of the Rich and Famous? It was a TV show quite beyond parody run by Robin Leach, an Englishman with the strangest accent.

An eerie parade of boundless vulgarity, mostly in Hollywood, it was one of those things you just couldn't stop watching. Anyhow this not so rich and famous person had his flat broken into yesterday by British Gas who installed a meter because they said he hadn't paid his bill.

This was not impossible, as neither I nor my beloved read our post that carefully. But it was pretty strange because I paid them in January. But I wish they'd told me where they put the damn meter. No doubt all will be revealed when I ring them today. I have a ghastly feeling it's something to do with the credit card I used to pay them.

Europe has about as much idea about prudent management as me, but on a rather larger scale. In December The European Central Bank pumped €489 billion into the eurozone.

It is part of the longer term refinancing operation (LTRO) which gives banks cash at a low interest rate of 1% for three years..

The idea is that the European Central Bank gives banks cheap money, allegedly so they can help small businesses, but really to buy all the sovereign bonds nobody wants.

This is pouring bad money after worse.

John Bennett, who manages the Henderson European Focus Trust simply calls it "a bit of a Ponzi scheme". Bennett says 'What it has not removed is the chronic lack of growth in many parts of Europe.

'Economic policy in the developed world has followed one overriding principle and that is the avoidance of recession at all costs. Politicians hate them because they're scared of losing votes and jobs.
'The ECB and Merkozy may say one thing but all along they've been doing another thing. Just look at LTRO. If that's not quantitative easing, I don't know what is.'

Meanwhile Greece – in worse trouble than anyone - is the world's fourth-largest arms importer. Who are they at war with?  Nobody.  Who sells them most?  Germany, the U.S. and France.

Who, one way or another will pay for this criminal activity? Taxpayers like you and me. But arms bring out the insanity everywhere, as noted in a splendid rant by Bill Bonner in The Daily Reckoning.

“We simply cannot continue to cut our defense budget if we are to remain the hope of the Earth,” says Mitt Romney.

Where do candidates get this sort of stuff? Who writes lines like that? Who takes them seriously?

According to Romney, the Earth itself longs for more US military spending.

His adversary, Newt Gingrich, says he thinks that Obama's Pentagon cuts will make the US as vulnerable to attack as it was before World War II.

But the Pentagon won't really have less money to spend. They're not really talking about cutting defense spending; they're talking about cutting projected military spending increases. Even after the 'cuts,' the US military will still be spending more than the next 10 biggest spenders put together.

All the candidates think the American people want war. Or...what?

Actually, Americans don't want war. The latest Pew Research polls show them more opposed to foreign military adventures than at any time in the last 15 years. They're more interested in getting a job...and protecting their retirements. Given the choice, they would probably want to see military spending cut back and the money put into their own pockets.

But they won't be given the choice. The system is rigged. Between them and the outcomes are 10,000 lobbyists and millions of zombies. This is why representative democracy doesn't work.

Decent people will generally have decent responses to decent questions. Put to a ballot, how would Americans vote?