Bolt vs. Branson

Enjoying the new commercial for Virgin Media Broadband, featuring Usain Bolt:

Watch it here






Thinking out of the box

Do you know the card game ‘Uno’? It’s pretty straightforward. A sort of elaborate game of Snap in which players have to match colours and numbers, and form runs of both to get rid of their hand. It’s good fun. I played it a few years ago on the train with some colleagues from work, en route from London Euston to Manchester Piccadilly. It killed a few hours. I wanted to kill a few more, so ordered it online from Hamley’s toy shop.


A few days later a box arrived. Reasonably big. Three foot by three, maybe. It was Christmas so I was expecting a few things. But nothing that size. Of course, as you will have guessed, this environmental insult was housing my little game. But I didn’t know that at the time.


I unwrapped the box, to find another inside. Identical in every way, but scaled down by a fifth. Intrigued, I opened the second box. Another inside, scaled down by a further fifth, and surrounded by padding. I considered that odd. But what else could I do? I opened the third box.


At this point I began to think that someone was playing a practical joke. Were there hidden cameras trained on me? A Christmas trick? Inside was a fourth box, surrounded by padding like the third, and identically-shaped… scaled down by a fifth. Opened the fifth, the final box, and my card game lay inside – silently laughing at me.


This whole experience struck me as bizarre. Apart from anything else, it was pointless. Why would anyone have the time or inclination to wrap a card game in five successive boxes for a perfect stranger? Especially in the throes of Christmas, presumably rush hour for the Hamley’s despatch department? The postage would be sky high relative to the item, and – most worryingly of all – the chronic waste of paper and cardboard is irresponsible in the extreme.


This doubtless is not the most interesting tale you have ever read. But as someone with experience in the packaging design industry, and who has discussed ways of minimising packaging footprint in the UK, this represented a fascinating and illogical action.


If you don’t believe me, take a look at the photos – live action shots, taken as the mystery unravelled.


I still haven’t opened the game.



Selling out

On the day of the public sector strikes (which I don’t want to go into here), it seems appropriate that I should document a conversation I had yesterday, which made me wonder how some people hold down jobs at all.

I need new car insurance. Having completed the price comparison website trawl, I phoned Admiral to check their quote with a view to taking up a policy with them. Having checked my details with their sales advisor, we agreed that he would call me back at 12.30pm to run through the necessaries and finalise the policy.

He never did.

I don’t mean he called late, or got my number wrong, or sent an email. I mean he just plain never called.

Which makes me wonder: what kind of company can afford to employ someone who’s so good at sales, he can’t even remember to call a customer who he KNOWS will buy from him? Especially when the customer has researched the quote, confirmed the price, and literally has their credit card in hand ready to make the purchase?

Perhaps I’m misguided. Perhaps Admiral are doing so very well, that they have customers queuing up at their door, jamming their phone lines, ready to empty their bank accounts for the privilege of a precious insurance policy. Maybe they wallpaper their offices with £50 notes, and drink from champagne flutes as they talk to customers on solid gold headsets and platinum PC’s. But last time I looked, the insurance industry was ferociously competitive and tooth ‘n’ nail for every sale.

If the guy was this good with a converted sale, I’d love to see him with a prospect.

And as for my car insurance? Well, I’m glad he never called. I saved £100 on a cheaper policy.


Rooms with no keys

This is a great idea, if the technology works. Hotels are encouraging guests to do away with their keys and use mobile devices to check into their rooms. I’m all in favour of anything that eliminates the need to stand in check-in queues whilst suffering jetlag. It’s a constructive concept.

The wisdom of Trottology

I love Dave Trott’s comments on the Brand Republic website. The veteran advertising creative is a pearl of wisdom in beautifully crafted, simple arguments. Here’s one about airlines and customer service:

Having some skin in the game

Max Forsyth is a photographer.
He was telling me about the time he flew from Israel to Cairo, on El Al.
He went to the airport to check in.
A young woman checked his luggage.
She was very thorough, but Max expected that.
Israel knows it’s surrounded by hostile states.
Being wary of terrorist bombs is almost second nature.
And so she was perfectly pleasant, friendly and chatty, as she went through his luggage.
When she’d finished Max said goodbye.
The young woman said “Oh, I’ll see you on board.”
Max said “Are you flying to Cairo?”
She said “I have to, it’s El Al policy.”
Max said “Why? Do you live in Cairo?”
She said “No, I live here, in Israel.”
Max said “How come you’re flying to Cairo?”
She said “Standard El Al procedure. If you check the passengers’ luggage, you have to fly on the plane.”
How about that?
The person who inspects the passengers’ luggage for bombs has to bet their life on how well they do their job.
That’ll concentrate your mind.
Imagine if we had to do our job like that.
Like it was really, really important to us.
As they say in New York “Having some skin in the game”.
Maybe not our life, that would be silly.
But how about our house?
If we had to bet our house on our decisions, would we make the same decisions?
Would we make them the same way?
Would creatives be fighting for the latest esoteric/trendy technique just so they could win an award?
Knowing that if the ordinary consumers didn’t understand the ad they’d lose their house?
Would planners be recommending changing the advertising based on what a couple of focus groups said?
Knowing they were betting their mortgage on the result?
Would account men be willing to change whatever the client wanted to change, just to keep them happy?
Knowing they were betting their house on the client’s whim?
Would clients be quite so eager to get their own way, just because they could?
Even if getting their own way might cost them their house?
Or would everyone take their decisions a bit more seriously?
Would they weigh all the implications before they acted?
Would they carefully consider everyone else’s point of view?
Put their ego aside.
Look at everything from every possible angle.
Make sure nothing is left to chance.
Instead of just getting their own way.
Of course, everyone has some skin in the game.
People can lose their jobs.
But you can get another job.
Unlike El Al, no one bets their life.

Which is the reason El Al has a reputation as the safest airline to fly if you’re worried about terrorist bombs.

Teccy SOS

As Google are inevitably taking over the cyberspace world, it’s nice that they’ve stopped along the way to put this site together. It’s designed to help the staunchest of technophobes to understand the basics of computing, and how to navigate and use their PC. One for parents and grandparents everywhere. As someone whose Mum fits neatly into this category, it rather appeals to me as a welcome aid in my crusade towards parental teccy education!