Archive for August, 2008

Inside The Big Tent

Friday, August 29th, 2008 by Mark Hanson


I posted yesterday about the efforts that the Democrats/Google are making to facilitate ordinary bloggers at the Democrat National Convention in Denver. There is a huge resource called the Big Tent, sponsored by Google, complete with broadband access, editing kit and access to the politicians. 

Guardian have posted a cracking video report from inside Google’s Big Tent. Its 4 minutes+ so it won’t eat up too much of the day.  Last year I had a press pass for the Labour and Lib Dem conferences, so I spent a lot of time inside the facilities they provide for the UK mainstream media. Their bloggers tent is a 5 star hotel versus our political parties’ version of Fawlty Towers!

Wholefoods – Totally Overrated!

Friday, August 29th, 2008 by Liz Dewhurst

OK, I admit, I was giddy to find out that there was one at the end of my street when I moved out here. It’s a mecca for all food-lovers/foreign-supermarket addicts and prides itself on being the world’s largest retailer of natural and organic foods.  I was intrigued by Wholefoods and its brand message – ‘food labels that inform not confess’, and had high expectations of the store.

I think I pretended to like it for the first few visits but then reality actually kicked in as I started to realise a common theme to each trip:  

  1. Enter store and wander around aimlessly for the first 20 minutes, slightly overwhelmed by the amount and range of food on offer.
  2. Get confused by the way all the prepared foods are labelled up – some by nationality, some depending upon whether they are hot or cold and other random ones e.g. Indian curries being dubbed as ‘comfort’ food.
  3. Slight panic as I realise how many people have dipped into the food that day and also wondering just how long the food has been sat there for.
  4. Thinking can I really be bothered queuing for another 20 minutes in a long line that sweeps around the store, only to be faced with a military-style member of staff who barks the number of the till you have to quickly move to?

 Wholefoods – not a great instore experience and in my opinion, totally overrated.

NYC Waterfalls

Friday, August 29th, 2008 by Liz Dewhurst


NYC Waterfalls In the sizzling hot heat of the summertime, what better way for a city that prides itself on art and culture, than to create a temporary art exhibition of waterfalls around the city?   The temporary installations are dotted around Manhattan and Brooklyn, with cruises running each day, every 30 mins. Sunset’s the best time to go as the waterfalls light up from behind and you get stunning views of the city. Check them out 

Dogs Rule NYC

Thursday, August 28th, 2008 by Liz Dewhurst


They are everywhere. whether it’s lifts, shops, down the streets or even in their very own designated ‘dog parks’, the cuddly, smelly and giddy canines have officially taken over the city. From pugs to pitbulls, shiatsus to sausage dogs, the canines strut around town with the most glam NYC attitude, looking like they are the ones taking their owners out for a stroll. At first glance, it’s not that tough being an NYC pooch, with the options being endless – getting groomed, having a play or even going to a fellow canine’s birthday party, bar mitzvah or wedding – all revealed here.

 Of course there’s a downside. Inevitably, it means that there are more dogs to get abandoned and mistreated. Pedigree is a brand that is dedicated to the cause – afterall, why shouldn’t a brand take it one step forward? A can of dog food can’t take care of a dog for all of its life. And so, the brand dedicated itself to an annual dog adoption drive, with their most recent campaign including a pop up store in Times Square. The store acted as an adoption centre that enabled dog lovers to meet the adoptable dogs, make donations to support the cause and people an easy way to show their love of dogs. It was also made for a great store experience. Another part of the campaign was an installation of bright yellow dogs in central park, each one carrying a quote such as ‘I wish I was home’. Great, clever marketing that targeted probably one of the biggest and most intense dog-loving cities in the world.

Iain Dale Interviews Tory Radio Boss

Thursday, August 28th, 2008 by Mark Hanson

I often talk about how politicians can use new media to connect better to Party members. Here’s an enterprising Tory who has set up Tory Radio, an online radio station dedicated to doing just that. In the spirit of Tories online, here’s Iain Dale  interviewing him on Telegraph TV.

Using Regional Data For Good PR /Is Manchester Happy Self-Harming?

Thursday, August 28th, 2008 by Mark Hanson


You can’t beat good regional info when rolling out a story. National media like it as it makes good comparisons and gives a national story some proximity to the reader. Regional media like it for obvious reasons and that gives quantity to your media outputs.

The key though is to abandon the idea that regional data translates as wide govt/TV region definition e.g. North West, South East. The only valuable way of doing it is to break down into town based data. But doesn’t this make your omnibus survey really expensive? Yes, but relying on those kinds of omnibuses really is a bit lightweight.

If you think a bit more about it you can always overlay town-based info from official sources such as ONS or polling people online and asking them which is their nearest town from a drop down list.

Mind you, it can get confusing when in the space of two days you find out that Powys is one of the worst hit towns for falls in disposable income, (full disclosure: this is one of ours!) but one of the happiest. Manchester is the second happiest, although its the capital of self-harm!

The Biggest Media Race In The World

Thursday, August 28th, 2008 by Mark Hanson

A mounted police patrol passes through downtown August 24, 2008 in Denver, Colorado. Security was heavy in the city ahead of Monday's first day of the Democratic National Convention.

The eyes of the world’s media are trained on Denver, the scene of the Democrat National Convention (DNC), where Barack Obama aims to show everyone that he can hold the most powerful (elected) role on the planet. You would expect it to be a media circus but lets peak behind the curtains a bit.

This race has seen relations with the blogosphere professionalised in a way that holds many lessons for corporate and public bodies over here in the UK. Here’s an example. According to the Wall Street Journal, Google is investing big in a media centre for bloggers at the DNC. Highlights;

 Google Inc. will help set up a two-story, 8,000 square-foot headquarters for hundreds of bloggers descending on the Democratic convention in Denver next week, and it will offer similar services at the Republican convention in September, as new media gain influence in politics.With its financial support for the “Big Tent” blogger facility at the Democratic convention, Google stands to gain exposure and goodwill from 500 or so bloggers who paid $100 for access to the facility, run by a coalition of bloggers. Google’s software and services will be featured, including a kiosk in the public area of the tent where anyone can post videos on YouTube. “Four years ago, YouTube hadn’t been founded yet. Now, it will have booths at each convention to help delegates and bloggers upload videos taken on the floor or at events around town.

“It’s an amazing opportunity for us. You don’t get all these people in one place but every four years,” says Robert Boorstin, director of corporate and policy communications in Google’s Washington office and a former Clinton administration official.

Not only will bloggers have Internet access, workspaces and couches for napping in the “Big Tent” headquarters, they will be provided food and beverages, Google-sponsored massages, smoothies and a candy buffet. On the final night of the convention, Google is co-sponsoring a bash with Vanity Fair magazine for convention-goers and journalists that has become one of the hottest party invites.

Google will offer similar amenities for bloggers and new-media reporters who attend the Republican convention in St. Paul, Minn., company officials say. It will demo a variety of new political tools next week, including a search function on YouTube that will offer almost real-time keyword searches of convention speech videos.

The fascinating bit is that McCain’s team actually have set up base just a few blocks from the convention centre to counter the messaging! What does that involve? Well, you hire a big venue, invite all your mainstream media chums (don’t really have to invite – they’ll come automatically once you tell them where you’re gonna be), give bloggers free hotel rooms, and make sure you’ve got big trucks with satellite dishes on them.

Also bring along a few protestors who have some beef with Obama (either they’re “pro-Hillary” or “pro-life” or something or other), and then bring a few far left anarchist protestors as well (just to spice things up). Then go around the city and shake hands and kiss babies, making you look like the man on the street, and the black guy is made to look like an elitist rock-star.

They’ve set up this site as a focus for the ‘counter-messaging’ (great American-type term that will inevitably surface here!).

They’ve posted the reaction from Fox News’ Brit Hume on the home page:

“What’s interesting about this to me is I have never seen the campaign that is idle, if you will, during the other candidate’s nominating convention have as much of an impact before, and I think it owes something to the phenomenon of these what we call ads, and I guess in some broad sense they are. But what they really are, are Internet videos that are being published to the Internet and they spread around in this day and age very quickly and are probably as good as paid ads and I guess there’s some paid advertising going on. But, this is, wouldn’t you say Carl, from your experience, that this has been remarkable the extent to which the McCain camp has succeeded in intervening, so to speak, in this convention?”

Edinburge Fringe 2.0

Wednesday, August 27th, 2008 by Mark Hanson

Spent the bank holiday at the Edinburgh Fringe. Me and the wife go every year. She’s a financial journalist and is invited as a guest of Intelligent Finance, who have a press trip comprising of about 20 financial journalists plus partners:)

The brand link is through IF’s sponsorship of the fringe comedy awards, which used to be the Perrier awards and are now the IF.comedy awards. Great idea to link to something that could be described as a very popular niche! IF are a Scottish based company, owned by HBOS, and this kind of hospitality is a fantastic excuse to get their core, largely London based media away to a weekend on their home patch.

They always take us to see a top comedian on the Saturday night after a slap-up dinner at the Scotsman hotel and the evening culminates in the IF.comedy awards ceremony at the Jamhouse. Its a good way to finish off the evening – drinks, canapes, VIP section, Neil and Christine Hamilton (?!). But the awards themselves lasted about 15 minutes and were basically a 5 minute bite of last year’s winners announcing this year’s winners. They could have done so much more with it. Made it a real event that everyone wants to be at regardless of any free drinks.

I actually spent the whole weekend thinking what I’d do with the fringe for the benefit of my clients. I know, I know its sad but I blame too much creative stimulation and the coffee and toffee muffins at our basecamp, the excellent Chocolate Soup.

Ok, so what would I do if IF were a client? Why not involve your customers in the brand and get them to rate a group of up and coming comedians via YouTube? Budding comics would post 5 minute demos of themselves on an IF.comedy channel.

This thing would be worth doing because all the finalists would end up doing a turn at an enhanced IF.comedy awards evening. with stronger press profile (great for the brand) and possibly televised via the web, attracting traffic to an IF branded web presence. The IF.comedy site is great but could have more ongoing interaction. There is a Facebook group but its got barely 200 members and again, not a lot regularly going on that would incentivise you tell your friends. Is there any blogger outreach?

Whenever we’re at the Fringe we always disregard the official brochure. Its a doorstop and picking shows is the proverbial needle in haystack job. So you ask other folk. People in the same hotel, people who were there last weekend. Or you walk up and down the Royal Mile, chatting to budding producers and performers. But there still hundreds of shows and fresh talent that you’ll miss. Surely this is screaming out for a Tripadvisor type service, where folk post about acts/shows they’ve seen and other people can agree/disagree? Well promoted this would attract critical mass and you could plan your w/end well in advance.

I Googled but couldn’t find one. Can anyone let me know if I’ve missed it before I put my life savings into starting one (that’s a joke, Boss:))  

Other highlights:

– A drama called Borough High Street – dark drama about two gay students and cocaine addiction. Acting, direction and writing excellent! What drew me in? It was well promoted by the flyers, guys who were chatting to us on the street and the chalk outlines all over town pointing towards the venue.

Chocolate and cinnemon soups at Chocolate Soup.

– RANDOM EXCLUSIVE: Got talking to a source ‘extremely close’ to Simon Fuller who says that Fuller and David Beckham plan to buy a US soccer team when Beckham retires and basically use all of their combined stardust to create an international football hub that competes in the Champions League……

Getting over the Olympics, Media Arts & Play

Wednesday, August 27th, 2008 by Liz Dewhurst


So, given that we’ve got the Olympics out of the way, there’s finally time to breathe. I’ve seriously never seen such a diverse range of brands being able to get involved with one event.

TBWA\ New York houses the TBWA\WW team here so you get to see everything big that’s going on throughout the global network. And they really go all out for the Olympics, from TBWA\China being hugely patriotic in their countdown to the Olympics for client, adidas and government anti-steroid campaigns from New York through to bespoke spots created for financial clients that are touch and go until the last minute, and totally dependent upon which athlete wins which medal. 

Maybe we should be more flexible in securing one off media spots. If it’s relevant and it works, why not do this instead of going with the humdrum and often channelling a load of $$$ (sorry, my keyboard doesn’t have a pound sign) into ineffective stuff. It’s definitely the reason for the guys here doing regular Media Arts sessions with clients. The whole idea of doing something that gets your brand to behave, be seen and be where their audience is, unsurprisingly seems to works.

If you want a taster, TBWA\London have done it well with their cocktail umbrella campaign for Targeting bars throughout the country, mini cocktail umbrellas were placed in drinks across the country when people weren’t looking, with a message on the umbrella saying ‘this is how easy it is to spike your drink’. Definitely more impactful than a TV awareness ad that’s hardly going to engage you whilst you’re on the safety of the TV couch… 

Which gets me onto tonight’s activities – must get out and play in the city. Sun’s still going strong over here amidst the random thunderstorms that threaten the end of the world arriving. So, maybe to one of the roof decks – Hotel Gansevoort in the Meat Packing District is a hot spot with gorgeous views of the Hudson River, or chill it down a little in Central Park.

The weirdest things go on there and I’ll no longer be shocked by anything after experiencing the hula hoop classes and roller disco where it’s mandatory to dance and roll at the same time…note to self, must learn to multitask better.

Manchester PR Girl Hits Madison Avenue…

Tuesday, August 26th, 2008 by Liz Dewhurst


Spending the whole of August living in New York City, working at one of the world’s most talented agencies – TBWA\Chiat\Day, and still getting paid. Not a bad position to be in. How did it come about? Here’s the deal… 

As part of TBWA\Manchester’s ongoing push to build connections in our worldwide network, I’m out here to live, breath, experience and learn, first hand, how one of our most recognised network agencies works. It also means that we can keep ahead of the trends by making the most of the media and sector insights out here that we can take back and use for our clients. 

So, I’m at the work pod – naturally a Mac given that only geeks have PCs out here. It’s summertime hours and I’m still here, which does make me a bit of a geek but I like the buzz about this place. The agency, located on Madison Avenue, is a similar size to TBWA\Manchester (around 200ish people). There are 2 receptions, 3 floors, and walls that are plastered in Disruption case studies of some of the biggest and best brands you’ll ever come across. From Absolut Vodka, known for campaigns such as the Sex And The City placement through to Mars, whose Skittles campaign swept the floor at Cannes this year, beating Cadbury’s over exploited gorilla. 

There’s also a ‘firsts’ wall, spanning across a global map to reveal achievements of TBWA\ agencies worldwide. From holding the first vertical sprint up a 33 storey building and being the first to use U2 in a commercial through to creating China’s first interactive billboard and being the first to use currency as a medium, it gives you a sense of pride to know that you’re part of something so big and ambitious. 

First impressions? Makes for a pretty cool place to work in, and the fact that it’s 2 blocks from Saks and 2 streets across from New York’s hottest spa – Bliss – helps settle me in even more, despite the credit card looking tired and weary already.