Pilot Light

Inferno is a PR consultancy. This is not. This is Inferno’s blog.

Archive for July 2007

Fighting High Street robbery: Ad-supported cashpoints

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Its only one step away from this you know…

Before anyone gets upset, I am not suggesting that the network of normal ‘free’ cash machines are branded up like mad cattle. But a little while back I was in Shoreditch in one of those strangely bank free parts of the city in a bar with a broken card reader. So I walk a while and ask around and of course the only thing there is nearby is a dodgy paid for cashpoint in the wall of an off licence.

So I end up paying £1.95 to extract MY cash.

I felt violated and ashamed, like a man forced to drink a pint of angry wasps and salt-covered pushpins for loose change in some kind of YouTube meme. Surely there must be a better way to fund this?

So I thought what about ad-supported cash machines? You stick in your card, have to see a 15 second spot or something, the receipt is branded everywhere etc. People are waiting for cash so you would have their attention.

My fellow denizens here seemed to think this was a good idea on the whole, though the fact that muggers and aggressive, drug-crazed beggars might have a Pavlovian reaction to it and form a second queue did come up. However, I think that avoiding the humiliation of a pikey £2 charge to access your own cash makes this a risk worth taking. Why has no-one thought of this before?



Written by pilotlight

26/07/2007 at 4:37 pm

Posted in Advertising, Media

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You will respect my creativi-teh

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yeah yeah

Interesting post and response on TWL about PR and creativity. Ben Schmark (is that pronounced ‘Benchmark’ I wondered aloud – and then ‘does he? and against who or what?’…) says that PR is not creative (or at least not as creative as adland), and that technology companies are not creative (to paraphrase / potentially purposefully misinterpret for my own ends) – well that’s us buggered then!

Got me thinking, what exactly IS creativity? Is it defined solely by the ability to come up with impactful TV adverts, or glossy magazine ads that create and define a brand? Is there still a place for the written word? Of course there is.

The written word continues to carry more weight than images of good looking people or CGI-ed effects telling the world how great a product or service is.

Even in a world of blogs, communities and TV – you don’t go onto YouTube to make decisions about what you are going to buy next. You read other people’s reviews on amazon, on tripadvisor, or any number of other consumer-based opinion sites. You still read a newspaper and flick past the ads, just as you now record on PVRs and fast forward through the breaks.

In this world, PR is surely *more* relevant, and its ability to get creative *more* important. As always, though, PR needs to remain *subtly* creative and I think here we have the difference.

That wasn’t actually the point of this post, a bit of a side alley actually… er, anyway, yes the point was – what *is* creativity? I mean, why do ad people and agencies have the god-given right to define and dictate what being creative actually is? Is it because they have ‘Creative Directors’ and creative divisions? Just because you insitutionalise creativity within your industry surely does not give you sole rights to being creative.

I did a quick web search on ‘definitions of creativity’ and this is the first one that popped up:

“the ability to solve problems that are worth solving. It is the ability to create knowledge. Creativity is subject-specific: it is the meta-knowledge of how to solve a specific class of problems”

This put me in mind of a recent report from the Work Foundation, which discussed the need for the UK to put more focus on its ‘creative’ industries and how we needed to develop these into the equivalent of the UK’s current position in the financial world. The thing that grabbed me about the report was not so much the need, nor the contribution which these industries already make to the UK economy. It was the fact that the Work Foundation listed, as one of its 13 creative industries, ‘software and computer services’. How could that be? Surely the computing industry is just full of geeks and scientists? How can it possibly be creative??

Well that depends very much on your definition of creativity doesn’t it?

Look at the definition above again. Does technology “solve problems that are worth solving”? Well, yes, a lot of the time it does. Does it “create knowledge”? Well, it might not create it per se, but it does provide a great platform upon which people are able to create knowledge through sharing ideas, experiences and opinions.

And from there – is doing PR for technology companies creative? Well, it’s “subject-specific.” You have to work with quite often very dry (even dull!) subject matter, you have imposed parameters like budgets (which are significantly less than your average ad campaign) and you have to convince an audience that is allowed to interpret whatever you put to them in their own way, and with their own expert knowledge (ie the media), rather than just plonk it in front of whoever your target may be. Does that require creativity, or simply understanding? And what is creativity if it is not backed up by an innate understanding of what you are talking about and the audience you are trying to reach?

PR people are *required* to develop an innate understanding of their clients, because we have to *talk* to audiences whose own job is to sort through the crap and present *their* audiences with reliable and interesting information. Coming up with a great idea, a nice concept, a wonderful visual representation is simply not enough. I reckon getting a great idea through so many filters and barriers is definitely a “problem worth solving”.



Written by pilotlight

18/07/2007 at 2:58 pm

Posted in marketing, PR

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PR for PE

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The man himself

I’m sure readers will be thrilled to hear about my eldest son’s latest school report, but I couldn’t let one teacher’s comments go unmentioned. Under the section entitled ‘PE’ (which was always a source of perturbation in my own school reports), the teacher has employed judicious use of spin to spare my son’s blushes. It reads:

“Henry can intercept, retrieve and stop a beanbag and a medium-sized ball with consistency; he can sometimes catch a beanbag.”

In other words: “He usually gets in the way and couldn’t be relied on to carry the half-time oranges”.

My complete klutz of a son now thinks he is Pat Jennings. It’s amazing what can be achieved with a little massaging of language and some expectation management – another example of the power of public relations in the wider world.

Bullet Baxter: shame on you and your evil “must do better” cohorts.

Oh, and by the way… Henry, if you read this when you are older, you did splendidly chap.


Written by pilotlight

09/07/2007 at 1:40 pm

Posted in Business, PR

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The Blogging Bermuda Triangle

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His prices are Insane etc

A little while back, Steve Clayton, aka the Geek in Disguise, spotted an article in The Times listing the world’s (alleged) 50 Top Business Bloggers and noticed that the vast majority seem to be based in the States. He got a bit of a discussion going and even had some sage advice for blackmail victim Lord Browne. Steve certainly is correct that that Top 50 cited here are mostly US-centric and this is very depressing. Surely Brits have if anything a disproportionate amount of gripes, thoughts, libel and insight to spew across the net? Or even just satire?

‘Top 10/20/100/whatever’ lists make for great copy but are deeply misleading because they compare apples with oranges and oranges with PlayStations. If you consider the different purposes of what are being ranked it gets complicated. Any major US blog is going to get many more hits (and be easier to find with some, uh, quick Googling) so appear to be much more important. This is also problematic because number of hits is a crude measure of popularity –which is rather different than influence. Chat (Life! Death! Prizes!) outsells Prospect by over 10x but the latter is read by policymakers rather than people who collect Iceland vouchers and smoke counterfeit Lambert and Butler. But all that aside, why did so few Brits turn up on the leader board?

US firms, including many top names, have a much longer history of allowing (and even encouraging) blogging. Success breeds interest and people around the world are naturally curious to hear the opinions of those working in and around the world’s largest firms in the world’s largest economy. That said, there are plenty of large or at least interesting firms here employing people with plenty of experience to share and controversy to provoke.

Still present national tendencies toward deference, polite silence, privacy and an instinctive, tabloid based fear of media misrepresentation combine with time pressure and the sheer size of the Anglophonic Gorilla across the pond to discourage and hide UK business bloggers. As blogs are used more and more as a point of reference as well as conversation, this means that unless the UK speaks up and out debate and perhaps real business activity will be distorted through an American lens. People, get talking!


Written by pilotlight

06/07/2007 at 1:49 pm

Posted in Blogging, Business, Web 2.0

Tagged with

No, seriously…

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It’s a perennial problem. How can PR, as a marketing discipline, gain a seat at the top table? How can it be seen as a strategic tool by CEOs and other senior business decision makers? In short, how can it be taken more seriously?

Well, this is an issue we set out to explore at a company offsite on Friday. As you can see from these pictures, we strove to project a serious, “strategic” and responsible image throughout the day’s activities. Some of the facilitated discussions were fascinating.

Kicking off proceedings was Associate Board Director Tom Berry with a presentation entitled “Superhero or Superzero – Whither PR’s future?”. Via the medium of mime and dressed appropriately as Captain Inferno, he successfully apprehended a vagrant on the Tube and pointed to a future PR/ Law Enforcement hybrid business model.

Oh dear

Next up was “The tenth pin – an examination of Public Relations’ ability to achieve all its objectives”. To continue the metaphor, we held this fascinating discussion in a bowling alley.

Strike, etc….

Our guest speaker was Madame Zsa Zsa. She explored “Generation Esque: The role of burlesque in a multi-discipline communications programme to the Web 2.0 generation”. We all enjoyed her presentation skills very much.

Light my fire

At the end of the day, we felt we deserved some relaxation after all that hard work and repaired to a local hostelry for a quick drink. Managing Director Grant Currie is seen here educating some local drinkers of the benefits and pitfalls of a matrix management model. He later commented how much they had benefited from meeting him.

The Dear Leader

We all felt this had been a very worthwhile offsite and that we had made significant progress in making sure that PR and more particularly Inferno is taken more seriously in future.

We would be happy to share the notes from the various presentations. If you would like to receive them, please nominate an appropriate caption for the final photograph in the comments section.


Written by pilotlight

03/07/2007 at 5:17 pm

Posted in Human Resources, PR

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