Category Archives: Observations

End of year gongs

Here goes with my best and worst of the year:

Wow activation of the year

Nokia might be out of fashion (took their eye off the ball) but they are having a right old go at staging a comeback.  If you’ve got 5 minutes to spare, it’s very well spent taking a look at the show that launched the Lumina 800 in London – the making of is even more worthy of your time.

Watch the making of here.

Shocking ad of the year

Welcome back previous multiple award winners Benetton for their UNHATE campaign (I admired it).

Obama and Chavez - Benneton adMerkel and SarkosiThe Pope and Netanyahu

Social media best of the best

Got a friend who is feeling poorly, send them a personalised can of Heinz tomato soup, ever so simple and ever so clever – take a bow agency We are social.

Heinz get well soon can

No award but what about the power of social media to make people do something very odd.  Simply plant a thought, sit back and marvel.

The socially driven ‘no trousers day’ on subways around the world defies description although ‘why’ springs to mind.

No pants on the tube London

Misplaced ad award

This ad for Betfair appeared next to an article highlighting how they had messed up big time and were refusing to honour bets.

Betfair ad

I wish I was that talented award

The 2011 ad for Absolut as part of their purity campaign is a stunning example of the work of Dan Tobin Smith.  The concept of purity is beautifully expressed through creased paper brought to life by shadows and light.


Oops, wrong place wrong time, I need a new job award

The picture below appeared on the website of Le Redoute, a leading online shopping portal, it was compounded by the thoughtful provision of a magnifying glass to enable viewers to get up close and personal.  It went viral with the naked man appearing in a wide array of very imaginative settings.

La Redoute

Good golly Miss Molly award

These ads for a Dutch bra brand called Hema; the sexy minx in the ad is in fact a man.


Most politically incorrect award

Take a bow Ryanair for a calendar featuring their hostesses in all sorts of skimpy outfits (I deducted lots of marks on the basis that the proceeds went to charity but they still won).

Ryan Air calendar

Best pubic initiative

The Guardian book swap is an excellent idea, leave your unwanted books in public places for other people to find and enjoy.

Guardian book swap


British Sea Power: Vallhalla Dancefloor

Best Performance

Rainhouse featuring Florence Prosser: Pack up your troubles


Shocking year, I haven’t seen it yet but I’m confident that the new Sherlock Holmes film will be the best of the year by a long way.

Sherlock Holmes


David Mitchell: The thousand autumns of Jacob de Zoet

Thousand autumns of jacob de zoet


My wife is shouting Downton Abbey in my ear but I’m going for the last series of Spooks.

Saddest departures

Steve Jobs

Amy Winehouse

Gary Speed


One funny, one an incredible act of nature and the last deeply poignant.

Arsenal v SwanseaSpider trees in PakistanBody of Muammar gaddafi

Best purchases

iPad 2

Weber Q BBQ

Creative Wireless Speaker (AED 169 at Sharaf DG)

Pyjamas for my wife from Hush (saved my Xmas)

Little things for big minds

Type Askew into Google.

Happenings in 2012

Stone Roses and Black Sabbath reunions

Kasabian at the Sevens Stadium

England v Pakistan at Sports City

The Hobbit

The London Olympics

Black Sabbath reunion

Predictions for 2012

France and Britain break off diplomatic relations – Eric Cantona becomes President of France

Rebirth of the Deutsche Mark

The mighty Plymouth Argyle survive and thrive

England rugby team contracted to advertise Ovaltine

Facebook take over the world

iTV (not be confused with ITV)

Paul Scholes to come out of retirement (it just came true)

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I predict a BlackBerry riotsurgence!

Being in marketing, I’ve long been fascinated about how news travels fast, be it a celebrity’s untimely death or a supermarket that has got a beer offer wonderfully wrong.

Beer rush

Beer gone wrong (or right depending on your perspective)

Following the riots in the UK, the LSE and Guardian joined forces to look at who was involved and the underlying causes.  As a by-product of their study they uncovered how rioters knew where and when it was all going to kick-off thereby enabling them to be in the right place at the right time to join in.  The powers that be were desperately trying to block Twitter and Facebook as, like me, they have been conditioned to believe social media is the new driving force behind the rapid spread of news.  In actual fact the rioters, who were mostly under 30 ignored social media for the simple reason that anyone and everyone could see what was going down and relied on another (recently much maligned) company/device to spread the news.  Step forward the keenly priced BlackBerry Curve and BBM, a free messaging service developed with security conscious businesses in mind.  Apparently nearly 50% of rioters owned a BlackBerry and took advantage of very low monthly subscriptions to spread the word at virtually zero cost.

Thinking this through if a business can convince its customers to give them their BBM pin numbers they can ping out an offer and it won’t cost them anything!  Or what about recruiting brand ambassadors with lots of BBM friends?  The problem with these ideas is I can’t work out how to monetize them which means it takes pride of place alongside all of the other how to make you poor quick ideas I’ve accumulated over the years (one of which could have been Skype if I hadn’t been beaten to it).  How does Skype make money and why doesn’t Wikipedia cash in and take ads?

Cup of tea please

As an aside to the story above, one huge advantage of BBM is that it’s saved me from shouting over the music to get our 15-year-old down for supper, now I simply BBM Flo and she arrives in seconds.  The downside is she’s learnt that BBM is a great way to ask for a cup of tea!  Teens don’t use e-mail which is very bad news for the likes of Yahoo who have a history of getting it wrong.  They once turned the Google boys down on the basis that the more pages people search the more advertising revenue a search engine can generate. The flaw in their argument is very few people bother to go beyond the first page and Google make a lot of money from companies wanting to be top of the list when anyone searches using a word or phrase that is related to their business.

The clever boys at Facebook have the private message thing covered and on revenues of around $6 billion dollars a year the company is valued at $100 billion which is a multiple on earnings of zillions.

Another company that is good at being valued for lots and lots of money is Google and I liked their National Day competition, well done to the winner.  As a bit of festive fun type Let it snow into search, sit back and applaud.


Are social objects the future of marketing?

Nameer our brand discovery guru is a big fan of Hugh Macleod’s blog Gaping Void which combines arresting cartoons with strong opinions on a variety of marketing topics.  His latest blog is actually text heavy as Hugh elaborates his thesis that Social Objects are the future of marketing; it’s well worth a read although I’m not 100% convinced.  However the use of a picture to tell a story reminded me of an excellent documentary I watched about Life magazine, a journal that told the news through stunning pictures.  Pre-dating digital cameras by many years the photographers were true craftsman and captured some of the most memorable photos ever – see below.  It’s the same for advertising, while I love a good TV ad for me a billboard shows off the true talent of a creative team.

The Kiss

Image from Life magazine

National Day celebrations

I loved the way locals and expats got into the spirit of National Day.  There were some amazing house and car decorations.  The Burj Al Arab dangled a flag inside the hotel from top to bottom and badged their Rollers while Nouha from our creative team embellished her mini with my favourite car embellishment.

Burj al Arab UAE flag

Looking down from the top of the atrium - Burj Al Arab

Rolls Royce at Burj al Arab

Rolls Royce outside the Burj Al Arab

Mini with wing mirror covers

Patriotic wing mirror covers

André Villas-Boas is an honoury Brit

André has only been in England five minutes and he already speaks English better than the natives which puts Britain’s veto of all things European into perspective.  Answering Gary Neville’s criticism of his Brazilian centre-half David Luiz (he described David as playing like he was being controlled by a 10-year-old on PlayStaion) he came out with “You cannot speculate or invent based on assumption.  Some people can have more or less an idea. But not him. He cannot know.  I’m normally indifferent, not watching the telly to see what these people say. But I was watching the television at that moment, and I was gob-smacked.”

Wow, telly and gob-smacked, that’s pretty damn impressive for a newbie.

Going back to Britain’s European veto (the single currency is toast anyway so the veto is pretty irrelevant except as a City of London and right-wing press pleaser) my favourite bit was Nick Clegg’s refusal to sit by David Cameron in parliament.  Fair enough me thinks as I remember back to when I borrowed my good friend George’s conker back in primary school and he took the hump.  End result, we both spent a lesson in the naughty boys corner never to sit beside each other again.

App of the month

An oldie but goldie, Shazam is my choice for this month simply because I haven’t mentioned it before.  How it tells you the artist and song name of whatever you’re playing is too clever for words.  The free version does everything I need (and BlackBerry is also giving it away for free at the moment), maybe the premium edition can turn me into a rock star.


Where have all of the good films gone?

With the Dubai Film Festival just coming to a close it suddenly occurred to me that I haven’t seen a good film in ages and ages.  All of the great franchises seem to have come to an end with nothing arriving to replace them (unless you count Mission Impossible which I don’t).  Come on guys hurry up and bring us the next Star Wars, Lord of the Rings, Harry Potter, Toy Story, Indiana Jones, Back to the Future . . . Come to think of it, what about making the next two parts of Philip Pullman’s brilliant His Dark Materials?

Finally a band worth watching will be performing in Dubai(ish)

No sooner than I was moaning to anyone who would listen about every concert being staged in Abu Dhabi and reminiscing about the halcyon days of Gig on the Green, Desert Rock etc, than it was announced that Kasabian are playing at the Sevens stadium on February 10th.  Be there or be square!


Festive brain teaser

Whose dad is shown in this picture?  First correct answer gets a tea and carrot cake in the new Lime Tree that has opened in Media City.

Guess who


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Outdoor advertising reinvented

Advertising used to be simple; for many years you just had to create ads for TV, radio, billboards and newspapers/magazines and reach varying degrees of a homogenous mass audience.  Now the choices are mind-blowing and even old school media is reinventing itself.  Take a look at this astounding augmented reality outdoor ad for the Beetle.  I haven’t got a clue how it was done but everything from the use of the media to the execution makes you go ooh and aahh in all of the right places.  Will it lead to people going out and buying a Beetle?  Not in itself but it definitely got noticed and talked about creating a real buzz.  The first priority for advertising is to create and build awareness which is all about placement and creative execution.

Read the article here:

And watch how it works here:

If you have got an iPad or iPhone you can try it for yourself by downloading the app (vwjuicedup) and a grabbing one of the Canadian Beetle posters from Google images.

Other big name companies who have explored the world of augmented reality include Mini who ran ads in German magazines and Lego who have developed some amazing packaging which enables the pack to reveal its contents fully assembled within live 3D animated scenes.

Shameless plug

Our new website is live and the opposite of dangerous.  If you want to quadruple your sales in under 5 minutes please take a mo to pay a visit (see below for how I created a cunning link) – spot the deliberate mistake and I’ll grow a great big bushy moustache for charity!

ATOM - new website

How to stand out and make a difference

Movember is such a great initiative, it never fails to make me chuckle and as such it’s a real shame it hasn’t taken off here.  It’s the perfect opportunity to check out how silly you look with a ‘tash while raising money for good causes.  It’s also a chance for brands to get involved and be associated with a fun event.  Win, win, win as we call it in the trade.


 Multi-coloured sheep

 There was a very famous black sheep ad for Levis created way back in 1982 by BBH.  I’ve long wanted to find a reason to showcase it again and the picture below from the recent Rugby World Cup in New Zealand has given me the excuse.  In reality the only connection is sheep but I loved the enterprise of the farmer who epitomised the warmth of his country’s welcome by painting his flock in the national colours of the competing teams.

Levi's black poster campaign

When the world zigs, zag. Classic poster ad from BBH.

NZ sheep

Rugby strip for some New Zealand sheep

 Always look on the bright side of death

 I was sent this gem by my colleague Nameer Kanderian.  It is John Cleese’s eulogy to Graham Chapman, it’s in the worst possible taste and that’s what makes it spot on.  There is a moment when you think it’s all going horribly wrong but it’s a great example of knowing your audience and using humour to elevate a sad occasion to something very special.

How to get to the top of the greasy pole

A few months ago I was reading a very interesting article that argued the greatest politicians were the ones with the most serious personality disorders. Churchill for example was a manic-depressive (bipolar disorder) with a love of whisky and soda.  His extreme personality enabled him to lead a country in times of great difficulties.  Now comes news that top achievers in the world of business also don’t conform to norms.

In a study published by the journal Psychology, Crime and Law, Belinda Board and Katarina Fritzon tested 39 senior managers and chief executives from leading British businesses. They compared the results to the same tests on patients at Broadmoor special hospital, where people who have been convicted of serious crimes are incarcerated. On certain indicators of psychopathy, the bosses’ scores either matched or exceeded those of the patients. In fact, on these criteria, they beat even the subset of patients who had been diagnosed with psychopathic personality disorders.

The full article in The Guardian newspaper is about wealth destroyers, it’s a bit of a shocker but well worth a read.  If being horrid is how to get rich it’s lucky most of the world is very poor.  Click the image to read The 1% are the best wealth destroyers the world has ever seen.

Guardian image

Balotelli takes the biscuit

Like a lot of people I’ve found the antics of Balotelli (the Italian striker currently playing for Man City) compulsive viewing.  He’s barking mad, you never know what is going to happen next apart from it will make you laugh.  Setting fire to his house with a firework and then getting involved with the firework safety campaign was Balotelli at his finest.  Unfortunately he will self destruct in the not too distant future so enjoy the show while you can.

iPad app(s) of the week

I hope you iPadders all have them loaded with Evernote and are now eagerly awaiting my next recommendation.  While there are a lot of applications out there that do tricks sometimes it’s the simple ones that get the most use.  This week I’m going for Dolphin HD, it’s just a sort of speed dial equivalent where you can quickly add and access your favourite sites.  No thrills it just works and for that and the fact I use it every day (unlike 99% of the apps I’ve downloaded including Angry Birds which I’ve only played once for about 2 minutes – what is the fascination?) it gets a 5 star rating.

Introducing Screamo

When I was growing up my parents hated my music tastes and that is exactly how it should be.  However as my girls started into their teens I noticed there was quite a lot of cross over in our tastes.  When we sat down to supper the other evening and they announced they had a new band that they wanted me to listen to I was genuinely interested.  From there on in it went a bit pear-shaped as they introduced me to the band that were rated the best performers at Reading and Leeds and has chalked up a pretty damn impressive 22 million hits on YouTube.  My good friend Tony Dodds once described Enter Shikari as a bit shouty, by comparison Bring Me The Horizon make the Enter boys look like a bunch of choir boys in a continual state of blissful harmony.  Turn down the volume, hit the link and run fast to hide behind the sofa.

Top 5s

Having done well over a year’s worth of top 5s I’ve actually run out for the moment so have decided to make them a monthly rather than weekly occurrence.   Happy to take suggestions from the floor…

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Back in the swing of it

Sorry for my absence since the summer recess; with praise for our website reaching an all time high it was time to change and I’ve been diverted to write the copy and given strict instructions to ensure it’s serious in tone and rich in content.  I can’t help thinking they tasked the wrong person but I will let the nice people who pay a visit to our website decide.  We’ll let you know when the new design goes live on our Facebook page.

Proper jobs

Where to start?  What better than a bit of wishful thinking.  The entrepreneurial people of Dubai are always on the lookout for money making ideas elsewhere and giving them a go here.  Witness the 101 deal gobblers that batter your inbox each and every day.  I’ve long been pushing for a proper Cornish pasty shop to open in Dubai, they are on every street corner in England and doing a roaring trade – not surprising given they are bloody delicious!  For anyone who thinks I’m talking absolute nonsense, this summer I discovered Winchester, a very upmarket British city with a lovely cathedral and very posh public school (why are schools with hugely expensive fees that only .005% of the population can afford called public?).  I had just come out of the new Boots £1 shop (seriously everything was on offer) and look what I spied.  Being  a very fair person and given it was my first day back in Blighty I bagged one from each shop and was soon lovin’ it in a way that McDonald’s can only dream of.

Winchester pasty shops

Classic books for free (all above-board!)

While in Britain, I  decided to download a very British book; the fact that I could download Tess of the D’Urbervilles onto my Kindle without parting with money was an added incentive (Amazon has lots of classics for free download).  I immediately settled into a deep depression as Tess’s tale of woe went from getting out of the wrong side of bed to needing to hide under the covers.  I mentioned this to my wife and she reassured me that Tess is one of Thomas Hardy’s happier books.  Reinvigorated I pressed on to the end and  you can imagine my surprise when poor Tess was led to the gallows and hung for murder!  Meanwhile Tess’s lover went off into the sunset with her younger sister.  Sorry for giving the plot away.

App of the week

A great thing I managed to sort while I was in England was acquiring a lot of iPad apps which I can drip feed to you over the coming weeks and months.  First up I really, really like Evernote; it’s a freebie and incredibly useful.  In essence you can create notes and update and sync them at anytime on a variety of devices.  I’ve got Evernote on my PC, BlackBerry and iPad and it even does something clever in Outlook but I’m not sure what.

Apple shaken to the core

While on the subject of Apple, I read the very sad news about Steve Jobs which was then followed by the shock of Apple falling short of market analysts’ expectations as a consequence of which there was a 5% decline in their share price.  It’s very worrying for the world economy when a stellar company like Apple starts to suffer.  Having seen the headlines I dug a bit deeper to better understand what the crisis was all about; had they broken even or god forbid made a loss I wondered?  Imagine my surprise when I read that Apple made a staggering $6.25 billion profit in the last quarter.  I know a lot of companies that are struggling to make ends meet at the moment who would be declaring a holiday on the back of a $1 profit from all of their hard work.

I can imagine Steve looking down and being quite proud of his efforts.  So much so he might even have had a wry smile at the new Apple logo which was designed by the child of the student who created the Nike swoosh.  Or what about the clever people who have created Macaquariums, brilliant!

Steve Jobs inside apple bite


Joke of the week

As BlackBerry encountered network problems and Apple discovered a few glitches in their new operating system the internet was awash with Blackberry and Apple crumble jokes, tee hee.

Gaddafi bites the dust

With news breaking of Gaddafi’s timely death (spare me the pics please) I’ve got my fingers crossed that the good people of Libya have planned for the peace.  So many times in history the war has been won by the good guys but what followed was even worse.

The return of the tomatoes

For those of you who followed the tale of the tomato last year which culminated in a bumper crop I’ve planted this year’s seeds and am looking forward to bringing you updates on a regular basis.  In the meantime my water melon is going great guns. I can never get over the fact that you can take seeds from a melon you’re eating and plant them in a bit of dirt, add some water and fertiliser from recycled food scraps off you go.  Thank you to Dr Julian Nichols (aka the sandman) for pointing me in the right direction.  If I’ve inspired you, have a look at Dubai Veg Growers for more info.

Top 5 things I did during the summer

  • Climbing Widgery Cross on Dartmoor and flying my new kite (bought for my daughters)
  • Visiting Sharpham Vineyard on the River Dart in Devon, good wine, great cheese
  • Riding on the dodgems at a vintage fairground near Lifton in Devon
  • Supporting the SOS Kitaid golf event with some rugby buddies from my Bath days
  • Mackerel fishing off Exmouth

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Swedes lead the world in mad

I thought Brits set the pace in mad until a Swedish man made news with his botched attempt to split the atom . . . in his kitchen.

Check out the article below for the full story, my favourite bit was when asked on BBC World Service where he had bought the raw materials he replied, “eBay”.  I’m still not sure whether I burst out laughing because it was funny or petrifying.

Swedish man arrested after trying to split atoms in his kitchen

Dubai is not a scary place to visit after all

Early this year there were some scary stories that Dubai is a very dangerous place to visit if you are British as you have a better than evens chance of ending up in prison for smiling in public.  Now there is a report out using data rather than hearsay and guess what, Dubai doesn’t even warrant a mention.

Brits behaving less badly

The first rule of customer service

Don’t automatically put your valued customer (aka the guy who buys stuff from you) onto an auto responder with the memorable line: Your call is important to us.  I’m not sure why I do it but I immediately reply, ‘if my call is so important you would have a real person talking to me right now with a nice telephone manner being very helpful’.  End result, happy customer and I tell my friends and work colleagues about how great you are.  Also while I’m on the subject here is another tip; if someone presses 2 for English it works better if the person who answers speaks English.   

Catching taxis to gloat!

I’ve had a big week catching taxis, they would pitch up to my house and I would ask, are you Indian?  If the reply was yes I jumped in and talked cricket nonstop.  Back in Blighty there is always a lot of Daily Mail sponsored debate about immigration, Norman Tebbit famously set an Englishness test for anyone who wasn’t Anglo Saxon white.  He reckoned everyone with a British passport that doesn’t support England at cricket should be sent back from whence they came.  Which brings me nicely to the picture below.

England vs India 2nd test

Real Estate still suffering

There was interesting piece in Arabian Business last week looking at Real Estate projects that have stalled, one of which was Universal Studios. With the continuing glut of residential and office space which, from what I can see is being significantly added to, Universal Studios was a great idea as it would have pulled in more tourists.  Dubai is short of major entertainment attractions; Alton Towers would do really well here.

Universal Studios

Universal studios

One other great story from Arabian Business, the UAE is going to bid for the Olympics, a marathon in July would be interesting.

How to get noticed

Companies spend a huge amount of money buying visibility and another big amount creating messages that get noticed and make people do something they weren’t necessarily planning to do, e.g. buy a Ferrari instead of a Toyota Prius.

An Abu Dhabi Sheikh has taken a bold approach to raising his profile by having his name sculpted in sand so big that it can be seen from space.

Hamad from space

Down, down and ever down

I hate to say this but America has caught a huge cold (just a sneeze used to trigger a worldwide recession).  I’ve long been a bear on the word economy and now we are about to enter what could be a deeper depression than hit in 2009, then we were talking about financial institutions, now it’s government debt.  Those with a strong stomach and a glass of the stiff stuff from MMI read this article and prepare to batten down the hatches.

The man who predicted this

Happier days for Man City

To close on a lighter (sport-related) note there was a time not long ago when Man City were all about entertainment, you never knew what was coming next but it was usually very funny.

A former player’s, Paul Lake, autobiography, I’m Not Really Here, tells the story of one match in 1989 when City could have guaranteed promotion by beating Bournemouth at Maine Road. They were 3-0 up at half-time – party time! – and the manager, Mel Machin, told the players he was bringing in a special friend for the team talk. In came the comedian Eddie Large – shiny silver suit, sleeves rolled up – to dole out individual advice to the players … each time using a different celebrity impersonation. “Deputy Dawg ordered me to keep tight in defence,” Lake recalls. “Cliff Richard advised Trevor Morley to shoot on sight, Harold Wilson told Bob Brightwell to keep it simple and Benny from Crossroads told Andy Dibble to stay awake.” The game finished 3-3.

Happy days and I’m sure Mario Balotelli would have thrived in this environment.   

Top 5

My wife knows I can’t resist a gadget, maybe it’s a boy thing.  Here are my favourites:

  • Bokashi bin that turns food waste into compost (for my tomatoes)
  • Pickle fork for extracting pickled onions from a jar
  • Extra long shoe horn
  • Weber Q 100 gas BBQ
  • iPad 2

Off on my hollers (back to the UK, quick blast of The Clash White Riot to get me in the mood), see you when I get back.

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Hot and bothered

It’s a bit on the toasty side to write a proper blog this week; sorry!  Brigglar hit a drive past me on Friday and I’ve been too ashamed to be seen in public since.  Fortunately the News of the World has been consigned to the dustbin of history (and hasn’t been re-cycled as The Sun on Sunday – – – yet!) so I won’t be named and shamed in front of scandal-seeking Brits with nothing to do at the weekend.

Five things to do when you are grumpy!

  • Clear the neighbourhood and put on Enter Shikari (Juggernauts) full blast, bounce up and down as the need arises
  • Watch the Sound of Music (sing along)
  • Bash a golf ball as hard as you can
  • Buy a treat – hope my wife doesn’t read this one!
  • Eat a very spicy curry (Vindaloo at Asha’s or give my new find a go – Aappa Kadai close to Dubai Marina metro station. No need to take your credit card – if you don’t over-order you are looking at AED 50 for two)

If all of this fails sit down and have a nice cup of tea!

One to watch

As recommended by Camlar of “Micky has never got within a hundred yards of my drives” fame, give Chase the Enemy a watch and look out for cousin of Cam on rhythm guitar (Tom Bellman).  I always wanted to be the singer (and lead guitarist) in a rock and roll band so good on them and best of luck.

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They knew nuffin’

I can’t help but start with the continuing saga of News International and the £1m bribes they paid to stop people taking them to court for trying to ruin their lives. Based on the evidence given to the Commons select committee these payments were signed off by the cleaning lady and now humble Rupert is very upset that the people he trusted let him down.

The MurdochsSlowly but surely the people he trusted have resigned even though they also didn’t know anything either; is James next in line to walk the plank?  Or is it the death of three of my favourite clichés – the buck stops here, it happened on my watch and something about carrying the can?  To be fair he did say sorry in an ad that News International ran in all UK national papers, so I guess that makes hacking the mobile of a murdered schoolgirl alright.  I hope Milly’s parents took Rupert for a big contribution to the charity of their choice.

We are sorry ad 

Google Plus

Keeping up with the ever evolving landscape of online communication is impossible.  Like many of you I’ve started noticing a + sign popping up next to Google searches, apparently it’s all part of Larry Page’s grand plan: . . .  everybody at the company wants “to create services that people across the world use twice a day . . . just like a toothbrush!”.  From which I understand Larry now wants to take on Colgate as well as the nice people at Microsoft and Facebook.  Although it’s only at a ‘by invitation’ only stage here is what one reviewer had to say:

“My initial, abbreviated take is that Google’s new social toy is essentially a Facebook Twitter hybrid with outstanding ease-of-use and eye-popping potential. In the very first release, Plus has a killer integration with Picasa (Google’s photo service), and its live video chat feature (called Hangout) could very easily become a Skype killer.”

Which is all very worrying for people like me who have only just mastered Facebook and are quarter way through their Twitter induction.  Fortunately we have some classy socialites types within the agency to help and guide us through the social media maze (and monetarize it – shiny new buzzword).

Roger the ex rugby playing pilot

I’m not sure if anyone else has been following the trials and tribulations of Roger who is currently featuring in radio ads on Dubai Eye, I don’t know what he’s selling, hmmm, it might be an MBA or something similar but where, when, why remains a mystery.

Anyway in the last week alone he has come clean about having odd-shaped balls and losing the thrust in his joystick.  It’s got me talking so they must be working although I fear it’s on the basis they are so bad they’re brilliant.

Look behind you!

Scary shot, apparently Mr Leopard got very grumpy and started sneaking up on people and the giving them a good cuffing.  What gets me about this picture is the guy with the gun is watching on while his mate is just about to be attacked.


Well done Darren and Tom

I had a great weekend watching big Darren win. He comes across as a fun-loving, hard-living guy although given his wife very sadly died of cancer I’m not sure about the smoking fags and cigars bit – felt a bit wrong.  Leaving this aside he was every bit as good as Rory was when he won the US Open.  I’m planning my next holiday to Northern Island to see if I can get a sprinkling of the magic golf dust.

Darren Clarke

Straight after The Open I watched Tom win The Apprentice, a victory for a geekish nice guy who kept getting accused of hindsight by people who didn’t know the difference between foresight and hindsight.  He lost 8 out of the 11 tasks because the other candidates were too stupid to listen to him.  The Apprentice creates totally unrealistic situations to maximise conflict and most of the candidates are chosen on the basis of how irritating and unpleasant they are.  Alan Sugar is pitch perfect in his role as the cranky old geezer who has been there and done that.  It made me laugh when one candidate (from Northern Ireland coincidentally) was ridiculed for trotting out cliché after cliché, the lovely Margaret needs to take a listen to ‘when I was a lad’ Lord Sugar for the master of clichés.

Tom Pellareau

Top 5s

I had a brilliant idea but have gone and forgotten it which reminds me that Tom had it sorted by carrying a notebook everywhere with him – a variation on the old Mark McCormack ‘a blunt pencil is better than a sharp memory’ gem of wisdom.

Just remembered; six rock icons who very sadly died at 27:

  • Amy Winehouse
  • Jimi Hendrix
  • Kurt Kobain
  • Jim Morrison
  • Janis Joplin
  • Brian Jones

Amy Winehouse

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Unilever CEO’s Harry Potter moment

A lot of us are very worried about the environment and the legacy we are leaving our children.  Big companies are having to listen because keeping in our good books helps their growth and delivers shareholder value.  Unilever used to hide behind an invincibility cloak but now it’s keen to tell us all about the brands it owns and the good stuff it is doing.

Unilever’s latest global drive, across print and digital, will feature the tagline ‘Small actions. Big difference’ and showcase some of the progress Unilever has made in improving its sustainability credentials. It will also challenge consumers to contribute to this.

The campaign, which is set to  roll out in September, will feature Unilever’s corporate logo prominently.  Unilever’s intention is that it will result in consumers having a better understanding of the diversity of its product range, which includes brands such as Persil, Surf, Dove, Lynx, Bovril and Ben & Jerry’s.

I’m off to watch the last Harry Potter film next week (personally I think Harry will make a comeback as Headmaster of Hogwarts in around 10 years) but even he would have difficulty achieving the goals set out by  Unilever chief executive Paul Polman: double sales by 2020 while reducing environmental impact.

Sad news for men

With the Arab spring drifting into summer and stalemate all over the place it’s difficult to predict what will happen next.  As an incredibly conservative Kingdom with cash to splash keeping everyone relatively happy Saudi Arabia has come through the upheavals unscathed.  Two titbits from recent coverage will further enlighten you.

From al-Qassim, “Riyadh looks like Paris and [the relatively tolerant port city of] Jeddah looks like Bangkok,” says one Saudi reformer.  One to cross off your holiday list!

And this classic from a liberal reformer:

“If you ask women all over the world if they prefer a mixed environment or to be away from men, they would choose the latter,” Duwaish, whose centre was one of the first to publish a report on domestic violence in the Kingdom, told the Guardian.  My wife has just left for the summer with a big grin on her face so maybe Mr Duwaish is onto something.

Down and out

Rebekah Wade

Rebekah Wade

In amongst the debris surrounding the closing of the News of the World I found this gem (the paper first published in 1843 bit the dust on the back of a phone hacking scandal; my mate Micky will be devastated, but not for long):

Computers at the newspaper were disconnected from the internet after the announcement that the paper would close to prevent staff from communicating their reaction via Twitter.

While I’m an old hand at Facebook (34 friends and counting) I’m fairly new to Twitter, however  in my short Twitter career it has come to my notice that my phone is the perfect vehicle for Tweets.

The world champion in cynical opportunism Rupert Murdoch has manoeuvred the situation to turn The Sun into a 7 day operation.  200 plus loyal and hard-working staff plus countless freelancers have been thrown on the scrap heap while his chosen one, Rebekah Wade, is still hoping to walk away scot-free.  Apparently The Ivy-loving redhead (soon to be seen in Dubai editing Gulf News?) didn’t know the phone hacking was going on when she was Editor, although she must have been a little bit curious about all of the exclusives coming her way.

One great Tweet that did slip out: “Brooks or NoTW? Murdoch’s ditched the wrong red-top.”

Final thought on the subject, hacks hacking has a horrible ring to it.

Pack up your property woes in an old kit bag

Regional unrest failed to revitalise the property market and while extending residency visas from 6 months to 3 years was a good move they should have been much, much bolder – 10 years minimum.  There is still so much property being delivered in an uncertain market that the only way is down.

For everyone in Dubai who is caught in the declining value trap spare a thought for the poorer people of America.  Once a multimillionairess, Miss Kluge, has just sold her mansion, once listed for £62 million, for just £9.3 million.  Ouch.

They came, they saw and they nabbed it

Like  many people living in Dubai I’ve watched the phenomenon of group-buying explode.  I get it but I don’t get it.  When times are tough you need to look after your pennies and are on the lookout for great deals.  I know plenty of people who love it but I just can’t be bothered, a good night in with a good book is taking precedence – I’ve just read a great book set in Ethiopia – Cutting for Stone a first novel by Abraham Verghese.

With news that Gonabbit has been snapped up by Living Social – well done the nabbit guys – I read quite a lot about Groupon.  Last year it was valued at $6 billion when Google were sniffing around, this year $30 billion.  Groupon has never made a profit and I think the companies offering the deals will pretty soon see it as a short road to nowhere (they hand back up to 50% of what you pay to the deal maker and deal hunters are always looking for the next deal, i.e. they never go back and pay full price).  So my advice, if anyone makes an offer – sell, sell, sell.

Glastonbury pop or rock?

The Wombles

The Wombles

I watched some if the BBC’s coverage of this year’s Glastonbury extravaganza.  I was drawn magnetically to Beyonce’s performance, what a whole lotta of woman!  It wouldn’t have happened in my day when bad boys of rock spent as much energy on dodging flying beer bottles as delivering high-octane rock.  The pick for me was Primal Scream while the low has to be the Wombles, OMG.

Top 7s

Family away so I’ve got the sound cranked up and my iPod on shuffle – I love it for reminding you of all the great music that you have forgotten.  7 (couldn’t restrict to 5, sorry) nearly forgotten fond favourites:

  • Suede: Animal Nitrate
  • Doves: Kingdom of Rust
  • Block Party: I Still Remember
  • Magazine: Shot By Both Sides
  • Psycadelic Furs: Pretty In Pink
  • The Cult: She Sells Sanctuary
  • Buzzcocks: Ever Fallen In Love

There is a very strong link between two of these bands, first one to spot it (only my answer is the right answer) and I’ll buy you lunch at the newly opened Lime Tree Café in Media City next to the mini showroom.



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I’m a gay woman masquerading as an ad man!

Last week I was pondering how to increase my readership so I had a quick look around the blogs of other people who work in advertising. Lots of smart observation but it all centred on the latest thing in the world of Google or Apple or Facebook and pretty soon I was snoring. Then I came across the story of the leading lesbian blogger who this week was exposed as a man pretending to be a gay woman: Gay Girl in Damascus blog was revealed to be the fictional creation of a married male student from Edinburgh.

The day after came news that Paula Brooks, who claimed to be the executive editor of a US-based lesbian site, that “she”, too, was a man – in this case, a 58-year-old retired construction worker from Ohio called Bill Graber.

Before starting the Gay Girl in Damascus blog in February, Tom MacMaster, the Edinburgh student masquerading as Amina Abdullah Araf al Omari, had written posts on

Now the point of this story is that loads of people visited their blogs and while I have top quality visitors, there are not very many of them.  Which leads me to conclude that I need to give the masses what they want, what they really, really want.

My mate Rory (see pic below for just how close we are)!

I have to admit that I watched the last round from behind the sofa but I really shouldn’t have worried, the boy Rory is pure class. He ruthlessly destroyed the field and dispelled forever the theories of those people who thought he was a choker.

I loved this bit of fan worship from a top American golfer who simply tipped his cap and acknowledged greatness. In Brandt Snedeker’s words after the second round:

“It’s great to see him do that, especially on the heels of the Masters. I hope he can keep it going for the weekend. As a fan of golf I’d love to see him win this week. As a competitor I’d love to see myself win. We’ll see how it goes.”

My advice to Rory: never change your club manufacturer, never change your swing, never change your attitude (or as Darren Clarke said, Rory is a please and thank you person).

I was also mightily impressed with Japanese golfer Ryo Ishikawa who is donating his tournament earnings from 2011 to the victims of the tsunami that recently devastated the country. Ishikawa, 19, will also give $1,200 for every birdie he achieves during the year.

Keith, ATOM and Rory

Speculative bubble or sound investment?

I’ve got lots of friends who are absolutely brilliant at buying at the bottom and selling just before the market disappears over the precipice. I’ve always wondered how they do it and as I sat down today to ponder the release of 2010 Bordeaux wines en primeur the answer suddenly came to me. They wait to see what I do and then do the exact opposite. My track record is appalling. I do my homework and take a very cautious attitude on the way up and then just as we approach the tipping point I pile in! This year’s en primeur release  is widely acknowledged as being of outstanding quality and there has been an explosion in the Far East market as rich Chinese buyers snap up wines from the best estates.

For anyone who has got any money here are my tips for the top and don’t forget if all goes wrong you can always drink it (slowly!):

Lafite (first growth, £1,000+ a bottle expensive)

Mouton Rothschild (first growth, not quite Lafite but you’ll have to empty your coin bottle to buy a cork)

La Fleur Petrus (way up on last year’s release prize but still shooting out of the door)

Grand Puy Lacoste (more affordable and highly rated)

Beycheville (again in the sort of affordable bracket and the Chinese love the ‘dragon’ boat label)

Pontet Canet (big wow with the critics)

If you are interested MMI get a very good allocation of en primeur wines through their association with Emirates Airline.  You can view the wines and make up a wish list through Le Clos.

I’ve got a few contacts on the inside so if you would prefer to speak to someone please let me know and I’ll sort it.

Olympic, 2.3 million tickets left . . . for the football

Two-thirds of applicants for London 2012 tickets have been left empty-handed in the face of huge demand. A total of 21 events have sold out altogether, with only limited availability for others.

Around 1.7m of the remaining 2.3m tickets are for the football tournament, which is taking place at large stadiums around the country. Of the 600,000 remaining for other events, the next most are for (not on the beach) volleyball and hockey.

Sarah Palin has been out righted

News broke last week that extreme right-winger, Michele Bachmann, is putting her name in the hat to be the next American President.  Like all self-centred fascists she is totally against all government subsidies however there is some nice dirt on her doing the rounds. The issue is the Bachmann family farm in Wisconsin. The large rural property has been the recipient of considerable government largesse in the form of agricultural subsidies, the farm has reaped the Bachmanns about $154,000 of government cash since 2001.

Michele Bachmann

Marketing tip number one, how to win friends and influence people

Respect to the shop in Dalma Mall in Abu Dhabi, who thought laterally, very laterally!

Shop front - Keep Out

Top 5 iPad2 apps

The iPad2 is a very serious bit of kit and I’m in the busy adding apps stage.  Here are my favourites so far:

  • News++: Flipboard – I don’t know exactly what it does but I can add and find all of my favourites here
  • Sport: R&A rules of golf – features a rules quiz that I’m rubbish at
  • Audio Visiual: TuneIn Radio – all of your favourite radio stations in the blink of an eye
  • Techie: Dropbox (a folder which you can add things to and access from any device)
  • Games: Space Invaders (Invaders HD) – oldie but goldie

Any tips of great apps which I can get hold of through the UAE iTunes store gratefully received.

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All the President’s men

The moment Bin Hamman challenged Sep Blatter (schoolboy error), he was a dead man walking.  In an email exchange with Jack Warner, the General Secretary of FIFA, Mr Valcke wondered witheringly of Bin Hammam whether the Qatari felt, by standing against Blatter, he could “buy FIFA as they (Qatar) bought the WC”.  Despite this pretty condemning evidence Qatar isn’t going to be investigated, but this one just keeps running and running.

My favourite bit of this sorry saga is Sep Blatter’s proposal to appoint a council of the wise featuring that well-known football aficionado; take a bow Placido Domingo.

Placido Domingo

Trouble at home, attack away

With Syria on the brink and their big mates Iran going through a bit of turmoil don’t be surprised if they play their joker and drag Israel into the equation. There is nothing like a bit of war mongering with public enemy number one to divert attention and drum up a bit of nationalism.

More people who are cleverer than me

A couple of years ago we had Radiohead releasing an album as a ‘pay what you think it’s worth’ download.  Now the Kaiser Chiefs (of Ruby, Ruby, Ruby and I predict a riot fame) have come up with an even more cunning scheme.  They have created an amazing looking website where you can preview their songs before making up your personal album of 10 songs from the 20 available.  The album costs £7.50 and you get the option of designing an album cover and setting up a page where your friends can download your album.  For every album downloaded you receive £1, so if 8 people download your version you make 50p!

This has then been taken to the next level by people like The Guardian who have created their version of the album with the £1 going to their chosen charity – Alzheimer’s.

Top DJs have also got in on the act; really great interactive stuff and brilliantly taking technology to the next level.

The dough boys

My wife is a Krispy Krème hater and so am I right up until that moment a box arrives in our office at which point my powers of resistance disappear in a cloud of dust.  What I’ve often wondered is how a food product that screams calories is doing so well.  Apparently there are two massive trends in food right now – one is health, the other is indulgence, and both are similar in size.  Madonna is big fan and judging by his recent appearance at a press conference in Dubai so is Maradona!

Diego MaradonaKrispy Kreme have a simple but smart marketing strategy; one of their clever ruses is to allow people to buy boxes of doughnuts at cost price, and then sell them for a profit for a good cause, and many of these are schools or children’s groups such as Scouts and Guides. It’s a genius idea – raise money for charity, while getting kids to sell to other kids, and mint a whole new generation of parent-pestering doughnut-eaters.

Krispy Kreme doughnuts

The naked truth

Has anyone noticed the number of naked companies that have cropped up recently and the proliferation of naked bets?  My history of making brave bets goes back a long way and I remember doing an early-hours naked dash around a pool in Portugal and bumping into a big party of people who happened to be leaving a nearby restaurant at exactly the same time.  The latest person to fall foul of an injudicious bet is a French World Cup winner.  Former France international and Evian shareholder Bixente Lizarazu will celebrate the club’s promotion with a nude run through the town’s streets.  Go you good thing go!

More of the silly stuff

I love the ability of the British to invent games.  We quickly discovered that other countries catch up and overtake us so we keep coming up with ever more wacky games.  Chasing manically after a giant cheese down a near vertical hill near Cheltenham is one of my favourites and another is the World custard pie-throwing championship held recently in the village of Coxheath in Kent.

Custard pie contest

Top 5 silliest World Championships

  • Extreme Ironing World Championship
  • World Sauna Championship
  • World Black Pudding Throwing Championship
  • World Worm Charming Championship
  • World Gurning Championship

World Gurning Chamionship

What makes you pull funny faces?

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