Tag Archives: advertising

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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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 LezGetReal.com, 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 LezGetReal.com.

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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Oh my giddy aunt

Hats off to Barcelona and my favourite player, Xavi – you may remember I raved about him during the World Cup and once again he made me giddy watching his magicianship (made up word!).  I could see what was going on but I still struggled to understand how a very good team was made to look like a bunch of primary school kids chasing a ball that never stood still.  Nobody in the Man U team came even close to matching the skill and passing ability of every single player wearing the Barcelona shirt.  The only Englishman who can compete at this level is Paul Scholes but unfortunately he’s right at the end of his career.  Giggs and Carrick were no match for the Spanish masters and I very much doubt a fully fit Fletcher could have made a difference.  Even Keane, Robson and Nobby Stiles in their prime would have struggled.  Perhaps the biggest disappointment is Man U featured only three English players while Barcelona were jam-packed with Spanish geniuses.  All of this might lead you to conclude that England over achieve at international level.


Is anyone who goes for a Super Injunction a twit?

It really didn’t need a bunch of twitterers to expose Ryan Giggs, it was common knowledge already.  As a public figure you have got to expect to be exposed if you misbehave although Edwina Currie and John Major did manage to get away with a sneaky affair (probably my favourite affair of all time) until Edwina exposed herself!  Apparently Twitter are willing to give up the details of people who break the law so my advice to anyone planning to dish the dirt is to use made up personal details when they sign up from an internet café a long way from where they live.

One good thing to come out of the whole thing is this chuckler.

Ryan Giggs

Where did she get that hat, where did she get that hat?

All girls called Beatrice are great and this pic proves it.  Together with the cart-wheeling verger, Beatrice’s hat was the star of the royal wedding and even better she raised £80,000 for charity by selling it in an online auction.  Respect.

Princess Beatrice

Boom or bust?

Strange one this, everyone I speak to has diametrically opposed views.  Their cup is over-flowing or barely contains a drop.  I have Arabian Business delivered to my inbox twice a day and everyday there are major contradictions; someone bringing another 100 restaurant chains to the UAE (Landmark and Bin Hendi) while elsewhere restaurants like Tang at Le Meridien Mina Seyahi are closing.  My instinct is that the market is over-saturated and there will continue to be deals a plenty.

Keep your hands on the wheel and your eyes upon the road

I studiously avoid getting involved in any hand gesturing when driving but given recent events I am nervous of being falsely accused in a game of my word against theirs.  I’m from the sticks and stones camp so if the mood takes you please free to make a rude gesture at me rather than trying to run me off the road.  The only self-preservation tactic I can think of is to get my retaliation in first and complain about everyone driving Nissan Patrols just in case they make a complaint against me.

Why are pirates called pirates?

I took the girls to see the new Pirates of the whatever the latest one is called movie the other day.  Opportunity knocked when the projector broke down during the ads.  I desperately wanted to keep my fellow movie goers entertained with my very funny pirate joke but was forcibly restrained by Florence and Beatrice.  Shame, I could have made a lot of friends and kick started my career as a comedian.

Quick review, dull, dull and thrice dull.  My girls however gave it a big juicy 8 while persuading me to add an extra 1 to my mark . . . so it’s a 1 from me.

The one good thing to come out of my Mall of the Emirates expedition was the purchase of a shiny, brand new iPad2 – I happened to show up in Virgin 12 seconds after a new batch of iPads arrived and got the last one.  It’s a serious bit of kit, very sexy, however if I had seen the BBC programme on Super Brands before I bought it there is no way anything Apple would have made an impact on my credit card.  The programme showed a huge queue of people caught up in an evangelical fever waiting for a new Apple store to open.  I concluded Apple is an extremely creepy company who want to control the world – or as one very astute student said, Apple is the sort of person who invites you to their birthday party and then controls what you are allowed to see and do.

More RIPs

Very sadly more heroes have died in the last week.  Firstly Gil Scott-Heron passed away, he was widely acknowledged as the godfather of rap and as a poet and songster he was right up there with the best of the best.  Most Famous for The Revolution Will Not Be Televised, Check out Me and the devil, absolutely spell binding.

Gil Scott Heron

I also read a really sad piece about Tom Daley’s father dying of cancer at the ridiculously young age of 40.  What made me especially sad was that father of Tom was not one of those obnoxious, pushy dads, he was simply Tom’s biggest supporter.  Come on Tom, win a gold for your dad (and Plymouth!).

Tom Daley and his Dad

Top 5 most inspirational Olympic performances in athletics

In the week my Olympic tickets didn’t materialise here is my top 5 seen-on-TV (some were films!) performances on the track.

  • Usain Bolt – 100m, jaw dropping
  • Cathy Freeman – Aussie Aborigine who lit up Sydney
  • Tommie Smith – 1968 200m gold medallist and black power salute man
  • Eric Liddell and Harold Abrahams – Chariots of Fire
  • Jessie Owen – won loads and made the Nazis look stupid

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BlackBerry apps launches at last

Finally, finally we have a BlackBerry apps store in the UAE.  For the very few of you who have followed my blog from the beginning you may recall I was saying BlackBerry is toast if they don’t sort out their apps.  The perception that Apple have more and better apps may still kill BlackBerry but at least they are back in with a fighting chance of surviving/thriving especially if they design some funky phones for BBM loving teenagers (and launch Android apps on BlackBerry as has been hotly rumoured).  My app tip of the week is WorldMate, it’s free and it’s a corker.  http://www.worldmate.com/  

Favourite ad of the month

My pick of the ads actually never saw the light of day due to a complaint by a sense of humourless M&S – killjoys.


The deal offered three items for £29 – a lingerie “main”, sex toy “side”, and flavoured lubrication “dessert”.

No sooner had I stopped chuckling than my attention was drawn to a real rib tickler.  With the football season drawing to a close and Mourinho ranting about his players being sent off, The Guardian ran a story on most obscure sendings off.  Hankies to the ready before you read on:

“On 30 April 2007, Kingsley Royal, mascot for Reading, was sent off by Mike Dean during a match against Newcastle Utd,” writes John O’Brien. “He was alleged to have strayed too close to the pitch and confused the officials, who apparently couldn’t easily distinguish between a professional footballer and a bloke in a lion costume. Despite the loss of such a key performer, Reading clung on to their 1-0 lead to take all three points.

During his next home match, Kingsley wore a T-shirt that proclaimed he was “INNOCENT” under his kit and revealed it during a pretend goal celebration.”

Kingsley the lion

What do ad agencies do?

It’s a question I’ve been asked a lot.  The only answer I’ve been able to give that people relate to is that ad agencies are a big bit of Gandalf the Wizard rounded off with a flick of Harry Potter.  In essence people give us think-outside-the-box-never-been-done-before-briefs to solve yesterday.  Fortunately some clever chaps on Dragon’s Den invented a wand in the last series and I’ve never looked back (including creating a magical campaign for Air Miles in one of our finest hours).

Last week I said it was pointless showing a picture of Bin Laden, well the Americans have finally relented.  They briefed an ad agency and the agency worked it’s magic.

Politicians looking astounded 

Bad news on the heaven front

In his latest musings Stephen Hawking has stated that there is no life after death.  This is what he said:

“I have lived with the prospect of an early death for the last 49 years. I’m not afraid of death, but I’m in no hurry to die. I have so much I want to do first.

I regard the brain as a computer which will stop working when its components fail. There is no heaven or afterlife for broken down computers; that is a fairy story for people afraid of the dark”.

As I digested this bad news, up popped another story that a test has been developed that will analyse your genes to predict exactly when you die (assuming of course that the bus doesn’t get you first).

Stephen Hawking

Sad about Seve

While I sort of get where Stephen Hawking is coming from I just don’t believe Seve isn’t at this very moment showing off his miraculous powers of escape to the big guy in the sky.  Seve was the genius who inspired most golfers of my generation to take up the game.  Unbelievable to watch and over flowing with charisma.  He should have lived to shoot a two under par 68 on his 100th birthday!

My top 5 golfers that I’ve seen play (in the flesh)

  • Ernie Els
  • Tiger Woods
  • Seve Ballesteros
  • Rory McIlroy
  • My golfing mate Simon Harris!

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Bin Laden is more dead than a very dead parrot

I’m not a great one for conspiracy theories and I really can’t see the point in publishing a picture.   All the theorists will claim it has been doctored.  Maybe we should revert to sticking heads on stakes but then again the clever people at Madame Tussauds could easily rustle up a head up for the occasion.  All I have got to say on the subject is Bin Laden is dead and the American’s lied about the alive bit.

Wanted poster Osama Bin Laden

Spanish footballers behave like toddlers

Bin Laden managed to knock the pathetic antics of Barcelona and Real Madrid off the front page for a couple of days.  Fortunately Mouriniho got involved in football, imagine him in charge of a terrorist organisation or the head of state.  I spotted the comment below in the papers and it’s given me the perfect opportunity to dust off one of my favourite ads.

What angered me intensely was the farcical way in which both sets of players, but particularly those in Barcelona shirts, showed an insatiable appetite to hit the ground like a three-year-old whose mum won’t buy him sweets.

Great ads take less than a minute

I’ve been watching an excellent Danish detective series called The Killing; think Prime Suspect with sub titles.  When I started watching it I never knew it was 20 one hour episodes so spent the entire series changing my mind about ‘who done it’.   Brilliant advertising doesn’t have 20 hours to twist and turn, it’s all about transforming simple observations into beautifully crafted short films.  The cleverness of people who can get a message over in less than a minute never ceases to amaze me.  Take a look at the ads for toffee dodgers and Specsavers for great examples of the art.  In both instances you end up entertained and really liking the brands, they stick in your mind for the next time you go shopping (I’m the person who sneaks stuff in the shopping trolley while my wife isn’t looking or if I’m sent off on my own with a shopping list I go way off piste).

A bit more about the ad

Read more here

Roadside posters have long been considered the most difficult medium in which to communicate a compelling message as you have only got a millisecond to get your message over (although I find radio ads very difficult to write, for every good one there are at least 100 shockers).  This poster example is incredibly simple but has the just the right amount of cleverness to make you like the brand.

Ocado ad

Here is a golden oldie  that seems to be targeting us boys but did amazing things for Wonderbra sales and is always worth dusting off.

Wonderbra ad

And finally here is a series of ads for the All Blacks that really caught my eye.  If England don’t win the Rugby World Cup this year (I’m not hopeful although we could be in the mix come 2015) I hope the All Blacks win, they play great rugby and it will be a travesty of justice if Richie and Dan end their careers without World Cup winners medals.

All Black poster

The Royal wedding, oops forgot

I was very kindly invited by an old friend to play Yas Links on what transpired to be the day of the Royal Wedding.  I’m not anti-Royal (it helps define our nation and attract millions of tourists a year) but I’m just not into watching weddings.  I was alerted to my absence when I read an article about brands associating their products with the Royal Wedding.  Apparently, apart from the Royal Mint, the Great British public really resented profiteering at the expense of the Royals.  So rather than enhancing a brand it turned out to be a big flop, although one brand did come up with an interesting concept.

Royal condoms

RIP our ’enry

I remember Henry Cooper being a huge hero to my Dad. he was a great boxer and a true gent who became famous for sticking Cassius Clay (as Muhammad Ali was then called) on the seat of his pants.  Those were in the days when boxing had one world champion for each weight rather than the million and one they have now.

Gorrilaz are cleverer than Stephen Hawkings in clever mode

The launch of the iPad2 in Dubai (price flash: more expensive than in America but cheaper than in England) caught one eye while news that the Gorrilaz recorded an entire album (the Fall) on an iPad struck me as astonishing.  I haven’t heard it but the reviews are pretty good and the cartoon is stunning.

For any geeks out there these are the iPad Applications Used: Speak It! Text to Speech / SoundyThingie / Mugician / Sylo Synthesiser, Sylo Synthesiser Pro / Synth / FunkBox Drum Machine / gliss / AmpliTube for iPad / XENON Groove Synthesizer / KORG iELECTRIBE / bs-16i / Mellotronics M3000 for iPad / Cleartune – Chromatic Tuner / iORGEL HD / olsynth / StudioMini XL Recording Studio / Bassline / Harmonizer / Dub Siren Pro / Moog Filtatrons


Top 5s, best synthpop albums:

  • Human League; Reproduction
  • Orchestral Manoeuvres in the Dark: Orchestral Manoeuvres in the Dark
  • Heaven 17: Penthouse and Pavement
  • Moby: Play (anyone planning to go to his Dubai concert?)
  • Kraftwerk: Autobahn

All disagreers welcome.

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Can anyone explain these headlines?

I receive the Arabian Business round-up to my inbox twice a day and I’ve had a worrying tendency to always believe what I read.  Here are three recent examples of my urgent need to wake up and smell the M&S tea.


Nakheel to double marina berths on Palm Jumeirah

Sub headline

Dubai-based master developer currently has 522 berths, 50% of which are still unsold

And this one:

The speed limit on the main Abu Dhabi to Dubai highway will be cut to 140km per hour from Sunday.

Sub Head

A decision by Abu Dhabi traffic police to reduce the speed limit from 160km per hour was announced last week and will be enforced on Sunday, UAE daily Emirates Business reported on Saturday.

What were all of those signs saying 120km all about?

And my favourite:


Expat arrivals push UAE population to 8.26m in 2010

No comment!

Did Rory choke or was he pushed?

I’m a huge fan of Rory McIlroy and even after he unravelled on the back nine at The Masters I still think he is a golfing genius with a swing to die for.

This bit from The Telegraph (take note David Faulkner) made me chuckle.  For all the suddenness of his elevation to golf’s aristocracy, there is still an endearing touch of the tear away about McIlroy.  His resemblance to Dennis the Menace is so striking you half-expect him to have packed a pea-shooter alongside his seven-iron. It is more than skin-deep, too: on the eve of the Masters, the young scamp had to be told off by an Augusta neighbour for playing football too loudly outside his rented house.

While on the subject of top sportsman I enjoyed Andy Murray trying to be grumpy for Red Nose Day.  Tough going when you’re being assailed on all sides by the cast of Outnumbered.

How to lose friends and alienate people

Being a partner of the Olympics must bring many benefits but in my opinion Visa has got it horribly wrong.  By all means feature added benefits from paying for Olympic Tickets with Visa but it’s a shocker that they only accept Visa.  They then compound it by telling us that they are proud of giving you one option only.

We are proud to accept only Visa.

South Africa becomes a BRIC

BRIC is now BRICS as South Africa becomes the latest country to join the grouping that are gearing up to put an end to America’s dominance of the world economy.  And no, the B doesn’t stand for Britain, we had our turn in the 19th and early 20th centuries.  The countries about to take centre stage are Brazil, Russia, China, India and South Africa.

The age of digital hasn’t quite arrived yet

For the many of us who have become obsessed with the digital age citing Facebook and Twitter as being at the forefront of the regional unrest across the region I learnt a thing or two from Faisal J Abbas during his interview on World Service.  Faisal is a Saudi living in London who writes a very informative blog.  One of his points was that Al Jazeera (one TV station) is watched by around 40 million people across this region, about the same number who are connected to the http://www.  Also Yemen and Syria are a very long way down the list of connected countries.  He also reminded me of one of my favourite, but long forgotten, sayings: Reputation arrives on foot and leaves on horseback.

When to give up

I loved MG and longed to own an MG GB GT (or whatever the sporty one was called) but unfortunately the brand became so tarnished that they should have kept it out of its misery.  Instead some misguided people from China are having a go and instead of recreating a heritage brand they have decided to go mainstream and compete against the Ford Fiesta.  No cigar.  VW show how to refresh the parts of a brand that other manufacturers cannot reach with their latest incarnation of the Beetle.

MG Cars old and new

MG - Old and new

New Volkswagen Beetle

The new Volkswagen Beetle

T Mobile strikes again

For those of you that watched the brilliant Heathrow ad, T Mobile have come up with another wonderful creative that is also right on the topical money.  They did a bit of borrowing from an actual wedding that went viral and then splashed the cash and added a big dollop of brilliance to create the ultimate Royal Wedding video.  As Coke once said, enjoy!

Still on the subject of the Royal Wedding bad news for Queenie, apparently they are treating Will and Kate’s coming together as a dry run for her funeral.

You tube laughs

According to my teenage girls I’m miles off the pace when it comes to You Tube classics.  This one made me laugh and laugh to the point of lots of tears.  45 million views, wow (and then I remembered that’s how many people watch Al Jazeera everyday).

Tips of the week

I wish I could do a film review but I haven’t been inspired to go for a while.  Any recommendations very welcome.  Fortunately there is some good music to get into although I don’t think I will please any of the people any of the time with this week’s choice – Yuck (I liked the name).  It all comes at you with through a wall of fuzz, sort of Strokes with a bit of punky attitude.

My wife has just pitched in with a recommendation to visit the Farmer’s Market at Souk Al Bahar, Friday’s 10 to 4 p.m.  Sally returned with a big bag of fresh produce for a bargain basement price including a punnet of caterpillars that turned out to be mulberries.

Next; top 5 covers

  • Mott the Hoople; All the young dudes
  • Muse; Feeling good
  • Clash; Police and thieves
  • White Stripes; I just don’t know what to do with myself
  • Jeff Buckley; Hallelujah

All comments and random thoughts welcome.

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More broadband for less money pretty please

Some people believe that website advertising doesn’t work and indeed it’s pretty easy to install ad blockers.  For advertisers the good news is you only pay for impressions (people who see your add) at worst and click-throughs at best (people who click your ad to find out more).  There lies the beauty, if you want to know more the information is instantly available – unlike with a TV ad, billboards, radio and newspapers/magazines.

One such ad that caught my eye was for Virgin broadband in the UK – 10Mb fibre optic connection for £5 a month (AED 30).  I’m paying AED 349 for a connection speed which usually gets edged by a drowsy snail and often cuts in and out.  Introducing competition has made a small difference but hopefully prices will head south sooner rather than later.

Thieving gits

Pecked tomatoesSomeone has been pecking at my precious toms!  According to my wife there is someone in Dubai searching for a solution, his last attempt was strategically placed rubber snakes which failed.

Snakes in my tamater patch 

Sorry, the King of Barking is Mohammed Al Fayed

After my last blog I was inundated with entries for maddest of the mad.  I thought I had all of the bases covered but then along came the former owner of Harrods and it was game over.  Al Fayed has had a statue of Michael Jackson erected outside Craven Cottage home of Fulham.  “Why is it bizarre?” he said after the unveiling. “Football fans love it. If some stupid fans don’t understand and appreciate such a gift they can go to hell.  “I don’t want them to be fans. If they don’t understand and don’t believe in things I believe in they can go to Chelsea”.  While on the subject of Chelsea reappointing Terry as Captain of England strikes me as the act of a madman, take a bow Capello.

Mohamed Al Fayed infront of statue of Michael Jackson

Best ad in Dubai

Some of you who have been here a while will remember a classic side of a building ad for Nivea which was up for about a year on Sheikh Zayed Road and showed two women with the headline ‘more moisture, more pleasure’.  Cue lots of giggling amongst the boys.  It took a while but Nivea has been trumped, I was driving along Beach Road the other evening when I saw this classic for L’Oreal.

Ad - limpness

Strangest brand extension

I’m not sure whose brand has been extended here but the people running Pepsi and Karl Lagerfeld must be mates with Al Fayed or the marketing team behind the HSBC sale.  Stupid idea, stupid execution.

diet coke by karl lagerfeld

Classic football player and manager talk

Newcastle United manager Alan Pardew is standing by midfielder Joey Barton following his outspoken comments this week in the French magazine So Foot.

The 28-year-old said that he was the best English midfield player and that he will not sign a new contract for his club until they prove their ambition.

Pardew told BBC Newcastle: “Joey is an opinionated person and that isn’t a problem for me.  If you had people without opinions, without that maverick streak then you wouldn’t have talented individuals,” he added.

“You wouldn’t have Eric Cantona, you wouldn’t have George Best – some of these players, their make-up is that individualism.”  

Joey, George and Eric, hmm, let me think, who is the odd one out?

More bands reform

My mate was over from England last week and we had a good old talk about music.   For every person that is prepared to pay to download music there must be at least two who grab it off the internet for free – you know who you are!  I’m wondering if rapidly falling record sales is the reason behind more and more bands reforming or do rock and rollers find it impossible to hang up their amps.  The latest three bands to reform are The Smiths, Adam and the Ants and Blancmange.  I wonder if you can guess which of these three bands has a pride of place in my record collection.  See below for a bit of vintage Adam to lead you off in the wrong direction.

Some classic comments from the red table

This week I sat on the red table with the gals.  To be fair most of the time they talked a lot of sense but just occasionally they came out with some startling revelations or complete bunkum.

First up I was reminiscing about my old headmaster at primary school, a fearsome fellow called Mr Taylor who every week at assembly did lost property. His favourite ploy was to hold up a sock and ask who had lost a left sock.  Scarred for nearly ever I used to think you had left and right socks but was always too afraid to ask which was which.  Much later in life I discovered that I had been a dork however Eve listened attentively to my story and retorted with, sorry there are right and left socksand proceeded to search the web for proof of which apparently there is plenty (Editor: Keith “Fashion Guru” Prosser – you can purchase yours here or here).  I’ve just remembered that Mr Taylor used to make any boy forgetting his PE kit wear girls regulation green knickers for the PE class, bit mean but very funny.

Top 5 cover songs

  • The Clash – Police and Thieves
  • Johnny Cash – Personal Jesus
  • Miss Jackson –  The Vines
  • Jimi Hendrix – All along the Watchtower
  • Furtureheads – Wuthering Heights

Check out this link (bit old, sorry) for the Daily Telegraph’s top 50 cover songs.

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