“Don’t hate the players hate the game”

The quotation comes from Alex Holland, a former Labour councillor who with others successfully campaigned to save Brixton Market from redevelopment as flats.  It could have come from the works of George Orwell – a significant influence on this blog.  I recently re-read ‘Keep the aspidistra Flying’.  It was an inspiration to me as a teenager.  Now it inspired feelings of despair.  But that’s the point.  It’s a kind of 1984-Lite.  The hero, Gordon Comstock is determined not to join in the common herd’s worship for the ‘Money God.’  He maintains his conviction for many years, seeing his life sink deeper and deeper into the mire of poverty and self-loathing, while his values remain ‘pure’.  But eventually even he is dragged into the money-driven world he hates.  Like 1984, it has an inevitability about it.  The final surrender is a relief more than a battle.  More than two things are certain in life.  There are a number of things you can’t beat – biology is one, capitalism is another.

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Hands up if you love Michael Gove

It’s difficult to like Michael Gove, but we’d miss him if he wasn’t there.  And he does have a certain way with words.  His latest contribution has been to issue a set of verbal style guidelines for civil servants in his Ministry of Justice.  It’s contradictory and reactionary and arrogant of course – like the instruction not to use ‘impact’ as a verb’ despite the fact it has been used this way for centuries.   It gave journalists the opportunity to talk about verbal pedantry, which is always nice.  And it generated my favourite quote of the day, from an expert in something or other from somewhere forgettable:

“We have been verbing nouns and nouning verbs for centuries”, happied this wise individual.  I couldn’t have Goved it better myself.

Britain's Education Secretary Michael Gove listens to applause after delivering a keynote speech at the Conservative party conference in Birmingham, England, Tuesday, Oct. 5, 2010. The Conservative party is holding its annual conference at the International Convention Centre in Birmingham which runs until Wednesday. (AP Photo/Kirsty Wigglesworth)

More marketing bollocks

According to my warc news bulletin this morning, eight out of ten Britons think brands should be telling stories, but a similar proportion couldn’t give a memorable example when asked by a new survey.

“Content marketing specialist Headstream polled more than 2,000 UK adults for its Brand Storytelling Report 2015 to discover their feeling towards brand stories on digital channels and found that 79% felt it was a good idea for brands to tell stories as part of their marketing and customer communications.”  Che?

“Storytelling has become one of the key phrases behind any modern marketing strategy,” platituded Headstream CEO Stephen Sponder. “It’s clear that people want to hear and see more engaging narratives,” he told The Drum.

There are many possible explanations for this astonishing (not) anomaly:

The most plausible one is that no two people  mean the same thing by this latest buzz word bingo nonsense.  It’s vague and borderline meaningless.  We, the marketing folks, know what we mean (sort of) …ish in a certain context.  But no real people out there in research land can give an example, because this is an example of marketing people talking to themselves.  Nobody talks like this except us.  Let’s try and keep the jargon for ourselves and use proper words and concepts that exist in the world out there when we’re talking to “them”.

Jaguar? Pah-guar

I so wanted to like this launch ad for the new Jaguar XE, which competes with Mercedes C Class and BMW 3 Series.  I  enjoyed Jaguar’s previous effort, ‘it’s good to be bad’ in which we are told that Brits make the best villains by some fabulous British villains including Sir Ben Kingsley no less.

Sadly, this new ad just doesn’t do it.  The villain is still there and he has a nice Bond-nemesis-type quality.  But I have two gripes:

1) Call me old fashioned but a black big cat isn’t a jaguar, it’s a panther.  And if you’re bringing the brand to life in the line ‘unleash the cat’ it just makes more sense if the cat you’re featuring throughout is actually a jaguar.

2) More importantly, the car looks bloody terrible.  A year or so back Jaguar launched the F-Type with an ad that was memorable because it made you drool over the car’s looks.  Admittedly, the F-Type is more attractive than the XE.  But when did that ever matter?

Oh Jose

I bow to no man in my admiration for AMV BBDO.  Or indeed for The Special One.  But WTF?  This new spot for BT Sport is a shocker.  Jose Mourinho has invited the people from BT Sport into his beautiful home to shoot a commercial, not realising they’re going to make a mess.  Really?  The joke is that he’s moody and they mess up his lounge and he’s not amused.

First we had Ewan McGregor acting out an idea we first saw in 1980 something – the product that sells itself and needs no glitzy adornments.  Yawn.  Come to think of it, I recall presenting exactly the same idea to Nissan in 1987 (they rejected it).  Now we have unsmiling Jose.  BT (and inexplicably AMV BBDO) is making advertising that appears locked in the late 1900s.  BT likes celebs (not even sportsmen) but isn’t talking about the sport – which is what we care about.

What does this tell me about BT Sport?  While Sky is showing me clips of spine-tingling moments from thrilling sporting occasions, BT is making bad – worse, irrelevant – jokes with celebs.  Stuff I don’t care about.  Sky reminds me why I love watching sport – on Sky.

Has BT Sport not understood this?  I’m surprised, because much of BT Sport’s output has impressed me.  I especially like the way they have hijacked some good sports journalists from The Guardian to give their characteristic wry twist.

One nil to Sky I’m afraid.

“I must be dreaming”

HONOR BLACKMAN  Character(s): Pussy Galore  Film 'JAMES BOND: GOLDFINGER' (1964)  Directed By GUY HAMILTON  17 September 1964  SAF21145  Allstar/UNITED ARTISTS    (Goldfinger, UK 1964)    **WARNING** This Photograph is for editorial use only and is the copyright of UNITED ARTISTS  and/or the Photographer assigned by the Film or Production Company & can only be reproduced by publications in conjunction with the promotion of the above Film. A Mandatory Credit To UNITED ARTISTS is required. The Photographer should also be credited when known. No commercial use can be granted without written authority from the Film Company.

We’re very much looking forward to the publication in September of a new James Bond novel, Trigger Mortis, penned by Anthony Horowitz.  Not least because Horowitz has a fine record in these ‘approved’ additions to established genres.  His Sherlock Holmes  books, House of Silk and Moriarty, were officially sanctioned by the Conan Doyle estate and they are excellent.

Horowitz professes to be sticking closely to the spirit of Ian Fleming’s originals:  “My aim was to make this the most authentic James Bond novel anyone could have written.”  Lucy Fleming, the niece of Ian Fleming, said “it was almost as if Ian had written [Trigger Mortis] himself … It does feel like a Fleming book.”  This is good news.  The Fleming books are brilliant.

The news has raised some eyebrows because Trigger Mortis features Bond Girl Pussy Galore, played memorably in the film of Goldfinger, by Honor Blackman.  Back in the 70s, the choice of her name was very much in tune with Bond spirit – though it’s reported that the US film authority took some persuading to allow it even then.  In these more enlightened times (special prize here for blurting a choked “political correctness gone mad”) the whole franchise has been accused of mysogyny.

This does raise another interesting debate – should we judge historical behaviour and references by today’s criteria?  Do today’s standards of equality also apply to previous ages when gender roles were very different and the world was a different place?  And how will our current standards be judged by future observers?  It’s a dangerous principle to start to apply without some serious nuances.

I like to imagine that Sean Connery’s heavily accented voicing of “Poossey” was a subtle attempt to deflect attention from the offending word.  A kind of 70s equivalent of “Sorry my dear I don’t give a damn”.

The context is crucial.  After all, if you throw a punch in the ring, you get paid, but if you do the same thing in the street, you could go to jail.

Trigger Mortis