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Friday, 25 September 2009

Brands under fire, beware Google Sidewiki

Google quietly released a new social tool this week called Sidewiki Sidewiki is an addition to the Google toolbar, so far, so innocuous. However this could possibly enable the most visible feedback online brands have yet to face.

The Google Sidewiki toolbar allows any user with a Google account to comment, on any page, on any site. That effectively means users have the ability to graffiti corporate sites. Google say they are monitoring comments and have provided a reporting tool if posts are deemed malicious, however if the criticism is constructive, instructive and therefore destructive then the implications are massive.

Over the course of this year there has been a greater and greater demand for brands to listen from consumers, technology companies, agencies, in fact too many voices to list. In a way it's been convenient for companies to ignore it. If it's all going off on Twitter, or Facebook or “some blog” then it's out of sight and therefore out of mind (of course this an absurdity). What Sidewiki does though is bring it to the doorstep and now anyone can graffiti all over your front door. Now it's already been declared dangerous and doomed to fail and simply a way of Google monetising the whole web, but this is a Google beta product and it'll inevitably change and over time integrate Google's other features. And in the meantime the comments are going to start cluttering up the doormat and they're going to be difficult to ignore.

This kind of interwoven peer to peer feedback is the future of the web. It's going to force companies to change the way they operate so once again with gusto. Start listening and start taking heed.

Crispin Heath
Head of Digital

Thursday, 17 September 2009

Tooth fairy index anyone?

When I was a kid and my first tooth fell out (actually it was punched out in a bit of a fracas over some space dust but that’s another story) the tooth fairy magically passed by overnight, took the incisor and left a shiny 10 pence.

Fast forward a few years (actually more like 4 decades) and the going rate for that first tooth for my daughter is a mighty £2.00. That’s a massive 2,000% increase or 52% year on year.

Compare that to house prices over the same period: 1,477% (source Nationwide); FTSE All Share: 1,396%. Less a sterling performance more an enamelled one!

But a more important point is that my daughter at 7 struggles to comprehend what that £2.00 will buy. The maths lessons at her primary school still have calculations involving buying cakes for 3p. 3p!!!! When did you last see a cake for 3p? Or 8 Mojos for a penny for that matter. Parents and schools need to get kids to understand how money works and the real prices of things as early as possible or we’ll be stuck with bad financial habits for another generation.

As for me, anyone know how I can access the Tooth Fairy index?

Jim Poulter
Client Services Director

Tuesday, 8 September 2009

Have you looked at consumer finance advertising recently?

I have and it isn’t very inspiring.

A lot of it is still rate led (even though advertising a rate of 2.80% would have seen as madness not that long ago).

Much of it is just boring.

Take the NatWest ads. The tv ads are about helpful banking and then in press ads they tell us “This year, we’re making £12.2bn available to help the property market.” It’s not wrong. It’s just all rather worthy and hard work.

HSBC ask us to “Realise the retirement you want with the help of our global expertise” with a photo of a lady having a golfing lesson. I’m not sure where the benefit is.

Halifax are more inspiring, encouraging us to save for the special things in life and for life’s lumps and bumps. But it all seems rather everyday.

So what’s missing?

Brands outside of financial services are much more optimistic. They make you smile, they thank-you for their attention. Budweiser are sure “Good times, they’re out there.” Even the rather marvellous Child Poverty work doesn’t lecture us, it gives us inspiring facts to get us involved in their campaign.

In financial services, the ‘meerkat factor’ has wowed and the results are astonishing for comparethemarket who work in a highly commoditised marketplace. I miss the ‘I want to be a slug’ ads from the Pru, or Allied Dunbar’s ‘We won’t make a drama out of a crisis’.

Consumer finance advertising just needs to get more engaging, more entertaining, more emotive, less left brain.

Given the news last week that the debt owed by British consumers has fallen for the first time since records began, it feels like now is the right time to be motivating, not confusing or mundane.

Oh and by the way, I do know that advertising is only a small part of the picture here. It’s about how a brand behaves. But actually I do think advertising is a window into brands and their businesses and what is missing is the desire to inspire.

Jo Parker

Friday, 4 September 2009

There's no queue at the bank

Having spent a few hours in the bank this month trying to sort out my mortgage something occurred to me. Although a lot of people (including myself) partake in online banking, and telephone banking, the big queue at the bank suggests that you do still need to go into a branch for some financial transactions.

With the power of tweet and other instant microblogging services, we could get updates from them telling us of the progress of the queues. It would certainly be handy for most of us Londoners who can nip out of work knowing we won't be faced with a huge queue at Barclays.

Emma Partridge
Art Director