Monthly Archives: September 2013

The (lack of) Fear Factor

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I was sitting down to my Sunday breakfast and papers not too long ago when low and behold I was faced with Felix Dennis on the cover of the Observer Magazine, stark naked, with nothing but a pair of boots and a fedora hat covering his modesty.

 

 

 

I thought to myself that surely, somewhere in London there was a PR with their head in their hands wondering how they were going to turn this one around.

 

However, as I thought about it more, I realised that Felix Dennis certainly isn’t the only spokesperson to have caused a stir. Remember the time when Sir Richard Branson dressed as a flight attendant and served drinks to passengers on a long haul Air Asia flight with the world’s press looking on? Or let’s not forget the time that he jumped off the Palms Hotel Casino in Las Vegas to make an inaugural Virgin American flight resulting in split trousers and a bruised back.

 

Many would that say that these PR stunt tactics are only suitable for consumer facing brands and that there is no way that this could ever work in the enterprise world. But what about the Marc Benioffs of the world who commandeered taxis to rival’s event or moved his scheduled Oracle OpenWorld keynote to a nearby venue when  Oracle tried to move it to later in the week? Both of which drew in the attentions of journalists and event attendees.

 

Whilst we certainly don’t encourage our clients to dress in drag or abseil into their next press conference, we do believe that they shouldn’t be afraid to show their personality. Spokespeople walk a fine line between representing a brand and representing themselves. But because we work in a people industry, making introductions and building relationships, it is crucial to make an impression that the media will remember. After all journalists are humans too.

The rise of on-demand video streaming – can legal streaming services really give the consumer what they want and eradicate piracy?

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I’ve been thinking recently about just how far, in a relatively short space of time, society has come in terms of how we view film and TV. Gone are the days of the VHS, and due to the video streaming revolution, it’s looking like it won’t be that long until the DVD is a thing of the past too.

 

To my mind, the big question here is what has changed? Is it simply that the modern day consumer is just more demanding; wanting things right here, right now? Or could it be that the rise in illegal internet piracy has called for a new age of TV and film consumption?

 

Piracy has had a huge effect on the TV and film industry, as well as the way in which we consume content. While everyone knows illegal downloads are as the name suggests,  nobody really seems to take that into consideration when there is something they are just desperate to watch. When series 3 of Game of Thrones was launched first in America earlier this year, the first episode broke all piracy records with data from Torrent Freak showing that it received a staggering one million downloads on BitTorrent in less than a day.  While this could be considered as a massive compliment to the show’s creators, it could affect their profits in the long term ultimately resulting  in the cancellation of your favourite show.

 

As a result of the increased consumer need for on-demand TV and film a number of legal streaming services have emerged in recent years. One such service is Netflix, which was launched in the UK in 2012.  Neflix is easily accessible and affordable, costing just £6 a month for an unlimited amount of use.

 

As well as holding the UK broadcasting rights to Breaking Bad, which can only be described as one of the most popular TV dramas of the moment, they have also produced a variety of original TV shows. These have proven to be hugely successful and have received widespread industry praise resulting in them receiving 14 nominations at this year’s Emmy awards – three of which they went on to win.

 

Kevin Spacey, star of Netflix original series ‘House of Cards’, hit the nail on the head when describing how today’s viewers like to “binge” on TV – preferring to watch entire series in one chunk rather than an episode a week like they had in the past. Netflix has proven to be so popular because it provides just that.

 

For all of its good points, as one of Netflix’s near 38 million subscribers, I have to admit there are quite a few films on there that I have never heard of or seem a little bit dated. For example, currently in the ‘new releases’ section the majority of films came out in 2011 or 2012.  That being said, it came out last week that Netflix has been using illegal pirate websites as a way of identifying what content is in demand and using this to help them select new shows. While piracy is bad it is also an incredibly accurate way of tracking what are the most popular shows of the moment. This new approach could be a big step closer to services like Netflix meeting more of the short term needs of the consumer by having a more targeted range of content.

 

Personally, I think legal on-demand streaming services have both revolutionised and heavily influenced the way in which we now consume content and they are more than capable of keeping up with the needs of the consumer in regards of accessibility and cost.

 

Will on-demand streaming ever be enough to make piracy obsolete? If Game of Thrones has taught us anything it’s that when people want to watch something that desperately and there is a way of watching it as soon as possible, they will – whether it’s legal or not.

 

What do you think?

There’s a new iPhone. So what?

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Earlier this week, Apple held one of its famous keynote speeches to announce two new(ish) phones – iPhone 5C and 5S. The 5S is the more advanced of the two, with Touch ID, a 64-bit chip and the new iOS 7 operating system.

 

 

Elvis Costello apart, the keynote was met with the expected mixed feeling that comes with any Apple announcement – fans cheering and critics sneering. There is already a lot of discussion about how the new iPhones are no match for existing offerings from the likes of Samsung, HTC and even Nokia. From issues with price to “truly ground-breaking” features, there seems to be as many reasons for critics sneer as there are for the Apple faithful to rejoice

 

But, beyond the phone wars and the arguments about which phone maker is the most innovative, there is a bigger picture that is often missed – the genius of the innovation we are witnessing at this point in time.

 

We are so desensitised to the genius of innovation that when a technology has been introduced that allows you to unlock your phone using only your fingerprint,  most of us have barely batted an eyelid (security vendors aside of course!). Even less noise was made when Samsung introduced Face Unlock.

 

We are living in the second dispensation of the industrial revolution where man-made creations are changing the way the world works and its people interact. We have taken giant strides towards making our world a more comfortable place but unlike the first time around, the excitement levels seem to be a bit lower. Most of it is lost in the “phone maker vs phone maker” debates that are, in truth, no more than cheap attempts at filling column inches and driving website traffic. If we are being honest, even the biggest Apple fan will admit that Samsung has some cool innovation and vice versa.

 

We need to take a moment, regardless of which side of the phone maker divide we fall on to appreciate the technological revolution we are witnessing and are privileged to have front row seats to. Regardless of whether or not the technologies of the future will make the smartphones of today look like typewriters, we still need to enjoy these moments. They’ll never come back.

Bulmer’s last hurrah or a bid to rival Apple?

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Today’s news that Microsoft will buy Nokia in early 2014 sent the Scandinavian telco giant’s shares soaring by some 45%. But while the stock market may have been buoyed by the news of the acquisition many are still to be convinced of the business thinking behind the move.

 

 

As a brand name, Microsoft remains iconic. Yet it, too, has struggled to make inroads into the mobile space; too slow, say some, to respond to market demand. The sales of its Surface tablets (most charitably described as sluggish) highlighting this significantly.

 

At the same time, Nokia has struggled against competition from Samsung and Apple with sales falling 24% in the three months to June, compared to last year.

 

The question on the lips of many industry analysts and consumers alike is: will the partnership of two relatively also-rans in terms of the mobile and OS space really be the answer to rivalling the likes of Apple and the Android OS?

 

Some believe that the sale of Nokia (an established 150 year old company) for the relatively paltry sum of $7 billion is tantamount to a ‘fire sale’, and others have questioned the move as a last role of the dice for Steve Bulmer; aiming to leave a legacy in the mobile space before his immanent departure from office.

 

Look more closely however and there may be more than one reason (the share price of Nokia) to believe Microsoft has pulled out a proverbial rabbit from the hat.

 

First, the partnership formed in 2011 placed the Windows Phone (WP) operating system in Nokia’s Lumia devices, and sales of Lumia have seen WP’s global market share rise to 3.3% – actually out performing former mobile heavy weights BlackBerry.

 

Secondly, Microsoft has a history of making astute acquisitions that have ultimately strengthened its overall market offering: it purchased aQuantive, an advertising company, on August 13, 2007 for $7.3 billion. A/Razorfish, one of the world’s largest digital agencies the same year; Norwegian enterprise search company Fast Search & Transfer to boost its search technology in 2008, and most recently in 2011 it acquired Skype for $8.5 billion.

 

Finally, despite not cracking the mobile market in the way he would have envisaged Bulmer still remains, first and foremost, a winner. He simply doesn’t back the wrong horse when it comes to significant business decisions.

 

One last point to leave you to ponder: who would have believed (apart from Steve Jobs & Paul Wozniak) during the late 90s when Apple brought out the iMac with its coloured back, that it would be the company it is today with all its influence and success? With this in mind, maybe Bulmer and co might just have the last laugh after all!