Sunday, October 29, 2006

The Empires strike

As this is based on a story - Speed camera fines used to buy plasma TVs and T-shirts - about speed cameras, you may wonder what it is doing here.

Well, for a start, I am about to leave for a week's writer's retreat (time to brush up on the day job skills) in Inverness, and as I journey to the far North my Road Angel will have pride of place on the dash, allowing me to look at the road and not obsess about staying within a few mph of a limit.

But mostly it is the point about how these quangos spend their money, which does resonate with our experience.

One could, just, accept that revenues generated by such things do help if they are ploughed back into improving matters on the ground. But they simply are not.

Be it an EU fund or fine-related income, the vast percentage goes to creating and maintaining empires that benefit none but those within them. Offices (head and regional). Salaries (it's easy to be not for profit when you blow a bundle on a six figure board). Pensions. But then there is the creeping trend towards self-promotion. Massive amounts on propaganda to justify their existences.

And this I think is where we at suffer, especially when applying for support. We too are communicating. And that rains on some cosy parades.

Maybe now our rates are going through the roof (that we just insulated, thereby improving the desireability of the property and hence its value), they can divert some of the money to, oo, I don't know, catching dangerous, uninsured drivers?

Friday, October 27, 2006

Judging the judges?

It's my version of 'watching the detectives'. Who are these people? What qualifies them?

Of course, it may not just be the judges; it can also, or instead, be the judging process. What pressures exist from sponsors and organisers?

It has not been a good week for awards applications.

On top of the disappointment with the UnLtd. funding, I stumbled across the shortlist for the Green Awards. We're not on it.

This was a surprise, as I hadn't realised there was a shortlist. Does this mean that there was some preselection? If so, I was not aware of it when I entered. Also the categories seem to have changed since I applied. And while the previous awards were simply a waste of time, these ones also involved money.

There is a temptation to shrug and let things pass. There are those immortal words 'the judges decision is final', closely followed by 'no correspondence will be entertained.' But did the judges even see what was entered. Or was my nemesis in life and business, the gatekeeper, again at work?

But this brings me back to process. As with the Big idea, what was it that got me from a good chance to an also ran? Especially as, in the case of the SKY effort, I started the day with three thumbs up, and I now know that a few of those who got through only had one or two, and a rough ride. What other factors were at play?

This one is worth pursuing as far as I can take it.

I have tracked down some of the shortlisted efforts. A few are not bad. But in the categories I applied for, B2B DM, B2C DM and copy (for the Folda Holda), I'd have to say, totally subjectively, that our entries were pretty good in comparison, both creatively, and especially environmentally. For heaven's sake, this is a green award and in all these cases we had a reusable concept where the rest were volumes of guff destined for the recycling bin. And they claim it is all about 'creativity'.

And along the way, the below £100k classification, which we most certainly met, seems to have been dropped. So all of a sudden we're mixed in with large wadges of wonga being thrown at the wall in the hope of hitting some target.

But with bitter irony, as I post this I am also sending off my entry to the next set of awards. At least one, the Webbys, has a cheap category (rather worryingly called 'Weird'), which I only realised having racked up bout $3k (hurriedly deleted) ticking all the other relevant boxes to's function, and the other, Technology for Marketing, is free and none too time consuming.

Breath is now being held.

Why can Greens be good for you? This!

There's odd. There's silly. There's hypocritical. There's barking. And, to quote Douglas Adams in Hitch-hikers Guide, there's 'First against the wall when the revolution comes'.

I don't usually do e-petitions. I have now. Do join in. We may even save some time, save some money... and the planet (now where have I heard that before? Which is more than I can say for this petition. It will be interesting to see if it crops up in the major media. If not, thank you Green MEPs!)

Thursday, October 26, 2006

Limited UnLtd.

Well, that's one Press Release I don't have to write, I guess.

Just back to a letter saying I was not going to get the money I'd applied for from the UnLtd. Millennium Awards Trust (the Guardian thing, or maybe not).

I'm obviously more than disappointed, but not too surprised.

It started so well. A fund that was designed to encourage social entrepreneurship. Better yet, with the money apparently not meant for buying kit or consultants, but supposedly to be paid directly to the individual in recognition that to start such enterprises takes time and effort which can eat in to earning a living with the day job.

I guess I should have seen what was coming. For a start having been vetted through the first round, I was required to take a whole day off to be briefed on making the application. Fair enough. But having fought my way up to Birmingham, I was less than thrilled to spend most of the day sitting watching a guy read his own PowerPoint presentation out to us. Even less so that all the topics had already been covered in the forms I'd submitted to get through the first round. But hey ho, met a few nice folk and had a free lunch. Whatever floats their box-ticking boat and consumes the money they cream off to fund the office, directors, pensions, etc, to dole this largesse out.

The most encouraging part was actually at the start of the day, when the big cheese leapt in to make his speech, which was suitably 'ra-ra', but did end with him saying that any of us who had commissioned professional awards application consultants should fire them now.. 'because we want to get a feel for the real you'. As a creative person struggling in a sea of suits and red tape, this was music to my ears.

It was also a load of b*****cks.

I was actually impressed and grateful that we got to pre-submit our application to assess whether it was pushing the requisite buttons. Except that it was like trying to fit a square peg into a round hole. If I was from Mars, the guy at the other end was from Uranus. He just couldn't see where I was coming from and I certainly couldn't see how he could not see what I saw as obvious. Friends in the corporate world tried to help, and certainly must have improved matters from my original: 'It's too passionate'. 'It's so you, but without knowing you that might put the men in grey off'. Fair do's. But I thought they wanted the real me.

They didn't. I have had my 'Dear Peter' letter. Several days work down the tubes.

I write this to vent, but also to make note to investigate further on all these cash sinks on the public purse. What is supported? Why? What happens to the money?

It's not really sour grapes. I just wanted the dough. And the PR would have been good on top.

But I'm afraid what really pushed my buttons was the cc'd form letter 'that recognised all the hard work' and 'to assist with future applications outlined the reasons I was not successful':

'The project proposal does not demonstrate that it has the potential to become sustainable or that significant social impact or social change will be delivered.

As to the former, I am just starting out and need help. That is why I am applying. I could lie through my teeth but gave my best shot at what had happened and could happen. Looking at others who have succeeded, and some that will doubtless get this grant, I can only wonder at the level of awards and major media coverage they will get that we already are, along with unique visitors in the hundreds of thousands.

As to the latter, this statement makes as much sense as the one that was used in the rejection letter from a Creative Innovation award from our early days: 'You are trying to do something that has not been proven before, in a way that we could not fully grasp', ie: too creatively innovative.

And what, precisely, could be any more socially significant, impactful and changing than getting the general public on board with re:using stuff to save the planet because they want to, as opposed to recycling because they're forced or shamed to?


Conspicuous Consumer Consumption

BBC Newsnight got into the whole 4x4xfarce issue last night with a piece that was pretty cynical about the motivations and the maths used by councils and enviro-advocates of the parking policy. I of course had add to my previous post and weigh in:

"Interesting piece. And some interesting facts. Shame these days I have no way of knowing which are true. Is the enviro-cost of making a new car 5% or 25%? That's a heck of a span to try and factor into a running, e-cost & purchase decision. As to the parking plan, let me get this straight. The proposal is to tax the vehicle, which may be moving, but most likely more often than not won't be. Meanwhile, there will be no disincentive for buzzing about all day using a 'green' vehicle, say an electric car, much beloved of many an authoritative spokesperson, which apparently 'causes no pollution'. Only the exhaust pipe is in another place, and the 'fuel' transfer system is not awfully efficient. And if I am convinced, and can find the funds for a new car (not all of us can drum up a Prius' worth - and as a country/motorway driver lugging a battery around doesn't seem optimal anyway- that quickly), where exactly does my perfectly good old car end up? I rather suspect it will still be used elsewhere, still popping CO2 skywards somewhere on the planet (though on my reuse website someone did once suggest turning them into saunas. I wonder if that's where Ming's, Dave's and all the other Gov-guzzlers ended up?) So now we've generated an extra car and both are belching out greenhouse gasses. Brilliant. ps: This is not anti-environment. Anything but. I just want to know the truth so I can make the best decisions for myself, my family and the planet."

A Better Mousetrap?

I'm rather chuffed with myself. And, more importantly, with

I was in the kitchen last night making a cuppa, and as the kettle boiled I looked at the plug, the socket, the device I've been making out of old milk bottles for my Mum... and then back at the milk bottle.

With pride, I introduce the Plug:Jug. It even has colour coding courtesy of the lid.

Evolution is a wonderful thing. Shame I can't make money out of it.

Wednesday, October 25, 2006

Would you go somewhere that couldn't cope with you?

Firing away left and right, I decided to contribute to this: Stop wailing for the post office and put some life back in your village
"Now privy to facts I was not aware of previously, I can concede that the business model of the village (or small town) Post Office is shakier than I thought. However, with no real evidence to offer than my own experience, I must say that there can be a bit more going on than retirement or leisure. Thanks to an energetic campaign, our small community found itself with broadband more than a few years ago, and I'd like to think this has resulted in an influx or newer, younger and more environmentally-concerned businesses. I like my kids to breathe clean air, do not like to travel if I can help it, and am quite happy to do most I can online if at all possible. However, the odd pack needs to go out in the mail, just as they come in. Pity to lose that. Rather than whinging, I am actively trying to build community links, not just here but nationally, around the odd notion that local businesses and the population can benefit from profitable integrations surrounding reuse."

There was also the small matter that I could take a punt.

But this is a big issue. I reckon we're at a watershed in commuting, and frankly the only direction seems to be to stay at home. But like so many things, if the infrastructure is not in place to cope, why would anyone try?


The proposal by a London borough to tax 'polluting' vehicles, as opposed to the causes of pollution (they can be different - 100 miles in a badly tuned G-reg Mini may not be as good as 10 in a Cayenne) has attracted my attention.

And as they allow uncensored posts, I decided to make known my views in the Guardian. As follows:

"Let me get this straight. The proposal is to tax the vehicle, which may be moving, but most likely more often than not won't be. Meanwhile, there will be no disincentive for buzzing about all day using a 'green' vehicle, such as an electric car, much beloved of many a gushing TV presenter or authoritative official, which apparently 'causes no pollution'. Only the exhaust pipe is in another place, and the 'fuel' transfer system is not awfully efficient. Brilliant."

Tuesday, October 24, 2006

Would one care for a deep fried Mars bar, Old Boy?

Another (re:lated) industry, another bit of self-analysis with a question mark at the end: Time to ask: how green is your tally?

And I again I have been moved to reply:

Excuse me as I put down my latte. I must say that is a more colourful at least figuratively) expression the one we have adopted, which is the more literal 'green lite'. I thank you for a most interesting article, and some worthwhile leads for us to pursue. It's a bit of a shame that most of the effort in this area (at least there is some now) is at the upper, some my say 'luxury' end of the market. But still a red Razr is still a new mobile coming on stream, though one can hope that we have many avenues now for the discarded model to be disposed of fruitfully. And equally, a Prius is great, so long as it is not in addition to another model, or used outside of the urban environment (on a motorway the engine is lugging a dirty great big battery). And there are those who do care about the planet, would like to do something, but may not have the disposables to whack a wind turbine up this weekend, or the clout with the local council to push it through. So we see another great area of opportunity in the Fiesta Family. And just to see how even big business can get on board, see what ecover have done on our site. They not only uploaded their entire range, but hired two designers to bolt ideas on. At no real cost to themselves, they added second use and another reason to buy. That's real, responsible.. and the potential for a new extra market.

Junkk Male on Junk Mail

An interesting question, posed from within the marketing industry: Time to ask: how green is your tally?

To which I felt moved to offer this reply:

It's a tricky one. But it's worth bearing in mind that not all that's green can be black or white. I must confess a degree of schizophrenia here. On the one hand I operate a website,, which advocates ways of saving the planet, whilst my day job is as a freelance creative, of which DM is a bread and butter part. In fact, my first agency client was the DMSB, and it was I who pushed them to actually use targeted DM rather than DPS's in Campaign to sell their message, a move applauded by all except media sales guys. Even our own business uses the odd (well-targeted, one prays... these babies are expensive) mailshot to stand a better chance of getting through to our audience. E-mails simply don't get through, and my cold calling technique seldom gets past Tracey on Reception, much less Mrs. Miggins with her IBM Selectric on gatekeeper duty. Even should I pass the 'Hooshudisazcallin?' test, I usually fall at 'Does s/he know what it's about?'. Thing is, like everything in this contentious arena, I do wonder whether there are some areas being unfairly singled out against a much bigger picture. Don't get me wrong, I truly loathe an in-tray full of A5 bank invitations which start 'We know you are a busy man..' or magazine DL sign-up exhortations splatted with 'As a loyal customer, just you in this area has..', and consign all to the bin unread, and hence wasted in totality. Sadly, I have to concede they must work as a business model, otherwise they would not be sent. But then, what about the newspaper that has a raft of sections I neither want nor read? Style inserts with the reporter gushing over some lovely in a fur bikini (is fur in or out this week?) from a show in Bali. Ironically usually in a section twice removed from the one muttering the carbon content of unnecessary air miles? Which brings me to a further consideration: the next big thing to the necessary evil of our desire to travel may be biofuels, on the basis that they are carbon neutral. Could one not therefore argue that so long as the raw materials are from managed, renewable (and maybe recycling is not the best option here, as Mr. Baker has indicated) resources, then the greenery in question is acting as a similar compensatory sink for the paper industry. Me, I'll keep on producing our DM with a clear conscience on this basis. Accepting we do have to communicate, so reduction is not an option, but at least so far all we have produced gets reused. I'll send you a sample if you like (by email of course, to see if you'd like it hard copy).

My Four Frames of Fame II

Watching Sunday's episode of SKY's Big Idea was like being back at the British Invention Show, as many of the contestants had been fellow exhibitors.

This time it was filmed at Imperial College, but not the day we were there, so I believe I'm right in thinking that we should be 'due' in two weeks' time.

I did get featured again, and it wasn't bad. Their theme on this occasion was motivations, and I was aired explaining how could save time, money and the planet. The voiceover was flip but at least said it was an impressive aim.

The show was pretty much identical to the last. The Judges were kind to the contestants, but not to each other. And Richard Bacon was again quite incisive in his questions and doubts on an idea's validity. And this time, 'tester' Dick strawberries actually found flaw in a few.

As to the ideas, well, I'm afraid I saw no 'Big Idea'. I can't duplicate with the electronic ones, but two are entirely doable, and so I will try to make them up for next time.

Meanwhile here's last week's winner, which I knocked up at the show with a milk bottle and cutter in about 5 minutes. For free.

Sunday, October 22, 2006

Bright Idea. Dim View?

Well, just back from the British Invention Show.

Four days. Not too short; not too long. Met some nice folk, both fellow exhibitors and also visitors. On balance, probably a good thing I went.

First up... got bronzed! Yep, despite being more of 'an idea that helps other people have ideas', we actually snagged a bronze award.

Secondly, we got some coverage, in the Indy no less. Shame they forgot to mention the site URL, though. Thanks guys! But A LOT better than nothing, I'd say.

Best yet, my actual Junkk-inspired, for-money invention got a lot of thumbs up from a lot of quarters, including the Patent Office reps (sweet to come back to the forms I filed before I left already endorsed and sitting on my doormat), some very hard-nosed judges, some patent agents and some licensing advisors.

Downsides? Well, it was more money, and a precious four days away from base. Perhaps the biggest downer was not realising that there was a £10 entry fee, and that kinda snookered the vast hordes of public I needed to boost the sign-ups. But I guess quality is better than quantity. And I think I may have made some good new chums who can plug into the Junkk ethos and help spread the word and even generate some content.

I think I have a busy week ahead. A lot piled up while I was away.

Monday, October 16, 2006

My four frames of fame (so far)

Well, they do say fame is fleeting. There must be a better way to do this (MySpace...YouTube?), but here are four screen grabs (pretty much equating to my time on air) from the SKY Big Idea trailer.

The sky is falling,.. and the footsie with it

I share this - The consensus view is frequently very wrong indeed - not because I agree or disagree with it (frankly, as mentioned a lot before, I really don't think a lot of this debate is relevant any more, and am not really qualified to make any better interpretations than anyone else really is), but because it does contain information that I presume to be true, and hence is worth sharing.

I also think that the green juggernaut is getting pretty much a free ride at the moment, and as there are some rather serious economic consequences to a lot of what's being done in the planet's name, a certain balance is always worth encouraging.

Losing from the experience

To keep ticking over in the manner to which it is accustomed, I need to maintain the day job, which is writing. Actually, such is my devotion to the site I have been neglecting this so much that I a) forgot to do it for a while, b) found that money does not grow on rubbish (yet) and c) it's who you no longer know that matters. So, just to add to the workload, I've been hunting for work.

It has not proven easy, and as I have a pretty good portfolio and track record, the simple fact that no one seems interested in seeing the former and asking me how the latter could be applied to their business, I can only assume one reason is that I am no spring chicken any more.

Which is why I have found all this age legislation that just came in a bit of a lark. On the face of it, a pretty good thing if my suspicions are true. But as they can still ask you your age, short of someone saying, in writing (should they be polite enough to do so in reply), that 'as you remember when Tom Baker was Dr. Who, you are way too experienced, and certainly not the shaved-skull hipster we expect to be snowboarding down our aisles, so forget being a part of this dynamic, young agency...'.

Only they will not be saying that at all: Dynamism won't get you a job here

Actually, as a writer I found it all rather silly more than sad. How many of the now outlawed terms meant anything anyway? Would you expect, or want, a slow-learner, non-starter, non-flyer, undynamic or unambitious person to apply? And if they did, would you find a way to not hire them?

As for experienced, well... yes, but it rather depends in what. I would still appreciate the opportunity to explain and present in person.

Reality Bites

An interesting dissection of the state of the football 'profession' after a recent game in the paper this morning: The Beautiful Game is now a celebritocracy

I'm not quite sure where he's been for the last few years not to have noticed until now (and I think the headline may have gained from the substitution of the word 'just' for now), but I was moved to comment:

"It's not just football, I'm afraid... it's everything."

Sunday, October 15, 2006

As seen on

I have just watched the first episode of The Big Idea with a slew of contradictory feelings.

By way of a prequel to these, I rather suspect that if we do get featured at all (there was almost nothing of those that didn't make it to the studio semis beyond a few microsecond fillers) it will be in three weeks' time. This is based on two Manchester and two London heats, and we were the last. In fact as I write I just saw myself as a nanosecond filler, sped up to make it even quicker, and it could have been worse. I did look barking, which I guess is my niche.

Another thing that stuck me was just how irrelevant the £100k prize is in the overall scheme of things. Even the filler ads from Vodafone would probably have cost more than that per version. Anyway, back to the show...

First up, there was a huge sigh of relief that there was not too much by way of car crash, at least in terms of contestant humiliation. That said, the judges, who were on the whole quite polite and supportive of even their non-proteges, were often pretty tense with each other. And, for good measure, main host Richard Bacon. I actually quite took to him, as he was trying to question some possible shortcomings from a viewer perspective, and some of his critiques were pretty relevant.

However, I am still disappointed that we are not going to enjoy at least the level of coverage that these semi-finalists did. Even if they don't go any further, the invention did get a good airing. And now, here's the sour-grapey bit. As was commentedd upon several times by the panel, I really did not see anything 'BIG'.

Most interestingly, of those three that 'got through' to the evening's final count, I could duplicate two at least, almost instantly, using One, the 'Message in a Bauble', I have done right now. The evening's winner, while a nifty idea, I had already done for my mum using a piece of plastic from ann ice-cream carton. Stupid me for not thinking of making anything more of it. I will work it up soon. The third, an educational system, is another easily duplicated collection of items, and we are of course looking at bringing our own packaged programme to the educational system.

On balance, no down sides on the horizon, but a certain frustration that we will not get the positive of proper exposure for all the effort.

Still, worth staying on top of. The URL is Tomorrow I'll have a roam on this site to see what's what.

The Big Idea. A Big Opportunity.. Or A Big Mistake?

Covering my bases here. Tonight sees the first screening of the Big idea on SKY.

And as I fell at the first televised hurdle it may be our brief moment in the sun (though there were several heats which may be spread over the subsequent weeks).

Can't say I am not both full of anticipation and a pack of nerves.

The film crew were encouraging and even the judges most receptive. But I was chatting the other day to someone who knows a recent Dragon's Den contestant, and what happened vs. what they managed to edit it to look like was not very nice. Fingers crossed we'll come across sympathetically.

With luck it will add to our PR efforts and not detract. I guess if you don't try you'll never know.

Friday, October 13, 2006

It's not who you know, but who you owe (or don't?).

Just asking, so's I can get this straight.

Ignoring for now that the amount in dollars would tend to indicate the savings may not be solely within these fair shores, how much did 'we' contribute so 'they' could save it?

It's just that I recall this was raised a while ago, and never heard an answer.

While I'm the last to get sniffy about funding, especially on the small matter of paybacks, why does a major multi-million multinational fmcg need help of this nature in the first place? I must move in the wrong circles.

The most abused word in English (currently)?

I like this question mark lark. Or rather, perhaps I should say: is this question mark lark the new black?

No? Well, if it isn't, I reckon the word 'innovate' (and its various nouns, etc) is.

It just crops up everywhere. In this case it's an ad for a job. But it could be a fund, or a policy or whatever.

Thing is, as far as I can make out, as soon as you see that word the last thing anyone connected with it actually wants to find turning up on the doorstep is anything actually innovative. Because, by definition, it hasn't bee seen or done or heard of before. Which is scary, when you have a career based on measuring, assessing, gatekeeping, valuing and backside-covering to protect.

And I keep getting suckered. I get told that what's being looked for is a new way of thinking, or that they want to break the mould, or they need a fresh mind, and when I go off and craft something that's on brief but off-beat, they go all 'but that's not what we're used to getting' on me.

I actually applied for a Creative Innovation grant once, and having spent days on it was rather disappointed that my proposal wasn't favoured. The reason? It was too creative and innovative. That'll teach me. At least it should have.

Money for nothing, but the drinks are... being toasted in ad land!

I am jealous. I figured out a while ago that there was money to be made in them thar green hills.

But rather than stick with what I knew, which was ads, I got into publishing, because I wanted to make a difference as well.

So far, it's still a struggle, but glimmers are showing.

However, as a creative person and ex-agency owner, I weep at the amount of money being poured into CSR ads... with few making sense to me, let alone seeming intended to make a real difference. Anyone recall AIDAR? That's Grab (Attention) - Stimulate (Interest &/Or) Desire - Provoke (Action/Response)!

TVCs, DPS and Full and Half-page 4c extravaganzas with production costs alone in the 10s if not 100's or thousands, all in media that add millions to the budget, and saying what.. to whom?

I love the discipline of posters. Eight words or less, complemented by a picture, to tell a story. Yes, copy can be necessary to add to the sales pitch.

But what, exactly, do you get from 'Taking the lead by putting nature first?" Note the ? I guess they are not sure.

Or, how about "If someone says environment, what springs to mind?" Er, green stuff. Pretty picture. Turn the page. I'm sure they have challenges, but may day gets better how?

Gis' some, please. And we'll even rewrite them for nothing actually talk to a targeted audience plus have a benefit that may provoke a response, too.

You never know, you may sell something, too. I assume that's what they're for?

It just won't... should be washed

I'm mucking about with self-promo at the moment. All electronic obviously, for reasons of cost but mainly we don't have anyone's addresses, and of course we'd like to keep the junk mail burden to a minimum.

But we do accept that some is necessary. Marketing and jobs depend on it. I also enjoy a good piece of DM if it's well targeted, creative and useful.

Which brings me to mail washing. I'm on my own now. So while I don't mind getting something for me, it does strike one as frustrating when you get multiples. Now I've just noticed on this there is a way to cancel the duds, and it is an 0800 number so I hope it's free. Frankly I'd prefer a URL, and a simple code-based deletion system, like an online unsubscribe. But here's a laugh.. I just dialed it - 0800 15 14 14 - and.. it doesn't work. So the next option is to .. send it back by mail! D'Oh.

Maybe.... we should draw up a central service to make these things work properly. Like the e/F/TPS, but not to stop such things, but manage them centrally. A plan?

ps: These all came as you see them. Flapping about with no plastic sleeve. How was that possible, and why can't the rest do it?

My esteemed self

I think I've got it wrong, but a friend recently gave me the definition of an 'expert' as 'a has been who is little more than a drip'.

I was (poorly, obviously) reminded of this by one of the flood (well, a few - another 3rd party service now under review) of replies to a press release I did to the nation's media regarding our upcoming show and what we'll have on display.

Naturally this was not someone buying, but in this case selling... the opportunity to sell me as an 'expert' when the media need a quick bon mot or quote.

I have to say I was, and am, tempted. But I did call them up to say I was not really an expert, but more an well-informed and opinionated sod. 'Perfect,' they said.

Due flattery (and a sale) aside, I am thinking of proceeding. Obviously there is the opportunity for coverage, but so long as I clearly outline where I am coming from (and this gets accepted and acknowledged by the media... another story) I think there is a case for a bit of consumer advocacy that is not 'expert', and proud to be so.

Because most experts fall into camps, and while this makes for good slanging matches, it does not serve the large number of us who really don't know, but are able to arrive at some kind of a decision (even if it is not black or white) if enough 'What if's' are thrown in.

Of course, there is the down side.

But, by George, damn the torpedoes... I think I'll do it!

Stealing from Peter to pay Pa.. Who, Exactly?

Why doesn't this - Row over renewable energy scheme - surprise me?

"A promised £10m to help fund projects like wind power... [but] it has emerged schemes to promote double-glazing and insulation are to be cut to fund it."

Do what!!!? This is huge. And if a BBC environement correspodent comes flat out and criticised it, then everyone knows it.

Classic case of hype winning over what's right. Nil points.

How to succeed in the UK: leave!

Last night I attended a talk held in our very own little town, by a true giant of British Innovation and Manufacturing, Edwin Atkin. It was he who created, developed, built-up and eventually sold the Avent brand.

For a man just past 60 who is now worth a few hundred million £, and fresh from dinner with David Cameron the night before, he was truly charming, fascinating, honest, opinionated and indeed earthy at times. I was inspired, but also slightly depressed.

In a broad-ranging, note-free lecture indispersed with several Q&As, he laid out how he succeeded and how he thought others could still. But it came with some less than thrilling predictions and rather startling advice. His adventures with authorities, banks and the like had us in stitches, especially when he could turn the tables on someone who thought they could stop him or rip him off and tell 'em to 'stick it where de sun don't shine'. Often that took a lot of moral and indeed financial courage, despite his obvious security as a businessman, both personally and financially. He is one of the few who I believe when they say 'that's not how I do businesss' (when referring to sharp practice). Make no mistake, he is no softy, and is as sharp as a knife, but he is also someone who retains a sense of honour (and humour) and knows that making a difference does not need to mean abandoning your principles and simply making all you can, as quickly as you can.

He is now semi-retired, and one reason is the erosion of the entrepreneurial spirit by PC mania and bean counters in authority and businesss. He effectively got out before the going gets more tricky. Not good for the likes of me, but he remained encouraging to keep trying. The other shocker was the simple advice to leave the UK to do it. That doesn't mean abandoning it as a market, but to stop thinking of it as the main focus. His gaze was cast West to the USA. This is potentially momentous, but having lived and worked around the globe, I share his belief that this country internally has a remarkably overrated view of itself. Trouble is, this is where my family is, and hopping on a plane to Chicago is not quite an option at the moment.

Worse, other than the opportunity to share such an evening in convivial and intimate surroundings, I am not exactly in networking central. His advice to that was 'get out more'. Well, as he kindly said 'please get in touch', I most certainly will. Who knows who he may be able to introduce me to to get us the business complement we need. Too late for the British Invention Show next week I suspect, but with luck a great possible contact and maybe even mentor for the future.

Thursday, October 12, 2006

To CO too, or not to CO too... that is the question?

CO stands for 'carbon offset'.

And here I wish we could afford to stump up for every paid subscription that may lead to a rich seam. But sadly, we can't, so I'll just have to use the tantalising first few paras of this piece, like my own, headlined as a question, to wonder about the wisdom of a certain practice: Are carbon offsets an excuse to carry on polluting?

The short answer is, and without being able to read on I'm no better informed from this piece (not their fault), I don't really know.

The theme being taken above is that it simply becomes a way to not feel guilty about doing something, and hence you just keep on doing it. Which can't be good, especially when that is punting goop into the atmosphere in pursuit of la dolce vita. But on the other hand, if those that do it will do it anyway, then at least whacking a fir in a desert to compensate may be better than nothing. Unless it dies of course. Then it's worse.

My greater concern is that, despite being perhaps more immersed than most in the whole e-arena, I am really none the wiser as to what these schemes are, how they work, who runs them, who monitors them, etc. A bit like some of the 'give your mobile/ink cartridge.. to us and we'll help charity schemes' that abound.

And so, perhaps inaccurately, I have an odd unease that the money may not be going where it could and should, and as efficiently. How much gets sucked up in salaries, offices, pension plans and Club Class trips to Bali to discuss how awful global warming is, before the first seedling is planted or wind farm planning bri... incentive (the validity of such schemes being another mission I'm on) paid?

It gets added to a long list, but I think I'm going to try and find out.

Wednesday, October 11, 2006

SOSO - Same Old, Same Old

A wee while ago I engaged in an exchange with a Telegraph Motoring columnist, Sir. John Whitmore, following a column of his about motoring correspondents, cars & driving in general and climate change (not necessarily in that order).

It was an odd one, because I am pretty much on his side in terms of what is happening and what should no longer happen, but a little less on message with the how. Specifically I was not a great supporter of his pointing fingers. Anyway, it was a civilized discussion, which I duly shared - pro and con - on this blog (try finding it, though.... waaaaaay back), but sadly we seemed to get no further than to agree to disagree.

Hence it was with interest, after a fair elapse of time (though I obviously missed the column that this one follows, and refers to), that I find he is back on this subject: All steamed up about climate change.

As an erudite and informed writer, I was interested to see how things had moved on since the last time.

Sad to say, I'm afraid I'd have to say not a lot.

There was the inevitable 'It's going pear-shaped, we're doomed' side in the green corner, and the 'yahboos, we're not/sowhats?' with their heads stuck in the bucket of the opposite one. It all got a bit cerebral at times, it seems hinging on the placement or omission of a few words.

So what did I, Mr. Average, non car-racing, jet-set-travelling, carbon offsetting, etc, get out of it all. Well, sod... all, really, bar this: "I would favour a big hike in fuel tax so that costs are directly related to consumption and distance travelled, provided there is a means of helping the less well-off." I await that means being identified.

He did also mention my point about population, but like the love that dare not speak its name, so we won't go there either.

On balance, he was right on almost every count, and I envy the fee such pieces earn (composed no doubt at home and served up electronically, though how the networking to get the gig takes place I do wonder), but really, did this move anything on? You could argue the same about this piece, but I'd like to think that if I did (and I must say I'd fancy it) write a piece of this nature, I'd pop in a few more positive solutions. Try here to be going on with.


In all the excitement I do believe I haven't blogged on one of the biggest events in our calendar this year, which is taking place next week: the British Invention Show!

After the duds in recent past, this one has a great vibe, with some truly fun and eclectic stuff being exhibited. I'm hoping what can offer will strike a chord with fellow inventors, visitors and the media. We'll have the usual collection on show, plus some new bits and bobs. I'm also hoping to catch the eye of some possible partners with some commercial ideas I've had in the re:use area.

Do come and visit.

Monday, October 09, 2006

Author! Author!

Another from the network archives, with yet more interesting overlaps between the supposed day job (ad writing) and the night-time hobby/addiction:

A while ago, following the invitation of our lovely Chief of Prose and Comms Anita, I joined a 'writers collective'. It rejoices under the numeric title of '26', which was the number of original members and, possibly with complicated consequences in due course, the annual subscription in £.

Don't know much about the money, which compared to a lot of such things seems pretty reasonable, but the membership has grown a lot, numbering now in the hundreds.

Sadly they are based in London, and that is where most evening events take place, so it was only thanks to my jaunting around recently that I managed to at last attendd a gathering. And a fine one it was too, coinciding with The London Design Festival, held in the Old Truman Brewery, Brick Lane. Other than the trip (back home about 3am), I am very glad I went.

I met a pleasant, eclectic collection of individuals from the creative world, and of course do hope that some card-swapping that took place will result in mutually-rewarding cooperation.

And as has proven successful so far at every event, my sporting the Vac:Sac led to my being approached to find out what it was, and what it was I did. And so throughout the evening I never wanted for an audience for the gospels. Best of all, it being a wordsmith-based soiree, it led to my meeting some publishers, and though things have bubbled in the back of my head on the subject before, it becomese pretty clear that a book to run alongside the website was deemed quite a good idea. All I have to do now is find the time to write it. Or at least a synopsis. Sadly, scouting for an estate next to JK Rowling is a tad premature, as the amounts being bandied about rather explained why the great and good of literary history seemed to die young of dodgy diseases and despair.

But on balance it was nice to know that some potential was seen in a new but complementary area.

To finish this upbeat tale on a sadder note, check out the picture (flyer for site called In advance of th event I had been sent this by a fellow member who was inspired by's mission. He was not attending but was a fellow ewarrior, and lived out West, so a budding relationship was in the offing. Sadly, with my oversized honest streak, I felt it necessary to tell him my support for anti 4x4 campaigns was not quite so ardent as his.

However, as the piece in question was quite witty, not aggressive and hence a view well worth sharing, so I offered to post it on the site. I have not to this day heard back. This is a pity, as I do feel that we can work together to improve the overall way of things without requiring total matching of beliefs from those with whom one may wish to partner.

It's a record!

In as much as First Lady PJ wrote and performed our Junkk jingle, this can have a proud place on the blog.

Because the latest album she has created with her bandmates at greenhaus is now ready!

And pretty spiffy it looks too.

Also note the CD... is a record. Neat or what? Sounds pretty amazing, too.

Here's some I made before the programme.... for nothing!

I'm a sucker for gadget brochures and websites.

And while I know that is unlikely to come up with a large percentage of the gizmos that are just soooo hard to resist, it always inspires me when I come across something that has been on our pages for a fair old while. Especially when we are showing folk how to do it for free. Lids. Corkboard. Gutter.

Mind you, looking at some of these prices, I'm in the wrong business.

But between the various awards and shows this month, I think we might drum up some if we try. I doubt we'll ever put anyone on the street as folk will always be lazy, but for those who fancy it, it's nice to have the option to save.

A rolling stone?

The whole 'E/Re' issue continues apace, and with every article I read I have to hope that we stand poised to be at least a small but significant part of the solution to a very big problem.

Take this for instance: Politicians will have to start talking rubbish for a change

Of course I have written to the author:

"Nice article.
Meantime, I guess we could also always think about reusing stuff rather than throwing it away."

I guess I should add to the blog, too. There were a few good links in there that I used!

If you know when it's bad you can do good

Catch up day, today!

Yet more archives from the past to work through, log, comment upon and file for later.

There certainly seems to be a rather fun mood in the design world these days, with a few quirky contests and exhibitions abounding.

Shame almost all are in London, though.

Anyways, one such was the 'Bad Design Awards', which I'm sorry I missed, especially when I now see how much effort was put into the show.

Anyway, you can see some of the features here. Look under: OUR WORK and scroll down to: BAD DESIGN AMNESTY.

Seem like a nice bunch. I dropped them a line to see if there may be some fun we could have with Sound of breath being held.

I may not agree with what you say, but will admire you with all my heart if you articulate it politely and well

Actually, the headline pretty much says it all. And if it doesn't the letter I just popped over to the Green Party HQ certainly will.

I recently saw one of those artillery exchanges I dread so much, where the news media set up two opposing sides and feed of the collateral scraps.

Only this time a young Green Party spokesperson called Sian Berry showed how things can, and should be done. Big up to her.

"I may not always agree with everything that gets said by one party of another in the ongoing environmental debates we are now seeing more and more of, but one thing I do appreciate is a person who puts their case well and maintains their dignity and respect in the process, and often in the face of rather unnecessary and/or aggressive tactics. As really the only method such material can be brought to us, the 'moderators' are by default the media and their operatives, and it does amaze me how much they are complicit in rendering serious and interesting avenues of discussion trivial and altogether too polarised simply in a desire for ratings. Hence it was with some pleasure I witnessed the exchanges between Ms. Berry and Prof. (of Forecasting?) James Woudhysen on the BBC recently, and congratulate her on a truly impressive performance."

Saturday, October 07, 2006

It's not what you're known for, but merely that you're known

What a week!

I am still staring at a pile of stuff to catch up on from the two week networking extravaganza, as there were a few pretty important deadlines to meet.

First up was the Green Awards entries. In the end I opted for three (at £50+VAT still quite a commitment): B2B DM and copywriting with the Folda Holda (and contents, which I had packed with pretty much everything I'd ever written fro; and B2C DM, which was the credit card wallet photo frame, which I stuck in the standee for good measure, even though there was nocollaterala/POS category. Fingers crossed.

Then there was the big one. The first draft entry for the Social Entrepreneur Awards. That was a lot of work. Fortunately most of the information they required was in our original and updated Business Plans (which got us the first grants), but trying to get a few hundred pages of heavy info and data to ten was...Interesting. Plus I had all sorts of fun with the Excel budget sheets. I thought I'd cracked it but then it started adding things up in Yen. At one stage I had lost a £trillion by year 3. Actually, the way it feels still, maybe I have.

I always dead Friday lat pmbecausese that was when, in the ad world, clientet would phone up with a 'small change'. And with it's usually a cock-up or setback gets announced and spoils the weekend.

Not this time.

I was called by a lovely lady from the BBC. She'd been told about us and was interested in a possible feature for a kids' show called the Wonderful World of Weird. Now after the whole Womble thing I'm wary of being typecast as a bit of a nutter, but profile is profile, so let's hope it comes to pass. At least between the awards and this there are a few bases being covered!

Friday, October 06, 2006

Just the facts, Ma'am, unless they get in the way of a better headline, of course

There's a brilliant blog/newsletter called 'Bad Science' (I think I've blogged on it before).

Well worth subscribing to.

The most recent topic, How To Read A Paper - For Journalists, at last got me to write in:

"A great Idea.

I know your primary area of interest is health, but I'd like to pop in a request for environmental issues, because I think the public are particularly poorly served by objective analysis with these in making informed decisions. All to often it's just a straight serve of a press release or a deliberate use of the latest 'research' as an excuse for a dramatic headline.

You'll find me screaming at the TV when a vanilla or a bouffant with a microphone standing next to an electric car cheerfully announces that it 'has no emissions'. No, they simply come out of another pipe, and actually I'd like to know what the losses are getting from the generator to the motor, environmentally speaking.

As to climate change/global warming, well, it's been said over and over again, but to most ordinary folk it's just a load of contradictory hot air: artillery exchanges over our heads in no person's land, leaving us none the wiser on what to do for the best.

Me, I simply think it's a shame to waste. And to a lot of editors I'd say it's also a waste to shame: get positive and proactive! It's not as easy writing an upbeat headline, but there's enough out there that will capture folks' attentions, as I truly believe they are dying for solutions and things to 'do', and not be fed constantly on a diet of things you can't."

I really think I'm on to something Green

When the business cartoonists start lampooning the whole thing, I think we're in with a chance.

I hope he (or the Telegraph) won't mind my showing it in full. Here's their URL to sign up for the free daily feed.

The ITanic Versus

Well, they do say nothing is ever original.

For a while now I have been toying with writing a book about my expereinces with With a twist. Seems my idea is not as twisted as I thought: The essential guide to screwing up your business

Anyhoo, it gave me a good excuse to write and promote the site a little bit more:

"Curses. And I thought I was the only one to hit on this notion.

Was it Churchill who said 'The Man [I don't think he was big on PC] who never made a mistake never made anything'?.

On that basis I must have made a lot of stuff, so I figured on collating all my cock-ups - not in a ‘How to’ book, but a 'How Not to..' version. ‘How not to hire a PR agency’. ‘How not to spend your match funding’. ‘How not to avoid gatekeeper brand managers with tunnel vision when you should be locating the JR in the company’, etc.

As I'm a very small 's' SME , I think it may still find a niche in complement to your and JR's multi-national blue-chip experiences.

Provisional title is 'The ITanic Versus - What NOT To Do When Launching A Commercial Website'

Think it's still worth pursuing? We could share a publisher:)"

Thursday, October 05, 2006

Boris ate my hamster, Redux

I quite like Boris Johnson. I do suspect his whole image is not quitet as portrayed, and disagree with his views on occasion, but he is an articulate, if rather fond of big words, writer and a keen debater. And he is also one of few to actually say what he thinks.

So I found his personal defence of what he did say vs. what he says happened and how it all got reported as a consequence in the media rather telling, if true (which is another, if related, avenue):

I shouldn't be pelted with pies for asking difficult questions

I tend to accept his version for now. Though I could not resist a rather sorry comment on it all:

"Nicely put. But what should happen and what does these days is pretty much why most have given up on politics and treat most of the media less as a source of news and more as a mindless diversion in ratings-driven bear-baiting.

And nothing anyone does vs. what they say (and then gets 'editorialised'), dear Boris, is going to change that back now.

But at least you still can make a living out of commenting upon it. Wish I could. It's going to spiral down further, which makes yours a lucrative growth industry."

Tuesday, October 03, 2006

Reaching my limits... again

This week is proving to be another one of 'those'.

Having been away from my desk for most of the last two, I have been confronted with catching up with all that happened here while I was away, plus all that happened with me while I was away, and just a few pretty important deadlines.

One such is the Green Awards, which I should have missed because the original deadline was Sept. 30 and I plain forget about, but actually has been extended to this Friday. Karma. However as they need hard copy that means Thursday latest to catch the mail, Wednesday for safety.

There is also the draft deadline for the UnLtd. Awards. I am unsure if I should call them The Guardian Unlimited awards, as they seem to be co-hosting in some way, but are most certainly separate entities.

Anyway, I need to get a pretty well thought out initial plan to them Friday as well, for vetting before the actual proposal goes in the slot next week.

We're talking up to £20k, so it is worth it, plus of course mentoring and publicity, which is almost worth more. So it's a job worth doing well.

One of my many jaunts was to a day long event just to brief us, so you can tell how seriously they are taking it all. I met some nice, and relevant fellow applicants, and if nothing else can offer help to some.

I came away inspired. The best part is that this is the first award to not insist you blow it on stuff or consultants. They allow you to spend it on your time and skills too make your idea work. Awesome.

Also inspirational was a previous awardee, Sarah Newton, who is now promoting her idea, which is a site to boost young female role models who are not the media-hyped impractical and unhealthy fake ideals. I saw some similarities with our - very different - ideas and what's needed to help them succeed. Both are WYSIWYG in terms of concept and execution, so it's all mainly down to PR and promo.

A lovely, driven lady, she willingly offered her application to us all, and as a winning formula I will be using it as a basis. I wish her well. Her way seems better, and more cost-effective than some I have seen (see ad - how much is a full page in the ST? And I'm really not sure the creative had me clicking the link). A bit like another site I could mention, that's trying to inspire us to have fun saving the planet!

Monday, October 02, 2006

Start 'em young

Yet more glimmers of the potential we have to offer, and others can offer us. And an interesting reassurance that seeds sown that may not sprout immediately but lay dormant and spring to life much later.

On the basis that one's own backyard is not such a bad place to start with anything, I monitor the local papers and fire off a missive whenever something strikes my fancy and the opportunity for some synergy is presented.

One such, to a Hereford eco-group, had seemed to fall on stony ground. One tends to forget that, unlike the throbbing bundle of nervous energy that is, some of these things are after-hours or weekend affairs operated by folk with lives and day jobs.

Anyway, to my pleasant surprise one has borne fruit, and I was pleased to play host recently to Rob Hattersley, who besides the local FoE runs his own consultancy. An ex-deputy headmaster, he was interested in how could be made to work with the school curriculum, which now includes a serious eco-component. And was quite excited at how what we are offering is not some dry coursework, but the potential for some serious interactivity. And also how can offer a route to sponsors.

Happily, I had been thinking the same thing. However, I had no clue where to start approaching the educational 'system'. So we met halfway. Kismet? Early days yet, but with luck we can achieve something very productive together.

If nothing else, I am inspired by the homework my kids brought home the other day. A quick scout through and a raid on the junk stocks and they were sorted. Imagine the potential of all this at school on an interactive whiteboard.

Past my SEL date

Sorry, couldn't resist that headline.

SEL stands for 'Social Enterprise London', and is an organisation who has kindly allowed me to join ( is, after all, a national resource) their ranks. I won't go much more into what they do, but it's worth checking out the website. The name pretty much says it anyway. Well worth joining and reasonable rates as well.

I was there as part of my whirlwind networking tour over the last few weeks, attending a conference entitled 'Marketing for Social Enterprises and Not for Profits (and that scummy commercial entity who happens not to charge, kidding)'.

Frankly I was hoping to meet some relevant people more than anything, and in this I was not disappointed. The topics of the day really didn't cover much I didn't already know, but the speakers where very good, well connected and approachable. I hope that there my be good opportunities to come.

There was Dominic O'Reilly from MediaTrust, who really gave a good insight into what pushes a journo's buttons (and doesn't). Then Solitaire Townsend of Futerra, who added to this. We have been in touch with them before I think, but nothing came of it. Maybe this time it will.
It was also good to see Kelly of TRAID, and at last return the mannequin to her. See, I did share a trip with a kind of person.

In the afternoon there was a very perky presentation from Paul Caplan of the Internationale, who had some firm views on new media. I liked his style a lot. Then Tony Hodson of Third Sector Magazine, who I was keen to buttonhole for obvious reasons... only he was leaving for another job!

Finally there was a Marketing #101 from Chris Fill of Pompey Uni, and this was like going over familiar turf. And finally David Grayson of Business in the Community, another good speaker and hopefully well worth catching up with.

I also met some lovely fellow attendees, and in particular enjoyed chatting with Servane of Ogunte, who had me convinced that great things could soon take place. Hope so!

Waste Pipe

Be it a car exhaust, chimney or an aeroplane engine nozzle, what comes out of the pipe is waste.

So, when you hear that the latter is high on the list of those pumping out a lot, it's nice to hear of a simple solution: Don't run the engine 'til you need it.

Unlike a few recent pronouncements from Sir. B, I can see only merit in this one.

Two legs good...

I really shouldn't get into literary analogies, as the last time I had much to do with English Lit. was at 'O' Level.

However my memories of Animal Farm were stirred a bit when I read this at the weekend:

A green snag they emitted to mention...

Of course it's just another shot in the 'Who is Greener' Elite artillery that sails over most of our heads, and I do seem to recall 'an' 'issue' of the Sunday Times that was all offset and stuff a while ago before they started flying some Fashionistas again to Greenland to bash their own seals for a fur collar, as they (as opposed to the creature) couldn't be seen dead in any more recycled stuff as that spread a month ago was soooooo, well, last month.

However, there are points to be made here about those who tell 'us' to do stuff, and what 'they' do themselves. Some being a bit more equal than others, 'n all.

As one is quoted: "We do all we can to cut travel but we need to do some flying to make decisions." Trouble is, I kinda do need to do some car driving to make enough to eat. And it's hard to see how we visit Mama and Kong Kong for family gatherings in Singapore by mule. We all have our needs, reasons... and excuses.

An offsetting, which I rather unfairly refer to sometimes as 'whacking a fir tree in a desert' (after a scheme which did just that, and when they all died let off tons of methane decaying), is not the simple, universal panacea some seem to think. And hence is not a 'Get out of J.. igglinuncomfortably Free Card'.

So a big up to Mr. Monbiot, who 'has not flown for more than a year' (me either, but that's 'cos I've been busy, can't afford it for pleasure and have found no one to pay for me on business yet), and says: 'If even the leaders of the green movement are not prepared to live without flying for pleasure then how can we expect that of other people?'

As 'another person', to he and his fellow leader 'we's', I humbly thank you for the thought, if not the deeds.

Sunday, October 01, 2006

Maybe less 'talk talk' all round would help more

Warm words on climate change are not enough


Time to invest in treehouses!

Now a positive commentary, with cautious endorsement, for this: Miliband promotes plan to buy rainforests

It's a proactive way to 'do' so I will follow with enthusiasm.

I concern myself at the practicality of getting a sovereign nation, those who control it and those who own its acres to cooperate, but money talks. I guess if you pay more than a soya or cattle farmer you're in with a chance. Just don't let's have Mr. 'Let's concrete Kent) Prescott out in charge!

These are the last lungs of the planet we have, so it's worth doing.

I'd like to get hold of Mr. Johan Eliasch. I saw the potential of this a long time ago when he was active in this area, and felt then he might like Anyone know some billionaires' home numbers?

Smokin' (Redux)

Haven't had an eyebrow raise for a while, but this seemed worthy: Waste Man burnt in Exodus story

All for art 'n all, and awareness raising, but as there is no mention of the consequences of such combustion (me about to take my garden waste in my hand cart to the tip to avoid a bonfire... or car journey) this seems on a par with that chap who was going to let his tap run all day to highlight water waste.

On present evidence... Nil points.

Size Matters

As contributors and idea searchers will appreciate, the core of is about data and dimensions, and we try and make it as visual as possible.

But it can be tricky to get a handle on a size relative to something posted.

That's where SizeEasy comes in.

I have written to them to see if they would like to hook up. I hope we can help each other as the synergies are clear.