Friday, May 05, 2006

DEF(Con)RA 2

With all the other excitement of the day (and we have had more than enough here) regarding HMG and a few, shall we say, 'higher-profile-for-all-the-wrong-reasons' ministers, it looks like in the reshuffle we're getting a new boss of DEFRA.

In bidding Margaret Beckett a fond farewell, it seems somehow apt that she becomes Foreign Secretary, considering the air miles she was so fond of cranking up whilst telling the rest of us what we should do to save the planet. It remains to be seen how well she performs in the new role, which now gives her new and improved ways to proactively blow it up in short order.

As it reads like a press release from the department, I do have to raise a 'brow at this: "In her time at Defra, Mrs Beckett has presided over a doubling of household waste recycling rates in England and the first real cut in the tonnage of waste being sent to landfill."

All I can say is, after all this time and all the money, I should blooming well hope so!

Let us be optimistic that her successor, David Milliband, only the second boss that DEFRA has ever had, will be able to move things forward in directions that we at will feel better in terms of ROI.

Better than nothing (again)?

This is like some kind of self-fulfilling do-dad, because by writing and asking here, I am in fact already answering, or at least putting in motion, the very process I'm questioning.

I subscribe to a fairly (it sends out an awful lot of stuff daily) useful (a few nuggets... rarely) online PR service, and just saw the following subject/headline Helps Fight Global Warming.  How could I resist?

But this at first seemed a stretch in the continuing 'Any product you can think of, just spray it green' saga the consuming public are being subjected to.

This online jewelry company is pitching a 50% discount to Hybrid car owners who buy from them.

Not quite sure how your prove your choice of transport, but I'm sure they have that figured out.

I  have to say I thought this was plain daft, but then on balance I guess it's better that if they are going to flog diamonds (which are not that eco to extract as I recall) anyway, they try to mitigate it somehow. 

And while I guess that in comparison (all things are relative) to a store who doesn't encourage gem buyers to drive a hybrid they ARE helping fight global warming, but it's a... stretch.

Then again, we do say that we are helping save the planet, so all's fair....

Planning for the world family

I felt a faint glimmer of hope when I read this: Is Pope poised to sanction condoms?. Though my interest was more environmental than the obvious humanitarian positives outlined in the piece.

This is but a vague hint about a small concession, but as I personally consider the expanding population of our finitely-resourced planet to be well up there in terms of 'problems that need addressing on a global scale about.. er.. now', this can only be a step in a direction I would encourage.

Built-in ob....noxiousness

Time was when people were shaking their heads (but still tacitly accpeting) at the concept of built-in obsolescence, especially when it came to cars. I dreaded the first bubble of rust along the seams of my first Mini, and that was only after a few years. But even if certain things have been addressed, others still lurk to get my eyebrow twitching.

Like this example, from the excellent Honest John Telegraph column I have mentioned before:

My body repair man tells me the fashion for integral, colour-coded, plastic-covered "bumpers" is the biggest trade bonanza for years. What was the reason for doing away with the classic chrome or black bumpers of yore?

Modern "bumpers" work more like cushions to absorb the effect of an impact, reducing damage to the car structure and helping protect the occupants. If you want old-fashioned bumpers, you can still get them on a ladder-frame pick-up or 4x4. They won't be safer for you in a crash, but they will reduce annoying minor impact damage. In the United States in the 1960s, DuPont developed a laminated plastic called Royalite. If it got dented, all you had to do was run a hairdryer over it and it would pop back into shape. General Motors immediately bought the patent and used it for the front of its cars such as the Pontiac Trans Am. But the last thing GM wanted to do was build rot-proof bodies on which damage could be repaired by a hairdryer, because then it would sell fewer replacement cars.

Getting Noticed (and good notices)

Now we're getting into our stride we are getting a bit more organised on the online/IT side of our efforts (just as well as we're exhibiting at Internet World next week!), as opposed to me don the shed trying to make another reuse masterpiece.

So our funky system has alerted us to a distinct upward blip in the sign-ups for this month, which ain't bad going as it has only just started.

Better yet, we were able to track the origins of this increased activity, and it seems we have been kindly mentioned, and in flattering terms (as a respected re:source for re:use information, in fact a niche we have pretty much carved out to be uniquely ours), in two major consumer magazines: Woman's Own and BBC Good Food (no obvious URLs for either to repay the compliment with a URL hyperlink, but they are available from all good newsagents, I'm sure!).

What's most interesting is that we haven't been in touch with either, at least recently (the problems of running a very lean operation), so it's nice to know we're are getting picked up even without committing a fortune on PR, et, and hopefully getting known and appreciated simply by having a 'product' that does the job well.

Tricky things, compromises

I sometimes permit myself a wry smile when something falls into my lap that is at the expense of those with whom we are competing, especially when it helps make my point in a pitch.

Too late for my seminar at Internet World, but this image just dropped into my in-tray and helps make my point about how as a medium is not only highly targeted, but also for its editorial a lot less susceptible - and in advertising terms almost (I'll leave that 'get out clause' as there will be some b*ggg*er that slips past one day) immune - to tricky compromises.

For sure we'll discuss all sorts, and take PR from most, but when it comes to ads we will and can be a lot more choosy, so our editorial is not so likely to be saying one thing and having unfortunate messages sitting above or below (in this case they are at least not running a 'you should...' green article, but I have a few gems where high horses have been rendered a little less than consistent by homages to high horsepower sitting next door).

Actually I'm happy to run a piece about such as a steam-powered Roller, but as in my blog will likely opine it's a 'nice theory, but...'. However the ad next to it will not be for a 4x4, unless its a Lexus Hybrid (sorry, I'm with Mr. Cameron on this one, and could not bring myself to have a Prius, even if I could afford it). Actually I'd prefer the Citroen C(1 or 2, can't recall which and am too busy to find out - send us your press release, you lazy sods!), which tickled me post-‘Gordon eco-silly sop Budget’ by running a Congestion Charge promo. And we may eventually have an airline ad, but it would need to be more on a 'if you have to fly, this will make the best use of the emissions' basis, rather than a 'fly lots so you can fly lots more' one like Air Miles.

I of course stand ready to be caught out on this subsequently.

Because there are always compromises to be made. And left hands missing out on what right hands are doing. By writing this I've made life perhaps a tad more tricky for our PR guys, who are trying to ask The Times’ journalists to say nice things about us while I write this about their employer. But then their PRs are having the same problem too. Not to mention their ad sales guys. At least for the latter we are able to offer a fairly uncompromising product in ours.

As to editorial? Sod it. I think I'll just call it as I see it. And so will, though a little more tactfully I hope.