Monday, January 22, 2007

Public Swervants

I am writing to David Miliband this week on a few issues (it will be interesting to see the response, if any, that is generated), and again the notion of Kismet pops into my head as I am provided yet more fuel to my fire. A few weeks ago I wrote to the Central Office of Information (COI - who place all the ads telling us what to do, and engage the agencies and media to do it in) via their online site resource:

I am writing on behalf of, which is a website devoted to improving the public's understanding of, and engagement with environmental issues.

I'd would be grateful for the contact of someone at COI Communications to discuss how we could further mutually rewarding synergies.

Someone has now kindly replied, but I'm not sure if he quite realised (or realised all too well), how it would go down:

Your email was forwarded to our digital Media team and their response was if they have a requirement in the further they will be in touch but for now they don't think it's something they would use.

You might want to consider approaching either the Department for Environment Food and Rural Affairs ( or the Sustainable development Commission (

He was polite and most helpful and responsive. So I hope my reply was fair in the circumstances:

Thank you for taking the time to reply and the advice given.

I am glad that your colleagues in digital media will be in touch if required, but it's disappointing, not to mention a tad hard to see how a free resource promoting environmental issues is 'not something they would use'. In all my time in agencies, such a gift horse would have been both welcome and enthusiastically embraced on behalf of my clients, in this case taxpayers. I do hope they do not mean to infer it is fruitful to deal with those who would charge like wounded bulls. For my part there was a lot I am sure they could have helped me with in terms of information, press releases, etc.

I am aware of the other two opportunities and they, I presume, in us, having been in touch before. But will persevere.

This is a country in crisis. And a government in disarray, run by self-interested empires with public service and actually doing anything very low on their daily career path targets. Something must change. Or be made to.

A Kracking Kornucopia of Kismets

Now what could get me so alliteratively inspired?

Well, as I rush to get out the January newsletter, replete with 'the two most important letters I have yet written?' (previous blog), what should pop into my inbox than this:

Junk or treasure?

Before you bin anything, stop! Find out if there is another use for your junk, and save money, time and the planet. Or maybe you have some suggestions for what other people can do with their junk? Browse some whacky ideas at

For more practical advice, competitions, quiz and discussion forums see:

Nice of them. Especially as they are one of the activist groups I have more time for. And as is the way, a shall now pop them in my news by way of a dorsal delicacy of thanks. Along with that link above. See how easy it can be:)

But.. whacky???! Us!!?

I take it back. THIS may be the most important question I have asked so far.

You Ask The Questions
Next week: David Miliband, Environment Secretary
Send your questions to: myquestion@


"Why is it so hard to get serious suggestions on reducing our environmental impact - which may not need cost the taxpayer very much at all (if anything) - a serious hearing and if necessary financial backing, whilst it seems vast overlapping empires are constantly created to consume most funds on their own infrastructure and apportioning more according to self-serving targets and endless, often dubiously-valid ‘communications’ efforts than tangibly-beneficial environmental, much less cost-effective ROIs?"

We're sincerely flattered

Campaign aims to reduce the mountains of waste. Oddly, they seem never to of heard of us. We've written to put that right.

"Dear Michael McCarthy, Martin Hickman and Geneviève Roberts,
Got article. Good direction.
Anything we can do to help? And maybe you us?
I guess our specialty comes in trying to find ways to reuse what can’t be avoided.
Our own website has already started a similar effort to yours: we’re happy to share. Quite a few negatives ready to log, but we prefer to stay positive if we can. Makes them more eager to change if there's profit in it.: £, PR, CSR.
I also attach two visuals of a before and after ad I drew up for Tescos to show what we could do for them.. over 2 years ago. Oddly they seem to have decided it was a good idea now. I wonder what's changed?"

The most important letter I may have written yet

To this guy, because of this: Are you getting warmer or colder on the climate front?

"Good one. As a fellow minority (though I'd say it's more accurate to say 'noisy minority' on behalf of a sadly silent (cowed) majority), it's nice to locate a fellow who has noticed the extremes capturing the headlines, and initiatives from lazy press and pols, at the expense of a sensible and potentially productive middle ground. I have been banging on about this in my site's blog for years now.

And I fire off a salvo daily to the media blogs of left and right (or activist vs. commercial-with-an-interest) agenda-dripping organs, trying to get debate sensible, facts on the table and opinion as objective as possible, free from undercover lobbyists and PR folk pretending to be 'an engineer/climate scientist form Bootle (don’t mean to be rude, but I’ve left that in as it is by coincidence the town I use in my catchphrases. Kismet?) . It's lonely. Ratings and column inches and TV op-eds are to be had from conflict, not co-operation, so I don't get much support.

I'd love to talk more. As an ex-Civ Eng. grad (a few years ago, and only granted on the promise I would not try and build anything), I can handle ROIs, both financial and eco, and like to get a grip on what's being pitched before I commit. And as an ad-man with some measure of success (my own multi-national agency for one) understanding brands and the power to influence the conumer, I can assess what's a waste of time and what Joe Public may go for better than some.

You'll be copping some feedback (dare I guess from deniers and activists, lauding and decrying) for the latter half of your piece.

I don't won't to go there. I see no point. Is there warming? Is there not? Is it man-made. Is it not? Is it man-worsened... let others waste time chewing on that. I have bigger deserts to scorch (I do often have Climate or Carbon opinions you may disagree with).

My mission is to reduce waste. As an engineer ineffciency offends me. As and ad-man I see no profit in it (in fact I see/saw greater profits in not doing it, with PR and CSR inc., a long while ago. Hence And as an environmentalist and parent I see it as a direction better taken than not. Just in case.

I need help, because what I am doing is big, getting bigger, and I can't cope. And I can't fund it any more.

I've tried government, and will keep on. These guys are morons, seeking career-makers based on draft targets and short-termism.

I've tried NGOs, and will keep on. But these guys have salaries and pensions in mind, and that means building empires first, not solutions. And charities like keeping it extreme to maintain income fighting the enemy on 'our' behalf.

I've tried commerce. But they are so complex now I can't get through to a guy who can commit, even if he/she would. Gatekeepers. Strata. Focus groups. Matrices. Marketing. PR. Production. CSR. All vying for turf.

And I've tried the media. News wants extremes. Enviro wants the game to themselves (The ‘green elite’ is a nice handle, and ticket to a Bali global warming conference – oh, the irony). Business needs me to make (MySpace)) or lose (Boo!) a fortune before they'll meet me in the Ivy.

Fancy trying to DO something together on a basis we both seem to agree on?

Or at the very least can I chat with you about what I think the common man and woman and child feels about all that's being 'done' in our names. You may agree; you may not. But at least hear me out and feed what you will to those you have access to."

I hope he is sincere. I hope he agrees. I hope he writes back. I hope we can do something.

Badly Drawn B... Conclusions

Saw an opp to get noticed by another mainstream columnist. In answer to his question whether hiring cartoonists to relieve stress at multi-nationals was a good use of dosh:

"Probably not. But a lot less wasteful than some other PR measures masquerading as staff initiatives that I get to see in our in-box from our these days. And such as Heinz can afford to splash it about when guys like WRAP give them a few million of taxpayers' money to save costs seeing if they can make their cans lighter. That would be less raw materials to pay for, in the name of saving the planet. You'd have thought as a commercial company with fairly deep pockets they could do that themselves. ps: Here's one I doodled on MS Word a while ago on my PC whilst at at the Daily Mail Ideal Home Show Last Year (stated theme (to get saps like me to join in): 'Green'. Out of 700 odd exhibitors, mostly such as patio heaters and teak out-door jacuzzis, there were about 5 actually trying to promote good eco-practice and/or products). I must say I did feel better for it as a stewed for a month."

Shedding some light

I'm rather proud of thast headline, inspired by this: Home front

To which I wrote this, direct to author and on blog:

"The question then arises: "is there any carbon offsetting to be had", is a good one, as that seems to be the point to any useful reduction measure.

And from all your useful discussions and valuable research for the article... is there?

Or at least a lead on someone who can advise us, factually and/or objectively? I find it hard to believe in this computerised age there is not a model that can easily assess domestic and work usage patterns to derive a pretty good answer, and in a lot less than three years.

Otherwise this bill is a waste, if not an exercise in futility, like so many headline* (if not vote) -catching 'green' issues (potentially good or bad on the various ROIs one can try to apply) before it.

ps: Thank you, Walt OBrien, for a truly useful new fact (to me at least) that I will now add to our site's archive and campaign for things that actually 'do' something."

* I could have added 'Headline-creating, too', as these things often are only used in the negative to make a quick dig and are then left to be ignored. I, for one, would truly like to know the situation to be able to have a proper view on it.

ADDENDUM: Stuck in a dark age