Friday, July 11, 2008

We've been labelled!

You know how folk usually don't like being labelled?

Well, we have, and we could not be more thrilled!

Now I know I bang on about the actual use of a lot of 'green labelling' initiatives, especially to already overloaded and/confused consumers wandering down the aisles (is finding 75g of carbon in crisp pack enough to abandon the store and drive to the next town?), but how about a nifty bit of re:use ideas re:direction... on every pack? As with the recycling URL, is looking forward to enjoying pride of place (well, lurking) on the product ranges from Poundland.

And, until today, we knew not one thing about it, until this very nice email email arrived from a very nice chap: Neil Ballard, their Packaging & Design Manager -

"After meeting you (and being thoroughly inspired) at the Packaging Show at the NEC earlier this year, you will be pleased to know that we have now added your website address to over 600 lines of product that will be coming in to our business over the next few months (primarily Halloween and Christmas) and we will continue to do so to as many lines as possible. See attached example of how you have been integrated on to our own label packs. I hope this helps your cause and that your business/website grows exponentially!"

I actually thought it was a wind up at first, but having spoken to the man himself it looks like we have yet another, and highly significant addition to the cause... and, soon, we hope, database!

Early days, but we're looking forward to hooking up with them on all sorts of fun & games to help the consumer, the planet... and... by way of inspiring a few other businesses, our two companies' own bottom lines too!

Numbers games

I am on various forums. One threw up this link on nuclear: Warning over nuclear power sites

Before I knew it I was mouthing off...

'Could'. 'Significantly'?

I started life as a Civil Engineer. The unofficial motto was 'Civ. Eng's do for a shilling what any other idiot can do for a pound'.

I then went into advertising, mostly in Asia. The rule there was 'He who goes over approved estimate may dream fondly of getting any more out of client'.

Two different careers. One common theme. Budgeting ... and, without wishing to end up like the JLF in 'Life of Brian', time management (still boiled down to money).

Now, I never went near money in either. I made... make things. But at every stage of my career I have understood the need, and value of accurate estimates. Working with those who drew 'em up.

There were unforeseeables, inevitably. And that's why we had smart cookies figuring out the contingencies to negotiate the contracts, based on accurate parameters.

What the heck has happened?

From Wembley to the 2012 Olympics, it seems you pluck a number out the sky, halve it to win the contract, and then quadruple it so the lawyer fees look only slightly less in comparison.

When it comes to energy, especially nuclear and renewables, I am at a complete loss. With politics and subsidies and targets and agendas muddying and already murky mix.

Black is white. Green is red. Up is down.

As a consumer I just want things quick, cheap, fast and reliable. If I am so minded, I might now throw some ethics in the mix. Those factors are all a juggle. A unit of 'leccy is not very sexy, so I could care less how it arrives or from whom.

Hence, in opting for my supply, I need to know how much, for how long, how often and how well. With some sense on carbon consequences if I feel in the mood to trade some gr££n for some green. Weighing all the options.

It would be nice to have clear, simple charts showing what is front loaded or back loaded, what is more secure because of investment, or what goes into payback and when for the same reason. So I can asses £/kW over a defined set of periods. And if there is a dirty great big plummet (in supply) or soar (in cost) about when my kids are plugging in my blanket because the systems are going off line (decommissioning or exploding gearboxes), I want that in there too. Because it's not fair on them and dumb for me not to be aware.

Now, why is getting that so hard? Or are the massed voices of lobbyists and activists just drowning out any sane long term information (which just must be out there), at least as far as any media I read seems capable of sharing.

It has come to something that I consider our government at best incompetent (what Minister on 6-month rotation could understand the issues) if not corrupt (what MP is going to do what's right today but get 'em bounced tomorrow?), and our media incapable (are there any qualified science reporters any more?) if not venal (ratings trump all), and hence not to be trusted in helping the public understand what it is facing and arrive at a consensus that it will support to drive through what is best for now... and the future.

Everyone has a right to protest ....

.... at something that they disagree with; and (my caveat) providing it is peaceful and sensibly done. But yet again, we have total and utter madness reported as a climate change group hijack a train delivering coal to Drax power station. Full story is from the Guardian.

Sorry, but this is on a par with the animal liberation people freeing thousands of mink a few years ago. These caused absolute devastation to the wildlife within 20 or so miles of the mink farms.

To the people in this Climate Change Action group - I'm all for raising awareness of climate change, but if you want to make a point, make it fairly, sensibly and politely; actions such as hijacking trains make you look like nothing less than outlaws, lunatics and complete idiots. All you will do is alienate yourselves from the man in the street. Go get a life!

Guardian - Addendum (JM) - Is hijacking a train the right tactic? - Methinks some protest to much, and actually get active in more productive ways too little.

Indy - Addendum 2 (JM) - Climate campaigners threaten to invade and shut down power plant - 'Green activists are vowing to force their way...'

Live... and sucking!

Recently I did a Dragon's Denny kind of effort. A Bristol-based media-business company posted a contest invite to pitch, and I decided to go for it with RE:tie.

Well, I ended up on the shortlist! But now you can see how I also managed not to win!

One thing you should bear in mind is the brief, and this one was a bit loose. I had presumed that it was about the idea of course, but mainly about the money. And I know VCs don't get out of bed for less than £1/2M. Hence we had to concoct a scheme whereby I could ask for that much money, justify how it would be spent... and how they, and we, would not only recoup our investment, but then really start coining it. As it turned out, what we came up with, while not the only option, made a lot of sense.

Shame they didn't want to hear about the money, then. I had us on £10k per day for the rest of our lives after just a year. Remember, this was billed as looking for unique new ideas that would be of interest to major investors. But they didn't ask how that would happen.

Not much I can say. They were coming from a very different mindset in about every way. I can't believe that being 'smart', meaning wearing a suit*, is still an issue in getting behind an idea, but there you go. They also, amazingly, almost all seemed amongst the few so far who plain didn't 'get' RE:tie. Funny how so many in business, and especially when one gets to the business of green, operate on the basis of 'Well, I wouldn't'. I'm sure they don't shop in Tescos either, but most folk do. At least they were pleasant, if a bit negative, though I would have wished for more constructive feedback. I got what they wouldn't do, but not much on what they would.

Still, we now have some edited footage and it will get an airing. So possibly worth doing still. Not sure what I would have done differently. But still a valuable opportunity.

Off now to scope the other contestants in companion to see where I went wrong:(

Addendum - There's a blog too. Now all I need to do is find my password!

*Suited and booted?


I could have come in a suit. I do have one. I made the decision not to (a 'Bench' over shirt is still 'smart casual' in my book, especially on a hot day). Poor call, evidently.

It was on a variety of grounds.

First up this was not a typical DD/VC/BA pitch.

As I recall the main aim was to seek a great idea. From all my years in the ad world, great ideas tended to come from folk who didn't see suits as the main point of a productive day. And in the theatre that is presentation, I suspect most of my clients would have been a tad thrown to find a wall of corporate grey drones trying to convince them how to engage with normal folk... teens, kids, Mums, silver surfers... with their messages.

Of course you are also selling a business idea, so it is optimal to have a guy on the team who the money men can identify with. No such option. My bad.

But it is still a worry that the veneer still seemed/s these days to matter more than the substance. I guess such as The Apprentice and most of the UK's government and corporate activities of late have shown how tops the results of this mindset are for the country's fortunes.

I came fully armed with numbers for my financial pitch, if they were required. But as the judges were not going there, this was irrelevant as, surely therefore, was the need to look the part for this aspect?

We all make judgements, on various bases, so I guess dress can serve a function in this.

For my part, I am selling what I know and who I am trying to reach with what I create, and how I understand and identify with them.

Hence the critique from one judge 'Why would I want to do this?' was not a concern: I doubt a free piece of plastic that can save pennies (and planet) would make much difference to a suited and booted finance whizz. But I can understand why packaging for champagne bottles would. More his 'zone' I guess. Oh, did I mention that we had estimated payback of investment within a year, and then £10k per day from then on?

But it is a two-way street. I also need to work with these guys, and have confidence that they 'get' my concept, see its potential and where I am coming from. Makes working together fun... and profitable.

So long as they can prove to me we're on the same page, have a clear vision and strategy to achieve our objectives, I could care less if they were sitting in shorts and a flip flop.

Actually perhaps dress also more appropriate for a late-teen oriented design innovation festival, held in a converted ex-disco in a dirty room with stained windows, if you think about it.

So yes, If I am presenting to a VC in a corporate office or a retail board there will be a suit... if no tie. But I will have a guy in full Armani with me who will be. Here... it wasn't necessary or relevant to the task at hand or the brief I had.

Don't know if you agree on the last bit, but glad you might on the rest.