Obligatory Olympics Themed Post

Yay, it’s the Olympics. That was of course said with enthusiasm and not some sort of mild despair caused by an overdose of the Union Jack flags that seem to be blighting every street corner.

While I’ve quite enjoyed watching the Olympics on TV in the past, it’s hard not to feel slightly miffed about the same prospect this year. Having been one of those enthusiastic ones that applied for a whole slew of tickets in the first round only to get none whatsoever, I’ve become thoroughly jaded by the whole process. Okay, so there’s still tickets going, but to be honest I’d rather pay to not see Greco-Roman Wrestling (one of my beloved former blogging topics).

Mmmm, formulaic.

Is the Olympics really THE MOST EXCITING THING IN THE WORLD? No, it’s not. But you’d probably be forgiven for thinking otherwise, given that advertisers seem to think it’s their golden ticket to hoicking in consumers. Seriously, if I see one more emotional ad featuring some nostalgic montage I am actually going to flip out and smash the TV. (Oh, think of the Olympics montages we’re going to have… BBC Sport is going to have a field day. We’ll be listening to Hoppipolla for weeks.)

It’s definitely hyped up to an insane degree – yes, hosting the Olympics is a big deal, but I don’t get why it needs to be plastered EVERYWHERE. I’ve written things recently for a car hire firm and a photo canvas company about their Olympics promotions; please, make your business less related to the Olympics in every way. Oh wait, you basically can’t.

Having somehow tripped over the Olympic torch three times in one outing, I can confirm this allegation.

Saying all that, the opening ceremony looks suitably ridiculous. The last Danny Boyle film I saw was 127 Hours, so anything where a guy doesn’t cut his own arm off is probably a step in the right direction. To be honest though, where can you go wrong with a Shakespeare-inspired re-creation of the British Isles, complete with farm animals and the world’s largest harmonically tuned bell?

One thing that I particularly liked, though, was how the organisers used Twitter to keep the secrets of the ceremony under wraps during the rehearsals. When details were inevitably starting to leak out, they introduced the Twitter hashtag #savethesurprise, making keeping quiet the cool thing to do. Genuinely good idea there, beating the Tweeters at their own game. Anyway, it’ll all be revealed tonight. Let’s get it over with.

Ooo, subversive.

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Latitude 2012: It’s Raining Sugar

Returned from Latitude Festival on Monday. It’s now Wednesday, still not recovered from the mud, the rain, the sleep deprivation, the mud and the general awesomeness. Oh, and the mud.

This, plus lots of mud and rain.

Having endured-slash-enjoyed the four days at this ace Suffolk festival, I’m left  reminiscing about all the best bits. Yes, I could write a blog about the amazing music, (Elbow, Bon Iver and too many more to mention), the excellent comedians (oh hello Tim Minchin) or the slightly surreal atmosphere (where else has a herd of neon sheep?) – but one of the things I keep coming back to is the FREE STUFF.

There were no free pens and key rings in sight – these were genuinely good freebies that were almost exclusively food based. Which, to be honest, is exactly what you want when you’ve had 3 hours of damp, uncomfortable, tent-based sleep and have just waded through mud that surely isn’t sanitary.

The winner was definitely Alpro and their soya-yoghurty goodness. Before, I’d have not even considered Alpro yogs, after all, why go soya when you can do dairy? But they’ve done a good job at convincing me. You could wander up to the tent and grab armfuls of completely free yoghurt, and thankfully the lecture on the goodness of soya was entirely optional. Later on, you could help yourself to free Alpro puddings, again as many as you could stomach. All of these gave a pleasant, sugary high, sustainable all day through continuous yoghurt consumption.

McVities were also there flinging free cereal bars at anyone who could catch – this was less appealing due to a slight shopping miscalculation which left each of our group of seven with about twelve cereal bars to eat over three days. Add more, free cereal bars and that’s just an impossible task. If there were angel slice dispensers, however, I’d have been a bit more impressed.

PERCY PIGS

Another sugary injection was provided by the FREE Percy Pigs. If you’re not familiar, these are the M&S gummy sweets that are a bit posher than your average gummy. The first time we saw the telltale giant Percy costume, we gave chase through the mud, knocking children flying and losing more than one wellie in the process. Stalking Percy then became a daily ritual. When Colin the Caterpillar – one of Percy’s sweety cohorts – was spotted, there were squeals of excitement that definitely weren’t befitting of a crowd of 22 year olds.

I’m already a devoted follower of the way of Percy, and so Alpro have probably done the best job when it comes to getting another customer. Once you get used to the slightly plant-y taste of some of their yoghurts, it’s not half bad.

Now I’ve been back a couple of days, I think I’m experiencing a bit of sugar withdrawal. There’s only one thing for it. Off to buy some Alpro and maybe say hi to Percy.

Accurate representation of post-Latitude feelings…

Get Real

How can you combine social media, scrap-booking and the Royal Mail? Maybe it’s not a question that needs to be asked, but it’s one that has been answered.

You can now buy a plot at Real, the self-proclaimed physical network. These are small boxes-slash-cubby-holes in an exotic London location. You can send whatever you like to live in your box – drawings, writing, things that just look cool. Rather than posting something on facebook or Twitter, you do actually, literally post something. Unsurprisingly, then, this is a project supported by the Royal Mail, perhaps in a desperate bid to make their service slightly more relevant.

Don’t get me wrong though, it sounds like fun. It’s a nice way for artistic types to show a sample of their work. Or you could make a bit of a time capsule without the dilemma of dirt and digging.  Given that facebook posts, updates and statuses don’t stick around for long, I can see that having a lasting memorial, a ‘physical’ post, could be a good way to remember something by.

But once you’ve posted off a few bits and spent your pocket money on stamps, surely that’ll be the end of it? Sure, it’s no facebook killer, but that’s obviously not the point. Even if you posted something just every now and then and then forgot about it, you’d still get something back. Like that feeling when you’re tidying up the inevitable junk that’s in your wardrobe – you find things you’d forgotten you had, lost or just put somewhere ‘safe’. It’d be like that, only with memories. Which is kind of nice.

So, if your life is filled with meaningful memories and lovely things, then Real could be just for you. Personally, I think my goings-on are only worth the odd post on Twitter, but that’s just me.

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Fast Food-oshopping

So, long time no blog. Having reached a temporary lull with work, it’s time to jump right back into it. 

Some random conversation recently turned towards photoshopping. Always a minefield. Do celebrities really look like that, all shiny and perfect? Surprisingly not. After a while gandering at some ridiculous before and after photos of Kim Catrall, it’s pretty clear that you really can’t believe your own eyes.

Don’t get me wrong, I love a good photograph and will happily spend an age tinkering around on photoshop. It’s easy to see that the whole body image thing created by unrealistic photoshopping is a bit worrying and hard to escape – but in terms of photographing other things, it’s impressive the lengths that companies go to to make an appetising photograph.  

Fast food is probably a great place to start. Chances are we’ve all seen McDonalds advertising as well as probably experiencing the top class cuisine first hand. But what you see in the ads definitely isn’t what you’ll get in your happy meal…

 

This burger isn’t whipped up in a matter of seconds as per normal. No, the star McDonalds advert burger will be hand picked from the cream of the fast food crop. Rather than undergoing a series of X-Factor-style auditions, it will instead be hand crafted with more care than most people take of their children. Onions will be sliced precisely and sauces will be syringed into the burger so that all the ‘top quality’ ingredients will be on show. 

Once the burger has pouted and posed its way through a photo shoot, it’s time for the photoshopping to begin. Forget brushing over cellulite and hammy thighs, it’s all about repositioning sesame seeds, removing crumbs and fattening up the colour. You can see pictures of the whole process here

I know that having a turd of a burger on your adverts won’t bring in customers. But isn’t it all a bit misleading? Granted, you don’t go into Maccy D’s expecting a gourmet burger, but what if you were eating somewhere where that was a legit expectation? It’d be a disappointing experience, to say the least. Much like buying that mascara which in fact doesn’t make you look like Kate Moss. 

And lastly, lets not forget the impact of these primped and preened photos on the self esteem of the average burger… 

 

 

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LOLgate

So, apparently David Cameron doesn’t know what ‘LOL’ stands for. Following Pastygate, now LOLgate is the latest obstacle to the PM’s effort to appear down-with-the-kids slash in-touch-with-normality.

As part of the Leveson enquiry, Rebekah Brooks has said old DC used to sign texts with LOL, thinking it meant ‘lots of love’. While this might not have been such a mistake maybe a decade ago, given that LOL is now officially in the dictionary, it’s a pretty comedic error.

DC just keeping his Mum in the loop…

LOL Definition in OED:

Etymology: Initialism < the initial letters of laughing out loud; sometimes also pronounced as an acronym.

Originally an chiefly used in the language of electronic communications: ‘ha ha!’; used to draw attention to a joke or humorous statement, or to express amusement. 

Words are great things, and all those people who think the dictionary shouldn’t be changed need to lighten up. After all, anything that makes getting those precious points in Countdown a bit easier has got to be welcomed.

Text speak is something that is prolific, and though being completely up to date might not be essential for living a happy life, how can LOL pass you by? If you ever talk to anyone via email, IM, Skype, Twitter, facebook, or on internet forums, it’s pretty hard NOT to know what it means.

And while I’m all for proper English, LOL is a useful shorthand to know.

It shows that you know something is funny, even if it might not make you laugh… and can avoid letting someone’s failed joke going down like a lead balloon. Saying LOL rarely means you’re actually ‘laughing out loud.’

Irony is a big part of it. Lolcano, lolocaust, meglolz… take your pick. Even saying it out loud is borderline-acceptable if you don’t mind pushing the envelope.  Or think that you’re cool enough to pull it off . Having tried and failed, I’m definitely not lol.

Given that textspeak is generally pretty uncool – I’m not sure I know anyone who uses r’s and u’s as replacement words anymore – why has LOL persisted? It must be because it’s useful, not only because it’s given birth to such fantastic things as LOLcats.

While overuse of the phrase is not to be advised, it makes you seem a bit tongue-in-cheek and generally more jolly – even if you’re in a proper grump. You won’t need to resort to copious smiley faces, something that in my opinion should be limited to the animated facepalm smiley on Skype (a personal favourite).

So, David Cameron needs to get reading the dictionary.

Anyone who’s ‘running’ the country should probably know what one of the most common online abbreviations means. It does make you wonder what else he’s out of touch with – chances are it extends further than baked goods and LOLs.

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Charity for the Perpetually Grumpy

Avoiding charity fundraisers in the street isn’t big and isn’t clever, but is more than likely something we’ve all done.

All big towns have their fair share of clipboard bearers. I’ve perfected what could be politely termed my ‘grumpy’ face to ward them off. Yesterday I was approached by one of the braver ones, who fell foul of my ‘urgent appointment’ excuse – which, to be fair, was actually true this time.

But, this made me think. Giving to charity is a tricky subject – of course it’s a worthwhile cause, but is approaching people in the street really the best way? The one time I’ve actually engaged in conversation (slash been too slow off the mark with an excuse), it was a pointless ten minutes – no donation for him, time wasted for us both.

Two of the most interesting ways of charity I’ve seen both have one thing in common – incorporating giving in a way that’s unobtrusive. They let you engage, or not, your choice, with no guilt attached.

Blocks of Hope

 A London branch of Budgens supermarkets are piloting a scheme to sell blocks of ‘hope’ on their shelves, benefiting the Alzheimer’s Society. These will be blocks of wood, branded with the word ‘hope’, that customers can put into their shopping basket – at the till, they will be scanned, the £1 donation will go to charity, and the block will go back to the shelves for the next donation.

While this does have a certain novelty value, this to me seems like a great idea. Finding these on the shelves would definitely make you stop and think: what’s more worthwhile, that jumbo bar of chocolate or a £1 donation?

Putting one of these in your basket would be a nice thing to do – and adding £1 to your bill would be no big deal, especially if you’re already spending on those supermarket ‘essentials’. The most interesting thing is how is blends with the mindset you’re in at that particular moment.

Torturers Wanted

Another way of incorporating charity awareness a particular situation could recently be seen in the Guardian’s job section. Freedom from Torture ran mock-recruitment for Torturers, Abusers, and Kidnappers  alongside all the standard ads. This aimed to raise the profile of these issues in areas of the Middle East, Asia and Africa.

Having been a dedicated reader of the wanted ads, I can honestly say these would have caught my attention. We all know these things happen in the world, but finding such ‘official’ sounding job descriptions was quite shocking – especially when they’re running next to real job advertisements.

In the world of the Mcvities lickable elevator (still not a fan), these charity uses of innovative advertising seem like a useful way of applying creativity to a real problem. After all, more charity donations can only be a positive thing.  Hopefully, they can get real results – and I can retire my grumpy face for good.

 

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Adventures in Russia

Busy times at Juno Copywriting.

Despite losing one of my daily blogs (boo), there’s still lots of exciting things to be done. This is mostly to do with the Euramedia Summit, a big and rather swanky conference happening in Boston this year.

Juno Copywriting are the official UK arm of the conference, doing all sorts of things such as PR, social media and blogging. Euramedia is all about giving UK and US business  bigwigs the opportunity to get into the Russia media and tech market. Yes, this sounds like a random project for a little copywriting company based in Nottingham. But it’s actually really interesting.

Writing about mobile apps, Sarah Jessica Parker, yacht cruises, poker and the Olympics all comes into the remit – the blog can be found here if you’re interested, or else if you fancy a few Russian venture capital adventures. While I’m obviously a big fan of writing about fitness supplements and wrestling (my normal daily duties), writing about exciting Russian things is an interesting change.

Unfortunately, though, I’m not one of the lucky ones being flown out to Boston for the conference, and won’t get to rub shoulders with Sharon Stone and Daniel Craig aka JAMES BOND (…I’m not sure we’d get on anyway).

This also means we’re doing more PR stuff. Though somewhat self taught, I’ve written a grand total of two press releases – one of which was picked up by a (low key) online magazine. Which was nice, another string to the bow and all that.

The small amount that I know about PR was learnt from watching Stephen Fry in Absolute Power, an amazing TV show that everyone should watch. I’m still outraged there were only two seasons, but that’s a rant for another day. So, anyway, all PR tips are welcome…

But between the blogging, press releases and a whole new batch of web content bits and bobs, it’s been a busy couple of weeks. Now if only it would stop raining, then everything would be great.

Couldn’t resist just the one history joke...  It’s a good’un.

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An Evening in Brazil

Brazil, directed by Terry Gilliam of Monty Python fame, is an odd film.

First off, I’m not pretending to know anything about films. I’ve not seen any of Gilliam’s other work, and only really watch films that are shown in Cineworld on Orange Wednesdays. But having watched Brazil last night, I thought it deserved a bit of extra attention.

The plot is your standard boy-meets-girl plot with a happy ending. That is, if they lived in a dystopic, 1984-world gone wrong,  first meet in a dream sequence, are caught up in a chain of government bureaucratic bungling, and the happy ending takes place in the head of a someone being tortured by Michael Palin. Yeah, so pretty normal, easy-going viewing.

Brazil obviously has Orwellian overtones, with a totalitarian government and ministry of information, but there’s more to it than that. While I’m not the biggest fan of 1984, Gilliam’s film is an interesting take on its general idea.

In place of the unassailable Big Brother figure, you’ve got a darkly comedic government hung up on bureaucracy and procedure. The dynamic is still one of the ministry at war with a shadowy fifth column. However, in Brazil the nearest we get to them is Harry Tuttle, a renegade heating engineer who carries out unauthorised repairs due to his hatred of  paperwork.

Brazil is maybe what would happen if Orwell decided he was going to be a surrealist, like he met Dali on a trip to the shops and they got talking. The dream-slash-nightmare sequences are most demonstrative of this… angels, oriental inspired giants, a living landscape, baby-faced hags… and that’s not even including the ‘real’ world of industrial disrepair, darkly imposing buildings and plastic surgery.

Having done the standard trawling of reviews and the obligatory trip to IMDB, ‘retro-futurism’ is a phrase that keeps recurring. The general landscape of the film is based heavily on this, with the society dependent on machinery that looks like what people fifty years ago would have imagined the future to be.

I thought the heating ducts and air conditioning systems to be one of the most sinister parts, not a comment that can be made about most films. The pipes and ducts were ever present, seething and spilling out of everywhere, almost breathing. They looked like giant worms, feeding. Shudder.

While I wouldn’t say this is the best film I’ve seen in recent times, Brazil is definitely one of the more interesting. In terms of visual style, it’s distinctive and engaging, if rather disturbing at times. The storyline does leave a bit to be desired, but I’m not sure that’s the whole point of the film.

So, if you’re looking to spend a couple of hours on a slightly difficult film with plenty of disturbing imagery and surreal twists and turns, then Brazil should probably be top of the list.

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Free Jaffa Cakes Please

Innovative advertising is all well and good, but surely there’s a line.

Have McVities taken it one step too far with their lickable wallpaper for elevators? Surely that can’t be a good idea.

World’s First Lickable Elevator 

Perhaps inspired by Willy Wonka’s similar (fictional) creation, the big biscuit men think an unexplored way to sell Jaffa Cakes is to make a wallpaper adorned with lickable Jaffas.

Having eaten an entire pack of Jaffa Cakes in one sitting, on more occasions than I’ll admit to, even I can’t see how this is a good idea. Jaffas are some of my favourites, but still, there is a limit.

Elevators aren’t exactly the nicest places to be. While I’m sure this McVities elevator isn’t in a public car park, even the best office lifts aren’t exactly hygienic enough to lick.

And that’s before we get to the issue of secondary licking of a pre-licked Jaffa. While I’d happily take the 1,325 Jaffa Cakes off McVitie’s hands, I’d probably refrain from having a cheeky taste while going up to the fourth floor.

A much better idea is from the ever reliable Mr Kipling. His angel cake bus shelter advertisements, which dispense free samples, are a slice of genius.

Exceedingly Good Angel Slices Ad

A little while ago, I walked past one of the nineteen cake-dispensing-ads while they were loading up the cakes. I ultimately missed out on the spongey goodness of a free angel slice, but it did strike me as a really good idea.

In the trend of 4D cinema, the bus shelter ads also emitted the smell of freshly baked angel slices. Having spent more than my fair share of time waiting for buses, having one of these cheerful and delicious ads would definitely make the wait more palatable.

While people want free stuff and interactive advertising, surely a free, individually packed Mr Kipling cake is preferable to the, albeit innovative, tasty McVities elevator?

The best scenario would be a free Jaffa Cake dispensing advert, preferably right outside my house. I can only wait and hope.

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Pinterest Party

As if we needed another social media time sink, Pinterest is the new kid on the block.

It’s not exactly struggling for users, with over ten million in the US. But in the UK, it’s still just getting out the starting blocks. After being told about it myself, everyone who I’ve tried to convince to use it hasn’t been too keen, or hasn’t heard of it before.

Looking at the differences between US and UK users is pretty interesting. Most of the users in America are women, with a lot of emphasis on crafts, DIY and interior design. This seems pretty accurate, judging from the amount of home decorating ideas I scroll through on a daily basis.

However, it seems the UK is a different story. The biggest interests are SEO, blogging, design and even venture capital. Given that it’s not quite in the UK facebook mainstream(despite having a hundreds of thousands of users), maybe this is down to those early adopters – those who are ‘in to’ social media marketing might have got on the bandwagon at the first stop.

Not that I’m necessarily part of that category. I just like all the pretty pictures.

I think the closest way to describe Pinterest is like-Twitter-but-with-images. If you’re not using it for marketing, you can feel creative by making your own pinboards of things you like, hate, would like to own or just find funny.

One of the cleverest bits is that Pinterest is often part of your day to day internet activities. If you’re browsing cat pictures (as I often do), you can instantly ‘pin’ a good one onto your dedicated ‘cat pinboard’ (everyone should have one). You don’t need to leave the site, letting you carry on browsing those felines uninterrupted.

Having got into trouble for making a derogatory comment about my mother’s facebook use, I would like to point out that she has already joined the Pinterest gravy train. And this in no way demonstrates how easy to use it is.

So, is anyone going to join the Pinterest party? I’m feeling pretty lonely at the moment.

http://pinterest.com/

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