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Why does the Government think we’re all stupid?

Oh, please...I’ve been intending to post for ages on the subject of patronising, irritating, and most certainly excessive Government advertising. I have found recently that it’s impossible to watch a single commercial TV programme without seeing at least one Government funded advert, whether it be for direct.gov, the road safety Think! campaign, the NHS Stop Smoking campaign, car tax renewals, Fire Kills, the Know Your Limits alcohol campaign, the ubiquitous Change4Life, the Act FAST stroke campaign, Act on CO2, the Food Imports campaign, the irritatingly clever Get On ads, or any one of the miriad campaigns the Government is funding at any one time. Listening to the radio is worse. And even Spotify has been invaded.

Government posters are everywhere – the recent slightly threatening Policing Pledge ones are spreading like a rash, but my personal favourite is the Food Standards Agency one shown here. Apparently, choosing something with fewer saturated fats helps me reduce my saturated fat intake. Well, duh.

These adverts are even invading cash machines. I’d never really noticed cash manchine adverts before – are they new? – until one had an NHS advert on it, with someone sneezing in my face.

But all of this came to a head yesterday. Whilst wandering round Eldon Square, I found no fewer than three government supported advertising stands. One was for Change4Life, there was one advertising the local NHS Walk-in Centre, and one talking about reducing CO2. All in the same shopping centre, at the same time.

This is nannyism taken to another level.

What on Earth is the cost of all of this manifest advertising? It surely must be huge.  Now no-one in their right mind would argue with some of the campaigns – fire safety is important, the Act FAST campaign is a major attempt to get people to re-think stroke, and road safety is in everyone’s interest. But there’s a difference between informing the public and forcibly ramming things down their throat.

The Conservatives have posited Government advertising as one of the big areas in which they can reduce waste. Frankly, the sooner they get the chance, the better.

This 1,392nd post was filed under: Media, News and Comment, Politics, .

Vodafone’s great customer service

Vodafone LogoI’ve been a Vodafone customer for about seven years now, and – having previously experienced most of the major mobile networks – I reckon Vodafone is the best.

A couple of weeks ago, I wanted a new phone – the Blackberry Storm. However Stephen Fry opines on the subject, I still believe it is an excellent Blackberry, and I’m a bona fide member of the ‘love-it’ club when it comes to the Marmite-like SurePress screen.

The snag was that I still had five months to run on my previous contract, which had supplied me with the great-for-its-time Nokia Navigator.

My old contract was relatively cheap, and so I decided in my own mind that I was happy to buy myself out of it for the immediacy of a new phone, and I marched into my local Vodafone store all ready to pay – but was told this wasn’t possible.

Apparently, it’s against Vodafone policy to allow people to buy out of their contracts – presumably as it potentially loses them revenue from the calls and texts that people would’ve made in the bought-out period.

Yet on my walk home, I realised this was an utterly flawed policy, for there was nothing to stop me sticking my Vodafone device in a drawer unused, and signing up to O2 and getting a shiny new phone. There is no price differential from my point of view, but Vodafone would lose a customer.

As soon as I got home, I sent Vodafone an email pointing out this absurdity.

Within the hour, I had a phone call back telling me that the policy was indeed absurd in my case. They apologised for messing me – a loyal customer – about, apologised for my tariff (“It’s like something from the 80s!”), and apologised for not treating me more like royalty.

They then offered to do me a free upgrade five months early, with no need to buy myself out of my contract. They gave me a premium tariff, better than that available in the shop or online, a free Blackberry Storm with free delivery, and – for the first time in recent memory from a big company – the assistant gave me her name and direct number for if I had any further problem with either the handset, my tariff, or anything Vodafone related.

And all this for an increase in my monthly outgoing of about a fiver for eighteen months.

A couple of weeks in, and I’m still a very happy bunny. The phone is great, the tariff is liberating, and I have a level of smug satisfaction beyond compare.

This is the kind of service I’ve come to expect from JLP or First Direct, but to unexpectedly receive that level of service from Vodafone is – without doubt – a joy. I just hope they keep up the excellent work.

This 1,391st post was filed under: Reviews, Technology, , , .

The solution to ITV’s problems

ITV’s financial woes have rarely been out of the media trade rags recently, and the story reached new levels of idiocy this week when the Express claimed the broadcaster was considering a move to a subscription model.

As far as I can see, ITV’s problems could be significantly eased by more successful exploitation of its sucessful brands. While the ITV brand itself doesn’t have nearly the kudos of that of its public sector rival, it does have some huge brands.

Take The X Factor. It is a multimedia juggernaut, winning viewers, selling newspapers and gaining the general attention of the populace for weeks on end – now, pretty much, year round. Yet ITV only really exploit this format to the max on TV. Looking at the recent history of the format, every iteration has included more democratisation – from Popstars, with no interaction, through Pop Idol, which introduced the public vote, through to The X Factor, which is really the first of the shows to maximise the participatory process with extended auditions.

Further democratising the format could bring in huge revenues, slash costs, and make a more engaging show: Simply take the format online in an engaging way.

ITV are notoriously crap at web-based engagement, so let them keep their grubby mits at arms length from the project. Democratise it through holding auditions on a specially commisioned YouTube channel. Have people upload their auditions, let the online public vote, and invite the top 500 or so to traditional auditions.

This change in format allows a whole load of advertising to surround the videos, it works in the favour of newspapers and magazines who can boost their own web profits by pointing people from their publication to their publication’s website for links to the videos (or even embedded versions, HeatWorld style), and it engaged the largely web-enabled target audience.

It introduces whole new story arcs – see Peter, he did an excellent Bohemian Rhapsody on YouTube, but at the auditions it becomes clear that’s all he can sing – see Jane, she wasn’t rated highly by the online viewers, who couldn’t see past the poor production of her video, but the judges see the ‘next big thing’ in her – et cetera, ad infinitum.

Once the audience is built for the audition stage, maintaining it for the later stages of the competition should be childsplay for  the ‘media masterminds’ on The X Factor team.

Philip Schofield’s 100k+ Twitter followers show that there’s an appetite for real exclusive extended content beyond the ITV hits, even when backed up by a fairly standard iViva site, barely better in design than ITV’s own pisspor Dancing on Ice site.

I don’t watch Coronation Street, but if I did I’m fairly sure the last place I’d look for exclusives on the next big story line is the official site – not least as I count seven flashy adverts on the homepage, and am prompted to install Microsoft Silverlight for anything much to happen.

Surely there’s a market for a magazine and website combo, again controlled at arms length from ITV, but in which ITV could have a stake? With the popularity of all the soaps, the ‘unofficial’ Soap Mags which sell like hot cakes could surely never compete with a title part-owned at ITV which is being drip-fed bona fide confirmed hints of storylines to come? Combined with genuine interest back-stage exclusives, there surely must be a market? Especially if ITV were arms-length enough that the soaps could be treated with the slight ‘guilty secret’ irreverance they deserve.

Now, I realise, it’s commonplace to suggest that in these financially hard times ITV needs to consolidate its core services, whereas I’m suggesting diversification. I’ll leave it to the good readership of sjhoward.co.uk to explain to me why my against-the-grain idea is idiocy, rather than a brilliant solution.

This 1,390th post was filed under: Media, News and Comment, , .


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