Ideas and opinions from the world of PR
WOW. That’s all we can say. WOW. Again. The size of the thing. It’s not a bus, it’s a hotel on wheels. It’s a bus so big that wherever it parks, it is automatically given a new postcode. It’s a bus so big that you could play a concert in Manchester, get on the bus, walk to the other end and play a concert in London. It’s a BIG OLD BUS.
Sorry! Went off on a bit of a tangent there. It’s just that last week, top pop turn Rag’n’Bone Man, he who is only human after all, rocked up in Wolverhampton, the city that Small Man Media calls home, to play a concert at the Civic Hall. Now, the Small Man offices are very close to the Civic Hall (or, as locals prefer to put it, ‘Civic Hall? Just next door to the legendary Small Man Media, mate’) and we’re very used to seeing top music, showbiz and sports turns show up in their swish modes of transport. Some of them are absolutely huge. Indeed, just a couple of weeks back, it was the Grand Slam Of Darts, so it wasn’t just the cars and minivans that were vastly overweight.
Rag’n’Bone Man’s tour bus though! It’s so big that the concert was on Monday and it’s actually still trying to parallel-park. It was so thunderous and huge that its arrival made the Small Man office shake, causing many of our NUMEROUS INDUSTRY AWARDS to fall off the shelves. It’s the biggest thing to hit Wolverhampton this year since Nuno Espirito Santo took over the mighty Wolves, and much like Wolves’ promotion charge, the wheels ain’t comin’ off it.
What we’re trying to say is: Rag’n’Bone Man has a really big tour bus.
Fair enough really, his band is quite hefty too. We did actually invite him via Twitter to pop over the office for a cup of tea but he never got back to us, presumably because he had tried to find one of the toilets on his bus and had got lost. But we have a Rag’n’Bone Man anecdote which just goes to underline just how fantastically well-connected we are, and it involves Carol Vorderman, a popular brand of tonic wine and fried chicken, and you can’t say that about your typical run-of-the-mill anecdote.
Writer Monkey Pete, who has taken to referring to himself in the third person in this blog for some reason, knows Rag’n’Bone Man. Pete, in his spare moments, does a bit of rap music journalism on the side, and in 2014 wrote, for the price of one bottle of Malbec and a pizza, the press bumff for Brighton hip-hop collective Rum Committee’s Boozetown LP. And Rag’n’Bone Man was, and indeed is, a member of Rum Committee, as well as being a top soul-singing troubadour of some standing and reputation. This is why Rag’n’Bone Man has just brought out his own brand of rum. Are you getting all of this?
Earlier this year, Rum Committee provided the support for Rag’n’Bone Man’s last tour, including shows in Bristol and Nottingham. Around about this time, former Countdown host Carol Vorderman expressed the desire to go and see Rag’n’Bone Man in Bristol. Now, in addition to knowing Rag’n’Bone Man, Pete also knows Carol Vorderman (DON’T EVEN ASK) and so brokered the tricky deal of getting her into the Bristol show, which went as follows:
Pete: “Hey Rag’n’Bone Man and Rum Committee, can you get Carol Vorderman into your Bristol show?”
Rag’n’Bone Man and Rum Committee: “Hi Pete! Yes, that’s fine, but she has to come backstage and see us.”
So it wasn’t actually that tricky really. The long and short of it is that TV’s Carol Vorderman DID go to the Bristol show, and indeed the Nottingham show a few nights later, DID end up partying with the South Coast’s most hard-living hip-hop collective, and DID, by all accounts, bring them not one but THREE bottles of Buckfast tonic wine (we’re not familiar with this particular beverage, but apparently it has the same corrosive properties as Alien blood) and merrily joining them as they tucked into a huge post-show fried chicken buffet on the very same gigantic tour bus that was parked outside our palatial residence.
The whole unseemly brouhaha ended up in the national press, as showbiz writers gleefully leaped upon this tale of La Vorderman’s unlikely bonding with the nation’s naughtiest rap collective. All of which is a roundabout way of saying: If we can engineer a way of getting column inches for Rag’n’Bone Man AND Carol Vorderman AND a popular extra-strength alcoholic beverage AND a high street fried chicken chain of some note at the same time, just think what we could do for YOU.
Follow us! Follow us on Twitter, for example, at www.twitter.com/smallmanmedia, or on Facebook at facebook.com/smallmanmedia. There’s a bottle of Buckfast in it for you if you do. Maybe.
You always expect the John Lewis Christmas advert to make a big impression whenever it surfaces, which is what the latest one, ‘Moz The Monster’ did a wee while back. However, the furore that surrounds the 2017 effort is less to do with the quality of the actual advert, a so-so affair with a decent soundtrack and a mixed message, and more to do with the fact that it is apparently a bit of a rip-off.
Author Chris Riddell, you see, is absolutely adamant that it bears a great many similarities with Mr Underbed, the monster star of his 1986 book of the same name – same fur, same bulbous nose, same habit of lurking under a young boy’s bed. He’s also adamant that he will be pursuing no legal action against John Lewis – he’s just popping up in every available media channel he can find saying that he has been ripped off.
Anyway, potential plagiarism aside, how does the new advert fare against years gone by? Let’s have a look back and see…
2013: THE BEAR AND THE HARE, accompanied by Lily Allen covering Keane’s Somewhere Only We Know.
Remember when this advert was ‘enough’? There’s no way this 2013 guff-bomb would cut it now, with its dodgy Watership Down-level animation, and perfunctory story arc (basically, Bear isn’t impressed by Christmas tree, then sees the tree with all the lights turned on, gets all impressed and goes to enjoy Christmas with animal friends who, under normal circumstances, he should be eating).
As for the music, ‘Lily Allen covering Keane’ is like a perfect storm of wet blanket drivelling, the ghastly icing on an already appalling Christmas cake. Rubbish music, story so simplistic it’s barely there at all – quite frankly, this will not do. Cartoons about grumpy bears WILL. NOT. DO.
Cuddliness of advert: 2/10
Dreariness of soundtrack: 8/10
2014: MONTY THE PENGUIN, accompanied by Tom Odell covering John Lennon’s Real Love.
From here on in, it was live action and clever CGI all the way, with all of the ‘cute’ amps resolutely turned up to 11. 2014 saw the arrival of a ‘pet’ penguin, actually only a toy penguin but THAT DOESN’T MEAN THAT HE’S NOT REAL TO ONE LITTLE BOY!
Monty The Penguin was actually tolerably cute, with an amusing waddling star and a charming kiss-off: Basically, the kid gets another, apparently female toy penguin for Christmas, meaning a) Monty gets a life partner with whom he can make baby penguins and b) children throughout the land immediately start bothering their parents for a toy penguin. Fair enough really, that’s how commerce works.
My only observation to this story would be that penguins are the only other species on Earth other than humans, who use sex for personal advancement. Seriously, it’s true. Lady penguins trade sex with horny males, for pebbles and stones, which they use to make their nests. FASCINATING FACT.
Cuddliness of advert: 7/10
Dreariness of soundtrack: 4/10
2015: MAN ON THE MOON, accompanied by Aurora Aksnes covering Oasis’s Half The World Away.
Also known as ‘The Year It All Went Wrong’. Seriously, what WERE John Lewis thinking of here? You remember this – the macabre tale of a freakish evil fairytale pensioner exiled to live on the moon, and the horrible little girl with a telescope, spying on his every move as he lives out his final days in lunar solitude?
It was an advert that warmed no cockles at all, merely posed lots of uncomfortable questions. What horrific crime has the old man committed to lead to his planetary banishment? And why does the girl send him a telescope for Christmas, so that he can watch her watching him? Just how self-centred can one child be?
Absolutely horrific, like finding out that one of your Christmas Day pigs in blankets is a human finger.
Cuddliness of advert: 0/10
Dreariness of soundtrack: 9/10
2016: BUSTER THE BOXER, accompanied by Vaults covering Randy Crawford’s One Day I’ll Fly Away.
You can’t accuse John Lewis of not learning by their mistakes. After 2015’s debacle, they went back to basics, which in their case means ‘adorable animals doing human stuff’. In a nutshell: Couple set up a big trampoline for their daughter so that when she wakes up on Christmas day, it’s ready and waiting for her, but before she gets a chance to use it, loads of woodland creatures – pretty much everything you see in the 2013 debacle, apart from a bear, basically – pile onto it for a bounce-off.
The whole industry was looking to John for a strong, sure-footed showing after the previous year’s trauma, and all it took was some bouncing foxes and badgers to deliver. Good music too. Result, lads.
Cuddliness of advert: 9/10
Dreariness of soundtrack: 1/10
2017: MOZ THE MONSTER, accompanied by Elbow covering The Beatles’ Golden Slumbers
An advert that poses more questions than it answers, and not just, ‘So is this a rip-off of a 1980s children’s book then?’ Because it’s not readily apparent what the advert is, y’know, TRYING TO SAY. Kid has a monster living under his bed, parents buy him a night-light from John Lewis, the monster vanishes. Must be a done deal, right?
But the thing is, by the end of the advert, the nipper and the monster are best mates. They’re having a right load of laughs together. He shouldn’t WANT the monster to go. And yet his parents give him his fancy lamp and that’s exactly what happens. What’s the message here? John Lewis has presents so good, they’ll make you sack off your mates? John Lewis: The go-to store for parents who don’t really pay attention to what’s happening in their kids’ lives?
The bit when Moz farts is funny though.
Cuddliness of advert: 5/10
Dreariness of soundtrack: 4/10
Weird fact to finish: Did you know that every John Lewis Christmas ad is precisely 2 minutes and 11 seconds in length? Well, now you do.
This blog was composed by Small Man Media’s Writer Monkey Pete Cashmore. For Christmas this year, Pete hopes to receive ‘just a load of posh cheese, really’.
Every Friday is happy at Small Man Media, because indeed every single day at Small Man Media is happy, so why should Fridays be any different? We did have an unhappy day once, in 2014, but that was due to a blocked toilet and so we had a good excuse.
The happiest point in our already happy days comes when we get to play Popmaster. For those who don’t know it – which is probably three of you, tops – Popmaster is the fiendishly difficult pop music quiz on Ken Bruce’s Radio 2 morning show, and every day at 10.30am, half the nation clusters around their radio to listen to it.
We’re no different here at Small Man Media. We are, not to blow our own trumpets, flaming MAGNIFICENT at Popmaster. Make no mistake, we’re much better than you are. Yes we are. Just leave it, yeah?
So, for a bit of fun on Friday, we have decided to set you, our loyal subscriber base, a pop quiz that is LOOSELY BASED ON POPMASTER BUT ABSOLUTELY NOT A POPMASTER QUIZ IN ANY WAY for your enjoyment. We’re calling it that in case BBC2’s lawyers are a little bit trigger-happy. And there’s a theme to it! Every question is united by the common number of THREE, to tie in with the number of words in ‘Small Man Media’. Small, Man and Media, see? Three words.
This is an actual quiz with actual prizes, we just don’t happen to know what the prizes are yet. If you think you know them, tweet our Writer Monkey Pete to let him know that you believe you have all ten, and he will do the rest. Ladies and gentlemen, LET THERE BE POP!
1. ‘Three is the magic number!’ De La Soul once sang. Well, rapped, technically. But what are the hip-hop pseudonyms of the three members of De La Soul?
2. What was the name of Oui 3‘s biggest UK hit, which charted in 1993?
3. Which song garnered an Oscar nomination for its place on the Rocky III soundtrack?
4. Name all three members of 1980s popsters The Thompson Twins.
5.Here is a band with the word ‘Three’ in their name. Who are they?
6. London band Alabama 3 did the theme music for a classic HBO TV series. Name both the series AND the song.
7. Which song, which has been the subject of versions by Fats Domino, Doris Day, Nat King Cole, Smashing Pumpkins and Norah Jones among many others, contains these lyrics: “You find a cozy place, fireplace, cozy room / A little nest that nests where the roses bloom / Just Molly and me, and the baby makes three”?
8. Here is an all-male band with three members, who had the word ‘Three’ in their name. They also had two UK Top 10 hits with an all-girl three-piece in the 1980s. Name the all-male band AND the all-female band AND the two hits.
9. On March 3rd 2003 – or 3/3/03 – a Russian duo were at number 3 of the UK singles charts. Name the duo and the song.
10 (TEN POINT BONUS QUESTION). The following are the titles of albums considered to have been acts of ‘career suicide’ by the groups who released them. Name the bands.
a) Spirit Of Eden (1988)
b) Beauty Stab (1983)
c) Metal Machine Music (1975)
And there it is! Ten fiendishly difficult pop questions to test your musical knowledge or, as is more likely, your ability to scroll through Wikipedia pages at top speed.
If you think you have the answers to all 10 questions, tweet our Writer Monkey Pete Cashmore and say “OI! CASHMORE! I HAVE THE ANSWERS TO YOUR QUIZ SO GIVE ME THE PRIZE, YEAH?” and he might well send you some free stuff. FRIDAY, BABY!
There is a belief, widely held by those who have no actual experience of the industry, that the PR life is all about first class travel, all-expenses jaunts to foreign climes, dining on gubbins like snail porridge in the finest restaurants in the world, and hob-nobbing with the great and good.
And it’s right! That’s exactly what it’s like. It’s non-stop glamour and glitz, and nowhere is this more true than at Small Man Media, your one-stop shop for insight into the jet-setting high life. It’s 9.48am here at the office, for example, and we’ve already polished off two tins of beluga caviar. ON TOAST, FOR BREAKFAST! ON A THURSDAY!
It has been another crazy week of transglobal pootling (pootling, it’s a word, look it up, don’t ask ME to do all the work) for the team, because as the saying goes, ‘When the world is your oyster, pop a bit of tabasco sauce on it and eat it.’ We think it’s something like that anyway. On Sunday, for example, Dynamite Dan was off to London for the latest in the Sheaffer Sunday Matinees series of concerts by celebrated pianist Lucy Parham. Taking place in the gob-smackingly swish St John’s Smith Square venue and featuring the acting chops of Alex Jennings and Patricia ‘Miranda Hart’s TV mom’ Hodge, the concert told the story of the romantic life of the composer Frederic Chopin. Said young Daniel: “My young eyes and ears have never known such grandiosity and wonder! I left for London an uncultured boy, but I return a man with music indelibly etched into my very soul!”
We don’t know why he talks like that, he supports West Bromwich Albion.
The very next day, it was Head Honcho Ben‘s turn to throw a knapsack across his back and head to the capital, specifically The Black Heart in Camden, to meet all of the shortlisted acts in Firestone’s 2017 Battle Of The Bands contest. Six acts have made it through into the round of voting, and one of them, of course, will go onto bag themselves studio time and amp equipment courtesy of Orange Amplification, not to mention the kudos of being recognised as one of the UK’s very toppermost unsigned acts.
The exact identities of the chosen six will be revealed in due course, but the boss man reported back with the news that the shortlist is an intriguing mix of rockers, rappers, pure pop artistes and one band who are happy to admit they they are in their late forties. “I believe I may have discovered The Next Big Thing,” said Ben, and he wasn’t referring to the venue’s lunch buffet.
Not to be outdone by the chaps’ London larks – their ‘capital FUNishment’ if you like!!! – Big Enchilada Rachel was herself racking up the travel miles on Tuesday, as she gadded off to Manchester for the second Manchester Stationery Show at Victoria Warehouse, Old Trafford. The very finest stationery manufacturers packed the venue with examples of their latest wares, and so Small Man just had to be there, because we are to stationery PR what Donald Trump is to ownership of tiny ickle Tyrannosurus hands.
Said Rachel: “I always love attending exhibitions, not only to have a break away from the desk, but I always find it a great way to see what’s going on with new design trends, how companies present themselves and what designs are used on exhibition stands.” Which we reckon is code for ‘I get given lots of free drinks and stuff’.
All of which goes to show that when it comes to miles travelled in order to further the Small Man cause, an average week sees us LITERALLY (by which we mean FIGURATIVELY) going to the Moon and back. And we would not have it any other way.
This blog was brought to you by the Small Man Media Writer Monkey, Pete Cashmore. This week Pete won £11 on a pub quiz machine in Stafford. It is the most exciting thing that has ever happened to him in his life.
Here at Small Man Media, we like to think that we don’t just offer a service to our clients – we offer a service to THE WORLD. Because we’re nice like that.
Our newest member of the team is… Well, it’s me actually. Pete Cashmore: Writer Monkey. Before I joined the Small Man ensemble, I was a journalist. In fact, I technically still am one, as long as there are still publications fool enough to pay me. I have written for national newspapers, local newspapers, men’s magazines, women’s magazines, music magazines, style magazines, tennis magazines, luxury watch magazines and even the Easyjet in-flight magazine.
Over the course of my glittering(ish) career, I have, understandably, worked with many, many PR organisations, and have formed pretty firm opinions on what makes for good PR, and what makes for PR PR (the first ‘PR’ standing for ‘Pretty Risible’).
And so, with these in mind, I present to you now, Five Things That PRs Really Should Not Do.
1. SEND YOU A REALLY JAUNTY AND FAMILIAR EMAIL THAT IS REALLY OBVIOUSLY COPIED AND PASTED AND THEN TYPE YOUR NAME IN, BUT IN A DIFFERENT FONT
You know the kind of thing I mean. “Hi there pete cashmore. Hope you’re having a great Friday! How about this great weather! I hope it holds for the weekend pete cashmore!” It’s a sure-fire way to make a journalist feel like a faceless nobody languishing on an endless mailing list, when we are delicate flowers who like to feel that we are special.
2. ATTEMPT TO PIGGYBACK A MAJOR ONGOING ASPECT OF THE NEWS AGENDA IN AN INCREDIBLY SPURIOUS WAY
You know the kind of thing I mean (again). “Cristiano Ronaldo has been in the news this week after picking up the Ballon D’Or award – but did you know that Cristiano is also a big fan of black pudding? Well, next week is National Black Pudding Week and… Wait, come back! We hadn’t finished!”
There’s actually a serious point to this, and how it can all go horribly wrong. At least one UK PR firm, unbelievably, attempted PR pitches with the news hook being the Grenfell Tower disaster, and as a direct result, lost their client. The pitfalls may sometimes be glaringly obvious – people still fall into them.
3. TELL THE JOURNALIST HOW YOU SEE THEIR ARTICLE ‘WORKING’
Ah, bless ’em. It’s always difficult when you have a wonderful in-your-mind’s-eye image of how a page should look, with all its lovely coverage and branding and enthusiastic messages, but at the end of the day, it’s the magazine writers and designers and editors who make the decisions. As a PR, you can be guide, ideas generator-and-profferer and facilitator, but never, EVER, a dictator. Because dictators are bad.
I remember once, one PR person for A Very Popular Games Console Football Game That Shall Remain Nameless, started one of his emails with the phrase ‘Okay, here’s how the piece is going to look….’ Needless to say, he was not correct.
4. TAKE A GOOD LONG HARD LOOK IN THE MIRROR AND ASK YOURSELF: WOULD THE PUBLICATION TO WHOM I AM PITCHING REALLY FEATURE MY CLIENT?
A classic bugbear of commissioning editors everywhere – being pitched an article that would never, in a month of squillion Sundays, feature in their publication. It’s an infinitesimal waste of their time, it vaguely suggests that you haven’t actually familiarised yourself with the publication whose editorial needs you purport to understand, and above all, it’s a waste of YOUR time. And what is time? It’s MONEY baby!
5. CHECK THAT YOU HAVE ACTUALLY SPELLED THE JOURNALIST’S NAME CORRECTLY
“Dear Paul Cashmole, did you know that next week is National Black Pudding Week?” DELETE. DELETE AND NEVER COME BACK.
Pete Cashmore is (as he has already pointed out) Small Man Media’s Writer Monkey. He also makes a very fine seafood risotto, with cajun spices.