Words make ideas make money.
Ideas are great, but you need words to convey them.
I’ve been a copywriter for over 15 years and my blog has been ranked the #5 PR blog in the UK, so I know what it takes to make people sit up and take notice.
Take a look at some of the samples below and if you like my approach, get in touch.
- Award entry
- Service marketing
- Corporate newsletter
- Bylined articles
- National media
Client: Lloyds TSB FM / Hewlett Packard
Brief: Explain why the client’s solution is groundbreaking, within the confines of a standard award layout and eye-weary judges inundated with entries.
Results: It won!
Comment: Against considerable time constraints I managed to pull together input from several client sources to tell a cogent, coherent story, get this through approval and win the FST award for Best Use of IT in Wholesale and Investment Banking. For reasons of client confidentiality I cannot list the award entry here but I can supply a sample on request. Just ping me.
Client: Air Transport Action Group
Brief: Set up a blog that leads the way in discussing issues with regards to the aviation industry’s impact on the environment.
Results: The enviro.aero online programme, which encompassed the website, blog, YouTube and Facebook presences, won FlightGlobal’s Gold Webby Award for Best New Aviation Website.
Comment: I coached the enviro.aero team who write the Plane Talking blog themselves, guided by a blog strategy document. Below is a sample copy of the first blog post on Plane Talking. I provided guidance on the tone of voice and structure.
Welcome to the Plane Talking blog…
… and the very first post on the blog that discusses the environmental impact of flying.
First things first. What is this blog about?
At enviro.aero we’ve been looking at ways to get the message out about aviation and the environment. There’s a lot of discussion online, and while most of it’s constructive, not all of it is.
We prefer discussion that is well informed because that helps us understand each other better. But there’s a lot of misinformation out there. We keep coming across half-truths, fiction as fact, or opinion as analysis.
So, we thought a blog would be a good way to set a few records straight and join the debate. Most importantly, you get the chance to tell us – and anyone else reading – what you think.
You might be a frequent flyer with a strong view on CO2 emissions. Perhaps you have an insight into government aviation expansion policy. Maybe you’re an aviation engineer who really knows his nuts and bolts. Or possibly you’re a campaigner for an environmental organisation concerned about how industries are responding to climate change.
Whoever you are, if you have a view on aviation and the environment, we’d like to think that you’ll bookmark us or subscribe to us and watch the debate evolve. Or, even better than that, take part in that debate yourself.
Next up: Who are we?
I’m Paul Steele. I’m the director of the Air Transport Action Group (ATAG), which is the only global association representing all sectors of the air transport industry.
ATAG currently has over 70 members worldwide, including airports, airlines, manufacturers, air navigation services providers, airline pilot and air traffic controller unions, chambers of commerce, travel and tourism organisations, investment organisations, ground transportation and communications providers. In other words, virtually anyone and everyone connected with the aviation industry.
You will see me write blog posts occasionally, but I’d like to introduce the team from across the industry that will be blogging most often.
Haldane Dodd is on the team at ATAG and is our Head of Communications. He comes from the airport sector, having worked at Auckland Airport in New Zealand, before moving to Geneva and working for the Airports Council International. Haldane’s interest in the environment extends back to when he was a child growing up in New Zealand, where he spent time fundraising for Greenpeace by coordinating local neighbourhood kids!
Quentin Browell is an Assistant Director with the International Air Transport Association’s aviation and environment team, reporting on the environmental progress being made by airlines. IATA members include some 230 airlines representing 93 percent of scheduled international traffic. Before he joined IATA, Quentin was jointly responsible for developing his previous company’s environment policy and he has also served as head of public affairs at a consultancy which advised clients, including Unilever and 3M, on environmental policy issues.
Chris Goater is based in Amsterdam and is Director of Communications for CANSO, ‘the global voice of ATM’, which represents air navigation service providers across the world. Chris was part of the group that launched the UK Sustainable Aviation project when he worked for the Airport Operators Association in London.
That’s our blogging team but we will also be inviting guest bloggers from across the industry to join the conversation.
So, what are we going to talk about?
We’ll be flagging interesting news items, previewing events, and reviewing them. We’ll offer monthly and quarterly news round-ups, interviews, posts by guest bloggers, and so on – basically whatever we think contributes positively to a balanced debate.
If you want to know more, the enviro.aero website at http://www.enviro.aero should give you an all-round perspective on issues such as alternative aviation fuels, the carbon footprint of flying and emissions trading.
And our YouTube channel at http://www.youtube.com/user/enviroaero gives you the facts about aviation and the environment as well as the steps the air transport industry is taking to reduce its emissions.
But we’re also open to suggestions. If you’d like to see something here, tell us.
What happens now?
Now you know who we are and what we’ll be talking about, it would be nice to get a bit of feedback. As they say in flight lessons, “You have control.”
From what you’ve read on the site so far, is there anything you like? Anything you don’t? Do you have any great ideas that we could look into? Is there any interesting news you’ve come across that you want to pass our way? Or do you just want to say hello?
In which case, say it!
Client: Porter Novelli UK
Brief: Rewrite and revamp the UK website for this major PR agency to give it a separate and yet complementary identity to that of the parent US company. Identify the brand’s core propositions and communicate them to an audience that wants the story quickly.
Results: A rise in search hits and favourable anecdotal response from clients, both current and prospective.
Comment: The website was recently re-revamped(!), so the copy is no longer online. However, here are three samples showing how I distilled Porter Novelli UK’s brand values into copy that put across its points in succinct, short paragraphs.
Home page: We are many minds, singular results.
Porter Novelli is a global public relations company.
Our reputation for performance is built on our unique ability to gain an unbiased view of your entire communications landscape – from your opportunities and options to your risks and priorities.
Our people are pioneering, innovative thinkers who stop at nothing to match your strategic objectives to creative communications.
We hire many diverse minds from the worlds of industry, media and advertising, such as journalists who keep us attuned to the way the media works and creative specialists with insights that directly affect the bottom line.
And while we have global reach we also have local expertise, ensuring we create the best communications strategy for you – bar none.
Our approach: We take a strategic approach based on rigour, tenacity and creativity.
Where are you now? Where do you want to be? And how will you get there?
These are deceptively simple questions that get to the heart of what makes a business – or communications strategy – succeed or fail.
To make sure we succeed we use tools that show us challenges from all angles, and techniques to make our solutions work hard.
* Our strategic planners were the first in any PR agency in the UK and they are still at the heart of the way we do business.
* Our strategic approach to creativity gets the most out of your marketing spend.
* Our uncompromising approach to measurement means we always agree clear targets before starting work on any programme.
Our practices: We can help you understand the issues now and recognise the changes that tomorrow will bring.
Your public relations agency needs to understand your business – and the industry it works in – at least as well as you do.
Every sector represents a distinct and evolving “ecosystem” shaped by its own business model, legal framework, culture, and language.
As thought leaders whose success is built on having expertise in your industry, we can help you understand the issues now, and recognise the changes that tomorrow will bring – both for your firm and its stakeholders.
* Our healthcare practice breaks down the jargon and sees the challenge through your audience’s eyes.
* Our technology practice helps some of the world’s leading technology brands exceed their business goals.
* We also have deep expertise in a number of other industry groups.
Brief: Explain what the website is about, how it works and who it is for
Results: A very happy client with lots of coverage
Comment: I spent several days in Madrid, working out Ideas4All’s brand propositions and developing ways to bring them to life. We hit upon the idea of ‘Brain-fu’ to express a contributor’s standing in the community – as in ‘my Brain-fu is strong’ – which has been used throughout the site. This is the FAQ copy encapsulating what the site is about, but take a look at IdeasforAll to see what they’re up to now.
Welcome to ideas4All.
ideas4All is where people with ideas can share them, or change someone’s day, or change the world.
It’s where people who need solutions can find them.
It’s also where people can browse ideas, surf solutions, and have fun.
In short, ideas4All is about connecting. Imagine millions of ideas all running around inside a Global Brain, all interconnecting and working together. It is big, and it is clever.
From all, for all. Everyone has ideas worth sharing. Any idea can trigger other ideas. That’s how the Global Brain works.
Do you have ideas – complicated or simple?
Could they change someone’s day? Could they change the world? Are they fun?
If so, you’re an ideator, and the Global Brain needs you.
When you looked under your bed, was your idea there? Did your idea jump out the window and run off down the street?
No more. Your ideas can live here. You can share them. Or maybe you want recognition for your ideas. Perhaps you think that, one day, they could make money. Or they could simply make the world a better place.
Now you know you are an ideator, you can do something about it.
Any idea can trigger other ideas. Share your ideas with the Global Brain and watch it grow.
Do you have problems, or challenges, or opportunities?
Are you looking for solutions? Or just a bit of fun?
If so, you’re a questor, and the Global Brain can help.
Perhaps you have an annoying problem that you need to fix. Maybe your door creaks, or you need to reduce the wastage in your area to protect the environment. Or maybe your company needs to solve clean power generation before its competitors.
Or it could be that you simply want someone to change the world.
Now you know you are a questor, you can do something about it.
All problems can trigger ideas. Share your problems with the Global Brain and solve them.
Do you want to voice your opinion or cast your vote?
Are you curious about, well, things? Stuff?
If so, you’re a navigator. Navigator, meet the Global Brain.
The Global Brain is about the simple ideas and the sophisticated ideas. It’s about how ideas can trigger other ideas about your everyday life or your world. It’s about problems and their solutions. It’s huge and interconnected and it can be fun.
Now you know you are a navigator, you can do something about it.
The Global Brain loves navigators. They’re the people who help it think straight, by browsing, voting, commenting. They can also connect ideas with problems.
So go ahead, navigator. Engage, and watch the Global Brain grow.
What do one million ideas look like?
A city? A novel? A popular TV programme? A really big brain?
There’s only one way to find out. Join the Million Mission and build the Global Brain with one million ideas.
Everybody has ideas worth sharing. You might not even realise it. Whether they’re sophisticated or simple or fun, you have ideas. Whether they change someone’s day or change the world, you have ideas.
It’s going to take some time, but by submitting your ideas, you could help create a world record.
You will certainly help build the Global Brain and in that, you’re helping everyone, ideators, questors and navigators alike. The Global Brain will love you for it.
It’s a vision. Build the Global Brain with your ideas and watch it grow.
Client: Knowledge Technology Solutions (KTS)
Brief: Identify and communicate the USP of a service that is technologically in advance of a traditionally conservative market.
Results: The website and copy rework preceded a sales surge that saw KTS land two of its biggest contracts.
Comment: As publications manager at KTS I was responsible for everything clients read or saw, online and offline. The copy below came from a thorough review of what our target audiences wanted from our flagship product, called MarketTerminal.
MarketTerminal is a powerful real-time market information service with international coverage.
It is delivered from our secure servers via any network and runs on a standard web browser, so you simply connect, and get on with the business of making money.
MarketTerminal can take you from analysis of entire markets down to detailed stock performance quickly and easily. From a macro view of FTSE indices, to an overview of the FTSE-100, to focusing on an individual stock, its interface is immediate and responsive, while its wealth of features enables you to see quotes, examine histories and monitor price movements with confidence.
At the heart of MarketTerminal lies sophisticated – and therefore cost-effective – technology. This makes possible not only its unique delivery mechanism – simply connect wherever you are – but also its many and varied features, including a powerful search engine that immediately lists stocks according to any search criteria.
But that’s just technology. When you connect, you’ll be backed up by our best-in-class support team, ready to handle any query, deal with requests, and pass on enhancement suggestions to our technical teams.
Client: Knowledge Technology Solutions (KTS)
Brief: Align the company with market concerns
Results: Secured mentions in publications alongside relevant technological and financial issues
Comment: As publications manager at KTS I was responsible for everything clients read or saw, online and offline. Click the thumbnail to the left to see the full article, or read the copy below.
Prepare to make the leap
Do you know what MiFID is, and are you ready for it?
A £1.5 billion juggernaut is heading for the City, but not many firms appear to be taking appropriate action to prepare for its impact. That is the widely held view of observers ahead of the arrival of the latest legislation from the European Commission, MiFID.
MiFID is the acronym for the Market in Financial Instruments Directive, broadly speaking a measure to remove regulatory differences and encourage cross border trading in securities. Brussels hopes MiFID will provide a massive boost to cross border trade in financial services, increase competition and drive down prices.
It sounds reasonable enough – unless you are one of the hundreds of firms in the UK forced to develop expensive software systems, change internal procedures and retrain staff to cope with the new regime.
Impact day has already been delayed by a year until the spring of 2007 but many believe the measures should be postponed again to give firms more time to get to grips with the new system.
As providers ourselves of essential market data information to the City we can see first hand how few companies have put in place the software systems necessary to cope with it. Indeed, some technology officers are not even aware of its existence, which is particularly significant when estimates of the cost of implementation broadly come out at around £1.5 billion. That represents an IT impact as significant as the changes to computer systems required for the arrival of the year 2000.
So what is MiFID attempting? MiFID is designed to let banks and investment groups authorised in their own country offer financial services such as share trading across the EU.
The aim is to make dealing more transparent so a client buying shares in, say BT or Marks & Spencer will know whether a broker in Frankfurt or Paris could offer him a better price than his own firm in the City of London.
Under the new Directive, market traders must post not only the prices at which they have dealt shares – known as post-trade transparency – but also the prices they are willing to buy and sell shares.
A raft of other measures are also proposed to enforce the new regulations, among them the requirement to maintain computer records of transactions for up to five years.
It isn’t just equity markets which will be affected. The Directive also covers European bond markets. This has triggered a pretty robust campaign by associations representing capital markets in various European countries.
Bankers are opposed to the idea that they should have to meet the same standards of price transparency and disclosure in the fixed income and structured finance sector as the equity world.
They are claiming that the fragmented nature of the fixed income markets means excessive price transparency could obstruct, not assist, liquidity levels.
Not surprisingly, regulators reject this view, arguing that the lack of transparency actually deters investors and reduces trading volumes while allowing banks to make fat margins on the trades.
No one doubts the noble sentiments behind MiFID – and indeed some of the other measures introduced by the EU.
Brussels’s mission, set out in its Financial Services Action Plan in 1999, was to create liquid markets in Europe that would allow banks, brokers, insurers and investment funds to compete freely across borders providing cheaper services for millions of investors. The objective was to turn Europe into the world’s most competitive economy by 2010.
Those of us who have travelled across Europe or had dealings with companies in mainland Europe recognise that dream is a long way from being realised. Out of date working practices, excessive bureaucracy, and rigid internal markets still bedevil the EU.
So we should welcome measures aimed at greater harmonisation especially if the result is a better and cheaper service for investors. Earlier this year Dresdner Kleinwort Wasserstein unveiled the first electronic order system for retail brokers that would allow them to comply with the new directive.
But not all firms are as advanced or have the financial resources of one of the city’s leading investment houses. Firms should not be railroaded into installing costly systems to meet unrealistic deadlines.
This is perhaps where smaller technology companies can play a vital role. Historically, such companies have proven themselves inventive and cost-effective, and provide solutions that please regulators and regulated alike. They specialise in the art of the possible, finding niches in markets because they are fleet of foot and quick to seize new opportunities, such as the one provided by MiFID.
So, MiFID is workable. However, perhaps this should be qualified by the following: give different deadlines for different companies depending on their size and resources; and have waivers for small firms whose non-compliance with the directive is unlikely to jeopardise the project.
Client: The Engineering and Technology Board
Brief: Create core copy that can be used on posters, flyers and brochures to put across the message about The Big Bang young scientists and engineers fair – without necessarily appealing only to young scientists and engineers.
Results: Nearly 5,000 young people and over 1,500 teachers, politicians, exhibitors, sponsors and general supporters enjoyed the UK’s biggest celebration of science and engineering.
Comment: The challenge here was to engage with young people without being condescending in any way. We carried out extensive research on our tone of voice to make sure we weren’t doing this – and managed to extend the Big Bang metaphor throughout the copy.
The Big Bang Fair bursts onto the scene from 4th to 6th March 2009 at the Queen Elizabeth II Conference Centre, Westminster, London.
It will feature compelling and exciting shows and workshops across the entire science and engineering spectrum; displays and demonstrations of leading-edge UK technology; and exhibition stands to showcase further inspirational projects.
The Big Bang also features the newly established National Science Competition, where two stars will emerge – the first ever UK Young Scientist of the Year and UK Young Technologist of the Year.
It’s going to be massive, so book your place now.
Client: Procter & Gamble (Gillette)
Brief: Turn the raw results of the client’s research into 12,000 men and women across Europe and their attitudes towards male grooming into a report with compelling, digestible copy that fits brand propositions
Results: A delighted client, massive Europe-wide media reportage, and continued online mentions.
Comment: This is one of the largest projects I have worked on. The challenge was figuring out where the real story lay for each nation in the study, and to write this in a way that sustained interest, was readily quotable by editors, and remained faithful to the brand’s image. Click each thumbnail below to see the full page, or read the copy below.
Across Europe, every day, men prepare to be their best.
When men look good, they feel good and perform well. Looking and feeling good requires care and attention, giving grooming an increasingly important part to play in a man’s day. For many men, shaving is at the heart of the grooming process – the razor is the key that unlocks their day.
For men across Europe, grooming is such an essential part of preparing to face the world that it has become a vital daily ritual. Everyone has a sequence of steps that they take before taking on the challenges of the day, before a night out with friends or before a special event. For many men, the act of shaving is a key part of this ritual. But increasingly men are looking beyond shaving to skin care, hair care and body grooming. They are spending more on grooming and are increasingly seeking information and advice. They want to look good, and feel good about themselves.
Gillette has been at the heart of men’s grooming for years and wanted to find out more about these rituals and the motivations behind them. So it asked approximately 12,000 men and women across Europe about their attitudes towards male grooming.
Gillette asked men how these attitudes change as they grow older, what is important to them and whether women agree. It looked at the products they use, the secrets they keep and the assumptions they make.
It found similarities and differences between nations, across the continent, and secrets, stereotypes and surprises. From skin care to body grooming, from the everyman to the supreme champion, Gillette has uncovered a wealth of insights.
The average European man will spend 29 weeks of his life on personal grooming
The average German man will spend 47 weeks.
The truth about personal preparation can be surprising. For example: German men care more about their appearance than almost any other nation in Europe, but they’re regarded as amongst the worst groomed. Meanwhile, women and men across Europe consider Italians to be the best groomed men. Yet Italian men don’t spend more time on grooming than other nationalities. They just manage, effortlessly, to be their best day after day.
Men also care about grooming, and are growing even more confident about this. They spend more now than three years ago, with Spanish and Greek men the highest spenders in skin care and hair care. Across Europe, men are increasingly choosing their own products. And, beyond choosing for themselves, they’re becoming confident enough to discuss this with partners and even mothers.
But at the heart of men’s preparation still lies secrecy. One in four men keeps his rituals to himself. A German does this because he wants to present a natural look, while a Greek wants to preserve his masculinity. Men still protect the secrets they regard as helping them be their best. They still gain confidence to be their best by holding something back.
If it hurts, it works
Swedish men are the Sven-Göran Erikssons of the grooming world.
As with the quiet, charismatic football manager, they keep their strategy secrets to themselves. They are also fiercely independent, with the highest percentage in Europe having taught themselves to shave.
And they do employ an eye-opening, if eye-watering, array of techniques. Swedish men are the most likely (38%) to remove hair from their groin area. Yes, it’s true. They are twice as likely to use tanning products than others in Europe (22% of men as opposed to 11% on average).
They are also more likely to borrow skin care and hair care products from their partner than any other country.
Surely with this array of rituals, can it be true that they also take the least time preparing in the morning? Just so. The Swede spends a total of just 21 weeks of his life in the bathroom compared to the German who will spend 47 weeks there. Swedish women endorse this get-up-and-go approach: they are also the most stubble-tolerant. Nearly a quarter of them think this looks the best, but, in keeping with the rest of Europe, a lot more of them (56%) prefer clean-shaven cheeks.
Grooming is something Swedish men do throughout their lives. They don’t regard it as especially important at one time compared to another, so for example they wouldn’t be more likely to groom when looking for a partner or trying to get that top job. They would, however, be more anxious to shave before meeting the in-laws than any other nation. The subject of in-laws is clearly no laughing matter to a Swede.
Client: Hewlett Packard
Brief: Explain business benefits of itanium technology to CIOs/Spearhead HP’s Green Computing Initiative
Results: Placement in CIO magazine, a popular UK magazine with a controlled circulation over 21,000 readers
Comment: With bylined articles I like to talk to the client first to get an idea of their personality. In both of the following cases I was fortunate in that I was able to convey this with the client’s blessing.
Joining Up the Automation
Lost. It’s a behemoth of a series. It’s big, it’s expensive, and no one really understands what’s going on. And while viewers try to make sense of it once a week, it could just be that your customers face exactly this situation every morning. It could be that they’re dealing with huge, complicated systems that have become disconnected and terribly expensive to run. They might be spending 70 percent of the budget simply keeping the lights on.
Lost is fiction, while fragmented, expensive systems are all too much fact. As separate departments have developed their own systems, created their own databases and adopted different standards, so they have become ‘islands of automation’. They are lost. They are unable to communicate with other islands, less still integrate with them. And, in the same way Lost just needs a rewrite, there is a neat, easy solution to system fragmentation. It’s called itanium.
Itanium recognises that complexity costs money, creates inflexibility and reduces reliability. The flipside is also true: keep it simple, and you can be cheap, flexible and reliable. Itanium can bring together fragmented systems, speed up new projects and enable top notch service agreements, all within the umbrella of simplicity.
Firstly, fragmentation. Equipment tends just to be bought on a one-off basis, and this creates those disconnected islands of automation. For each island, costs rise as new equipment is bought, when there may already be spare capacity in another inaccessible island. Or, it could be that suddenly a new business direction requires that islands communicate, yet they are so radically different that this becomes a real headache if not impossible. Instead of ripping this all out and starting again, itanium offers a common platform across which these islands can communicate. Its virtualisation capabilities enable people and processes to use disparate processors, operating systems and servers as a cohesive whole.
Secondly, development time. Configuring and testing new infrastructures can be painful when conflicting hardware is being brought together. Furthermore, your customers might find that when they’ve figured how to make it all work, the project’s direction has changed anyway. Far better to put together anything and everything that is available, lay a consistent platform across it all that just works, and get the project under way. Even if the project does change, itanium can change alongside. It readily enables that database-intensive system to accommodate that new end of day processing requirement.
Which brings us to the final issue of reliability, in an ever-tougher environment of service level agreements. Complexity is inherently unreliable, so it’s foolhardy in the extreme to sign agreements on the basis of a complicated, unreliable setup. As you or your customers strive to guarantee resource availability, itanium offers a way of simplifying all this and therefore making it more reliable.
So your customers may be living a twilight existence, alone and cut off in a confusing world. That’s the effect Lost has on people. Much better to simplify everything and make it work in a way people understand. Like, for example, Sesame Street.
Green Computing is a Healthier Lunch
Isaac Newton, when he postulated his first law of thermodynamics, essentially said “There’s no such thing as a free lunch.” The could be bad news for companies that want to become more environmentally aware, because it implies that to do so they will have to spend exorbitant amounts of money.
But instead of a free lunch, let’s look at it this way: there is such a thing as a lunch that is better for you and which leaves you spare change to buy a nice new frock. What we’re talking about here is a tofu salad followed by a gentle yoga session. It will cost a lot less and you’ll be much trimmer as a result.
It’s no secret that companies are shockingly wasteful in their use of IT resources, principally in their energy usage. Typically about 50 percent of power costs go into cooling – so it costs the same amount to cool as it does to compute. Furthermore, about two-thirds of this cooling energy is wasted. And to add to this, about 85 percent of the world’s data centres are overcooled by about 200 percent. The problem stacks up with inefficiency upon inefficiency so energy policies should be the first consideration when reducing expenditure.
So what, practically, can companies do about this? Let’s look at this from the top of an enterprise right down to processor cores.
At the data centre level you have great potential to reduce power consumption. Power constitutes around half of a data centre’s operational spending so if we go backwards with the maths, about half of that is cooling power, only one third of which is effective, and only half of which is needed. So immediately there is the potential to reduce a quarter of a data centre’s energy consumption by over 90%.
And you can realise this potential. Intelligent aircon systems use myriads of sensors to maintain correct temperatures throughout a data centre. Virtualisation can simplify the data centre’s setup and drive utilisation by performing the same number of tasks on fewer servers. Hosted and grid computing and hosted software also deliver software packages to many users with a much smaller energy footprint. In fact, you can remove entire data centres through virtualisation and hosting alone.
We can still drill down further. At the rack level you can standardise on rack designs and physically make better use of your space. At the datamart level you can use software to load-manage more efficiently. At the unit level you can choose to buy more efficient units that feature more efficient cooling – less airflow, less space, less power for cooling. And at the processor level you can make decisions based on whether or not a particular CPU has a reputation for running cool. Let’s not forget that everything mentioned in this paragraph also falls under the purview of virtualisation – take a CPU out here, replace a memory chip there and the system carries on regardless.
These changes will also have knock-on effects throughout your enterprise. As systems become more efficient and automated, so your manpower costs can be reduced as you allocate people to work more productively core activities other than maintenance and support. Purchasing will be reduced because you will be able to buy less hardware. Even rental costs could go down as you rationalise and reduce your number of data centres. Slowly it could even be that your staff take onboard the environmental message by making better use of their resources. For example, a monitor left on costs £45 a year – turn it off and you bring that down to £10.
Individually these changes all make small differences. Together they will slash your energy expenditure and you will be both ecologically and economically better off. More importantly you will be in a much better position to embrace change. As everything seems to move faster, only the companies able to adapt will survive. From Newton to Darwin in one article. Einstein would be proud.
Brief: Submit an article on a pet hate
Results: Appeared as lead article in Observer Magazine
Comment: This was my first ‘big break’ as a writer. The Spleen series was advertised as allowing non-journalists to submit a piece on their pet hates. I sent mine in as a fresh, tender graduate – and was published as the lead article.Click the thumbnail to the left to see the full article, or read the copy below.
I remember the first time I saw computer-generated television programme titles. I can’t recall exactly what the programme was, but I was very impressed by the smoothly moving collage I saw before me: polished aluminium reflected multiple shades as the entire construction rotated, and warm-looking abstract shapes floated in darkness to settle into a word. “Wow,” I thought. Perhaps all the arguments I’d had with my father about the usefulness of computer graphics had finally been vindicated.
I remember the last time I saw computer-generated titles. They had lots of abstract shapes floating around in the air, wacky, way-out images stencilled across the screen and looping in improbable ways that only a computer could generate and a computer programmer conceive. What they said was: “Look at the excitement and spontaneity of these titles. God, the programme must be good.”
The graphics or news and current affairs impart a different message. Look, for instance, at the majesty of Newsnight’s solar system, starting with a mini-nebula and spinning around several globes spinning around the centre, until we spin back to the centre where the title sits, not spinning. And then again there’s the metallurgy of Channel 4 News, in which we have a smoothly moving collage of polished aluminium reflecting multiple shapes as the entire construction rotates.
What we have here is a producer’s dream. Beautiful, warm, easily generated images that he can twist and bend and bounce, giving us subliminal messages to prepare our subconscious for the events to follow. Or: stuck for an idea? Grab a computer programmer as he squats in the corner smoking something suspicious, slap him about a bit, shove him in front of a screen and get him to produce something-or-other from his bouncy-bits library, and we should be all right.
Whatever happened to the classic title sequences of yesteryear, when all that designers had were models and tiny cameras precariously perched on huge booms? The Tomorrow’s World titles were great: I can still remember one showing eggs boiling with the Tomorrow’s World logo on them, and another where a huge, spherical brain was opened up and all the flaps and folds formed Star Wars-type canyons. The music was good too.
I think it was ITN that, years ago, had a patchwork of pictures of people typing, drinking cups of coffee, and running around in a frenzy to get everything together on time. You never knew what was going to happen after those titles – you half expected to see the newscaster tucking his shirt into his underpants. And the endearing thing about the Blue Peter titles was that there was a good chance that behind them something incongruous might be happening.
Now the Tomorrow’s World titles have ‘gone digital.’ These new ones say to me: ‘Stuff all that analogue nonsense, from now on everything’s going to be perfect.’ And we have a digitally perfect Blue Peter too, with a perfect wind flowing through a perfect flag on a perfect ship.
So why do these titles annoy me? Perhaps I’m just fed up with them. They’re an example of how everything will be integrated and flawless in the not too distant future. A dehumanised, detached, lifeless series of library images wandering around the screen, they will convey the impression of a standardised, homogenised programme waiting under the controller’s button to flood our living rooms with pre-sanitised entertainment.
We will have programmes scheduled and monitoring by computer, edited digitally and produced without a blemish. Now that everything is bound by this digital strait-jacket, I guess we will never again see a newscaster’s legs, or a Blue Peter presenter hanging by his genitals from the studio rigging. We may see a computer simulation, though.