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Terrorists stand to gain most from turmoil in Pakistan 

Who stands to gain the most from ’s assassination? Her supporters and those of Nawaz Sharif say President . But being an outsider (and perhaps not the best informed) looking in, I don’t think Gen Musharraf, knowing the scrutiny he already faces by countries such as the US, would risk the aid that is getting.
   Who would? The .
   Get intelligent but passionate Pakistanis pointing the finger at each other and have them weaken themselves. Then, divide and conquer.
   What is interesting to this discussion is that in November, CNN ran a story on its blog and the comments, many from Pakistanis, tell an interesting story. Numerous commenters are in support of President Musharraf, quite a different picture to what western have been showing over the last two months.
   I believe they paint a more accurate picture of her popularity, or lack thereof, than what the can muster. Certainly Pakistanis are better equipped to talk about their own nation than bloggers like me.
   That, too, must move the finger of blame away from the Government.
   Ms Bhutto’s level of popularity may have made her an easier target for , as she was prepared to hold political rallies that might not be as well attended as she wished.
   I believe we can agree that Ms Bhutto said she was prepared to stamp out in her country, so on that note she is as much a threat to the Taliban just as the President is. President Musharraf has been the target of similar assassinations, so far unsuccessful.
   The Taliban and al-Qaeda have shown that they are prepared to use such techniques in the past, so why should things differ now? And if Benazir Bhutto made an easy target, more so after the lifting of the state of emergency in Pakistan on December 15, then they were bound to take the opportunity. Thirteen days is a long enough time for the terrorists to group and act.
   Whomever we are dealing with here, it is safe to identify them as cowards who have little respect for Islam or, for that matter, basic human principles. It is not too hard to point the finger at terrorist groups.
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TV networks’ influence slips further 

From Shel Israel’s Global Neighbourhoods: ‘TV Networks have another year of decline’. He quotes from Crain’s New York Business:

Facing increased competition from cable and new forms of entertainment on the Internet, the broadcast have seen their hold on the American psyche slipping. This trend continued in 2007, when after a fairly promising upfront early in the year, the networks failed to produce the hits they needed to re-establish themselves. As of December, the networks’ prime-time ratings in the key 18- to 49-year-old age category were all down: at NBC by 11%, at CBS by 10% and at ABC by 5%.

   It does not surprise me. The key for 2008 is for those of us in the to position ourselves toward new technologies—but not be so far ahead that we don’t get any viewers. With heading north the way it has, and now commonplace, this could be a very good year for web-based and independents breaking the stranglehold of the networks, globally.
   We’ve already seen how Lonelygirl15 gripped imaginations during 2006, and with the TV networks largely afraid to experiment with new programmes (or, in the case of Journeyman, under-promote), non-traditional television production may be the winner in the New Year.
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Living the Brand website up 

I’m very blessed in the world to know both the man who coined the term living the , Ian Ryder, and the man who wrote the seminal book on the topic, Nicholas Ind.
   Nicholas has launched a website to coincide (nearly) with the publication of the latest edition of Living the Brand, which has an interactive film about Patagonia (covered in Chapter One in the book), a voting booth for visitors’ favourite brands, an e-learning section where visitors can put the principles into practice, case studies of success stories and a discussion forum.
   I have read a lot of Nicholas’s work since The Corporate Image and say without any exaggeration that he is one of the cleverest branding practitioners in the world today. This site will grow to be one of the best branding resources online, from one of the most authoritative voices.
   It’s not only Nicholas who will participate. Majken Schultz, Mary Jo Hatch, Cristian Saracco and Cameron Watt will play a part in updating the site with their branding pieces.
   Surf to www.livingthebrand.org.
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Bruni joins Sarko in Luxor 

[Cross-posted] The French political and gossip press, as well as some glossies, united over Christmas as President ’s girlfriend, model-turned-singer , flew to Luxor with his family to stay at the five-star Hotel Sofitel Old Winter Palace (left), near the Karnak temple. The family flew on a Falcon 900 private jet loaned by billionaire Vincent Bolloré. This was confirmed by the Élysée.
   The states that President Sarkozy has an official visit in Egypt on the 30th, but has not elaborated on Ms Bruni’s role.
   The left is critical of the relationship being in the limelight, despite an earlier poll showing that 89 per cent of French people regard it as a private matter.
   Given the state of the non-political , the attention Sarkozy and Bruni have received is unsurprising and cannot be levelled entirely at the President. While he has been attacked over a lack of solemnity for the office by Jean Matouk, a leftist economist, one thinks that even the most restrained of conduct would not stop public and gossip media interest. The alternative, surely, must be to transport Ms Bruni as cargo—or hide the relationship altogether (as ’s married predecessors once did with their extramarital affairs) in an age of transparency?
   The price of the rooms at the Old Winter Palace might be a better target for leftists: some of the top suites go for $1,100 per night, according to Libération.
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New Zealand Government splashes out on gas-guzzling limousines—Greens attack 

[Cross-posted] Again, only the Greens seem to be raising a stink in the Parliament (National is silent) about the new limousines on order for governmental use.
   As co-leader Jeanette Fitzsimons pointed out, the new BMW 730Lds on order from the Bavarian automaker contravenes even the government’s own directives for fuel economy.
   The cars, at least based on list prices, are essentially twice the price of the Ford Fairlanes they are succeeding. The government’s defence, that the Fairlanes will be deleted from Ford Australia’s range, falls on deaf ears, since the rival Holden Statesman is still being made, and sold at a comparable price.
   The Dog & Lemon Guide has warned that maintaining the cars will be pricey, too.
   I happen to agree with the opinions of both Ms Fitzsimons and the Guide’s editor, Clive Matthew-Wilson. These cars will send the wrong message: that politicians are somehow above the rest of us (consider who normally buys 7-series BMWs). Additionally, the cars are a bad choice environmentally—contravening the country’s green image.
   We know that this and the opposition both think they are above the rest of us and that they have no trouble with hypocrisy.
   I predict that what might happen is that everyday motorists will block these BMW limousines out of a sense of injustice.
   I still remember the days when Prime Minister drove his own Triumph 2500S to work and got stuck in traffic like the rest of us.
   Security might deem that unsafe but as the Irish newspaper points out today, even Ms Fitzsimons drives to work in her own 1·3-litre car.
   There has to be a happy medium, maybe having a diplomatic protection police officer accompany the PM if she wishes to drive to work.
   This is spending at a time when we should be more prudent with taxpayer funds, especially in upcoming years.
   While Mr Matthew-Wilson believes a Toyota Crown or Lexus would be a better bet, I was remarking to myself how the diesel Superb would be quite good today.
   The Superb is one of the most economical diesels I have tested and the legroom—more than an old Mercedes-Benz S-class—is more than suitable for our MPs.
   I have wondered why even taxi fleets have shied away from the Czech-built car here as it affords far more comfort than the Toyota Camry that is fast becoming the choice of cabbies in Wellington.
   And at NZ$59,990 for the current model (to be replaced next year), it makes infinitely more sense than the BMW.
   If the Superb is good enough for the President of the Czech Republic, it is more than enough for our ministers—which reveals that the decision to go with BMW could not have been motivated by proper policy considerations. Something is rotten in Denmark, but we’ve known that for years.
   Choosing a long-wheelbase BMW at this point makes us look more like —oh, hang on—maybe that is the message.
   What a pity National is not taking the opportunity to use this against Labour—again has not been able to see the massive bullseye target painted on the Internal Affairs’ Minister.
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Eight hundred posts 

Considering it took me just over a year to do 600 posts on this blog, getting to 800 last night seems like I have slowed down. But when you work out that I have done 600 on my Vox blog as of today, then I probably haven’t.
   The Vox blog is great for the casual, throwaway posts, as well as some in rougher shape. The more work-related and thought-out ones come here. In neither case are the posts in what I would call properly researched journalistic shape.
   I have had moments of regret blogging: the time the blog takes away from my other interests, and from my email. But this year, with more balance in my life and knowing that this is here to serve me rather than vice versa, I like to think I am blogging at a comfortable level.
   I know that if I stuck to blogging like Hugh MacLeod or Robert Scoble have—and in the first few months there were signs that I could rival the masters on frequency—I could have built up some fairly substantial traffic, but that’s not my purpose.
   My aim, when I think about it, was to record thoughts about my work and some of the theories behind it.
   And a lot of those theories have not suddenly changed since 2006, hence there is less of a need to constantly post the principles. I do, as people who have worked for me will tell you, hate repeating myself.
   I hope the pace is right for those of you who subscribe to this blog via RSS and for those who visit on a regular basis.
   In 2008, I cannot predict what my rate of will be, but you can look forward to the casual stuff at Vox and the Lucire-specific stuff at the Lucire website. I like to think that I have settled into a good range of subjects here for those of you following this blog since ’06.
   Feedback is, of course, always welcome.

Photo credit: Matthew Plummer
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Why bother with US TV? It’s just like US corporations 

[Cross-posted] My comment on the Journeyman Blog today:

Mike, you are being generous. I’m no longer going to watch American serials that don’t have self-contained episodes as my “default” position, making exceptions for presently unforeseeable situations. I feel that strongly about Journeyman.
   Journeyman was an exception, but I have managed to stay away from all the other so-called hits with “story arcs” anyway (Lost, Heroes, The Nine, Traveler, Prison Break, 24, etc.).
   Like you, I was a Day Break fan and we managed to get, fortunately, all 13 episodes networked here (albeit at a really sucky time). I gave Journeyman a chance on the strength of a fabulous pilot but now, if I hear ‘Made in USA’ along with ‘story arc’, I just won’t bother.

   This cannot be good for the US TV industry, but if it has morons running the networks, then what can it expect? was the last straw, especially as I tracked how the show unfolded and how inept had been. This isn’t the first series that I have followed that was cancelled prematurely—but after so many of these, where American networks cannot understand that loyalty to the network brand also depends on overall product quality, I am just fed up.
   This is the syndrome. The story is this: the Taurus was a huge hit for . Instead of continual improvement, Ford opted to abandon the Taurus, letting it get trampled by the Toyota Camry and Honda Accord, when the SUV boom happened. Toyota and Honda, instead, kept improving their sedans and developed SUVs. By 2006, the Taurus was a joke, sold to rental car fleets. It was only for the 2007 model year that Ford transferred the Taurus name on to its Five Hundred. By that time, Ford lost a lot of customers to the Japanese and there are people who felt their loyalty had been thrown into their face.
   It also had the Ford Contour in the US, which the company refused to market properly, probably because it had been co-developed with its European branch. The claim was that Americans were not interested in the CD-sized market that the Contour occupied. Reality: Dearborn probably wanted to cover its own butt by saying, ‘We are not taking this European stuff because we have to sell domestically designed.’ It’s perhaps all political. Meanwhile, Americans were buying the same-sized car from BMW and Mercedes. Buyers just kept going foreign.
   Ford’s latest refusal to sell the German-designed C307 Focus, and instead facelift the older model for American buyers, is yet another example. Now the Focus is getting trampled by the Honda Civic, and the next Toyota Corolla will beat it even more. History keeps repeating there at Ford.
   In other words, Ford thinks Americans are dumb Yanks.
   NBC has combined these moves, but really, every network is guilty of this. While Journeyman was not a huge hit, NBC knows its poor scheduling and non-existent promotion are to blame. Instead of allowing an audience to build (the numbers were growing), it decided to interrupt Journeyman’s schedule just as the show found its legs. It had a quality product which it intended to kill. And in the meantime, viewers are feeling that the networks are not listening. They will happily go to cable, DVDs and other services. NBC’s remaining offerings—dumbed-down reality fare—will be like the 2005 Ford Taurus.
   In other words, the US networks think Americans are dumb Yanks.
   No, foreigners do not think Americans are dumb because of George W. Bush. Foreigners think Americans are dumb because that is how American corporations treat American citizens, by making decisions that disrespect the American consumer’s intelligence. Foreigners then make an erroneous presumption that that is what consumers have asked for—when in fact most Americans are as upset about the strange corporate decisions that take place.
   As television globalizes—and it will—the US networks will be like Ford, where perceived quality and loyalty will no longer be there.
   Bad moves against quality products do affect the overall parent —something that even brand consultants need to remember.
   And, sadly, the parent ’s decisions and subsequent image can be tied to the one.
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‘They were just so mean to me’ 

[Cross-posted] My friend Sarah Garlick went to the Massey University school exhibition and this was the one thing that drew her eye, enough for her to grab the business card from the stack there. The designer is Kylie Phillips, a new grad. I want to note that, for me, this is not a public dig at John McGrath, whose image appears on Ms Phillips’ business card. But it does highlight how public images—related here to the 2007 mayoral election in —are used for humour and . And, admittedly, if you do not know Mr McGrath, this is very funny.

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Announcement imminent: Tata to acquire Land Rover, Jaguar—Murdoch Press 

The news has been circulating for months, but the Murdoch Press reports this weekend that the official announcement about and ’s sale to will be made within the next fortnight.
   Present owner looks set to get £1 billion from the sale.
   Given Tata’s ambition, the sale could make sense and give it two divisions that fit—perhaps not neatly—above its present range of cars in .
   The long-term investment into the two is open to question as this marks the first time an Indian automaker has acquired western marques. And that has always been my nervousness with the set-up.
   There is no immediately obvious potential for platform-sharing among passenger cars, though it is easy to envisage Tata adapting the Jaguar X-type platform (ex-Ford CDW27) to a mid-sized car of its own. In turn, that means a potential tie-up between Ford and Tata, allowing the American automaker a chance to increase its south Asian presence. (Ford currently builds a sedan version of the Fiesta in India, as well as a previous-generation model called the Ikon.)
   Land Rover fits more naturally with the existing Tatas, and there is some appeal to having both a budget and a premium range, with the possibility of cooperation.
   Meanwhile, the newly renamed AROnline site—formerly The Unofficial Austin–Rover Resource—speculates on whether the , also owned by Ford, would be included in the deal. I would say that it would, as part of the for Land Rover. And there, I can see a lot of potential.
   In any case, since the Tata group’s cars, including the much-vaunted Rs 1 lakh model at the bottom of the range, lack any ready fit with Jaguar and Land Rover, I expect the decision to be far more for both groups than brand- or product-based.
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Voxer visits Toyota Museum 

I have a big soft spot for automotive museums and a fellow Voxer posted about a visit to the Toyota one in Nagoya. It’s interesting to note how many non-Toyota products are there: a Ford Model T, an Alfa Romeo 8C, a beautiful Cord 812, an SS Jaguar, a Rolls-Royce, a Porsche 911, and even a Subaru 360 and a Mitsubishi Galant GTO.
   I have done my share of car museums—Rosso Bianco, the Zeithaus at Autostadt, the National Museum in Mulhouse and our own Southward Museum—but the Toyota one fascinates me because a company has seen fit to look at the bigger picture and include others’ makes.
   No wonder Toyota does so well. It has instilled a sense of history into the company and by having these classics from other manufacturers there, employees begin understanding their own part to play. When you have this appreciation of the past, your own role in the future seems that much clearer. Automotive fashions also become apparent—something increasingly relevant as a consideration in modern car design.
   And, let’s face it: Toyota is part of our modern culture. Historians may well include the Corolla as a representative of late-20th-century history, notably our consumerism.
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One sign of a Clinton–Obama ticket 

[Cross-posted] Hillary Clinton has been upset over the anti-Obama comments made by one of her reps. So he’s gone from her campaign.
   There are two interpretations:
   • if you mess with Hillary over expressing your own free will, then the Patriot Act is going to look like a walk in the park;
   • Barack Obama is her choice for running-mate. So leave the man alone.
   And a Clinton–Obama ticket is going to be hard to beat in marketing terms because both candidates have had a huge MSM build-up.
   Who does the GOP have? Romney–Huckabee? Now that I say it, it sounds pretty good, but it also sounds like it belongs to an episode of Bewitched as a rival agency to McMahon & Tate. Damn, Obama is just an exotic surname in an age of internationalism. A marketer’s dream.
   Thompson and another yet-to-emerge Law & Order cast member? Somehow, I think we won’t see FDT in the vernacular with Fred polling so low in New Hampshire—except maybe as a typo when someone is trying to type FDR.
   Giuliani and someone that the Democrats will rip into? McCain and … um … well, heck, just McCain?
   We are talking a lot of lost ground in terms of publicity here for the Republican Party. It needs to wake up and stand united, and with someone very, very credible that will beat the Democrats on substance—then brand it all correctly.
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Cadillac heads Down Under 

Cadillac will head Down Under, according to General Motors–Holden’s boss Chris Gubbey.
   It makes sense: the brand is well known despite not having retailed here postwar, thanks to American media, President Bush and The Matrix Reloaded. GM has been making right-hand-drive Caddys for some time for the Japanese and the British. And with Saab as the only premium GM brand here (if you do not count Hummer) and Holden now retailing Daewoos in most passenger car classes below the Commodore, the American company does lack something in the snob sector.
   Saab is not really for snobs, anyway: they are for people who want a safe, Swedish car on old Opel Vectra platforms. Cadillac will have some cachet, even if American cars tend to have far worse interiors than their European counterparts. In other words, snobbery is all well and good, but even snobs will want good value. Otherwise, I can think of a very nice Audi A4 or A6 that they can consider.
   I have not driven the new CTS, the first model to go on sale here. Maybe the Lutz influence means that it has got the interior right, to match the striking exterior (I have loved Cadillac’s design themes this century). We know the car has been extensively tested to make it Euro-friendly. But they said all this the last time and the interior was still godawful.
   Personally, I would be more excited about the Opel Vectra C-based Cadillac BLS, which will at least give BMW 3-series owners an alternative. The Audi A4 is getting older, and now would be a good time to strike. By 2008, Audi’s A4 will grow a lot, and the BLS will look decidedly outclassed. Like the Jaguar X-type.
   However, I still think the Cadillac announcement is positive for GM in these parts. If the quality is right, then even better. If not, then GM should brace itself for another rejection. American cars have traditionally not done well here—Chrysler Neon and Ford Taurus, anyone?—and with such an investment, no brand can shield a product if the quality is not right. Just keep the Escalade at home, OK?

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Linkshare apologizes 

I’m really impressed. With Linkshare. Yes, you read that correctly.
   After so many years, Mr Andy Greaves, the gentleman who contacted me from the Linkshare London office a week ago, sent not only an apology but a way that we could avoid spam if we were to rejoin Linkshare. He informed me that the company is under new management and they are far more anti-spam.
   It’s been a long time coming since our problems with the company occurred in the 1990s, and Mr Greaves has seen fit to take the mea culpa approach and, by doing so, has earned brownie points for Linkshare.
   I feel I can now move on and explore some of the options, though before you think I have all gone nicey-nicey like Mel Gibson did in Lethal Weapon 3, there are still aspects of the programme that I am not totally au fait with. It’s something I’ll work through with Andy, who deserves credit for taking responsibility for his company’s earlier shortcomings. We can now talk. What he’s done is part of good branding.
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December 13: remembering the Nanjing massacre, 1937–8 

My Facebook friend Andrew Lau, who heads several Chinese groups, reminded me of a tragic anniversary on December 13: the Rape of Nanking, when Japanese forces killed hundreds of thousands (300,000 to 600,000) as they advanced on the Chinese city. He and others suggest wearing red on this date.
   A bit of history:

The six weeks of carnage would become known as the Rape of Nanking and represented the single worst atrocity during the World War II era in either the European or Pacific theaters of war.

   On the event wall at Facebook, this comment from Jack He of Toronto, Ont. is important:

The purpose of remembering this event is to prevent such atrocities from happening in the future. However, in this event and the Nazi Holocaust, people become angry and vent their emotions on people around them. In some places Germans are still prejudiced against.
   Please keep that in mind. Most, if not all soldiers who commited these atrocities are long dead. Their children are not responsible for their actions. Keep this a peaceful demonstration.

   I can’t help but not the timing, how this 70th anniversary comes in the week right after Chiang Kai-shek’s name was removed from his memorial, downplaying his and the Allied contribution in winning the war.
   Prayers for the memories of the families affected, on both sides of the war, are welcome. It is clear that people have not healed from this brutal period in history.
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Chiang Kai-shek’s name removed from his own memorial 

[Cross-posted] I thought communists were more in to revisionist history than democratic governments. From the Fairfax Press:


   I am glad I got to the Republic of China to see the Chiang Kai-shek Memorial before this sort of government-sanctioned vandalism happened.
   The Democratic Progressive Party, indeed. Bit like the German Democratic Republic.
   I can’t speak for those inside the Republic but I would say that the majority of overseas Chinese will react similarly to me. Gen Chiang was not Franco or Stalin.
   The DPP calls Chiang’s Kuomingtang (KMT) repressive. I assume they have romantic notions of what was happening across the Taiwan Strait after 1949—or, for that matter, during the Sino–Japanese War.
   I am not exaggerating: in my time in Taiwan in November I met intelligent people who held beliefs that life was better under Japan than under the KMT, conveniently ignoring massacres such as the Rape of Nanking where hundreds of thousands were slaughtered.
   However, I accept that their positive ideas stem from the fact that some Japanese officials in Formosa did try to be good governors of the island.
   Back then, however, we weren’t talking about two Chinas. When 9-11 happened, it’s not as though Californians were cheery because they were comfortable, while the Twin Towers fell in New York.
   While the KMT did its share of demolishing memorials of Japanese colonialism after the war, it doesn’t make it right.
   My main view is that those of us outside need to respect the wishes of those within who participate in the Republic’s democracy. All we can realistically do from faraway keyboards is create a bit of noise when we are upset, just as we might with the War on Terror or other international matters.
   The Republic’s government also needs to know that this act insults those of us who hope that all of China will be ruled by a free and democratic republic, and whose families left because we did not believe such a China could exist under the Reds.
   Our hope was placed in the last free part of China that remained, that part in exile in Taiwan.
   Sadly, we are not voters in Republican elections. Only the inhabitants of Taiwan are.
   What now? Will a portrait of Mao be erected?
   One wishes that the DPP recognizes that it would not even exist without Chiang and the remnants of the Republican government in exile in Taiwan, but this latest incident suggests it does not.
   From an overseas Chinese view, it’s seen as an acceptance by Taipei that the Communist Party is correct across the Taiwan Strait, doing its work to erase memories that the Chinese people can have freedom.
   Indirectly, this is a slap in the face of the June 4, 1989 protesters in Tiananmen Square.
   Rebranding is something to be done carefully, more so when it comes to national monuments and symbols of national identity. Rebrands are meant to unite, not divide.
   Calling the Memorial the Democracy Memorial Hall sounds well and good on the surface—but divisions and the months of protest suggest the movement is foolhardy.
   For me, there was nothing wrong with calling it by its new name officially, while leaving the traditional lettering honouring Chiang Kai-shek’s memory intact. It was a suitable compromise and a recognition of history. It also reminds people of the freedom that Taiwan enjoys and the setting for its prosperity. Freedom, tolerance and open-mindedness are what separate it from Red China—which is still a dangerous place to visit or invest in, at least without high-level official help.
   Years after the American Civil War, there are still states (Louisiana and Tennessee) that call a certain holiday Confederate Memorial Day—and that does not seem to have harmed the Union.
   So what harm is there to retain the Chiang Kai-shek name in the interests of national unity on the island? Does the DPP seriously prefer disuniting Chinese people?
   At best, this was an ill thought through development.
   At worst, this was a desecration and an affront to traditional Chinese beliefs that memorials to the dead should be respected.
   Talk of independence or a two-China system is dangerous. It would be easy for the Politburo in Beijing to raise its voice—without even threatening violence—and Taipei can watch its stock market index fall. And I would hate to see any of my people suffer once again.
   Part of Taiwan might not know of Maoist suffering under the Reds, but I would never wish for any Taiwanese to be directly reminded of it.
   Beijing itself should not cheer at this latest development at the Chiang Kai-shek Memorial Hall as it sets the stage for separatism. During 2008, with worldwide attention focused on the Olympiad, the separatist movement might think it could get away with more mischief than usual.

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Turning down Linkshare 

I hate being a bastard to someone who works for a company and does not know the history we have had with it. But I had to do it today again to someone, a seemingly nice gentleman in London working for Linkshare wanting us to link with them.
   Linkshare spammed us in the late 1990s, something I recollected in an article in 2002.
   In my reply email today:

I am afraid we must decline.
   In the late 1990s, we left Linkshare as an affiliate and your company continued to spam us 24 times despite removal requests via email and cease-and-desist letters (in the plural) from our lawyers to your Broadway office. We were shocked to note this level of unethical behaviour from you and how formal letters mean very little to your company.
   Your company only promised to cease its spamming when we contacted your merchants.
   Earlier this year, we wanted to see if Linkshare had improved. A 2004 PC World article revealed that it was identified for spamming by another group.

   I don’t know how long our boycott will last, but if in six years nothing had changed and I gather the same chap is in charge, then I cannot imagine much has changed in the last three. Whenever I see linksynergy.com links on a website I almost worry for its publisher.
   We’d prefer regular Amazon.com and Tradedoubler, anyway.
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Paula Scher on Brand America 

I like Monocle, probably because I am a big sucker for the Plantin typeface. This is not breaking news, but online: Paula Scher talks about Brand America, in a video interview follow-up to her article in issue 6 (September 2007) of the magazine. (Thanks to Garth Stirling for getting me to check the site, rather than leave things at the mag.)
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Can you feed in feedback at the Lucire blog? 

A few posts here have been cross-posted from the Lucire: Insider blog, and I wonder if visitors here can see comment forms there. Perhaps expectedly, I get more comments here, because this blog has been going for longer.
   One friend says she cannot, a few others have said they can. A lot of spammers can. One of my theories is that those others are Wordpress members of some sort—heck, if I knew how all of this worked, I would use ATMs and Palm Pilots.
   Any feedback about the Lucire blog’s comment forms would be welcome.
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Dog dead, p. A3 (keep flicking for Gillian Gibbons’ pardon and the Ahmadinejad speech) 

[Cross-posted] The front page of The Dominion Post highlighted the death of Cricket, the pet chihuahua of New Zealand model-turned-celebrity Nicky Watson, and told buyers there would be a story inside. On p. A3 there was an eighth of a page. On the radio, I heard about the passing of her dog.
   Before I launch into criticizing this, let me say that Nicky is one of the most caring and loving people I know when it comes to animals. If she hadn’t caught the modelling bug she probably would have been a bloody good vet.
   When there is so much going on in the world, I wonder why, say, President Ahmadinejad’s speech to the GCC yesterday didn’t get as big a priority. Or the pardoning of Gillian Gibbons over the Sudanese Teddy Bear Affair (if you thought she had it rough, you should have seen the bear).
   And the newspapers are wondering why circulation is declining: most New Zealanders care little about a dog whose only claim to fame is by proxy. Somehow, right or wrong, John Fairfax, they do not think the dog is in the national interest.
   If, God forbid, something happened to Paris Hilton’s dog I doubt a major American metropolitan broadsheet would give it the focus the Fairfax Press did. A lot of blogs might. Celebrity-watchers and gossip-mongers might. Leave it to them.
   I say leave Nicky alone and let her mourn her dog in peace. Let her friends do what is necessary to comfort her and let this be a private matter, as it would be when any other citizen’s dog has passed away.
   The other problem strangers will identify is: if this dog gets an eighth of a page, then why not some super-dog that has been helping the blind all its life?
   Will tomorrow’s Post analyse the dog’s last meal and droppings if it assumes they are in the national interest?
   I certainly don’t mean to be awful about the passing of a friend’s companion of nine years, and I respect the life that Cricket had. I apologize in advance to anyone who finds this offensive.
   But there is a time to respect Nicky’s privacy, and there are stories that really should be appearing in a so-called quality.
   If I didn’t know her, I would simply say: I feel bad, but I don’t need to read about this in a newspaper I paid for.
   And really, it should just be those of us who know her who should be doing anything like eulogizing.
   Jeepers, you’d think Anna Nicole had dropped dead again and Fox News sent its helicopter out to track the hearse.
   Which, at this rate, Fairfax might yet still do.
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Is it safe to co-brand with Kate Moss yet? 

[Cross-posted] If Kate Moss has cleaned up her act since being exposed for doing lines of cocaine by a British tabloid in 2005, then it is right for those who have a demand for her to ask her to be their spokeswoman. Donna Karan is the latest to hire the British supermodel, who is reportedly stronger now than she was since just before her personal scandal, after which she lost contracts left, right and centre.
   Karan says that it’s the first time she has used Moss in a campaign, for a collection that is inspired by Havana nights.
   However, is Kate Moss actually clean? There has remained a lot of news from various tabloids that the model has continued her old habits, but then, who are we to trust the tabloids?
   After a week where even respectable titles misreported an incident (citing the wrong year, place and source—not to mention adding facts), then unless I see the darn thing on two videos with two different vantage points as well as sworn affidavits, it’s going to be a lot harder to get me to believe gossip.
   And for years I have witnessed events at fashion shows that are at complete odds with what the mainstream media, including so-called quality broadsheets, have reported.
   My main qualm with the Moss-as-spokeswoman idea is that I am simply not a huge fan of hers. Maybe I have been coloured by her undesirable traits, but I no longer see an image that I would want my brand to be associated with (not that we could justify paying her fee).
   We have at the office some Kate Moss perfume, with the Kate Moss brand—the one that launched with the Topshop deal some months ago (which I wrote about for Desktop magazine in Australia). I can still see how this is marketable and bankable, since there are still sufficient people (the majority) who think Moss is beautiful. On a recent blog with eight comments, I noticed only two were negative toward her. Five were gushing—even if I saw someone seemingly worn by a drug habit.
   Yes, she’s been blessed with good bone structure and genes that mean that she’ll always look better than a lot of us, but negative actions surely stick to public figures more readily than to the rest of us? Isn’t there always some journalist or editor willing to bring up past indiscretions, even as a closing paragraph?
   An episode of Border Security in Australia showed Customs’ officials stop a model because they detected cocaine—and in their interviews with the reality TV crew, the audience was told that there was a belief that models and the fashion industry were known for illicit drugs.
   Any respectable modelling agency will tell you—as will any magazine with any principles—that this image is not deserved on our patch. But we acknowledge that it does happen. Sadly, as with so many things out there, the decent publications and agencies who will go and look after models with a loco parentis attitude aren’t 100 per cent representative of the entire industry.
   Personally speaking, I see a lot of tobacco—but in 10 years I have never seen any model do coke. Maybe no one does this stuff in front of me, or maybe I am only invited to the more respectable dos.
   In any case, we can’t send a strong message if we are being told that images of drug-worn models is desirable. Or that the industry turns a blind eye to coke.
   The above photograph has been airbrushed, of course, and it’s a heck of a glamorous outfit, but when you look closely at Moss she doesn’t seem as “there” as she was 10 years ago. I also think she might look better with an extra 15 lb.
   I am not mounting a campaign using Kate Moss as a scapegoat—but I am not sure if she represents where I want this industry to head. This is nothing to do with age—you don’t see me complaining about Andie MacDowell, Meryl Streep or Lauren Bacall, nor do you see me complain about the Real Beauty campaigns that Dove runs—but I believe there are looks that we as an industry want to propagate that are healthy and radiant.
   It may be time for another Cindy Crawford or Claudia Schiffer. With a master’s degree.

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   With Blogger ceasing to support FTP publishing on May 1, I have decided to turn these older pages in to an archive, so you will no longer be able to enter comments. However, you can comment on entries posted after January 1, 2010.

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