Video of the week: The Empty Car Convoy

Here’s another nice stunt video from the automotive industry that gets a product benefit across. A self-driving car is something we can all see in the future (not too far away if Google have anything to do with it) but Hyundai already have it! Instead of talking the talk they went straight in and walked the walk by making this clip. Its slogan ‘smart technology to care for you, because we care for you’ might sound a tad cheesy but they couldn’t have chosen a better way to prove it.

This ludicrous video shows drivers jumping off moving cars and leaving them empty before a semi-truck slams on the breaks just in front, not forgetting the one driver who blindfolds himself just to prove the point. I wouldn’t have wanted to fill out the Health and Safety forms for this as it sounds like a recipe for disaster but in reality it created a clever stunt. They shot it with approximately 30 cameras rigged to six ‘smart-caring’ cars, if this doesn’t make you believe in self driving cars then I don’t know what will because I think it’s pretty clever.

The convoy even though going around a bend surprisingly seems to stay in perfect formation and doesn’t appear to get anywhere near to crashing which is reassuring. The driver assist features shown include cruise control, lane keeping assist system and auto emergency breaking. Each of these features are demonstrated perfectly – if not a little too perfectly. Lets hope that the next year doesn’t see drivers powering down for naps or jumping out their sunroof because this video showed how well a car can drive by itself.

So come on Hyundai let me test drive one and see if it is really as good as the stunt.


Tweet 4 Pies– a tweet shop for one of my clients

What can be better than a free pie in exchange for a tweet?

So this week the Prohibition team and I have been out and about working our buts off. I was over at CIH conference in Manchester on Wednesday supporting our client Keepmoat on their stand.

20140625_145315To help a brand achieve standout at the event can be1403693288905 a tough call at these kind of large scale events. So we sat down together and decided to create the show’s first-ever “tweet-shop”, where delegates could pay for pies, (we went with a Brazilian football theme obviously) football merchandise including a pretty cool chalk mug you can see my 1403696141866handy work below and fresh barrister prepared Brazilian coffees with a single tweet!

The tweets were proudly placed on the huge Twitter wall and tracked by us as more and more people tweeted to get themselves fed. We also had a penalty shoot out section that was proving rather popular.

I can tell you the pies were rather tasty too. We will be analysing the Twitter and social media chatter from the event and providing a full video which I will post up in a few days when the conference has finished. I can say this though the stand proved to be a major hit with everyone at the conference having come over to test the pies out.


Should leaders really eat last? Book review

If you read this blog regularly you will know that I like to read a lot of self development books mainly because I have always followed the ethos “You don’t know what you don’t know” so I try to pick up a different book whenever I get the chance.

Over the last fortnight I have been reading Leaders Eat Last by Simon Simentek. The book describes itself as follows:

Today’s workplaces tend to be full of cynicism, paranoia and self-interest. But the best organisations foster trust and cooperation because their leaders build what Sinek calls a Circle of Safety. It separates the security inside the team from the challenges outside. Everyone feels they belong and all energies are devoted to facing the common enemy and seizing big opportunities.

The book itself isn’t hard work at all, I loved the overall idea of “The Circle of Safety” it is basically what Alex Ferguson used to say when he was the Manchester United manager. It is “Us versus the world” kind of a siege mentality. The premise of the circle of safety is that the leader makes people feel safe and he looks after them before he looks after himself. Sinek looks at various companies in US history and points out at how companies that are just focussed on making a profit don’t survive as well as companies that look after their staff first. I have to admit I find this approach totally refreshing. To have a boss that looks after you and your career over their own personal gain would be brilliant. I think the basis of the book is a sound one although I can imagine the capitalists arguing a case against it. Leaders Eat Last

Sinek also interviews some fascinating people from the military and looks at how and why we follow people and how people lead effectively. He refers to the leader looking after his teams like his children in good times and bad. In other words a real leader doesn’t ditch his staff at the first bump in the road. He examines redundancies closely and looks at the symmetry between them and overall company successes.

I think this is one of the best books I have read in a while and the circle of safety should work in the UK too because once people feel safe they stop looking around for their own self promotion and internal politics and tend to focus on being more productive and heaven forbid enjoying their job. The most interesting section for me though was his view on social media for obvious reasons. He talks about technology quite a bit in the book in one section he he states:

“Virtual relationships can’t help solve this problem. In fact they could be making the situation worse.”

He then refers to an academic study in 2013 by social psychologists at the University of Michigan that tracked the Facebook use of 82 young adults over a two week period. At the start of the study each individual rated how they felt about their lives they were then checked every two hours five time a day to see how they felt about their time on Facebook. It found that the people who spent the most time overall on Facebook felt worse about their lives “Rather than enhancing their well being interacting with Facebook may predict the opposite result for young adults – it may undermine it.”

In other words if we obsess at how amazing other people’s lives we forget about focussing on our real relationships. I think its an interesting point of view because although social media has its benefits of staying in touch with friends abroad there is still no substitute for meeting someone face to face.



For those of you that missed my team’s little note last week, I am delighted to announce that my agency, Prohibition, is celebrating a record year for 2012-2013 which has seen us double in size, move to much larger and funkier offices, and appoint a new board director.

The year has been extremely busy with a number of new high profile business wins, including Country Baskets the UK’s largest wholesaler of floristry supplies and artificial flowers, and the national market leader in sustainable housing, Keepmoat Homes. Our agency has doubled in size in terms of people and revenue and our trajectory for this forthcoming year looks strong too.

Our news includes the appointment of my good friend Will Ockenden as board director which I am thrilled about. Will and I have worked together many times before and he previously ran the Sydney office of Lucre, and prior to that worked at a senior level in its Leeds office. He will be responsible for developing the team’s professional services and B2B offering. Blog Will Ockenden (L) and Chris Norton (R)

He will also work to help commercialise our self-published online student magazine, Student Wire, which is currently the third-largest magazine of its kind in the UK, with more than 60,000 readers. The magazine forms the core of our growing student and youth marketing division which already has a number of new and exciting clients.

We have also hired a number of others including Rebecca Wharmby, former PR executive at Disney who joins us as an account executive and Adam Worrall, who is a professional journalist, and he joins us an online content manager.

If I am honest the last 12-months have been extremely eventful and I am thrilled we have managed to achieve record growth when the economy still wasn’t recovering. We focussed our business on delivering non-traditional PR services such as content marketing, online influencer engagement and social media eCommerce services. We have tried to focus on results rather than outputs and delivering sales through social media and online PR.

I made sure we invested heavily in new talented people and new technologies to ensure we continue to deliver our clients outstanding work and stay ahead of the curve. I think you know I love technology and that goes hand in hand with everything my team delivers. 

All this new stuff follows last year when we won the CIPR’s Best Use of Digital Award and were shortlisted for Best Use of Social Media in November. I am really proud of my team and this year we plan to enter several of our campaigns so I will update you on that front at a later date.

I am just hoping 2014-15 will be even better and we can become the most remarkable social media and PR agency in the North of England.


Unethical business practice is threatening social media

An interesting survey from the Chartered Institute of Marketing (CIM) has found that consumers want more regulation when it comes to social media marketing. I can’t say I am that surprised because in my opinion legislation needs to be reviewed on everything associated with the internet because it simply cannot keep up – just take music and copyright for instance.

The CIM survey found the following:

  1. One in five consumers have experienced brands behaving unethically online
  2. Almost half of consumers threaten to boycott businesses that manipulate social media

Despite acknowledging the value of social media to businesses, more than half (54%) of consumers don’t think there is enough regulation governing communications, advertising and branded content across these platforms, and only one in five report having high levels of confidence in what they read on social media.

Interestingly, a greater proportion of marketers (64%) questioned the relevance of ‘old media’ regulations in relation to the prevalence of the new world of social media today.

The good thing about this research is that they questioned more than 3,000 consumers and 1,000 marketers, and looked at the differences. social media ethics

The bit that I was really interested in was the creation of fake accounts for business benefits. If you are actively out there writing fake reviews for your clients you must have a very sad life to lead and I think you should be giving your client better advice as this is not the solution to receiving a few bad reviews. The internet and peer recommendation is there to get a feel for how good a brand actually is. The survey found that the creation of fake accounts for leaving positive reviews or comments was considered the most ethically questionable for users, with nine out of ten marketers (91%) and seven out of ten consumers (71%) considering this practice misleading. I would go further than that misleading it should be criminal now. Yes there are trolls out there ready to leave even the best brands a negative response but this isn’t the answer.

The use of techniques to hide negative content within search results emerged as an additional concern, with two-thirds (67%) of consumers viewing this as unethical, significantly more than marketers, of whom just over a third (38%) share this view. This point is very interesting following the recent ruling against Google in the EU and I will be honest and say I have been asked before about getting rid of nasty links for a client as part of my work in crisis management.

The survey also found that two thirds (66%) of marketers think it’s acceptable to give products away for free to encourage positive reviews online, but less than half (48%) of consumers agree. I think this is questionable because if you work in PR or word-of-mouth marketing you know that you aren’t giving away a product for review in exchange for a positive review unless you are doing the PR for the Brit Awards that is. Sure you hope it is going to be a positive review but I have sent lots of products out before, which have received neutral reviews, and I couldn’t do much about it because  blogging is about opinions after all and I cannot make people love something just because I say they should.

Over a third (41%) of consumers said they find it misleading for businesses to encourage their employees to like and share positive brand messages on social media, whereas only 15% of marketers share the same opinion. I think this is going to happen – people want their staff to encourage positive messages online but I don’t know many companies that force people to do it. If you don’t want to do it – fine.

Almost half (47%) of consumers said if they found out a brand or business had been manipulating social media to appear more popular than they are that they’d be very likely to change their purchase behaviour and boycott that brand or organisation. This is very interesting but I think it’s an empty threat. Do I think people will stop buying iPhones if someone finds out the leaked designs for the iPhone 6s were leaked on purpose – no I do not.

The research also states:

Encouragingly, businesses aren’t ignorant to consumers’ concerns: more than half of marketers (52%) felt that dishonest or unethical behavior by brands is putting the value of social media as a marketing tool at risk, and an overwhelming four out of five (82%) agreed that without the threat of punitive fines or legal action, there will always be businesses employing questionable tactics on social media.

Overall, consumers recognise the role that brands play on social media, with over half (59%) saying they agree that advertising increases brand visibility, and 52% agreeing that companies increase their sales by using social media for marketing.

I think it’s terrible there are brands out there misleading consumers into buying their products but this is what advertising has been doing for years. When I worked in pharmaceutical PR I remember the difference in styles as you cannot market a product in pharma without strong fact based research and celebrity endorsement is out of the question. Advertising has been telling us porkies for years about big brands lasting longer than the competitors or being better than the competitors but often they aren’t it’s just advertising. I think the average person on the street can tell bullshit when they see it and that is what makes us Brits great the ability to quickly cut through the crap.

Photo Credit: linkedmediagrp via Compfight cc


Has Edward Snowden changed privacy forever?

This week I attended the brilliant Thinking Digital in Newcastle. The conference had some truly world class speakers and some awe inspiring presentations from building a home on the Moon through to solving virus outbreaks across the planet. It is great to see how technology is being used to better the world rather than just to simply market stuff. Some of the products and ideas were staggering and there was also some fine piano playing from a promising young talent. The section that really made me think though was the final panel discussion. The panel consisted of The Guardian’s Jemima Kiss, Meri Williams and Christian Payne. So you can safely say they were high level digital thinkers and it showed as the discussion ensued. Jemima shared the history of the Edward Snowden case with everyone in the room in minute detail. Most people working in digital would have surely already heard about Edward Snowden but the level of detail she provided on the history of the case was fascinating – obviously she knows more than most as it was her newspaper that broke the story but it was really interesting to hear what went on behind closed doors.IMG_20140522_101611 Once she had finished the update then the rest of the panel shared their thoughts on how shocking it is that our Governments both the UK and the US are listening to everything that we write, email, tweet or call. I find this whole area fsacinating and I used Quora to see what was being said about this topic online and although it is a US based tool I find the responses intriguing here is the full conversation if you want to read it: http://www.quora.com/Government/Whats-so-bad-about-the-government-listening-in-on-the-conversations-of-average-people It appears it is still very topical and a brilliant article in Friday’s Guardian commented:

We have learned that over the last decade the NSA has collected records on every phone call made by every American (it gathers the who, what and when of the calls, known as metadata, but not the content), as well as email data. We have learned that this happens with the cooperation of the private sector, with all that implies for their future as consorts in global surveillance. We have learned, too, that the NSA reviews the contents of the emails and internet communications of people outside the US, and has tapped the phones of foreign leaders (such as German chancellor Angel Merkel), and that it works with foreign intelligence services (including Britain’s GCHQ), so as to be able to get around domestic legal difficulties. Our suspicions have been confirmed that the use of global surveillance is not limited to the “war on terror”, but is marshalled towards the diplomatic and even economic advantage of the US, a point Greenwald teases out using the PowerPoint materials relied on by the agencies themselves.

The article concludes:

Britain needs a proper debate about the power of the state to collect information of the kind that Snowden has told us about, including its purpose and limits. The technological revolution of the past two decades has left UK law stranded, with parliament seemingly unable (and perhaps unwilling) to get a proper grip on the legal framework that is needed to restrain our political governors and the intelligence services, not least in their dance with the US. .

I am a big reader and I have read a number of books on war games and strategy. It is these same listening techniques that ended the Iraq war because once the relevant troops could link each of the enemies’ mobile calls they could build a detailed web and see who was connected with whom and this meant they could understand what was actually going on. So these techniques were used for good to solve something that was pretty nasty.

Also I actually live in Harrogate which is near Memwith Hill, which used to have protesters outside it all of the time with Spy Base Signs proudly displayed all over, so I have known about this type of surveillance for years. However, I do still find all of this pretty shocking and I don’t think it’s right that they listen to everything and capture all of our emails but if you are a law abiding citizen with nothing to worry about – should we really be too worried? I mean do they really want to see all of our emails unless there is something really nasty in there? I agree that the time for debate is now and the discussion should start over here as legislation is miles behind technology as it is with almost everything internet based these days.

So I am asking you guys, do you think they should be able to listen to everything you share? Does it make you worry or does it make you feel reassured that they are listening to the bad guys too?


Video of the week – Wrecking Ball Parody

This week I was up in Newcastle attending Thinking Digital a cracking digital conference/experience “for those who have a desire to learn”. The diversity of speakers and topics were fantastic from the Chief Information Office of the HMRC  right through to Jonathan O’Halloran who is striving to develop a hand held device that decodes pathogens in 20 mins rather than in several weeks. Jonathan’s session made me feel that there are people out there striving to make a difference in the digital world and I found it very inspiring. His plan is to create a device that can end epidemics and pandemics of viruses like malaria and inluenza.

There were so many interesting sessions on the future of digital but one of the magic moments for me was this little beauty of a clip that the conference speaker shared. I think it’s fair to say that at a serious digital conference this video could have gone down either way but I felt it was a work of genius see what you think.




If you encourage your kids to do sports are you being a pushy parent?

I know I don’t ever really cover being a parent on the blog but I wanted your collective advice on something so bear with me on this. My little boy Jacob is six and this year he took up football. This wasn’t because I asked him too it was because some of his friends were doing it and he wanted to start playing regularly.

Now I was terrible at football and if I am honest I never went to any football training and the the first I experienced it was at high school. So when I took him to this he seems to have taken to it like a duck to water. However, although he has some skill and is quite a good player he isn’t going to be the next Gareth Bale and I am not bothered about that I just want him to enjoy it. However, there is a professional football academy near me that are nothing short of brilliant and it has produced a number of professional footballers. He wants to go to it to learn new skills and I think it will be good for him to go for his development but also his personal self-esteem. It is my opinion that if you are good at sport it helps you later in life.

So because of this I am asking myself, is it a good idea to send my boy to be coached professionally regularly or am I just being a pushy parent living out my youth again in my little lad?


The top 100 property Twitter users in the UK

This piece of work caught my eye today, Zoopla the property search site has produced its Property Power 100 which is a list of the top 100 estate agents in the UK. I think is a fairly nice piece of work – rather simple but smart. The reason for creating a Twitter list like this is very simple, links, but this is how the brand describe it: zoopla

What is it?

A leaderboard for UK Estate Agents in Social Media as scored by Klout.

How are the scores calculated?

Initially via Klout, though we’ll be pulling more sources and signals over time including Zoopla’s own AskMe scores.

The social networks that influence a user’s Klout Score are Twitter, Facebook, Google+, LinkedIn, Instagram, Foursquare, Wikipedia and Klout itself.



The smart bit about this is that if you submit your agency you can embed the logo which is both a great piece of branding for Zoopla and of course it doubles -due to its embed code – as a link back to the page helping the overall SEO ranking of the page and of course Zoopla itself.

I think the leader board app used is good I think it would be even better if they could have embedded that into your own blog too but on the whole I think this is a solid piece of online PR and SEO.


Let’s Get Social – The Social Media Song

This video is worth watching don’t be put off by the five minutes on the clock – I would love to hear your thoughts. Mary McCoy from Continuum Marketing Services sings a humor-laced theme song for this year’s Social Media Marketing World. The song was apparently a warm-up for a keynote panel led by Jay Baer on the topic of “Have We Lost the Social in Social Media?”

If you want to sing along in a kareoke style here are the lyrics:

“Let’s Get Social”
Verse 1
I’m showing you things you’ll like
Trying to get engagement
Here’s some photos from my life
My cat, my kids, some bacon

Verse 2
I’m hoping you’ll share my stuff
And tweet it to the world
If you help me grow my Klout,
I promise that I’ll share yours

So connect with me, let’s have some fun
Let’s show the world how this gets done

Let’s get social (social) with social media
Let’s get social (social) with social media
Where we can spread the word and grow our reach
And find our fans in their newsfeed
Let’s get social with social media

Verse 3
We’re searching for the story
That’ll bring us instant fame
So we shoot our “viral video”
And we post it to the Gram

Verse 4
We’re looking for the secret
Of Facebook’s Holy Grail
We try to keep from paying
That leads to hashtag #fail

(Repeat pre-chorus and chorus then to bridge)

Hey now y’all, can we just get real?
Do we care about our fans or is this just another deal?
Said another way, have we lost our way?
Social’s about the people, remember they are people
Do we really need another fan, like or share?
Do we need another post to show up everywhere?
I hope as we scatter we never forget
That our posts live forever even when we go to bed

Do you think we will see this in the UK charts any time soon? Do we think this was deliberately done to be terrible so it goes viral?