Jumping the shark with a terrier

The launch of Huddersfield Town’s new football kit has been causing something of a stir on social media, inevitably leading to coverage in the actual media. The outrage is coming from Terriers fans and fans of other clubs alike, mostly lambasting the club for defiling the kit with a huge Paddy Power sash, which has been compared to a beauty show sash or hen party accessory.

At first, I thought the kit launch was a stunt. But now I am not so sure. Yes, the club’s launch page does not show a clear picture of an actual physical shirt with the oversized advertising sash. But then I considered the fact that no club management structure or even the most naive of internal marketing teams would see trolling their own fans. The kit even features on the banner at the top of the club’s official website. This is not just a Twitter wind-up thought up in five minutes.

Betting firm Paddy Power would be more than happy to execute such a wind-up, but even they (or club management) must realise that such a campaign would amount to an advertising campaign for them and not for the club in question. Add to this the sensitivities about gambling in and around sport at the moment and you have something of a mess. After all, when drawing so much attention to the deal with a betting company, both club and sponsor should not forget the fate of Bolton’s short-lived shirt deal with a payday loan company.

Whatever this design is – wind-up or cock-up – neither side comes out of it well. Either Huddersfield Town have taken the piss out of their fans by allowing Paddy Power to use them for a PR stunt in which they gain nothing, or they have allowed a disastrous shirt design out there. Possibly one that even breaches league rules.

The truth of the campaign will obviously come out in the next 24 hours, but this may well be the point where the famously disruptive betting brand has jumped the shark. Their brand is increasingly one that people groan at (for their gags or their impact on communities) and it is alienating fans when it should be cosying up to them. The class clown is only funny for so long when he keeps telling the same joke and telling everyone how funny it is.

Dog bites shark? Just maybe.

If you believed they put a man on the moon

The moon landings didn’t come from nowhere. Someone had to have that idea. But who?

The idea was certainly not down to politicians. Neither Eisenhower nor Kennedy were the true architects of the space programme that led to Apollo 11 touching down 50 years ago today. The idea itself was down the the dreamers, thinkers and wonderers. What if…?

There are many claims and counter-claims as to who came up with the idea. But ideas are like that. The moon was always there. The most humble of farm hands may well have come up with the idea of getting there, with no idea as to how. But it was the philosophers, poets and writers who came up with something a little more tangible.

Jules Verne is often credited as the forefather of space travel. His novels certainly dealt with the topic, notably From The Earth to the Moon (1865). He even thought that men would travel in a projectile that would be fired there from earth. Ask any French person who invented space travel and they will say Verne.

Ask the same question in Russia and they will tell you that Nikolai Fyodorovich Fyodorov is the one. He was a thinker, philosopher and futurist. As futurists tend to do, he got a lot of stuff wrong and a lot of it sounds a little out there in retrospect. But he was certainly on the ball on space travel. And his other theories on subjects such as mortality and immortality may yet be proved right by future generations. After all, space travel sounded crazy when he was speculating on that.

Extinction Rebellion On The Buses (and tubes and trains)

 flypost extinction rebellion

Extinction Rebellion (XR) is all about ideas. Not all of them new, but some executed in a novel manner. Like it or not, the small-but-organised grouping is managing to get a lot of media attention by doing things a little differently.

In London, the group started off with a kind of arty soft launch (a parade and nudity in the Commons) before moving on to blocking major junctions and then public transport. Yesterday, they glued themselves to a DLR train and promised more disruption on the Tube and the Overground. Today, they have moved to block Vauxhall Bridge.

The group are largely millennial, white and middle class, which has brought some criticism from other activist groupings. Although the same facts have been used as a form of dismissal from the white, middle class media. Often without a sense of irony.

Its interactions with police and propensity for godawful folk dancing have (quite rightly) been jumped on. But they have also attracted a good number of lectures about ideas and how to use them from older activists. “Don’t do it like this, do it like this.” Although many fail to mention that their tactics are tried, tested and doomed to fail. It’s dad-dancing for the world of activism. Time moves on.

Many criticisms of XR hinge upon the idea of the group being to influence and grow support amongst the public. This assumption is where most people’s thinking on the topic breaks down. Influencing the public in a positive way is not high on their list of concerns. Instead, they are seeking to cause chaos as a means to an end. This is to highlight the collapse of infrastructure in a climate disaster, but also to act as enablers for more mainstream debate and politics.

With their star rising high, it is easier for politicians to raise their concerns. This is partly why the group glued themselves to Jeremy Corbyn’s Holloway home, rather than Theresa May’s. One, this is seemingly a counter-intuitive move, as the environmentalist groups are seen (often wrongly) as exclusively left-leaning and two, it gives the tabloids a story they like: “Even the hippies hate Corbyn…”.

What XR are saying is that this emergency trumps public comfort, but by doing so they have escalated their profile to the point that they can now demand a meeting with the relevant Minister. Sadly for them, this is Michael Gove.

Further to this call for debate with Gove, they have put the fact that they are set to disrupt Heathrow Airport on one of its busiest weekends. If they hadn’t already alienated half of the public, then they can be sure that this is the straw that will break the camel’s back. But it simply adds to the pressure on politicians to act and allows them to be seen to act for the public without necessarily appeasing the activists.

It’s quite clever. XR are thinking more than one move ahead, having raised a somewhat middle class army of willing arrestees (most without a criminal record) and work-shopped their way around the UK via village hall meetings.

They have today leaked statements saying that they care about the impact on holidaymakers (leaking and feeding information to the media ahead of actions is a key part of their campaign and the pressure they exert), but they don’t really. That is not in their tactical bag of tricks. They especially see air travel as fair game, but any disruption is either a side-effect or the intended outcome of XR actions. This IS the means to the end.

Whether XR has the energy and thinking to maintain their momentum while alienating the public remains to be seen. But it is an interesting play to watch. Few can dismiss their broader aims without seeming mean-spirited and there are so many distractions (eg dancing policemen) that they can throw up as flak.

A deeper look at the activism tactics of XR is here. Well worth a read if you want to study the ideas further, or even steal some of them.



You bet I’m hostile

I’m not naturally hostile. Honest.

But having a shaven head creates certain reactions. As does having a working class accent. So, when you have both, people make certain assumptions. Sometimes I like to play up to them. After all, it gets me work.

hostile interviewer

But, accent and haircut or not, I have spent the past few years developing a skill that is becoming more and more desirable. What is more, I enjoy it. I’m hostile for cash. Although this is not the sort of service one finds on a badly-Photoshopped card in a phone box.  It is not work that I can talk about often, however. So it does sometimes seem like a dirty secret.

The skill in question is in hostile interviewing. I find that it is a must for any politician starting a career or campaign, or even developing a new idea. It is also becoming more and more relevant for campaigners and charity groups who want to put their views up for debate or use the media to spread their message. Previously, most people would have been given an easy ride to express their views and get a message across. But, in the age of Brexit and falling media sales, news is no longer like that.


As you may have noticed, even the most genteel of Radio 4 shows will seek out an opposing view when none is really required. Sky News or Newsnight can be a bear pit. Hostile interviewing is sometimes called a ‘Paxo-ing’, after the Newsnight presenter Jeremy Paxman and implies shouting at a politician until they cry or submit.

Nowadays, the same can be used to elicit responses that make for viral clips your friends can share on Twitter or Facebook to back up their own political views. So, you want to be prepared.

All over bar the shouting

Despite this reputation for being preparation for interrogation under fire, hostile interviewing is not simply about squeezing ideas until they hurt and raised voices. Yes, that can be useful. But real hostile interviewing can also interrogate the person behind the ideas.

A thorough hostile interview can ask the interviewee to think several moves ahead, defend the CEO’s private jet, talk about their husband’s affair and explain that Tweet from 2013. It is about looking at your client as a hostile interviewee. Someone you want to get at or needle. They should not know what is coming, when and where from. It helps if the interviewer is from outside the organisation or circle to which the interviewee belongs.

Kidnapping interviewee’s dogs

I tend not to kidnap an interviewee’s pet dog and show them pictures of it holed up in a cage in a lock up, but in many cases the impact of some of the questions should be similar. You need to put them off balance and even (metaphorically) dangle them over a cliff. Especially if they are surrounded by yes men or fans who think they are great. I have even done hostile interviews where the interviewee has not been told it is a mock interview, so those around them can see how they react.

I tend to record the interview as I would any interview I carry out as a journalist. I sometimes even write up the interview as a feature or a news piece, to give an idea of what that would look like for real. Headlines and all.

Sometimes campaign teams video these interviews, so that they can analyse body language as well. We all have tics and tells, and these can become heightened under pressure. But you don’t want to be biting your nails or scratching your nose if you intend to run as Parliamentary candidate or raise money from the public.

If you are interested in this service then simply contact me on iain@thisidea.co.uk

The Gillette #MeToo ad is PR, not an advertisement

The new Gillette ad is not an advert. It is a PR campaign.

The advertisement/movie entitled We Believe has been viewed over 3 million times in a couple of days. Far more views than the brand would get for some dad foaming up, or a celebrity combining sports skills with a quick shave. With appointment to view TV dead in the water, the brands need to find new ways to grab an audience. Pissing people off is just one way to achieve that.

The ad jumps into the #MeToo debate, tackles masculinity (toxic or paraben-free) and was always guaranteed to annoy everyone from Piers Morgan to, erm, Piers Morgan. It’s like a vegan sausage roll doused in soy. So, the snowflake cry-babies in the men’s movement and the type of cellar-dwelling mummy’s boxy who uses ‘cuck’ as supposedly a really hurtful insult are bound to get upset.

I’m standing up and applauding here. Calling your mates out on harassing women seems a good idea. But shifting your ad spend to PR seems an even better one.