Category Archives: News

Arresting, Relevant, Topical – The Art of great advertising

Timed to coincide with international women’s day, this quick-witted advertising has delivered its powerful message way beyond its original media budget, and is a credit to its marketing team.

Salvation Army advertisement against Domestic Violence  © Ireland Davenport 2015
Relevant and Timely, Salvation Army advertisement against Domestic Violence
© Ireland Davenport 2015

It’s no surprise that this new advertisement for Salvation Army in South Africa has attracted media coverage across the world this weekend.

Subverting imagery from the very recent global internet phenomenon #thedress(*¹), the release of this hard hitting image was timed to coincide with international women’s day.  The body copy reads:- ‘The only illusion is if you think it was her choice. One in 6 women are victims of abuse. Stop abuse against women.’

Arresting, Relevant, and Topical, this quick-witted advertising has delivered its powerful message way beyond its original media budget, and is a credit to the marketing team at Salvation Army who gave a level of creative freedom to their agency, Ireland Davenport, rather than restrict them to some box-ticking corporate communications process.

It is proof that there is an Art to Advertising


Chris Collis is an award winning Chartered Marketer and Director of independent consultancy Marketing Walk.

(*¹) #thedress was an image of a black and blue dress by Roman Originals, which was lit in such a way that for about two thirds of viewers the dress appeared to be in gold and white. – a trick of the light and of natural variances in human perception. The image has been circulated many millions of times across the globe over the last few weeks. Roman Originals then chose to launch a limited edition gold and white version, a copy of which appears in this advertisement.

Maverick Clarkson to depart BBC.

Even his close friend James May describes Jeremy Clarkson as “a complete knob”. However by trying to follow protocol, the BBC risks being painted as the bad guys.

Jeremy Clarkson Loser ©BBC Top Gear
In the ever escalating row over whether Jeremy Clarkson did or didn’t punch his producer this week: the lack of any clear decision about where to go next, means the facts are quickly getting lost in an emotional media frenzy.

Whichever direction the BBC chooses, it is essential that they
– TAKE THE HEAT OUT of the situation.
– BE CONSIDERATE that Clarkson has a level of Top Gear concept ownership and is well loved by a large audience.
– BE CONSIDERATE of the needs of their overseas broadcast customers.

As I see it, the BBC has three choices – none of them ideal…

1. Sack Clarkson as you would any other employee found bullying in the workplace, especially given he’s on a very public “final warning”
2. Back down to pressure from a section of the public, and reinstate him.
3. Come to an agreement where this series of Top Gear is finished amicably, allowing Clarkson to go his own way when his contract ends this spring.

    1. Sack Clarkson

The first option would in some ways be the easiest, and the BBC could demonstrate that it is an upright employer following best-practice employment policies. To do anything else would open up the BBC to legal challenges of double standards from anyone else it has ever sacked or sacks in the future. Not to follow this option would also be a humiliating loss of face given their previous statements. While there is a very vociferous public call to #BackClarkson, a recent poll by YouGov shows that 45% of the British public would support his sacking.
The BBC has already sold this series of Top Gear across the world, and stands to lose millions of pounds by not delivering on this commitment. However, it would likely have a case to claim against Jeremy Clarkson’s business, so this will not be the deciding factor.

    2. Back Down

The second option would be the worst choice as I see it. Apart from losing face and looking weak, the fact is that, even if they did back down; and even if they don’t feel they’ve reached the end of the road with Clarkson; it is probable that trust has broken down to the point that he will leave anyway this summer. He’d certainly be snapped up quickly by competitors such as ITV or Sky.

    3. Find a compromise

The third option – or middle way – appears to be the most sane. (as is often the case in these situations). It’s very difficult for a public body like BBC, bound by bureaucracy, to accommodate a maverick personality like Jeremy Clarkson. However, they can’t afford to sacrifice their star programme Top Gear on the alter of public policy and regulations.

Which leaves them with a very clear course of action:

A)- Agree with Mr Clarkson that the two parties have reached a point where they are no longer compatible and must part ways.
B)- Work together to ensure their mutual commitment to deliver the current series of Top Gear to the British public and to foreign broadcasters is completed.
C)- Let it be known publicly that an agreement has been reached and that Jeremy has chosen to leave Top Gear at the end of this series.
D)- Work hard to keep James May and Richard Hammond on board for at least the next season.
E)- Very Quickly declare a solution to finding a replacement presenter, possibly a series of “guest presenters”, as happened when Angus Deayton got sacked from “Have I got news for you”; or choosing a presenter who  could bring a new dimension to the show without losing some of the irreverence of the current format.  A strong female presenter could be a good solution.

Petrol Head Jodie Kidd copyright unknown/ Telegraph
Petrol Head Jodie Kidd

So, whichever option they choose, Jeremy Clarkson is set to depart the BBC.

If they get this right, then the  BBC will be recognised as making a regrettable but responsible decision, will retain the goodwill of the general public for Top Gear, and the confidence of its overseas broadcast customers.  In the meantime, Jeremy Clarkson may discover that the BBC and Top Gear institutions are much more loved than any individual presenter.

My fear for the BBC is that they will analyse and agonise, trying to take a decision through several layers of committee meetings and legal reviews; by which time any chance to save the current series will be passed. Clarkson will have abandoned them anyway; and they will have a competitor to Top Gear featuring Jeremy Clarkson, Richard Hammond and James May setting up in an ITV studio just down the road.


Chris Collis is an award winning Chartered Marketer and Director of independent consultancy Marketing Walk.


Election 2015 to be won by Style over Substance

Image. Manifesto launches 2015, Cameron (©Evening Standard) , Clegg (©Getty) and Ed Miliband (© Andalou agency via Getty)

 A poll today predicts 278 seats each for Labour and Conservative in the UK general election. The only certainty  is that it will be style, and not substance, which will swing the needle on 7th May.

The various Parties have been working hard on their “Positioning” this week with the release of their Manifestos for the UK election.

This post does not debate the merits of their various policies, and sadly, the vast majority of UK voters will make their decisions not by considering the substance of the Manifestos, but by which leader they trust the most. So, it is interesting to see the efforts which have gone into “Presentation style” of the major party launches.

David Cameron (Conservative)  was clearly making efforts to look “Presidential”,  speaking very seriously from his Union Flag adorned stage. Camera angles had clearly been considered carefully, so that he’s looking down on his audience… symbolising authority and leadership. – the very claim he is making.

Ed Miliband (Labour) similarly chose the security of a podium on a business-like stage, and was not averse to the odd Union Flag. However, he was noticeably more at ease with himself and his audience than of late.  Ed is known to be working with American Advisor David Axelrod, and there is a definite American style in some of his recent presentation. (eg “Hell, Yes…”, and  speaking directly to camera). Allowing himself to relax, smile and laugh with his audience a little is a positive strategy if you want people to trust you.

The most interesting presentation though was from Nick Clegg (Liberal Democrats). Claiming  a very clear position… “More heart than the Tories, More Brain than Labour”, their staging and style was consistent with this positioning:-
Eschewing a high stage for a low platform in a warehouse setting, with children’s hand-prints on the backdrop. Nick is a very personable speaker, speaking off-the-cuff  using every-day language, and he has removed the barrier that a podium represents. Positioning themselves as the “friendly” “human” centrist party to protect the country against the evil extremes of the other players is a good ploy to achieve tactical votes in marginal seats.


Of course, the presentation styles have been carefully thought through by each party, and when looking at them, we should consider also the key audience each party is targeting.

Conservatives are  openly targeting Pensioners, who are more prone to vote than younger audiences, and generally more (small ‘c’) conservative. They are hoped to be more comfortable with traditional authoritarian styles, and the need for leadership, which will be why this style was chosen. The risk for David is that this could be perceived as pompous and aloof, reinforcing the perception that his party is elitist and “out of touch”.

Labour is targeting a broader working age audience.  It needs to present itself as “Business-like” in its approach, to overcome suspicions that it was the guilty party behind the global recession for deregulating the banks (normally a Tory policy).  While the inevitable comparisons with Wallace and Grommet persist,the more Ed comes across as “business-like, but human too” the more likely he is to gain the trust of the electorate.

As part of the current coalition, the LibDems can present themselves as economically-literate,  – part of the solution to the global economic crisis rather than the cause. This allows them to present a more relaxed style – “Business Casual”, and focus on a very human positioning. Their target is unashamedly middle-ground, appealing to educated middle-class voters who recognise the importance of a balance between fiscal responsibility and a caring society.
– Able to work with other parties to create a better government which avoids the spectre of  “[a Tory Party taken hostage by Nigel Farage or Labour by Alex Salmond]”.
However, so close to the election,  The LibDems may have left it too late to reverse the self-inflicted  dent in trust from too-closely aligning themselves with the Tories and abandoning some key pledges, notably on University fees, since 2010.

Cameron’s decision not to take part in the forthcoming TV debates may come back to haunt him as he will certainly be mocked for being “too self-important” .  Miliband’s performance as the only other Prime-Ministerial hopeful  will also be closely watched in tonight’s debate where he is likely to be pressed hard  and potentially ambushed by other party representatives.

A Sky poll of polls today predicts 278 seats each for Labour and Conservative, with LibDems pushed to 4th place by SNP, so there’s all to play for.  The only certainty, sadly,  is that it will be style, and not substance, which will swing the needle on 7th May.

Other parties are available.


The author is not associated with any political party in the forthcoming election, but is available for discussion on strategic positioning and how best to present your business to consumers, to customers, and to stake-holders.


Chris Collis is an award winning Chartered Marketer and Director of independent consultancy Marketing Walk.


As Osbourne attacks “charity” as anti-business, is he being anti-customer?

George Osbourne  - out of touch with business ?George Osborne has been facing criticism after he called on the Institute of Directors (IOD) to defend the free market economy against the “anti-business views” of “plenty of pressure groups…trade unions.. and charities”.

Many of those in the IOD will no doubt have dismissed Osbourne’s statements as naïve, and one of the issues with certain professional politicians is that they live in a theoretical world, with little experience or understanding of the nuances of business, nor of the importance of demonstrating a human face to our customers.

morrisons store front

This morning, an unfortunate store manager within the Morrisons estate experienced the social media backlash of exactly what happens when you put business-before-people, after he allegedly forced an 89 year old pensioner to stand outside in the cold to sell his poppies. Morrisons’ head office has been back-peddling fast but will not be thanking their store manager for this PR gaffe. (#Morrisons Taunton is currently trending).

It is no coincidence that most successful major businesses expend significant resource developing Corporate Social and Environmental Responsibility (CSER) policies and practices; building relationships with their work-force; partnering with a variety of Charities and NGOs; and listening hard to pressure groups.

Open any company report and you will find statements around caring for the environment;  championing the use of natural and sustainable ingredients, sourcing from fair-trade farms and factories where employees are not abused or enslaved;  using recycled and recyclable materials; reducing waste; choosing lower carbon transport solutions; and examples of how the  head office employees have got together to raise funds for charitable causes.

These policies and practices aren’t just about “doing the right thing” because it makes us feel good. These are hard nosed commercial businesses, who make these choices because it makes good business sense:-
–   Reducing waste reduces costs.
–   Avoiding potentially harmful ingredients reduces risk of future litigation.
–  Spending time getting the unions and work-force on board pays dividends as happy teams work harder, and less production is lost through dispute.
–   Making healthier, environmentally and socially sound choices and tying in with good causes makes customers trust our brands more than other brands which are less caring.

Recognising these facts demonstrates “Good Corporate Governance”, – one of the absolute keys to successful shareholder management

The world has changed. In this connected world, dodgy practices can no longer be swept under the carpet, and  businesses (and politicians) need to demonstrate they are in touch with the hopes, fears, wishes and needs of their customers.

It all boils down to one word:- TRUST

Get the right balance of “People, Planet and Profit” and your business will grow.

Follow Mr Osbourne’s mono-dimensional advice and,  in pursuit of Mammon, ride rough-shod over the global communities who you rely upon, then you will be found out and very publicly called out. Such poor governance risks a business being abandoned by its consumers and customers, its employees,  and ultimately its share-holders.

I’m not in the business of writing speeches for the leader of the opposition, but I imagine this could be held up as an example of Mr Osbourne not just being out of touch with the public, but out of touch with business too.

Chris Collis is an award winning  CIM Chartered Marketer and Director of Marketing Walk.

Drinking Aftershave

Haig Club
Diageo’s Haig Club Single Grain Whisky

I can completely understand the temptation for brand owners to borrow packaging architecture from another category, but I believe Diageo decanting whisky into an aftershave bottle – and licensing David Beckham branding to try to make Whisky “cool and trendy” for a new generation – betrays a triumph of opportunism over consideration, which can only destroy brand value.

Putting aside whether it’s a good idea for children to see their dad pouring out a drink from an aftershave bottle (while their mum dabs a bit of Dior “Poison” behind her ears), Haig is one of the oldest and best known Scotch whisky brands in the world with one of the most recognisable bottle shapes in its Haig Dimple.

Diageo owns an enormous portfolio of Whisky brands, and it is certainly tough to balance the need for innovation, consumer acquisition, and the responsibility to preserve its brands’ heritage and authenticity for the next generation. Haig has always been a very accessible, easy-to-drink whisky so this Single Grain variant makes a good choice to target new drinkers.

In this case however, the company appears to have abandoned hard earned brand equity in the hope of a quick win. This new bastard son of Haig goes far beyond “pricking the pomposity” of the old school and “having a bit of fun” by associating with those well known brand gurus David Beckham and Simon Fuller. Beckham of course is famous for being happy to put his name to brands – from underwear to phones to hair-gel – whether relevant or not.

The one bit of good news though is they may get some extra PR – as a new generation try to emulate England Rugby’s Colin Smart and his infamous 1982 after-shave-drinking episode.

Chris Collis is a CIM Chartered Marketer and Director of Marketing Walk Ltd

Share of Evil Spoils?

Google Chrome browser market share in May 2010 was over 7.0% for the first time – up from 4.6% in December 2009. [source: Net Applications]  Clearly, something they’ve been doing has led to an increase in awareness and trial… Perhaps congratulations are in logo
(Update on previous Blog: “Don’t be evil”)

Chris Collis
June 2010

Chris Collis is a Chartered Marketer and Director of Marketing Walk, an independent Marketing Strategy and outsourcing house.

Don’t be Evil

There’s been lots in the news this week about attacks on Google accounts by unknown hackers somehow linked to Chinese Authorities.

Now I may just be constructing conspiracy theories here, but then again …
chrome logo
Some Facts:

December 2008: Google Chrome web browser launched to general public.

3rd December 2009: Google appoints glue London and BBH Labs to handle global communications strategy and advertising for its Chrome browser. (source: Marketing Week)

16th December: Billboard poster campaign for Google Chrome extended from UK to include other European countries (source: TechCrunch Europe)

December 2009. Google Chrome achieves No3 spot in the market with just 4.63% market share (source: NetApplications)

13th January 2010: Google complains that [Chinese Government or its agents] have hacked into Google accounts of dozens of Chinese Human Rights activists and it is considering withdrawal from China. It made a Global public statement before even discussing this with the Chinese authorities.

14th January: Microsoft accepts that the hackers used a weakness identified in Microsoft’s browser Internet Explorer 6
Microsoft confirms these were “highly targeted and sophisticated attacks … by highly motivated people”. It is working on a security patch, and does not believe this will have major implications for the vast majority of its users.

15th January: McAfee chief technology officer George Kurtz explains that the code required for other hackers to target the vulnerability has been published on the web.

15th January: German Federal Office for Information Security advises its citizens to try another browser until the flaw is patched. This information circulated globally by news organisations.

Some key questions:

How does Google know these people are Chinese human rights advocates? – Has it been reading their G-Mails?

Would it be easy to predict that The Chinese Government would not comment on the hacking allegations, and that (based on prior experience) Western opinion will automatically assume that they are the guilty party.

Who advised the German Government to intervene with a statement advising consumers to trial another web browser, at a time when Google was advertising heavily across Europe?

Would Google have been aware of (or been looking for) vulnerabilities in their competitor Internet Explorer before this attack?

Would Google be capable of a “highly targeted and sophisticated attack by highly motivated people” on its number 1 competitor?

Would Google risk its position in China to generate huge trial of its new Browser in the rest of the world?


It must be very difficult for Google to persuade consumers to switch from their usual browser.
One of the best ways to effect change is to make the Status Quo look like the scarier option.
I’ll leave you to draw your own conclusions and point the finger where you will, but this all seems to have fallen into place very neatly for Google doesn’t it?.

Or am I just being Evil ?

Chris Collis
18th January 2010

Chris Collis is a Chartered Marketer and Director of Marketing Walk, an independent Marketing Strategy and outsourcing house.

Alcohol Advertising: an easy target.

In response to David Cameron (and other’s) statements about “[irresponsible manufacturers advertising their brands]” following UK publication of House of Commons Health Committee report on Alcohol:

I have much sympathy for the House of Commons Health Committees concerns about “the consequences of binge drinking which are a cause of many serious accidents, disorder, violence and crime; [and] also long term heavy drinking which causes more harm to health.”

beer swigging youth hoodiesIt’s very easy for politicians to go for a one-line sound-bite from a 140 page report and scapegoat manufacturers and advertisers; but the problems of obese-cider-swilling-teenage-ne’er-do-wells congregating on street corners is a much deeper societal issue than can be solved by a bit of tinkering with advertising regulation. The Health Committee itself recommends that the top issues to be addressed are over-availability and minimum pricing; with some tightening of the scope and process of existing marketing regulation, particularly around sports sponsorship.

My own experience working in both children’s marketing and alcoholic drinks (not at the same time!) confirms that both markets are highly and effectively regulated in terms of product development, labelling and particularly advertising.

Some of the most effective moves in children’s food and beverage marketing recently have been self-imposed by manufacturers aiming for a “healthier” competitive edge in targeting children and their mothers, and improving listings in major retailers. These moves have largely been in response to trends in consumer attitudes (eg on artificial colours and sweeteners).

The Drinks industry has a history of self-regulation through the Portman Group, and ASA/BCAP codes of practice are very specific about the protection of children and promoting responsible drinking. However, it is also time to recognise that “problem drinkers” reflect society’’s attitude to alcohol, and until this perception is effectively challenged, until it becomes socially unacceptable to spend Friday nights staggering vomiting and urinating in high streets, then tactics such as minimum pricing, licensing restrictions and advertising restrictions will be simply temporary sticking plasters.

Education, information campaigns such as DrinkAware, and labelling will not change short term behaviour, but they can change attitudes and lay the ground for initiatives such as the recent St Neots Community Alcohol Partnership* to successfully tackle this important long term issue in a holistic way.

It is time that Politicians recognized that manufacturers and advertisers can be a force for good in this society and work more closely with us. We are not the enemy. We have teenage children too and want to live in a healthy happy and secure society.

Chris Collis
13th January 2010

Chris Collis is a Chartered Marketer and Director of Marketing Walk, an independent Marketing Strategy and outsourcing house
*A six month test project in 2008 in St Neots, Cambidgeshire delivered:
42% decrease in anti-social behaviour incidents
94% decrease in under-age people found in possession of alcohol
92% decrease in alcohol-related litter at key hot spot area
Source: House of Commons Health Committee 2010