As well as co-ordinating the audience of schoolkids, I was PA on a location shoot at a council landfill site in Oxford where some dinosaur footprints were discovered.
Co-presenting this sequence was palaeontologist Dr Phil Manning from the University of Manchester who was demonstrating how he identified the footprints as those of an iguanodon.
Dr Manning was just like Sam Neill's Dr Alan Grant from Jurassic Park and when he excitedly told us that the 10-meter long beast was probably running at the time we all had goosebumps. Even though it was 6am on a very cold and wet winter's morning, that day was a life high-point - standing there looking at a set of 120 million year old footprints walking off into the distance where the sun was rising.
Anyway, I was delighted to read that Dr Manning was in the news the other week having apparently found a 76cm-long T-Rex footprint in Montana. Read a BBC Q&A with Dr Manning here.
This is an excerpt from a programme we've just completed for Interserve, the UK services, maintenance and building group.
We were asked to help communicate a "Vision and Values" initiative they were launching to encourage staff to go that extra mile for their customers.
Within the programme we suggested illustrating five stories which best represents Interserve's five core values. In order that the project has life beyond the video we came up with the idea of telling the stories as animated comic strips so they could also be recreated as actual comic strips in posters, magazines.
A multi-language and subtitled DVD was produced and distributed to over 20,000 of Interserve's UK staff and the individual comic strip animations are hosted on their intranet.
Please, can someone tell me how this happens? I took this picture in PC World in Tottenham Hale on Sunday. Two errors in one single word, including the dreaded apostrophe abuse.
I can forgive a poor minimum-wage weekend Sales Assistant not understanding the nuances of iPod vs Ipod, but store signage is surely produced centrally in a marketing department?
What annoys me, though, is wondering how many people were involved in making this sign, from its inception by a grammatically-challenged designer through to the staff who work in the store and stare at it every day. No-one either knew or cared enough to stop this pitiful demonstration of ignorance from being imposed on the public.
Is this a sign of poor education or a "not my job" attitude? Either way, it's plain broken. And yes, it does make me question whether I trust, or want to do business with, PC World.
Have you seen the Wayne Rooney advert for Nike in which in a single take he draws a target on a camera, then walks back sixty feet then kicks a ball straight at the target? Cynical old me assumed that it was done with a CG ball. Nope, it's totally for real. Check out the behind the scenes video on Nike's web site and see that not only did the Roonster hit the target on the third take, his first two were even more remarkable for hitting the exact same improbable spot. I've never been more impressed by the boy's skill.
Here's a thought. I would have been tempted to run the behind the scenes clip too. Show the original at the beginning of the ad break, and the behind-the-scenes ad at the end.
Oh, and hang about for the 'throw-away' kick at the end and dream about him doing the same for England.
Budget air travel is a big news topic with frequent discussions about their environmental impact and the bringing of foreign travel to the masses.
However, having just flown to Verona from London Stansted via Ryanair last week with my wife I have to comment on something that's rarely discussed, specifically about Irish low-fares airline Ryanair: the travel experience. Some of the following applies to other budget carriers, but there is something fascinating at work with Ryanair that I think is unique to them. I'll summarise my point in a few examples so that this doesn't turn into a rant about a single bad experience - there is a bigger point here, which I'll outline at the end.
• Our flights were flagged up on the Ryanair website as costing €0.01 each. What's the point in even pretending that this is for real? After tax and charges, the flights came out at over €40.00 each. That's not actually a lot of money, but right from the word go we were feeling ripped-off.
• Arriving at Stansted Airport we discovered that Ryanair's baggage allowance had dropped from 20 kilos to 15 kilos. An additional £38 had to be paid for our now "overweight" suitcase. Everyone in the queue in front and behind us had to pay too. Not surprisingly much aggrievance was being aimed at the staff.
• Next was the ongoing attempt to sell us a Priority Boarding Pass for an extra few quid. Right up to the departure gate, Ryanair staff were selling these passes like raffle tickets to the extent that about a third of the flight had them (60 are offered on planes with a capacity of 189). Surely their usefulness diminishes the more they issue? No-one seemed to realise this, but the result was that it caused a lot of tension and bad feeling in the many queues as everyone who'd paid their money felt that it entitled them to go to the front of every queue.
• When you get on the plane, its interior is full of Ryanair's migraine-inducing corporate yellow plastic. It's made even worse with banner ads pasted on all of the over-head lockers.
• In order to save an inch and make cleaning easier the elasticated magazine holders on the chairs in front have been removed. I imagine that cumulatively they've saved enough space to add another row. Here's the thing, though, the safety card is stuck on the headrest twelve miserable inches in front of your face. Now, I fly a lot, but I hate every gut-wrenching minute of it. So, why throughout my two hour flight must I be reminded that the plane might crash?! Maybe it's to make me buy a drink from their over-priced trolley service.
• I don't even get a free cup of tea, but I have to endure constant tannoy announcements advertising said trolley service, the sale of duty free tat, and worst of all, their charity-scam scratchcards. Ryanair is a deeply tacky brand - and they have no shame about it.
So, the point I promised: When calculating the price for a service, one puts unit cost and sales on a graph. The optimum cost to charge for a service is the intersection, with the highest price that the greatest number of customers will pay. With Ryanair, though, it appears that their business model is based on how much appalling service they can pile on before the customer finally snaps and decides that the mythical "low price" ticket simply isn't worth the utterly miserable travelling experience that accompanies it.
ps If you get so annoyed with Ryanair's pathetic service, they are currently promoting a free in-flight punch-up on their web site.
We're very fond of our clients at sanofi-aventis. They're all lovely people and we produce some really nice work for them (via our chums at their agency Radical Departures). One project even won a major award. It's always a pleasure working with them.
Can I just have a go at their branding, though, which continually causes us grief?!
So, in 2004 the company was formed by the merger of French companies Sanofi-Synthélabo and Aventis Pharma. The resultant company was called Sanofi-Aventis. Sorry, sanofi aventis. No, sanofi-aventis. No capitals. And a hyphen.
Can you see what the problem might be? Apart from the simple infuriating fact that design agencies seem to get a kick out of ignoring the laws of English grammar and spelling, the main problem is - if the company name has no capitals, what do you do if a sentence begins with the name of the company? Do you use a capital letter? To avoid this problem, don't start a sentence with the company name is the line we've been given. So, the company's own name is so broken that it can't be used at the beginning of sentences! What kind of insanity is that?!
Oh, and by the way, the sanofi-aventis logo has no hyphen. Don't get me started.
I've just received my new "Highline" card today from the Royal Bank of Scotland. Or "RBS" as they would now prefer to be called.
There are many reasons to like this bank:
• The Bank received it's Royal Charter in 1728 (over the rival Bank of Scotland which was thought to have Jacobite sympathies).
• In 1728, the Royal Bank of Scotland became the first bank in the world to offer an overdraft facility.
• In 1967, the RBS became the first Scottish bank to install an Automated Teller Machine, and by 1980 the service, known as Cashline had become the busiest ATM network in the world.
• The Royal Bank of Scotland PLC is the only bank in the UK that continues to print a £1 note.
• The RBS Group is the fifth largest in the world by market capitalisation.
Apart from being an atrocious bank with whom I battled for a year to
get back over £300 of service charges (I won), I curiously have a great empathy
for having an account with the ROYAL Bank of SCOTLAND. Being a Scot I'm biased, but come on, who wouldn't want to have an account with this historical, regal and noble sounding institution? Surely there's no-where safer to have your money than having it buried under Edinburgh Castle and guarded by Sean Connery?
What I'd really like to know, though, is what market researcher figured that changing its name to the anonymous acronym "RBS" was a good idea?
"I know, let's make the bank utterly anonymous" I can hear the Saatchi suits saying to themselves over jugs of mojitos at their Bahamas creative retreat.
"It'll be a bit like HSBC then, which no-one knows or cares stands for the 'Hong Kong and Shanghai Banking Corporation', but we got paid a million quid to change its name from Midland Bank so the MD could feel important".
"Yah, and let's do the letters RBS in a really naff American-looking font, that's a bit like Helvetica but we've paid a font designer a fortune to cut off the serifs or something".
"Yah, and then we'll make adverts for Abbey, which everyone preferred when it was Abbey National with that roof-umbrella logo and that song 'get the Abbey Habit...' and we'll go on about how it's now owned by some Spanish bank, even thought it's utterly, utterly irrelevant because it's not like they're changing their name or anything but their Chief Execs get a kick out of it".
I used to feel special being a Royal Bank customer, and I had a sense of pride handing over a debit card that was a bit different from the rest - one that identified me and so often caused comment or started a conversation. Now that RBS are just a big faceless institution, the emotional connection has gone, and moving my account elsewhere won't be such a big wrench. Bye bye Royal Bank, thanks for making it so easy to leave you.
While filming in a city office last week I happened upon a Klix machine. Now, I'm fascinated by Klix machines, because it amazes me that any of their machines are sold; the tea and coffee tastes the same - a very unpleasant hybrid mix of both. They also dispense Cup-A-Soup, and "Starbust Orange" which has all of the "taste" of Bird's Appeal. Need I say more about the contempt employers must have for their employees by supplying these machines instead of a kettle and some PG-Tips and Nescafé?
However, what caught my attention about his machine was the offering of "Brita" water. Now, if it was offering me "Volvic" water, I'd know it was mineral water from Auvergne in France. If it was "Buxton Spring" I'd know it came from a spring in the Peak District. And, if it was "Highland Spring" it came from the Ochil Hills in Perthshire, Scotland.
So, where does "Brita" water come from? Well, it comes from whatever tap the Klix machine is connected to. What makes it "Brita" water is that it's passed through a Brita filter.
Wow! They're selling a branded beverage, without actually having to ship the product. That's genius! When you get mixer Coca Cola in a pub, at least you're getting Coca Cola syrup (mixed with fizzed-up tap water). All Brita need to do here is supply Klix with some of their filters. And I'd imagine that Klix have to put filters in their machine's anyway.
The power of the brand, eh? Got me thinking about how I could adapt this idea to my business. (I haven't figured it out yet...).