The blissful few weeks respite from “devastating loss” and “outrage” as a result of shock events that we’ve endured this year came to a crashing end today – as the BBC lost The Great British Bake Off to Channel 4 when it fell £10m short in its bid to hold onto the show. I kid you not, moving the show from one terrestrial channel to another was described in the sort of terms we’ve come to expect from a terrorist attack. Clearly, Donald Trump has changed news reporting from merely hysterical to utterly apocalyptic. To discern the trees of reality from the forest of media histrionics, however, what does this move really mean for consumer brand marketers?

Why so serious?

In sharp contrast to the war-like seriousness with which the televised baking competition is reported, many people tune in just for the sexual innuendo, according to Buzzfeed, or presenters Mel Giedroyc and Sue Perkin’s insistence on making fun of the whole enterprise. But the show is serious business for retailers and white goods makers alike, with plenty of evidence of Bake Off being one of the most marketable events in the retail calendar.

Kenwood’s sales could hit a soggy bottom

Sales of Kenwood’s KitchenAids mixer crashed 14 per cent when producers swapped the product out – fortunately for Kenwood, its kMix mixer is now used. The brand previously saw sales climbing thanks to the product’s placement within the show, as well as major gains on its social media platforms, according to its Marketing Director, Alex Pickering.

Though PR agencies like Eulogy routinely place products in return for editorial credits on the BBC, paid placement is not possible with ‘Auntie’. On Channel 4, however, product placement opportunities can be bought and indeed the practice is encouraged by Channel 4;  according to its own study, the practice “can shift brand perception.” So Kenwood could suddenly face competition that’s stiffer than meringue peaks and be forced out to a higher bidder (just as the BBC experienced). A brand with deeper pockets might additionally sponsor the show and get further show content too featuring those kitchen products to use across its social channels.

The soufflé like rise in retail sales

Retailers will have it slightly easier – as long as Bake Off’s popularity continues that is. Eulogy client, Summit Media, found that baking product sales soared by 214 per cent in the weeks before the Bake Off season started. Waitrose’s baking buyer Tim Shaw revealed that the two-months of the Great British Bake Off are the third most important event of the year, adding 392 per cent of sales, which puts the event just behind Easter and Christmas, according to a Drum article.

Morrisons has even gone as far as creating “bake officer” – not just a PR stunt, buyer Anastasia Duncanson watches episodes to try and work out what products will catch on in store. Retailers can take advantage in that build up period identified by Summit with pre-planned activity, as well as take more of a guerrilla approach by reacting Morrisons-style to each episode. However, will retailers and brands need to react to any changes in the show’s winning formula now that it’s moving home? And will any changes to the formula impact its popularity?

A change of ingredients could ruin the bake

A hit worldwide, The Great British Bake Off is more appropriately called The Great British Baking Show elsewhere, like America, where it shows on PBS, its’ public broadcaster, as well as Netflix. It has become a hit on both. Like Masterchef, a brand and format also incubated by the BBC, its format has been licensed out and localised. However, only the original has succeeded – the Australian version, The Great Australian Bake Off, and an American knock off, The Great Holiday Baking Show flopped.  As The Independent points out, the move (usually from BBC to ITV) is often one that “twinkles with promise that is rarely fulfilled.”

With rumours that the current hosts, including Mary Berry and Paul Hollywood, might not move with the show, it seems that changing the show’s globally winning formula could doom the show – as another tweaked version of a BBC show, Top Gear, also showed. It will be all systems go for marketers when Bake Off launches on Channel 4. However, if the show doesn’t survive the move, and the baking craze sinks sales at retailers, the hysterical language that shrieked at the initial news – the “devastating loss” and “outrage” – might seem not so histrionic after all.

The battle for Facebook likes is heating up, as brands try to build their communities on the social network – before Facebook hikes up its ad rates.
Ford is one big brand that’s really warming up to Zuckerberg’s offer – but at what cost? Some of the figures reveal that advertising with Facebook offers a poor return compared to PR when it comes to adding ‘likes’.
The Wall Blog writes that Ford recently spent 5% of its $95m budget for its spokespuppet ‘Doug’ campaign on Facebook advertising. Yet this push only acquired 43,000 new thumbs ups – a relatively tiny ‘like’s spike for that kind of money.

Indeed, it works out at $110 per new ‘like’ – around £70 in UK money. That seems an awful lot to persuade someone to approve of your page – someone who might never engage with your brand on Facebook again. Thankfully, not all friends are so expensive.

Compare that to a recent PR campaign that I ran at my agency for a (to remain nameless) client, a major UK retailer. In only a few days we added around 2,500 new ‘likes’ for no more than £1 per ‘like’. Advertising around this campaign was far more modest than the Ford campaign, and actually more efficient – but still more than double the cost of the PR element.

One of the keys to the success was our grasp of storytelling, and our ability to integrate it with traditional PR, and Twitter. It was this element that ramped up the likes and delivered an audience interested in hearing more from the brand – and crucially, being more open to buying from it.

Warning - Facebook friends might cost more than a celebrity rider

Many people ask me how much they need to spend to reach a certain threshold of ‘likes’. Almost all of them would baulk at Ford’s figures. What do you think? Should Ford get better value for money? Do you think PR is an effective way to drive Facebook ‘likes’? What are the most effective ways of driving thumbs up for brand pages? What’s more important – ‘likes’ or engagement?

He’s known for publicly insulting the biggest names in Hollywood, for his record breaking podcasts, and for hit TV series including the Office – Ricky Gervais’ star continues to ascend. Now, amazingly, he’s here to offer his tips on creativity, social media and how to handle interviews with journalists.

In his essay in this month’s Wired, Gervais makes essential reading for PRs and, indeed, anyone involved in media relations, social media, and the wider creative market.

In it, the British funny man does an amazing u-turn on Twitter, describes his aggressive media interview technique, and offers his ideas on how to, uh, get better ideas.

I’ve extracted Gervais’ top tips on creativity for this post because, well, they’re good. Check em.

1. You’ve either got it or you don’t  

Sorry folks, but the comedy writer and performer writes that “Scientific studies of creativity have basically concluded that it can’t be taught, as it is a “facility” rather than a learned skill.”  Some will say that this makes a good case for separate creative teams in agencies, others will disagree. I’ll leave it to you to decide. However, it kind of follows that, if you believe science,  then you believe that there are people in your company who are creative and those who aren’t. Learn who’s who and capitalise on their unique ‘facilities’.

2. Be playful 

Ricky writes that “creativity is the ability to play – (and) to be able to turn that facility on and off when necessary.” If you’re not uninhibitedly playful, you’ll struggle to get in touch with your creative side. If you’re in an office environment, learn to understand why you’re creative people might not be poker face serious all the time, and why their playful nature could be one of your company’s biggest assets. Give them room – and appropriate work spaces – to be playful and create.

3. Make mistakes – and learn which ones to keep. 

There’s a quote in the essay from Scott Adams, who said said, “Creativity is allowing yourself to make mistakes. Art is knowing which ones to keep.” Unless you play around, experiment and are ready to embrace failure, you cannot be creative. In prop maker Artem’s  workshop, the company’s creative mantra is displayed on a placard: “Be ambitious fools.” Shooting for the stars whilst enjoying falls in the mud along the way is key to unlocking more ideas.  Never put a creative on the spot and expect a Eureka moment there and then – appreciate that the good ones will be generative when they need to be, as well as selective. Both parts are equally important.

4. Be childlike

Gervais quotes one of my favourite Pablo Picasso lines: “Every child is an artist. The problem is how to remain an artist once he grows up.” Being childlike,  feeling possessed by your fascination, as children do, embracing new concepts and being open and prepared to learn intensifies your creative expression. So give creative employees rusks and let them wear romper suits. Have Teletubbies on 24/7, yo. Maybe not – but in the grown up world of business, understand those with the ability to access and channel their inner child could make you shed loads of money. Attempting to ossify that quality into hard-nosed business could limit your company’s creative output. Learn how to manage it.

5. Stay true to your character, not your reputation

Never be worried by who other people think you are – as Gervais says,  “Character is who you really are. Only close friends really know you and that’s all that counts in the end.” Ok, if you’re a PR company making branded stories instead of art, you’re possibly highly sensitive to reputation matters. Deal with this by separating your creatives from your brand champions and audience connectors (media relations team, social media community moderators). That way, the creators can create and the connectors can connect for instance.

Cheers Ricky. Sure you didn’t intend this for PRtists but the tips seem applicable to anyone  who creates something.

Being interesting isn’t all it’s cracked up to be – boring sells funnier.

If you’re familiar with Kevin Beresford’s crushingly dull yet brilliantly obsessive top-selling books and calendars about British roundabouts, or the AA’s ‘Britain’s Best Car Parks’ (Red, with Kevin Beresford), then you’ll probably already know that boring can sell.

Though watching paint dry hasn’t made the front cover of a national yet (fancy a challenge?), a contest for a ‘Fence of the year’ as scooped a full page in today’s Sun (see attached). And with a quote, key messages and a call to action (email address/web link) included, it’s a PR coup from heaven for the small price of a hellishly cringe-inducing headline.

No of-fence, but this is really boring


It doesn’t look like the PR team pitched the story as ‘boring’ though – the client quote is too sober and suggests the brand hasn’t quite embrace its inner dullard. So it’s probably just a ‘happy’ accident.

Yet, you can often design this stuff – by being knowingly pedantic. Or at least using a little self-deprecating honesty.

Writer Joe Moran has been celebrating the everyday for years – why not check his blog out for inspiration on how to find fascination in the run of the mill.

How you sell boring to a client is another matter entirely. But if you can convince your client to man-hug the mundane, you might well captivate their target audience with a dull topic in a flashy red top just like the Fence Competition brand did.

By Scot Devine

The Blitz had bulldog Winston Churchill, and 7/11 New York had the willful Mayor Giuliani, and London post-riots has…well who does it have?

As I changed my son’s nappy after we woke up this morning, London was bloodied, looted and smouldering. Shockingly, our Prime Minister was yet to make an appearance, our mayor was still on holiday, our police chiefs (COBRA) hadn’t met yet, and the ruined, terrified city looked naked and leaderless. My three  month old merely looked naked and innocent, but strangely as likely as anyone to lead the city’s recovery at that point.

Then something wonderful happened. Whilst the politicians wrung their hands in the shadows, no one person emerged to rally us. So we all decided to do it ourselves.

Heroes emerged from the ruins, both individuals and entire communities. And it looks like they, not David Cameron or Boris Johnson, who’ll help fix London.

Here are some of the ones who have inspired me over the last sad, scary and uncertain 24 hours. There are countless more – if you would like to suggest them, I’d love to hear about them. Hell, we could all use a little pepping up with positive stories right now.

1. The Turks – as many of us shrunk or shook last night, multiple tweets about the proud Turkish community’s stand in Dalston ignited sparks of hope in all of us. Forming a visibly imposing, physical line outside their shops, they stood firm, strong, and unshakably together. Turks 1, Rioters 0. They, along with other ethnic minority groups in the world’s most multicultural city, showed us what community can look like in the face of sickening attack.
2. The West Indian woman who confronted looters in Hackney.  If this woman had a Twitter account, she’d possibly have a following large enough and passionate enough to make the UK’s #1 Tweeter, Stephen Fry jealous. With enough moxie to make even the Iron Lady shrink back, I’m sure all of us wish we had a a tenth of her courage.
3 . Stretched beyond belief, London’s firemen and women are ‘simply doing their job.’ Of course, it’s a job for heroes, many of whom work part-time and never know when the shit will hit the fan, and it’s always worth reminding ourselves of their stunning contribution to getting London back under control.
4. Sky News’ Mark Stone – Mark Stone is a rock of a reporter. With little more protection than his balls of granite, and armed with an iPhone, he rolled, confronted, filmed and filed reports from deep inside the riot zone in Clapham Junction. Here, looters vandalised, looted and assaulted for up to two hours before police presence appeared. Strange reporting  improvisations around empty Immodium packets in Boots merely lent some emotional fragility to his otherwise brick hard determination to report the news. Elsewhere, BBC reporters were attacked (citation missing), a female Guardian journalist was set-upon (citation missing) and countless other brave journalists have suffered for trying to bring us the story as it happens. We salute you.
5. The Ledbury chefs, when they’re not serving up two star Michelin food, are dishing out the pain on criminal trespassers, according to food blogger, Naked Sushi. The foody was violently robbed of her wedding ring whilst in the middle of a special dinner last night, after looters smashed their way in to mug customers. She reports however that, after safely stowing customers in toilets and the wine cellar, they repelled the rioters by “rushing up from the kitchen with rolling pins, fry baskets, and other dangerous kitchen tools and scared off the looters.” Brave boys and girls.
6. The police – ‘Inspector Winter’ offers a first-hand, street level account of the stress and downright terror of a shocke, under-resourced and overwhelmed force attempting to quell the riots. Let’s face it, just seeing the police on the streets under these circumstances is a relief. The question is, how will they fare tonight and will they have access to water cannons, rubber bullets and other riot weapons used by their Northern Irish and European counterparts?
7. Camila Batmanghelidjh is a woman who makes sense. Her bravery extends far beyond the past few days, but her experience and advice seem somehow to be central to helping to rebuilding the city. Listen to her.

8. The people of London. What’s more beautiful than the sight of hundreds of brooms held aloft to clean up riot zones? The fact that it’s ordinary Londoners volunteering to clean up their neigbourhoods. Sometime after midnight (I think…hazy memory), someone suggested on Twitter to clean-up the mess. With the country’s leaders well and truly at sea (or just sunbathing by it), normal people just stepped up to the plate to help straighten London out. It’s awesome and shows that together we can regain control.

And what of tonight? What do we do? How do we stand up to the inevitable onslaught? How do we cope with the aftermath?

More and more clients are asking us to advise them on the hot ‘gamification’ trend that’s currently firing the imaginations of business innovators. One of the areas we’re looking at is how to promote social shopping, or the gamification of retail. We’re not the only ones thinking about it of course – as these cool ‘shopped pics show how the regular supermarket sweep could be turned into an addictive game.

By Scot Devine

With Zynga’s City Ville launching in China (not to mention a looming sale or IPO for the star of the Facebook games), and Disney Playdom’s ‘Garden’s of Time’ reviving the brand’s fortunes, buzz around social gaming has never been so high.
Indeed, when I ran a 12 month search of major news sources today, I found that there are now almost double the number of social gaming stories per month (100) than this time last year (54).
So whether you’re a start-up or a major player, there has never been a better time to become a social gaming thought leader. Particularly if you want to attract investors, build corporate confidence, drive sales leads from merchants and advertisers, woo the hottest talent, and boost the number of sign-ups to convert into coveted DAUs and MAUs. So how can PR help you stand out from the growing crowd?

1. Guide the investment conversation

Investors love talking up social gaming, and with the revenues delivered by the likes of Zynga, not to mention the growth in virtual goods (currently worth $1.9bn), it makes for drool-inducing speculation.

With more users than its nearest 9 competitors combined, Zynga is the hot company. However, its dependence on Facebook worries some potential investors. And there are fears over a social gaming bubble to boot. Neither Zynga’s leadership nor the fears of a bubble bursting should inhibit upstarts and challenger brands alike from leading the conversation, however.

Shrewd players will run effective thought leadership campaigns. The multi-platform opportunity (mobile, iPad, iPhone, Android, PC etc) is an interesting topic in particular. Being opinionated & visionary on this subject alone can lead to some great interviews and savvy presentations can make you a hit on the speaker circuit can speaker circuit.

Bold, insightful and well-placed opinion articles can also wield influence, as are bloggable and tweetable insights into the workings of the industry and market trends. Infographic designers eat your hearts out.   When there’s an appetite for information in a nascent industry, PRs can help increase your share of voice in the conversation to get you noticed with investors.

2. Leverage the gamification trend with mainstream brands

Bigger trend at play – ‘gamification’ is entering every aspect of our lives (from to do lists to recycling). Brands like Volvo, for instance are tapping into gaming; so PR can help drive leads to developers from brands who are game.

3. Promote your Facebook relationship – or better still, don’t

Let’s face it, Facebook marketing is still a hot media topic – and 50% of its users log in specifically to play games. If you have an amazing presence on Zuckerberg’s site, leverage it. After all, it’s an amazing cross-marketing platform. If you don’t, there’s a massive upside: there’s an entire universe of other platforms and networks out there.

Most games acquire users virally anyway (invite a friend incentives), and success stories like World of Warcraft became its own, hugely successful social network without Facebook. And with news of Zuck’s baby’s growth slowing, not to mention a new generation of gamers growing up in other environments (e.g. Club Penguin, Moshi Monsters), the future of social networking is by no means as predictable as, say, Zynga would like.

So, there’s good reason to talk about your own platform as well as all the others (Chrome, Android, I0S),  devices including iPad and iPhone, not to mention the multitude of mobile networks and other global third party social networks (including gaming portals).

by Flickr user Kaeru

4. Forget global networks for a minute – unleash the power of local third party networks

There’s a wealth of local third party networks, e.g. Skyrock in France has over 20m users, Tuenti in Spain has 16m+, whilst StudiVZ in Germany has more than 13m users. Sure, they have lost some ground to Facebook, but they still offer a massive number of consumers to target. This is a business story that is begging to be told – and an alternative consumer audience available to engage with.

5. Clean up reputations soiled by corporate mud-slinging 

Simply type ‘social gaming litigation’ into Google and you’ll see the reputation management issues that are helping to define the industry. And you thought the intellectual property scandal at the heart of The Social Network movie was a big deal? Litigation and counter-litigation over code and concept theft is daily bread to journalists covering the social gaming industry. If ever there was a job for a savvy reputation management flack over who invented Farmville et al, it’s in social gaming.
6. Engage brands, retailers and advertisers 

20% of social gamers have spent money within a game (reference  missing) and, more interestingly, the market (virtual goods and in-game advertising) is expected to be worth $5bn by 2015. Merchants are looking to sell virtual goods, advertisers want to buy space in-game, and brands want to create virtual games – so there’s a massive opportunity to use PR to drive leads. H&M successfully sold virtual clothing, for instance, in game – so using PR to make your particular social game attractive to merchants, brands and advertisers.

7. Bring the virtual world into the real world

Users flock to social gaming thanks to advertising and viral mechanics. Game producers cross-sell their other titles in-game, and persuade players to invite their friends to gain more vital game energy as well as currency. If you have Facebook sewn up, Zynga style, then acquiring more gamers for new titles is easy and cheap. For competitors, particularly start-ups nervously building MAUs and DAUs, however, acquiring new users on Facebook can be difficult and expensive (CPA was $0.10 and is now $1). Marketing on other platforms can be even costlier. A great PR and social media campaign, however, can help.

Particularly with a strong offline execution.  Angry Birds has become a pop culture icon to create more touch points (retail) and revenue streams (merchandise, e.g. plushes). Social games aimed at younger audiences (Club Penguin, Moshi Monsters) have also done this successfully. Farmville has gone pop culture but not of its own volition – the National Trust has created a Farmville-inspired real world campaign where 10,000 ‘players’ get to run a real life farm. Farmville could have done this itself to generate amazing consumer PR for the game as well as the parent brand, to drive lapsed and new users – and attract merchants and advertisers at the same time. It’s only a matter of time before other social games want to make the leap into the real world – and PR can definitely help with that.