26 June 2008

P&O Cruises in yer face

I like P&O Cruises.

It's a good cruise line and I've known them since the Lord Sterling / Gwyn Hughes days when David Dingle (the now MD) was a young whipper-snapper .... well, actually he was the Marketing Director, but it doesn't sound as good!

But not this morning, I don't. No warm fuzzy feelings towards the brand this morning because they crossed the line.

Let me quote one of the Travel-Lists.co.uk mission statements about limiting the amount and type of advertising across the site...

4) Ease-of-use

Our 'lite' design is fast and simple to navigate. Alexa.com says we are: "Very fast. 89% of sites are slower". The reason is, it has no graphics, images are limited to thumbnail size pictures on the news pages only, and we have limited, text-only advertising - with no irritating pop-ups, pop-unders, on-mouseovers, or get-in-your-face-ers, cos like you, we hate the f**king things! (Hold on! You don't think that's a bit, gratuitously extreme? - Ed) ....... um..... no.

P&O Cruises in-yer-face web advertTake a look at this 'get-in-your-face-er' on my yahoo mail this morning. Not only is it there, it is an animated clip, with a temporary, on then off, close button in the top right corner. Can't see it? That's because in its dormant state, it is not visible.

It is almost impossible to avoid clicking on this ad in an attempt to get rid of it.

(At least I assume it is almost impossible. For me it was impossible. I could not close it without being taken to P&O's screen. I was unable to read my mail.)

Shame on you, David Dingle. Don't you guys know how the new web works? How in Web2.0 the relationship between advertiser and audience is much more balanced, natural and based on consent?

FOFO! as they say

(Fix-it Or F**** Off)

17 June 2008

Mitsubishi.co.uk - the triumph of design over practicality

Something very rare indeed happened to me last night.

  • I was watching television - that in itself is a pretty rare occurance.

  • A commercial break started - Cue to go do something else, except this time I didn't.

  • I saw a car advertisement - No matter. I'm not in the least bit interested by cars.

  • ... for a Mitsubishi - Woah! Wait a minute! I AM interested by this one. It looks excellent!
(OK, here comes the sales manager's wet dream moment)

  • Ping! A light comes on somewhere in a dark and unused corner of my small brain. In Homer Simpson 'Duff Beer' voice I say to myself: "mmmm...car...must find out more..."

  • I go to the computer, do a search and arrive at Mitsubishi website. Search for the model and...

  • ...find that the page won't load because it needs some wizzy plugin that my completely up-to-date computer can't download for some reason.

  • Try twice .... give up.

A classic example of how not to try to sell something on the web - make the website too complicated for its own good.

16 June 2008

Hilary Bradt gets MBE

Hilary Bradt MBEI'm not a big fan of royalty and all its trappings, but I am a big fan of Hilary Bradt - the founder of Bradt Travelguides, which I've mentioned from time to time in this blog.

It turns out Hilary (who is a friend & colleague in the British Guild of Travel Writers) has been included in this year’s Birthday Honours List just published by Buckingham Palace ‘for services to the tourist industry and to charity’. She is now Hilary Bradt MBE.

The honour acknowledges Hilary’s achievements in opening up new destinations and encouraging ‘responsible tourism’, even before the phrase was coined.

Well done Hilary

10 June 2008

Some historic aviation milestones to be celebrated in the next 12 months

Bleriot flying across the Channel
Back in 2002 I emailed United Airline's UK PR, saying: "Dec 17 next year will be the 100th anniversary of the Wright brothers first flight. What will you be doing to mark the event?"

I think that may have got a few PR minds quickly working at United because I seem to remember in the end they were quite closely involved with the celebrations at Kitty Hawk in Dec 2003...but the lack of any really clever marketing campaigns or newspaper articles did demonstrate to me that, surprisingly, very few PR folk or journalists bother to look ahead and anticipate what story ideas could be coming up.

It is not rocket-science. It's an exercise I do each year, and I have just this week been doing it again - looking at what travel related events are reaching their 25th, 50th or 100th anniversary later this year and in 2009.

There are a bunch of interesting ones. I won't tell you all, but I will point out a couple of upcoming aviation milestones....

  • On 4 October 2008 we'll be marking the 50th anniversary of the first transatlantic scheduled jet service launched by BOAC using the De Haviland Comet 4 to fly between London and New York.

  • On 26 October 2008 we'll be marking Pan Am's response, a New York - Paris service using the Boeing 707.

But the big aviation celebration will take place next year on 25th July. The 100th anniversary of Frenchman Louis Bleriot's successful attempt to be the first man to fly across the Channel. His 43 minute flight from Sangatte to Dover Castle enabled him to claim the £1,000 prize offered by the Daily Mail.

Notice, this anniversary comes just 6 years after the one celebrating man's first successful attempt to get airborne at all. So it was quite an impressive feat!

05 June 2008

HM Customs podcast

HM Revenue & Customs (HMRC) have released a new podcast about what travellers can bring back into the country.

It's too long (8+ minutes) and rather bland (sounds like one of those po-faced government infomercials from the 80s) but at least it's there.

Now all HMCR have to do is embrace the spirit of Web 2.0 and try to sound like real people!

03 June 2008

Brothel statistics

Lol or cry? Not sure which...

I've just this second had a call from a woman at a PR company (don't know which) wanting to know the visitor stats for Travel-Lists.co.uk. No prob, but she had to wait for a few secs while I extracted last month's Unique Visitors figure.

She sounded a little deflated when I revealed that it was just over 5,000....and so did I.

When I put the phone down I scrolled back to this point last year. The monthly unique visitors then were regularly over 17,000.

What happened? Google.

I've blogged about it before. The long-anticipated Google crackdown on paid links & directories began to bite in Sept last year. Google can't distinguish between good directories and bad ones, and thinks any directory with a payment mechanism is evil.

It's a bit like running a legit massage parlour. People (Google) still assume its a brothel.

Another example of consumer power

EasyJet taking offI'm always interested to see examples of travel consumers exploiting the new power that the Internet has given them, to complain about bad service.

A decade or so ago, it was only travellers like me (a travel journo) who could complain about bad service with any sort of clout. Travel and transport companies could safely ignore howls of protest from anybody else and, if the worst came to the worst, leave them to flounder about in lengthy and confusing claims procedures. Now they do so at their peril because anybody could have a 'loud voice' on the web.

This week's 'loud voice' is John Heald - Senior Cruise Director with Carnival Cruises who has pretty much had it with easyJet.

Unfortunately for them he writes one of the top 100 most popular blogs in the world (2+ million readers since he started just over a year ago) and in last Thursday's edition he ripped into the treatment he recently received at their hands.

Even easyJet, who in common with their low-cost airline rivals are notoriously thick-skinned, must have wondered what impact his comments would have on their reputation, particularly if it gets picked up in the blogosphere and begins to run...oops.

02 June 2008

I hate bland PR quotes

Three business executives outdoors
One of my pet hates is the standard PR quote used for padding. (I have mentioned this before)

PRs know that all journos need to quote somebody to make a story stand up. So every press release comes with a ready-made quote, 'off the shelf'. Many are bland and banal 'corporate speak'.

Let me go find some examples....

(returns 5 mins later - promise!) OK, these are some of today's. They are by no means the worst I've seen, but they'll help illustrate what I mean.

  1. [company]’s Chief Executive Officer, [name], added: "We are most proud to have contributed and to continue contributing to [company]’s growth. The largest cruise operator in Europe, [company] has just celebrated its millionth passenger in the year. I am confident that this alliance will stand the test of time and enable our companies to further consolidate our positions as market leaders in our respective business areas."

  2. The deployment of [company] technology is another great UDOT success story according to Governor [name]. "Utah's decision to deploy[company] is making Utah highways safer, cleaner and more efficient for us all."

  3. "The overwhelming popularity of [company]'s innovative, express bus service prompted us to expand to the East Coast," said [name], president and chief operating officer of [company]. "Our Midwest same city sales are up 107 percent from 2007."

    "Seventy-nine percent of our customers are choosing to travel with [company] instead of driving, flying or taking the train and have been delighted with their travel experiences, " [name] added. "With current gas prices and financial strains, [company] continues to be the best value for the money choice of the traveling public."

  4. Hotel Relationships Director, [name] comments: ‘The rapid growth of [company] is a result of constant evolution to meet the needs of customers and hotels. We’re thrilled to welcome both [name] and [name] to the [company] team, their expert knowledge will help us enhance our service to the relevant hoteliers in Scotland and the North of England. By having a market manager based in specific regions we can get a much better understanding of the markets and individual hotel needs’.

See! They are THAT easy to find!

Now look at them.

"With current gas prices and financial strains, [company] continues to be the best value for the money choice of the traveling public"

"I am confident that this alliance will stand the test of time and enable our companies to further consolidate our positions as market leaders in our respective business areas."

I mean, cmon! Does anyone in real life really talk like that?

I know they do in corporate presentation mode, but in today's Web 2.0 world consumers can smell hype at a thousand paces. Instead, they respond to, and believe in, normal kitchen-table conversations. That's why company blogs have taken off.

So what is the solution?

Well, I have two...

The first is for PRs to use SMNRs and include multiple and extended .mp3 interview & conversation clips, from which journos can select the quotes they want. (But then, since I make those sort of podcast clips for people, I would say that wouldn't I!)

The second is for PRs to simply inject some personality into the quotes they quote. When you phone your client to ask for a quote (or tell them the quote you are proposing), make it something personal that couldn't be said in the body of the release. IE Instead of...

"We are delighted to add this new hotel to our portfolio, which expands our properties in Scotland to 11"


"I've been visiting this hotel every month during its construction and getting more and more excited with every visit, but when my 12-year-old daughter saw it for the first time yesterday and said 'Dad. it's beautiful', I knew we have a success on our hands"

It's not rocket science, it's people science.