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It is estimated that the total value of transactions using mobile technology is expected to grow to $173 billion by 2017, at a compounded annual growth rate of 31%.

That latest in the race to be the method of choice is CurrentC. But it’s not just another smartphone-based payment system trying to jump on the bandwagon of electronic payment systems, it’s actually been created by many of the biggest retailers in the US.

Developed by Merchant Content Exchange (MCX) and rolling out during August, CurrentC is designed to rival Apple Pay, Google Wallet and Samsung Pay.

The unexpected factor is that instead of using NFC, it uses traditional barcode scanning on a retail terminal to initiate payment. The company argues that this allows all phones, old and new to use the system – good news for anyone with an older iPhone.

It also debits money from a customer’s bank account, not a credit card, which saves money and gives it an advantage over other systems.

Share across Europe

Android has a 68.9% share, Apple holds second position with 19.0% share and Windows is third with 9.7%. But Apple has a 41% share of the US market, and 42.5% share of the UK market. Smartphones now account for 70% of mobile phones in UK. Remember Nokia? Well the Nokia 1100 is still the world’s best ever selling phone.

Who is behind MXC?

MCX is funded by retailers: Wal-Mart, Target, Sears, Wendy’s, Dunkin, Best Buy, Exxon Mobil, Gap and many others.

The consortium set out to create a payments network that could reduce the power of Visa, Amex, MasterCard, the new NFC payment systems, as well as reducing the fees paid to financial services.

Retailers also fear losing valuable shopping and biographical customer data to the other payment methods, whereas CurrentC can merge payments and loyalty benefits, which will give them additional insight into the spending habits of their customers.

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Ways to pay

Visa has been pushing contactless strongly in the UK and with great success, also helped by backing from Transport for London (to replace Oyster).

Apple Pay is a recent launch and up until now Apple have been reluctant to use NFC, but it’s only available in the iPhone 6 models.

Google Wallet was originally launched in 2011 but didn’t gain enough traction until recently and now Google have said it’ll be renamed Android Pay.

Samsung Pay is trading off the success of the Samsung Galaxy, which has been a massive global seller.

Of course you can also use PayPal which is trusted and used by millions globally.

More recently the Paym app has launched, which is backed by the UK banks (Bank of Scotland, Barclays, Halifax, HSBC, Lloyds Bank, Santander, NatWest,TSB and others), and is a peer to peer payment method, allowing you to transfer money via mobile numbers. It is being made available to more than 40 million customers, which is about 90% of UK current account holders.

Zapp is another Pay-by-Bank app and is supported by Barclays (it replaces Pingit) as well as HSBC, First Direct, Nationwide, Santander and Metro Bank.

And what about poor old Blackberry? Well they have announced EnStream in Canada and BBM Money in other markets (both NFC based).

As for other mobile based payment systems, there have been many that have already come and gone, and many trying to get into what is already looking like a crowded market.

Who wins?

There is little doubt that the retailers want to control the payment method and protect their data, but time will tell if the battle between Apple, Google, credit card companies and the retailers will result in any clear winners or just confusion for the customer


Chris Arnold is founder of Creative Orchestra Advertising & the Proximity Mobile Marketing specialists, Comobi2.



There are few brands that can exist without trust and in a competitive environment, trust can be the difference between making a sale or not.

So why do some brands seem to throw it all away so easily by lying, exploiting people or just cheating the tax system.

Who is to blame? It’s not the marketing departments, so should you blame the CFO? Certainly the number one reason behind brands cheating the customer is greed – cutting corners to make a short term gain.

VW’s fall from grace.

There has been a lot written about the recent VW scandal and I shall not write much about it as almost everything that can be written has, but it has been described as “the most catastrophic loss of trust of any brand in 100 year.”

They didn’t just lie to the public but cheated on something that is all about ethics, and in a devious way.

Overnight they have reframed the brand from reliable to untrustworthy.

An amusing thread on Facebook:

JON: “Blimey, if you can’t trust VW, what brands can you trust?”

PETE: “Banks, you can trust banks John.”

JON: “Are you joking?!! You can’t trust banks or anyone in the financial sector, they are all crooks.”

PETE: “Exactly Jon, you can always trust them to be dishonest and unethical.”


Brand bashing

There are obviously brands we deal with that we essentially don’t trust, and others we just like to bash. When McDonalds bought into Pret A Manger and Coca-Cola bought into Innocent there was outrage that trust brands Pret and Innocent had “sold to the devil”. The same was said of Body Shop when it sold to L’Oreal, mainly because of Nestlé’s holding in L’Oreal.

Yet Nestlé, Coke and McDonalds are three of the biggest brands on the planet, because we all buy from them. So why are we so hypocritical? If we don’t trust them then why do we spend billions with them?

Oil companies also get a lot of bashing, and there’s no lack of mocking graphical abuse of their logos. But as one oil company CEO said, if you don’t like us and we all decided to stop producing oil tomorrow there’d be a bigger outrage that American’s couldn’t drive their cars.

It’s easy to be a brand basher, but much harder to live a big brand free life.

Ask anyone who shops as discounted clothes shops if they think sweat shops are bad – most will agree they are. It’s easy to ignore brands that have dubious ethics when the price is cheap or the brand is trendy or posh. Some call these ‘conflicted consumers’ I just call them ‘hypocritical consumers’, they say one thing and do another.

The negative image of many big brands can be unfair, McDonalds has many positive ethical values and I’ve defended them several times against unjust claims.

Many of the big “bad brands’ actually do more good than bad. Starbucks buys more Fairtrade coffee than anyone; they employ local people at decent wages and also use local companies when building new shops. They also put a lot of money back into communities. By contrast that local café you so treasure pays its staff badly, abuses their rights and that Fairtrade coffee may be anything but fairly traded.

Building trust.

  1. The fundamental starting point of building trust is to respect the customer.
  1. The second is how you behave – what you do defines your brand. Not any slick slogan, token ethical or charitable scheme that is all PR or an expensive TV ad.
  1. The third is don’t lie (or spin to appoint it’s deceptive). Be honest.

When Pampers changed the formulae of its nappies water absorbing substance they told people in America but didn’t in the UK. When mothers started to see rashes they panicked and thought they were ‘chemical burns’ (they weren’t). Pampers response was defensive and arrogant, the result – they lost a massive amount of trust from mums that has still not been regained.

Mothers are one group of consumers where trust is essential and no mother will take a risk when it comes to their baby.


When Shell ran an ad DON’T THROW ANYTHING AWAY AS THERE IS NO AWAY, claiming they were using waste CO2 to cultivate flowers, it was true, but by missing out a simple fact (very little CO2 was actually being recycled) it implied they were recycling all of it, which is a lie. It is nominated as one for the biggest green wash ads of all time.

We have come to distrust banks, and in fact the whole financial world, because they continually behave dishonestly and unethically. But if a bank could win the trust and confidence of the consumer it’d clean up.

But we all trust John Lewis and Waitrose because they treat the customer better than any other retailer, and when things do go wrong they respond in favour of the customer, not defensively.

What amazes me is that John Lewis doesn’t leverage the brand to push into areas where trust is key.

Another brand that use to be highly trusted was Virgin. A lot of that was built upon Richard Branson’s trustworthy personality. People behind brands you trust are very powerful, just take the founder of Body Shop, the late Anita Roddick, her values became the values of the brand.

BP gun

It’s not just about sweat shops and customers…

One area that has undermined the trust of a number of well know brands is their failure to pay UK taxes – over 100 firms on the FTSE 350 index have now been accused of tax evasion, with many leading firms hiding profits offshore to avoid paying UK tax. It’s led to boycotts and a lot of bad PR for brands like Amazon, Google, Starbucks and Vodafone and the creation of a new term ‘tax shaming’, which is now included as one element that defines the ethics of a business.

The true value of trust

There is an economic argument to why companies should be honest and ethical – it actually makes you a more desirable brand.

The problem is that too many CFOs only see profit and feed the shareholders as the most important factor in their business, so they think short term. And I have yet to meet a CFO who actually understood consumers; they tend to think of them as targets. The old slogan, “They know the cost of everything but the value of nothing” comes to mind.

If big brands were run by HR they’d all be a lot more ethical and honest and probably more successful long term.

Trust is an essential factor in the economic value of a brand and the fact VW lied has not only wiped millions off it’s share value (it fell by 20% overnight) but also off it’s brand value. Longer term I doubt it will ever be able to rebuild the trust lost and return to the pre scandal levels of trust it had. And the word ‘ reliable’ will be I doubt we’ll see again under the logo.

Online, negative sentiment around the VW brand increased by 1,998%.

Can you buy trust?


One of the reasons Coke bought into Innocent was the fact people trusted it and to sell an orange juice that would take on Pepsi-Co’s Tropicana brand they needed a brand people trusted. It worked. Ironic they didn’t do the same with Zico their coconut water. It’s well known on the circuit as the least desirable because it’s made from concentrate and almost all the other aren’t – that’s the power of a connected consumer, the truth soon goes around.

Being economic with the truth is still being deceptive.

I think consumers have got smart to any product claiming to have less of something, knowing it probably has more of something else bad. Thanks to numerous TV shows and media coverage, we have discovered the truth about many products, about sugar, salt, artificial flavourings, E numbers and the many things we didn’t know we were eating.

The horse meat scandal didn’t just reveal that supermarkets could not be trusted to check the source of the food they sold but it revealed a lot about the process food industry that was less than tasteful.

With the fad of ‘Gluten Free’, brands are now being exposed for replacing gluten with unhealthy alternatives.

Once lost, can you rebuild trust?

The other catastrophic loss of trust of a brand was Sunny Delight (aka Sunny D). When mothers discovered it wasn’t what it implied (note lied is the last 4 letters of implied), it wasn’t a fresh orange juice product but artificially coloured sugar water, the brand sales crashed. The real question was why did the company lie and deliberately go out to deceive the consumer when they could have actually sold them orange juice?

In today’s socially media connected society it’s a guarantee that if you lie (or imply) you will be exposed. It is a very dumb company that thinks it can con the consumer for long.


When Sunny D attempted to rebuild the brand I was one that advised them it was as dead as the parrot in the Monty Python sketch and trying to make the brand fly again was a joke.

It’s all about emotions.

Brands are like people, we want to trust them but trust can easily be broken. And once it is, it’s hard to win back. You can’t argue your case because it’s not about logic but about how people feel about you, and as we all know, consumers buy 80% on emotions.

Chris Arnold is founder of Creative Orchestra Advertising and Comobi2.

Are late payments smart accountancy or bad ethics?


Clients are “unfair and greedy” in their approach to paying agencies, according to the MAA (Marketing Agencies Association).

I think few agencies would disagree with that.

However, few CFOs’ seem to get it.

When it comes to trust, estate agents, journalists, used car salesmen and marketers were pretty much at the bottom. But now it’s the world of finance – bankers, City dealers, shareholders, pay day loan companies and…. CFOs.

It’s not some kind of plot by the media but a simple fact – people judge you by the way you behave – and the financial industry over the last 10 years has shown nothing but contempt for moral principles, ethics and even the law.

It has been criticised for its culture of greed and lack of moral compass, so it’s no surprise that one of the biggest issues facing the marketing industry is not actually the usually complaints – lack of good briefs, clients who are less brave, short deadlines, declining quality standards – but late payments.

It’s hard enough as it is to find clients who aren’t squeezing agencies to do more for less, but what adds insult to injury is the growing length of payment terms.

The MAA view

The MAA, a trade body who are not one to shy away from topical issues, has recently started to raise the question of finding a solution to long payment terms and the many dirty tricks CFOs practice without guilt.

They recently held a seminar with the Guardian to a packed house, proving how topical an issue this is.

I think we can all list many big brands who abuse agencies this way, and it really is an abuse. There are also those in the economic sector and government who fear that big brands are damaging the UK economy with these unethical long payment terms, after all 95% of companies in the UK area SMEs and are responsible for 48% of UK private sector employment, so are vital to economic growth.

Brands like Premier Foods are just one of many that have been publicly criticised for unethical payment terms, they even featured in a BBC Newsnight for practicing “pay and stay”: asking suppliers for money up front just to be considered for work, which really is as unethical as you can get.

Premier Foods launched its “Invest for Growth” program in July 2013. To improve its cash flow and pay down debt, it asked suppliers to “invest,” or lend, money upfront to them to continue doing business with them.

The recent recession gave big brands an excuse to extend from the common practice of 30 days to 60 and 90 and some to 130 and 150 days.


Mondelez International (Cadbury, Kraft and Philadelphia) has payment terms of 120 days. Procter & Gamble has payment terms of 45 days to 75 days. AB InBev have 120. Brewer Molson Coors (Grolsch and Carling), entered The Forum of Private Business ‘hall of shame’ over its supplier terms in 2010.

To ad insult to injury, several of the above brands have offered their agencies loans (with interest) to cover the gap until they are paid!

You really have to ask, “Just how unethical are some CFOs?”

With 72% of agency work being now project based and income fees declined by almost 20%, agencies are under sever financial pressure.

“The government can’t call for enterprise and innovation whilst allowing corporations to behave like this,” said MMA MD Scott Knox said. “What more do corporates need?”


The IPA view

Alex Hunter, the finance director of the IPA said, “It is surely nonsensical that agencies – many of whom are SMEs – should act as banker to these major corporations, merely so that these corporate giants can demonstrate strong balance sheets to their analysts each quarter. With interest rates at an all-time low there is no real commercial value in unilaterally extending payment terms. Those at the receiving end of this pressure are precisely those hired to add value to these major companies through their commercial creativity.”

Even those brands, like one well know newspaper group, who claim 30 days payment terms are often less than honest. 30 days may be from the end of the month in which the invoice is submitted – which can’t be done until the PO has been issued, which seems to take forever. So even a 30 day rule allows CFOs to cheat the system.

Thomas Cook recently asked for a £1 million “signing-on fee” for the agency that was awarded its media account. “Realistically, clients need to be embarrassed into changing their ways,” said Paul Bainsfair, the director-general at the IPA.

The FSB view

The FSB (Federation of Small Businesses), which represents over 200,000 SMEs in the UK, are deeply concerned about the damaging effect big brands are having upon suppliers. Just look at what’s been happening to milk farmers!

Over 50% of their members had experienced late payment.

The FSB have been calling for an independent inquiry into the UK’s poor payment culture and an independent inquiry to tackle late payment and supply chain bullying.

A survey they conducted found that late payments have resulted in 30% of its members having less ability to grow, 32% saying it made them pay their own suppliers late and 15% saying it resulted in difficulties paying staff.

Xerox, named and shamed by the FSB commented on a case of late payment, “Company policy is not to pay any invoices in the last quarter of the year.” 

Graham Buck, regional chairman for the FSB said,  “Late payment and the UK’s poor payment culture are difficult issues to address. We acknowledge Government’s attempts to find a solution, including the Small Business Bill, but the situation is continuing to deteriorate. To get real change in how large companies do business, more decisive action must be taken.”

He went on to add, “The abuse of small firms in their dealings with bigger businesses cannot be allowed to continue. We have seen the UK’s payment culture significantly deteriorate in the past five years. The gradual creep of payment terms from 30 days to well over 100 days in some cases, coupled with debilitating contract terms, can have a disastrous 
effect on a small firm’s ability to operate.”

Late payment has opened up the door for factoring agencies and other businesses. Recently I came across this on my LinkedIn – “We believe businesses have the right to Get Paid On Time. That’s why we’ve built Satago: a clever automated accounts receivable platform integrating with most cloud and desktop accounting software. It takes the hassle out of chasing debtors and boost your cash flow with one click so that businesses can spend more time chasing new customers and doing the work they love.”


The agencies view


Omnicom boss John Wren has recently turned away business from clients seeking extended payment terms. “We’ve turned down and not accepted clients that we could have won because we weren’t prepared to accept the terms they were offering.”


He further added, “We’re not a bank. I think if you speak to my competitors, they’ll all three agree with that concept… that’s not what we’re here for. And anybody who wants to treat us like a bank can go to a bank.”


WPP’s Martin Sorrell has also gone on record to say, “We are not a bank”.


The Government’s view


It estimates small firms are owed £26bn in late payments – and chasing debts costs them millions of pounds more,” according to Business Minister Anna Soubry.

As part of the new Enterprise Bill, the government plan to create a small business commissioner to tackle the power “imbalance” between small and large UK businesses and deal with outstanding payments and supply-chain bullying.

The new commissioner will have the power to refer large debtors to the Competition and Markets Authority and would:

  • – be a point of first contact for small businesses and provide advice and support on how to avoid disputes and how to resolve them
  • – offer access to mediation services to sort out issues quickly and affordably, “at a fraction of the cost of going to court”
  • investigate complaints over unfair business practices and regularly report its findings.

The government’s own policy on payment terms is clear and Vince Cable has stated publicly that too many large companies have been getting away with not paying their suppliers on time to maximise their profits.

“If you haven’t already agreed when the money will be paid, the law says the payment is late after 30 days for public authorities and business transactions after either:

– the customer gets the invoice.

– you deliver the goods or provide the service (if this is later).

You can agree a longer period for payments from one business to another – but if it’s longer than 60 days it must be fair to both businesses.”

Well the way big brands are acting is anything but fair.

“The interest you can charge if another business is late paying for goods or a service is ‘statutory interest’ – this is 8% plus the Bank of England base rate for business to business transactions.”


But do agencies fair any better when it comes to paying on time? Sadly not, some are just as bad, often blaming their clients for paying late. One well known large agency had a reputation for making suppliers wait 9 months to get paid.

Is there a solution?

Moving forward, what is needed is legislation that is enforced and puts the interest of the economy over those of the shareholders of a few big corporations. We obviously can’t trust CFOs to act fair; their moral compasses have drifted too far away from what is ethical.

Small agencies are sadly in no position to demand better terms, as they don’t command the respect they use to, and they can get little support from marketing as few Marketing Directors sit on the board. But the big giants like WPP and Omnicom could make a stand.

As an industry with over 20,000 creative agencies out there, it is impossible to expect any unified action. And if you do say ‘no’, someone else will say ‘yes’.

The only other way forward seems to name and shame.

Or to unit together and use our skills to market the idea to board directors of big corporations why they should pay within a reasonable time.

One of my creative teams recently scripted a video that asked, ‘What would happen if CFO’s behaved in the real world as they do in the corporate world?”

It starts with a man walking out of Tesco with his shopping and saying, “please send the bill to my office and we’ll pay in about 90 days,” as the checkout girl looks dumb founded. He then drives off from a petrol station having not paid for his petrol… you get the picture.

When he finally gets stopped by the police to explain why he has left numerous places without paying he simply says, “ It’s OK officer, our policy is never to pay in less than 90 days.”

As the officer puts the handcuffs on him he comments, “I really think this is unfair.”

The video ends with the line.

Should financial directors who bully small businesses and pay later than 30 days get 30 days in prison?

76% of small businesses surveyed believe they should.



Taking the pizza by taking a slice of tips.

Pizza Pounds

It really is one of those stories that makes for great radio phone ins – a large corporation taking a percentage of their underpaid staff’s tips (the average gets the minimum wage, just £6.50 p/h).

But the recent protest against a ‘tip tax’ don’t just apply to Pizza Express but it’s claimed other restaurants and groups apply similar tip taxes, including ASK and CDG group which takes 10% (they own Bella Italia, Café Rouge and Belgo).

The actual claims, by the Unite union, are that Pizza Express take 8% fee from tips paid by card. These restaurants claim that this tax on their staff is to cover the costs of managing a Tronc system “correctly and fairly”, and insists it does not make any profit from the practice.

One researcher claims they take over £1,00,000 a year from their staff across 430 restaurants.

A recent report by Mintel cites ethics as a key consumer trend, “Growing awareness of customer rights and corporate misbehaviour will see consumers demand more fairness and justice from companies and companies consult consumers more.”

It’s ironic that 2015 is the 800th anniversary of the first ever citizen’s bill of rights – the Magna Carta.

Mintel highlight that the ethical treatment of workers is a key factor for almost half of all consumers (44%) and more important than environmental policies (33%). While in the US, 82% of diners believe a restaurant that treats its employees fairly influences their restaurant choice.

Mintel’s consumer trend ‘Buydeology’ has become a way to express one’s opinion on a brand, company, or issues and already features pay day loan companies, tax-dodgers, animal-rights abusers and companies that pay low wages!

The Unite union has backed the protests and is supporting restaurant workers with an online petition and survey.

David Turnbull. a spokesman for the union, compares the unethical practice used by Pizza Express to other restaurants. “The Restaurant Group (owners of Frankie and Benny’s, Chiquito and Garfunkels) hand 100% of tips paid on cards to their staff. If they can do it, why can’t Pizza Express?”

“The message is, tip cash only.”

In an age when consumers are becoming more ethical, in any competitive market the decision to go to one brand or another can be determined by how a brand behaves, not by what it’s gloss ads or social media says.

“Reputation is everything,” as they say, and Pizza Express’s is in big trouble





Ikea goes greener by buying its own forests.


It’s a simple idea, if you want to control every aspect of your green credentials, when it comes to wood, then buy a forest.

Ikea have been very vocal about their commitment to sustainable and low-cost production, so it’s no surprise they have purchased woodland in Romania – 33,600 hectares – and the Baltics to coordinate there own forestry management and wood production.

They also own 10,000 acres of woodlands in Estonia, Latvia and Lithuania. It’s estimated they have invested over €100m so far in woodlands, by buying forests it means they can control timber costs too.

They can also been investing in renewable energy and biomaterials,

Romania thus becomes the first country in which it has the whole cycle, starting with its own timber resources, furniture production via its direct cooperation with Romanian suppliers, and ending with the retail business via its stores.

Ikea also plan to alter the density and thickness of certain designs. Recycled wood is becoming a larger part of Ikea’s manufacturing and designs. They have also been working on optimising their product designs to make the best use of trees.

IKEA designs some of its Norden series tables so they use the tops of trees and irregular-looking bits that wouldn’t otherwise be used.

The Skogsta range is made of Acacia, a type of tree that is light blond in the middle and darker on the outside – the range use both shades of the wood, rather than just the dark wood, which the furniture industry has historically used.

By 2020 they aim to use only recycled or certified sustainable timber (by the Forest Stewardship Council) in all of their products – so far, about 50% of the wood it uses meets either criteria.

Ikea’s commitment to becoming greener and more ethical is more than PR hype.

They stopped using plastic bags. They are investing over $70m in clean technology start-ups, like solar. They recycles 84% of the waste generated in stores.

When a country introduces stricter emission rules, IKEA imposes the new restrictions on its global operations. As a result, Ikea’s policy reflects the strictest emissions policies in countries across the world, even though it sometimes drives costs higher.

IKEA’s sustainability initiative, IWAY, focuses on four areas: products and materialssuppliersclimate change and community involvement.



However, Ikea has not been without criticism.

China is a major source of materials, providing 22% of IKEA’s sourcing and a country that is hard to audit.

The retailer used the equivalent of about 530 million cubic feet of wood last a year, excluding paper and packaging.

They produce a lot of cardboard boxes, probably more than anyone in the UK, much of which ends up in landfill rather than recycling bins. However, one creative company has come up with an ingenious consumer engagement idea that can reduce this by 70% called ‘Upp Cykle’ (not yet adopted by Ikea).

Ikea were banned from logging in the Karelia forest in Russia after the Forest Stewardship Council accused an Ikea subsidiary of violating its sustainability agreement because it was claimed to be ‘logging old forests that have high conservation value’.

There are no lack of eco-critics who shoot holes through Ikea’s claims.

However, big corporations can also make big differences when they turn their mind to it, and there is no doubt that Ikea is going in the right direct, for whatever reason.


The Ethics of Pitching

Pitch Watch logo final

The MAA (Marketing Agencies Association) are taking the lead among trade bodies and demanding fairer pitches. This was something we tried to do at the DMA with both the Creative Council and the Agency Council (which I both chaired), but alas the DMA at the time didn’t have the punch to push through.

The MAA has to be admired that it really does take the bull by the horns and isn’t afraid to take on the big brands.

Scott Knox, managing director, the MAA, said, The Marketing Agencies Association has published a set of rules for clients to follow when pitching their business, to ensure “fair and reasonable pitch practice”.

The best practice guidelines stipulate that clients limit the number of agencies they meet for a chemistry to just six and the number they invite to actively pitch for their account to just three agencies.

The ‘MAA Pitch on a Page’ also recommends that full pitch feedback from clients is given within five working days and that any client pitching its business must make itself available for tissue sessions throughout the pitch process.

The publication of these Best Practice guidelines come shortly after the trade body branded AB InBev as displaying “despicable pitch practice”.

There are cases of pitches that have involved up to 50 agencies. the most famous ‘scam pitch’ was the P&G one in 2002 that cost the industry over £600,000 in costs. The MAA recommend no more than 3 to pitch, 6 for chemistry – after all, if you actually know what you are doing why do you need more? Alas there are too many clients who don’t know what they are doing and there’s nothing like a big pitch list to give it away.

There are few in the ad industry that wouldn’t disagree that pitching has got worse and more exploitative, and more expensive – some clients still think it’s all for free!

Hopefully the MAA may be able to pull us back to a more ethical process. I’m backing them all the way.


At last, a political campaign we can actually like.

At last, something about politics that we actually want to see and want to share on social media.

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One of the joys of working in the creative industries, unlike finance, is the constant range of good ideas that pop up almost weekly.

As an industry, we are very vocal and like to share our views and ideas.

So I was very impressed when I heard about Creative Business Leaders, a sort of TED for our media industry.


It is ironic that the Chelsea football fans, who have shamed Britain with there racist attitude, probably can’t even spell ‘Xenophobia‘, let alone be able to define it.

For the benefit of thuggish football fans, Xenophobia is the ‘unreasoned fear of that which is perceived to be foreign or strange’. Which includes the fear of losing identity, suspicion of its activities, aggression, and desire to eliminate its presence to secure a presumed purity.


With HSBC now one of the least trusted brands, how will it influence voters?

Big brands, from HSBC to Google, are starting to become bad brands as the ordinary consumer turns against them for their tax dodging and corporate greed. Yet few politicians see the connecting between a socially conscious ethical consumer and how they’ll vote.

This week has not been a good one for HSBC, which means it’s not a good one for the Tories either as they are the party most associated with banking scandals.


HSBC, the world’s second largest bank, helped wealthy clients across the world evade hundreds of millions of pounds worth of tax via Switzerland. The list, originally exposed by the French and a whistleblower, reveals 7000 UK clients alone, plus criminals, a blood-diamond trader, associates of dictators, big businesses and many other unsavory people.


In the USA, France, Belgium and Argentina HSBC is facing criminal investigation, but not in the UK, where it is based – it looks like it’s getting away with it here. And to date, only one person has been investigated and prosecuted for tax evasion linked to the Swiss scandal.

You can see the Labour Party and the Greens rubbing their hands with delight. And media editors loving it too, especially the fact that Stephen Green was head of HSBC at the time, and then made a Conservative peer and appointed to the government.

Now Lord Green, he was made a minister eight months after HMRC had been given the leaked documents, serving as a minister of trade and investment until 2013.

With little between Labour and the Tories, this is one of several news stories that could have a significant influence upon voters, far more so than campaign ads could.

The one slogan that will be remembered forever from Thatcher’s period in office was ‘GREED IS GOOD’.  It symbolizes an era when we moved from when some would say was a caring society to one of self interest.

And there is no doubt that the Conservative brand is associated with corporate greed, with capitalism and the banking system, along with all the tax dodges they have associated with them. Not exactly a good association you’d want for your brand in the current climate.

According to the Daily Mirror (not a fan of the Tories) “Tax avoidance has increased to £35billion under David Cameron”. It just gets worse!

The consumer vs the corporate.

But there’s far more to this story than meets the eye when it comes to what is influencing the voter.

Every year we see the march against corporate capitalism growing in numbers as people pout on the V is for Vendetta masks and join the  global Million Masks March organised by the Anonymous Network. For some it’s just a fun day out, but for others it represents a frustration with corporate greed and power.

The most notable person at the march this year was comedian Russell Brand who suggested people shouldn’t vote, hardly an effective strategy if you want the Tories out, but then that’s why Brand is a comedian not a politician.

The rise of the ‘tax shaming’ movement and brand boycotts.


Another organisation gathering support is UK Uncut, who have claimed that brands like Starbucks, Google, Amazon, Vodaphone, Top Shop and many more are not paying their taxes fairly. And as some politicians point out, if the big corporates don’t pay small, businesses are left to make up the difference.

Tax dodging has resulted in numerous boycotts of these brands which can be very damaging when they grow into movements. This is one time when social media is not your favourite friend if you are tax dodging brand.

Using the pound in her pocket to make a point…

It’s not just left wingers and radical anti corporate minorities that politicians need to fear but the everyday consumer, who 10 years ago may have ignored the behavour of the big brands and corporations, but today they are more ethically minded and even Mrs Jones from Romford is using the pound in her pocket to make a point, not just a purchase.

We are seeing a move back to local and independents, a move we have seen in the high street. Small is good, big is bad. Consumers are making choices based on ethics not just what is cheap.

We see big brands banned for their negative social and financial behavour and unethical ethos by student unions, schools and numerous groups like Mumsnet.

Tesco’s real problem…

When Harris & Hoole, a small but quality chain of coffee shops started to expand it hit social media and the news when punters discovered it was backed by Tesco’s.

To be fair to H&H, it was a funding deal only from Tesco’s investment arm, no different from taking money from a bank, but Tesco was seen as the evil greedy corporate damaging our high streets and H&H was tarnished with that brush.


Local residents now often fight large corporates entering local high streets, residents of Belsize Park (many top celebrities) fought off Tesco’s desire to open there recently, as did locals in Hadfield.

Part of Tesco’s problem, and one they seem in denial of, is the simple fact they are too big, too greedy and like many supermarkets, have abused suppliers – both British farmers (the cost of milk being most recently in the press) and Third World farmers. That’s why shoppers have abandoned them, it’s their lack of real ethics, an ethos of greed – it’s not their aging brand identity, muddled shops or prices.

What the politicians are missing…

But this week, following years of scandal about how corrupt our bankers are, HSBC are in the dock. Yesterday it was all over the Guardian and last night Panorama showed how corrupt HSBC was.

So what has this to do with the coming election? Of course the headlines will pass in a few days, Lord Green will be hung out to dry and the all politicians will respond with claims they plan to tighten up tax dodging and punish the guilty.

But there is an underlying feeling by consumers that big corporates are too greedy, they have no ethics and their power is unhealthy – many now are wealthier than some countries. And they don’t trust the politicians that support the corporates, especially those who take money from them.

Ironically Labour has ben demonised by the Tories as a party that hates big business, even the head of Boots, Stefano Pessina joined in by hitting out at Ed Miliband and Labour. Ironic when you consider they have just moved Boots HQ from Nottingham to…yep, Switzerland! No wonder he’s no fan of Labour.


The recent Oxfam campaign pointing out that ‘The world’s 85 richest people own the same wealth as the 3.5billion poorest people’. 


This is not just another charity shocking us with another fact to get us to donate, Oxfam has its finger firmly on the consumer pulse, more so than the politicians (see their report ‘Working for the Few’).

Consumers are questioning the ethics of greed, it really isn’t good for anyone. So while the politicians argue and spin claims about immigration, the NHS. education and the usual topics that polls tell them (because they don’t ask the right questions) the real feeling that will ‘even it up’ could well be around ethics.