Bits and Bytes

Thoughts on digital, running rambles and photos



Amazon Prime Air vs. Waterstones’ OWLS, Christmas Tinner, SpaghettiOMG and this week’s bits and bytes

Amazon Prime Air: The perfect PR stunt timed to coincide with the craziness that is Black Friday and Cyber Monday. It gets people to think less about naughty Amazon (workers’ rights, working conditions in fulfilment centres and tax) and more about innovative Amazon. As Bloomberg notes: “The aerial drone is actually the perfect vehicle—not for delivering packages, but for evoking Amazon’s indomitable spirit of innovation.”

The goal of this new delivery system is to get packages into customers’ hands in 30 minutes or less using radio controlled drones. However, Amazon are quick to point out that putting Prime Air into commercial use will take time – mainly for the tech to mature and for FAA regulations on unmanned aerial devices to change – so don’t expect any drone deliveries anytime soon. The Guardian was quick to add their long list of problems with the idea.

The Internet, as ever, was quick to respond:

The best response however has to be from Waterstones, who reacted brilliantly to announce their Ornithological Waterstones Landing Service, or O.W.L.S. for short. As with Amazon Prime Air, this service will take years to get off the ground, as it takes a long time to teach Owls anything and, well, as appropriately named Waterstones spokesperson Jon Owls confirms, the retailer only just came up with the idea.

Christmas dinner in a can: The clever bods at Game have launched an ingenious product for dedicated gamers this holiday season: all your Christmas Day meals layered into one tin, from your scrambled eggs for breakfast, a couple of mince pies, the turkey dinner (there’s even a version that substitutes broccoli for sprouts), to, of course, the Christmas pudding. This spectacular culinary innovation comes after Game found that 43% of gamers in the UK intend to spend the majority of the holidays on their consoles.

Predictably, this £1.99 tinned temptation has caused outrage with The Mail calling it ‘stomach churning‘, while over at the The Metro, the Christmas Tinner has inspired a Buzzfeed-esque listicle of 10 foods that should never come in a can – after first reporting on the story without finding any offence a mere 24 hours earlier.

The Telegraph so liked the taste of this story, they must have dug into the habits of gamers at Christmas and found some ‘research’ by Dominos claiming that gamers will do almost anything to carry on playing: “almost half of male gamers admitted they have turned down sex to continue playing, while a fifth of female gamers said they had missed weddings and hen dos.”


According to The Mail, the product was trialled in Game’s Basingstoke store, and the gaming retailer plans to sell it in stores across the country if there is enough demand. Den of Geek meanwhile reported that the meal is available online. I am investigating – no response from Game yet.

SpaghettiOMG you said WHAT? It can’t be easy doing social for “a brand of canned spaghetti featuring circular pasta shapes in a cheese and tomato sauce and marketed to parents as ‘less messy’ than regular spaghetti.” But, the brave marketing bods at SpaghettiOs have managed to gain over 10,000 followers on Twitter, half a million Facebook likes.

Looking at their recent posts, the excel at creating tenuous links between their brand and favourite board games from the past, Thanksgiving and even Movember. These posts generate on average a couple of dozen interactions with their fans on Twitter and a few hundred on Facebook.

Having shown that they are a brand with their finger on the pulse, they thought they’d commemorate the bombing of Pearl Harbour on 7 December 1941 by the Japanese with this spectacular image of their brand mascot TheO holding aloft the Stars and Strips as it flutters in a patriotic breeze (HT @tomparker81).

Screen Shot 2013-12-07 at 09.09.50

This post got a few more retweets and favourites than some of their earlier posts – and from the looks of it has already been removed from Facebook.

Worry not, the helpful denizens of Twitter are on the case though, suggesting some more historic events that @SpaghettiOs and TheO could commemorate:


The Tweet has finally been removed and @SpaghettiOs have apologised

Facebook ups post quality: Facebook is tweaking its news feed algorithm to deliver “high-quality” content to people based on what their past behaviour on the platform. According to The Verge, Facebook wants to promote better content such as news articles instead of memes and over-shared viral content.

It’s all a bit shady as to what Facebook deems high quality content to be – to me it sounds like they’re looking to get more of a news driven feed à la Twitter and not just the viral crap (and baby photos? Please tell me baby photos will be filtered out?).

How to know when a post will go viral: While we’re on quality posts, the WSJ this week wrote up a feature on a chap they call the world’s most influential blogger. Neetzan Zimmerman writes for Gawker, posts a dozen times a day and almost every one of his articles goes viral. The piece looks at his system and thought process when picking stories to focus on, likening it to a biological algorithm:

The whole process happens very quickly. “Within 15 seconds, I know whether an item is going to work,” Mr. Zimmerman says. He usually has a headline ready to go a few seconds after that. “It’s a biological algorithm,” he says. “I’ve put myself into the system—I’ve sort of become the system—so that when I see something I’m instantly thinking of how well it it’s going to do.” Indeed, Mr. Zimmerman says he can no longer tell the difference between stories he finds interesting and stories that will be popular. “If it’s not worth posting then I’m not interested,” he says.

The secret then? Looking the story that plugs into the Zeitgeist of that particular day and elicits and emotional response that cannot be denied and competes people to share a story. Also, with Zimmerman’s post generating around 30 million page views a month – this article may also be the best CV ever posted.

Oh, and if Gawker isn’t your thing, The Evening Standard visited Buzzfeed UK for a lengthy feature on what you need to know about the social news site.

Instaforce: Star Wars this week joined Instagram with an image of Darth Vader taking a selfie (know your audience!). Since then they’ve posted a mix of behind the scenes photos from the original trilogy and the distinct lack of Jar Jar or material from the new trilogy does lift the spirits that the upcoming Disneyfication of the franchise might not be as crap as Episodes I-III.

The Force is strong in this one.

Videos of the week: To show that customers get quality advice and top value for money at camera retailer Jessops, Peter Jones dons a dodgy disguise to play a bumbling sales assistant. It shouldn’t work, but it does (although, as @a_little_wine pointed out when she sent this to me, the daily giveaway of a camera will have helped the #beardeddragon hashtag to trend on Twitter).

You may have seen what’s been billed as the most realistic finger painting in the world – a portrait of Morgan Freeman by Kyle Lambert. This clip of the painting taking shape is a mesmerising look at 200 hours of work in three minutes.

The film ‘Anchorman’ was so bad, I stopped watching after 10 minutes. Which is why I’m dumbfounded by how there is such excitement about the sequel coming to cinemas soon. You have to give it their PRs though, who organised for Ron Burgundy to co-presented the Sunday evening news show on KXMB in Bismarck, North Dakota alongside regular news anchor Amber Schatz.

And finally: Social Santa (HT @a_little_wine).

#ChristmasInADay, custom timelines in Twitter, JCVD’s epic split and this week’s bits and bytes

Christmas in a Day: I grew up with Christmas in the tropics, a plastic tree, a Nativity that we assembled every year. On Christmas Eve it’s always mum’s super-special, home-made salmon pate and deviled eggs and other tasty cold cuts before we all rip into our presents (yes, in Germany it’s the Christkind that brings the presents, and as with many things in Germany, the Christkind is efficient and delivers things a day before Santa gets around to homes in the UK).

Decorating the Christmas tree

I’ve had the pleasure of celebrating Christmas with @tomparker81 and his wonderful family – who introduced me to the wonders of a cheeky Baileys (or three) before Christmas lunch. Then there’s my lovely future in-laws who – year after year – look to get the biggest Christmas tree available. Last year, my brother came over to London from Berlin and we celebrated Christmas by watching some festive footie and heading off to the pub for a Christmas lunch.

The point I’m trying to make is that every family has their own tradition and way of celebrating Christmas and that is exactly what Sainsbury’s have highlighted in their stunning new TV campaign for the festive season, the film Christmas in a Day.

From the fantastic kid, to the radiator keys, to Twitter’s new favourite, Spreadsheet Man – these 3:30 minutes are full of laughs, giggles and right at the very end, it takes such an emotional turn that I still well up.

The full length film airs on 29 November on YouTube and who knows, it might become a Christmas tradition in some households across the country. If you can’t wait until then, there are some more trailers on Sainsbury’s Christmas hub and there’s a great blog post by @MarkJGiven on the story behind the campaign and how it came about.

Screen Shot 2013-11-14 at 21.54.02

Right, right, right… what about the reaction then?

Monumental would be one way to describe it. I was lucky enough to be invited to AMV’s offices for a little launch party for the trailer’s first airing on ITV – taking up the entire ad break on Coronation Street.

It was brilliant to have a room full of chatty, happily knackered advertising, comms and marketing people from AMV, PHD, Blue Rubicon and Saino’s go quiet when the ad started – only then to hear them gasp, woop and cheer at the immediate and massive reaction to the trailer on Twitter.

A quick look at the Buzzgraph for mentions of “Sainsbury’s Christmas ad” shows that words such as “emotional”, “amazing”, “tears”, “crying”, “lovely” and “cute” are being used in combination with the clip.

There are also some rather high profile fans…

… but the star of the trailer however has to be Jonathan ‘Spreadsheet Man’ Proud who has clearly struck a chord with a lot of viewers:

Some people would be happy to have him over for Christmas

And it wasn’t long until people were calling for the actual spreadsheet

For those who are interested, The Telegraph’s @Steve_Hawkes has the details

The Co-op were very happy to have spotted some of their Christmas puds in the Spreadsheet Man bit – leading them to tweet our ad to over 30k of their followers.

The Saino’s response was relaxed…

… but Ian Burrel from the Indy said it best in his piece titled “Why Sainsbury’s featuring Co-op items is a triumph for Christmas adverts

“In the manipulative world of modern television – where content is so often subject to the brand police and the political spin doctors – it’s nice to know that the “real life” footage used in Sainsbury’s Christmas in a Daycommercial is just that.”

Proud to be a part of it

Some of the most powerful responses though have come from our own colleagues. Not only is their reaction overwhelmingly positive, but colleagues from around the country are saying how proud they are to be a part of Sainsbury’s. I think it’s a testament to Sainsbury’s Internal Comms team and to all those lucky few who were able to go along to Sainsbury’s annual colleague conference two months ago to be among the first in the company to see the footage and NOT SAY A WORD about it and that the story didn’t leak.

Bloggers – full disclosure: Last week, I wrote about why we work with bloggers at Sainsbury’s. Interesting then to see a post on the ASA’s website reminding bloggers of the advertising guidelines that “any blogger who is paid to write positive reviews or comments about a product or service that they must be up-front with their followers by making clear that it’s advertising.” Turns out the ASA has been receiving feedback from bloggers that some social media and PR companies are apparently offered them money to advertise on their behalf while encouraging them not to declare that they’re doing so.”

Who’s in trouble when this happens?

“Under the Advertising Code, although the blogger would be named as part of any ASA investigation into misleading advertising, ultimately the buck would stop with the advertiser. If a paid for entry on a blog wasn’t disclosed we would investigate the advertiser and hold them accountable.”

So, be good and encourage the bloggers you work with to clearly note what kind of incentive they received from you.

Custom Timelines: Storify took a deep breath this week when Twitter announced a new feature that allows you to build a Twitter feed  by picking certain Tweets. The interface is still very clunky and basic functions like sorting these so called custom timelines chronologically doesn’t yet work (or at least I couldn’t figure out how to do it) and it seems to only work via Tweetdeck – but, it’s a move in the right direction and one that I think will worry Storify (aka the social curator’s tool of choice).

So, what can you do with them? Well, the chaps at Twitter have pulled together a custom timeline of, yes, you guessed it, custom timelines!

How much does Twitter owe you? Time built a wee calculator that analyses your Twitter handle and determines how much Twitter owes you after their IPO (if you lived in imaginary fairyland then you might have a case – sadly, this is just a silly tool). Apparently I’m owed a meagre $134.

Twitter is a weird and wonderful place: Sometimes, the stars align and people come together and create something wonderful. Even if it was started by @TescoMobile, this is up there with best Twitter thread of the year (and yes, you need to open this link in your browser to appreciate why this is every social media manager’s dream).

Tumbling Tesco: Continuing on with the Tesco theme, this week sees two brilliant Tumblrs about Tesco. First there’s ‘Worst Place on Earth‘, a masterpiece of Comic Sans and ALL CAPS outrage at the horror that is the Tesco Express in Haggerston and then we have the direct opposite, a love letter to the St. Tropez of Tesco Express in North Poole.

New technology: A marvellous list by XKCD of simple answers to questions about how the next big technological development will impact our lives.

Source: XKCD

Video of the week: Jean Claude van Damme helps Volvo demonstrate the precision steering capabilities on their lorries by pulling off this epic split. And yes, it’s all real.

And finally: Meet @JohnLewis, the nicest, most patient man on Twitter (and no, he’s not a PR stunt, and yes, @JohnLewisRetail have responded).

Sainsbury’s Christmas, pilot name shenanigans, how to use Hashtags and this week’s bits and bytes

Christmas in July: Yup, hottest days of the year and the @SainsburysPR team spends them in a beautifully made up basement in Covent Garden to show off Sainsbury’s gorgeous Christmas collection, from fantastic festive food and drink to classy home and clothing ranges and even floral!

Our Twitter Wall was back, encouraging the assembled press and bloggers to tweet their impressions using #SainsburysChristmas. In turn we posted photos and tasty Vines (shot and directed by our very own @a_little_wine) to show off the crimbo collection that will be coming to a store near you this Christmas.

Of course, we were all well chuffed when The Daily Telegraph’s Steve Hawkes tweeted his approval. Bring on Christmas!

Sum Ting Wong: Not long ago, an Asiana Airlines flight crash landed in San Francisco. In one of those ‘I can’t believe this actually happened’ moments, KTVU, a local news station, announced that the pilots of the Asiana flight had been named:

  • Sum Ting Wong
  • Wi Tu Lo
  • Ho Lee Fuk
  • Bang Ding Ow

I kid you not.

Soon after – and unsurprisingly – KTVU issued an on air apology, saying that the names were “not accurate, despite a National Transportation Safety Board (NTSB) spokesperson confirming them”.

Who was this spokesperson? This from the NTSB website

Earlier today, in response to an inquiry from a media outlet, a summer intern acted outside the scope of his authority when he erroneously confirmed the names of the flight crew on the aircraft.

The summer intern has since been fired, but I’d suggest the NTSB revisit their crisis comms procedures. Something is clearly not quite right there…

Above the cloud advertising: Staying with air travel for a bit longer – Ryanair has decided that sticking ads on every conceivable surface inside their planes and annoying passengers with ads blasted at full-volume on the PA system isn’t enough. After all, the whole outside area of the plane is still pretty much blank! It’ll only cost you £20,000 a year to get your creative on a Ryanair’s plane, for example the tips of the wings and the main body of the plane. Doubt BA or Easyjet will take them up on it.

Source: Business Insider

Facebook fangate: You know the bit you get on some Facebook brand pages where you have to “like” the page first before you can see the content? That’s a fangate. With Real Life Connect you can now set up a real-life fangate that uses RFID technology to identify your Facebook fans as and when they come into your stores and reward them with real life perks. The example in the clip below of showering customers with confetti and kisses is somewhat cheeseball, but you get the idea (HT @mike_mcgrail).

A nifty way then of breaking down those barriers between your Facebook and bricks and mortar stores. Although the key will be to come up with an in-store/real-life perk for the customer (discounts, free stuff, or even just the recognition) that balance with a benefit for the retailer (increased loyalty, personal connections).

The link between off and online will need to be seamless and automatic. Even with something as simple as Foursquare mayorships, which provide much the same mechanic and opportunites as Real Life Connect’s RFID approach, this approach to rewarding loyalty have found little pick up. Not once have I been rewarded for being the Mayor of a cafe or restaurant – and I’ve looked!

Combine this with existing loyalty schemes or apps however, and you might be on to something!

Tweet and thou shall be saved: In terms of rewarding fans for following a brand on Twitter, the Vatican may be on to the ultimate incentive – absolving Catholics of their sins. The Pope this week announced that anyone who follows his World Youth Day service on TV, radio or via Twitter will receive plenary indulgences.

When bylines go wrong: The heat might be getting to the subs at the Sunday Mirror. They carried a nib about a bridge funding scandal; and where you’d usually find the name of the journo that had written the piece, there was a rather colourful snippet of a sentence (HT @tabloidtroll).

How to use hashtags on Twitter: A great little 2-minute-guide to how you should use hashtags on Twitter by @garyvee. Instead of trying to make your own hashtags trend (as Gary notes, only The Bieber has that kind of power, infuriatingly), you’ll be much better off listening to what is already popular and then adding to those conversations and trends where you have the authority/content/right to play.

Videos of the week: Johannesburg Zoo were keen to get in on the social media action, but rather than hire a social media team, they decided to promote from within. Their resident honey badger “BG” got the gig (HT Alex Crouch).

A spectacular ad for Johnnie Walker starring none other than martial arts über-legend Bruce Lee. It took nine months to produce, with every shot, every detail was painstakingly assembled, animated and rendered through CGI. As the director puts it – a sculpture in a different medium (HT @KaiFischer).

A great little clip from Arsenal Football Club from the pre-season tour through Vietnam (not signing anyone or winning any titles, don’t be silly). A fan runs alongside the team coach for a good five miles, the bus finally stops and he climbs aboard. Dream come true (HT @stangreenan).

The Superhumans are back. No pressure.

And finally: Desk safari (HT @AndrewDumont).

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