Bits and Bytes

Thoughts on digital, running rambles and photos



My April Fools’ round-up and a closer look at live streaming in journalism and customer service

At Sainsbury’s HQ, the team came up with yolk free eggs, we had a good giggle mocking up the packaging and our social media team conjured up a nifty little graphic about the benefits of such eggs. Continue reading “My April Fools’ round-up and a closer look at live streaming in journalism and customer service”

Heartbleed explained; Why you should never leave a journo hungry; Twitter’s new profile pages and this week’s bits and bytes

Less than 24 hours to go until the London Marathon – no better way to get my mind off the 26.2 miles that lie in wait than write my weekly bits and bytes.

This week I’m looking at the biggest threat to the Internet since the Y2K bug, how banning a journalist from a media dinner is a recipe for disaster, how Costa Coffee did a great job with engaging bloggers (but then forgot to tie that good work back into their social profiles), and the new Twitter profiles that will be coming to a screen near you.

Continue reading “Heartbleed explained; Why you should never leave a journo hungry; Twitter’s new profile pages and this week’s bits and bytes”

#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).

Marmite Neglect, fake fans, the return of Bebo and this week’s bits and bytes

Marmite – you either love it, or you hate it: In keeping with the traditional response that this horrible, vile substance elicits – this new ad for Marmite showing Marmite welfare officers visiting houses to save jars of Marmite from neglect and find them a new home has had everyone talking.

Within a day of the ad airing, the Advertising Standards Authority received 250 complaints from viewers. Can’t say if these are 250 very bored/sad people with no sense of humour what so ever – or a very eager PR team writing mock complaints.

Case in point: a comment on the Guardian article about the many hundreds of complaints: “Exactly. 250 people need to get a life. I mean how dull and meaningless is your life when you get so annoyed you make the effort to complain about yeast?” (HT @stangreenan)

Anyway – on Thursday, after the complaint count reached 330, Unilever announced that it would donate £18,000 to the RSPCA as an apology to animal rights activists for spoofing the important work they do. Still, the ASA is looking into it and will announce next week if it is to launch a formal investigation.

I don’t know if the ASA’s involvement was planned or genuine. I would argue however that it has definitely worked in Marmite’s favour. Due to the the threat of the ad being banned, it’s been widely featured in the media and it was the talk of Twitter.

Source: Marmite

There are a few more elements to the campaign that haven’t been so readily discussed:

  • a promoted Tweet is encouraging people to head to the microsite/Marmite Facebook app and either donate their own jar or nominate possible foster families
  • a real-life Marmite Neglect team is touring the land, visiting people’s homes to see if there are any jars to be saved from neglect
  • along with the TV ad, there’s also a series of snapshots of kitchen cupboards, with long-neglected Marmite jars poking out from between the more popular cupboard staples
  • and on Marmite’s Youtube channel, there is an interview with a Trainee Marmite Rescue Officer who talks about the tools of the Marmite saving trade

Iceberg rescues Titanic: Huge news this week as out of nowhere, Amazon founder Jeff Bezos surprised the worlds’ media by agreeing to buy the Washington Post for $250 million (to remind you, Instagram and Tumblr were recently acquired for $1 billion each).

Amongst the many breathless headlines, I thought Salon said it best with theirs: The iceberg just rescued the Titanic – and the rest of the piece is chock full of great info as well.

Meanwhile, @AllThingsIC pulled together a great post looking at how the news of the sale was communicated to WaPo staffers, including an all staff email that starts with ‘You’ll have heard the news’. While you can argue about the timing of the timings of the internal comms – ideally you’d want people inside the business to find out before the media – Bezos’ letter is a fantastic example of communicating change internally.

Fake fans: You may have caught the great piece on C4 Dispatches called “Celebs, Brands and Fake Fans“ about how some companies artificially inflate social media likes, fans and followers by buying them.

The doco shows how you’d go about building a fake community – one fake account at a time. Why any brand would invest money in this kind of approach instead of concentrating on listening to your customers, understanding and delivering against their needs, I do not know.

As @girllostincity puts it: “there are no short-cuts in building an audience. There is no ‘easy way’ to getting people to “like” you. It is a dangerous idea to think that by cheating people into thinking you’re popular (by recruiting fake people) that this will somehow transform into authentic popularity somewhere down the line.”

In response to the piece, @georgiahalston looks at how you should interpret the value of your social media following and – guess what! – the focus should be on quality (engagement, sentiment, sincerity of the audience) rather than quantity (likes, fans, followers, views). Over on Londoncalling, CEO of Kred @AndrewGrill provides thoughts on whether social media is in crisis.

Bebo’s back: I was at Aol when it acquired the social network Bebo. Aol didn’t really do much with it, it was sold to another Internet company who also didn’t really do much with it and finally it was sold to the original founder of Bebo, Michael Birch. Birch has just released a brilliant – and very NSFW – clip that harks back to the glory days when Bebo was the centre of the web (for you younger kids, this was after MySpace and waaay before Facebook) and arguably the single biggest repository of illustrated cock and balls ever. Yes. You read that correctly.

Shocking PR win for Apple: Fake iPhone chargers have been known to electrocute people, sometimes leading to victims falling into a coma or death. Apple have recognised that this issue could lead to considerable brand damage – not to mention questions about why their chargers are so danged expensive that there is a market for fakes in the first place, and, you know, dead people – and have announced a USB power adapter takeback program.

This will allow customers to bring their fake chargers to Apple and in receive an official Apple charger for half the price. Very, very clever stuff. Not only does it make them come off as the good guys, they’re driving sales on the back of it.

Tesco Watford: Hat’s off to the chaps at Tesco and Google Maps for producing this great walk through of the newly renovated Watford Extra. Pretty, sure, but I prefer a supermarket that understands the value of values.

Videos of the week: The Premier League is coming to US broadcaster NBC and they’ve produced a great little clip of Spurs and their new American manager’s first few days in the job

Messi wears a suit fitted with hundreds of LEDs to create some pretty trippy stuff in Adidas’ new ad for their space aged boots

You’ll watch what others tweet: Tweets about TV shows make people tune in to those TV shows, according to new data from Nielsen.

The new Facebook: If you’re super keen to try out the new Graph Search function on Facebook, all you need to do is change your language to ‘English US’.

And finally: Why it’s important to be able to tell the difference between airlines and airlanes.

Royal Baby, Loving every naughty mouthful, the art of Vine and this week’s bits and bytes

Royal Baby: I tried to go all Guardian on this, but I wasn’t able to figure out how to install a ‘Republican button‘ to rid my blog of any reference to the Royal offspring. But it was impossible to escape anything Royal Baby related last week, so let’s have a look at how it all goes down on t’Interwebs?

Even though the Beeb and Sky went into Royal Baby screensaver mode and my Twitter feed was absolutely bursting with tweets about the imminent arrival of the little nipper, the news didn’t seem to go that big on Twitter: while #royalbirth generated more than 25,300 tweets per minute at its peak, this was still way behind the new Pope (130k), Murray winning Wimbledon (120k), and Usain Bolt’s 100m victory at London 2012 (80K). Now, this probably has something to do with the fact that the Royal Baby circus was spread out over a number of days, while all those other events were much shorter. Also, 60 million Brits don’t really stand a chance again 1 billion Catholics.

The Internet loves Zombies. Mind you, it does look like something out of World War Z.

In a nice gesture, Clarence House acknowledged that while the world’s cameras were trained onto the doors of the Lindo Wing, there were other children born on the same day and encouraged people to share their photos on the #WelcometotheWorld hashtag.

I admit I watched Wills and Kate come out of Lindo Wing with baby George in their arms as they were greeted by the cameras. But it was only until I saw this amazing 360 degree shot by Lewis Whyld of the couple leaving the hospital that I could even begin to fathom the terror that the three of them must have felt. To remain so calm, serene and happy in the face of a wall of cameras, flashing lights and screaming journalists really was bloody impressive.

What does the Royal Baby mean for PR? Carte blanche for pitches and releases tentatively linked to baby Cambridge: the Daily Mail newsdesk received 22,000 Royal Baby related stories on the day the little prince was born.

Of course marketers weren’t far behind their PR colleagues in coming up with cringe-worthy, branded tributes to Prince George. Buzzfeed have pulled together some real shockers, and there’s a marvellous Tumblr full of Royally Desperate real-time marketing efforts (HT @Victoriadove). My personal favourite though would have to be this shocker from Ryanair.

To finish, I leave you with the brilliant Jon Oliver from the Daily Show to sum up the wall-to-wall media insanity in the lead up to, during and after the birth of the future King George.

#LoveEveryMouthful: Just a few days before the arrival of the Royal baby and on a day that David Cameron announced his (rather ridiculous) anti-porn filter (pushed by a special advisor that doesn’t know the difference between a screenshot and a hyperlink), Tesco launched their newly launched food campaign with a promoted trend on Twitter. Mirroring the strapline of the campaign, they went with the hashtag #LoveEveryMouthful.

I’d like to think that I’d have spotted, flagged and binned this hashtag before it went live – but hindsight is always 20/20. Either way, the hashtag brought out the snickering, pubescent teen many a Twitter user, encouraging them to let their imagination run wild. Tesco’s juicy melons were combined with all kinds of innuendo, naughtiness and – there’s no other way of putting this – flat out porn. It got so bad that Tesco changed the promoted trend to a more safe #TescoFood by mid-day and then removed it entirely.

Perhaps Cameron’s porn filter would mean that we would have been spared this hashtag?

Hacks on flacks: PR agency Twelve Thirty Eight are at it again with a useful – if a bit repetitive and more than a tad hypocritical in places – summary of what journos find annoying about PRs, their view of PR pitches and press releases. Well worth a browse, but if you just want the key messages in one go (thank you @TreebD):

  1. Keep it short
  2. Keep it real
  3. Keep it neat
  4. Don’t be cute
  5. Do be grammatical
  6. Put the news in the first paragraph

SEO is dead, again:  A provocative post from @dangraziano reveals that a Google search may display only 13% organic results; “the rest is ads and junk”. Rather than concentrating on search engine optimisation, businesses would be better served if they focused on customer-centric interactions rather than pinning their hopes on an ever changing algorithm to drive traffic. After all, we all know that recommendations from friends count for more than what Google tells us!

The Social Media Manager has grown up: A great piece from @sweissman about how the role of social media manager within business has evolved along with the ever-changing digital media world, but that these roles have matured and are increasingly about exercising nimble judgement in difficult situations, continuous listening for possible problems and delivering on-brand and human customer service and stories.

Following on nicely from the trend of experienced social media managers, it was great to see that even a leading business mag such as Forbes wants to know if social media is a career? The answer, I am very pleased to tell you, is a resounding ‘yes’. Just don’t call yourself a social media guru, ninja, Jedi or master. Grounds for immediate dismissal, that.

The art of Vine: I’m a big fan of Vine and always impressed at the possibilities of creating six second looped videos on a phone. It sounds so basic, so rudimentary at first, but in the hands of an experienced producer and using the nifty loop feature to full effect, your imagination is the limit. 

One such Vine master is @origiful, who not only produced the Vine above, but he’s also pulled together six really useful tips for creating better Vines.

Video of the week: A brilliant clip to promote Sainsbury’s Back Tu School range featuring some ridiculously talented kids busting serious moves and breakdancing in their school uniforms.

And finally: You can’t write proper English under pressure (HT @usvsth3m).

Digital Corporate Affairs – weekly bits and bytes

We start with what for me was the biggest story of the week: Instagram’s terms of service über-fail. Hipsters, cappucino and selfie photographers the world over freaked out on Tuesday, when Instagram allegedly announced it was planning to sell the crappy, filtered, rectangular photos of people’s lunches to faceless corporations the world over.

I admit, I too had one foot on the InstaBashing bandwagon. But I wasn’t the only one. Users deleted their accounts, articles about how to remove all your photos from Instagram were popping up everywhere (mainly linking to the rather useful and the Guardian made the point that: “Instagram makes you the product” – but failed to realise that this is true of most other social network/platform/app out there).

So why the InstaRage?

The BBC’s technology correspondent, Rory Cellan-Jones, put his finger on the main issue: “Real story on Instagram is incompetence (again) of Facebook in framing its privacy policies. Don’t think they’ve any plans to sell photos but they should have made that clear in the t&cs.

But I think that the second element is one that Paul Ford started writing about waaay back in 2007, when he talked about the web being a powerful platform for people to voice their discontent for then they had not been informed of changes relating to their lives. Why Wasn’t I Consulted, is the fundamental question of the web. It is the rule from which other rules are derived. Humans have a fundamental need to be consulted, engaged, to exercise their knowledge (and thus power), and no other medium that came before has been able to tap into that as effectively.”

Facebook changes settings, removes features, even redesigns their website without consulting their users. And you can understand them – they simply wouldn’t get anything done. Instagram though are a lot smaller than Facebook. They haven’t reached that point of total domination where – if you’re not on Facebook you basically do not have a social life.

So I think the combination of incomprehensible and confusing legalese and not even making it seem like they care about their users privacy led to Instagram losing even more of that loveable upstart karma they started to lose when they were acquired by Facebook.

In other news this week, The Mail Online cracked the 7 million daily unique browsers mark. comes in at just under 4 million and at just under 3 million. Meanwhile, CIPR looked at the top newspaper Twitter accounts and found that the FT had the most followers, The Telegraph tweeted the most, The Sun received by far the most retweets and The Guardian receives the most replies.

In what Marketing Week called “a shift in social strategy”, Tesco this week launched their first Twitter campaign that encouraged users to pull virtual crackers by tweeting the hashtag #pullacracker. Followers who reply using the hashtag will be sent a unique link to an animation showing a cracker being pulled and revealing their prize.

Jamaican beer Red Stripe teamed up with director Greg Brunkalla and Hirsch & Mann) to transform Best Supermarket on Kingsland High Street into an interactive music box, where products were rigged to create a plethora of instruments – a food can xylophone, jumping box drums and clinking bottle bells to name just a few. The finished clip has been viewed over 350,000 times (make sure you also check out the making of clip).

Buzzfeed have again done a great job of pulling together 5 of the best PR/advertising stunts of the year. The entirely epic Red Bull Stratos features, of course, but the other 4 aren’t to be sniffed at.

In a series of short webisodes (Fresh Meat fans will be amused) the cheeky buggers at Google look at what what bad web practices look like in real life – using the example of supermarkets. The point being: if it is annoying in real life, you can be sure that it is also annoying when shopping online.

The London Fire Brigade might actually want you to tweet about a fire before leaving the building, after it announced that it is looking to set up the world’s first 999 emergency Twitter feed. Given the amount false positives I see every week about fires at Sainsbury’s, I suspect (hope!) that it’ll be a while before this is implemented.

Starbucks are still having a rubbish time: not only was their #SpreadtheCheer Twitter campaign hijacked, the tweets were displayed on a big screen at the Natural History Museum. Ouch.

A different look back at the year: Spotifiy’s Review of the Year, with the top 100 tracks by country. Gotye’s Somebody that I used to know at no.1 in the UK. For shame.

And finally: the entirely NSFW ‘Epic Chef’, a new online cooking show from the deranged geniuses behind Epic Meal Time. This is totally and utterly mental. One of the secret challenge ingredients is a “mother-expletive-deleted case of bacon”. One of the contestants opens a jar of mayo with a chainsaw. Just watch it.

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