What’s best for Top Gear, The BBC and Clarkson

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There’s been lots of talk about Jeremy Clarkson and his behaviour, but this post is about the Top Gear brand itself and BBC’s ownership.

Back in 2009 Andy Wilman, Executive Producer, Clarkson’s mate and Old Reptonian school chum said he thought the series was nearer the beginning than the end. He also said that the three presenters were playing to their cartoon characters a bit too much. So the end of the series and the current format in the UK is hardly a surprise. I stopped watching in around 2011, when it became totally formulaic. 22 years with little change is just too much for any brand let alone a TV format. Madonna has had at least four reinventions in the same period and a bit of a slip at the Brits to keep her front of mind.

So the BBC have a decision to make. Start the next series with a new lead presenter and the other two presenters, or reinvent the whole thing?

For me, they have to let the current series and the current format die. Let Clarkson walk away and give the chance for the brand in the UK to regenerate. Clarkson no longer has any form of ownership as he sold his shareholding back to the BBC in 2012, he hardly needs the money anyway, and we all need a break from him and his cronies.

It’s the TV version of crop rotation. Let the brand lie fallow for a few years to find a new format again and spring back brighter than ever, having been created for a new audience.

For the BBC, their income is reasonably secure as the brand is already licensed to the US, Australia, Russia and Korea and there are plenty of licensed spin-offs generating income. I’m sure the repeats will grace our screens for many years to come. But if they keep flogging the current format, like the Golden Goose, it will whither and die anyway.

Go on BBC, do us a favour. Come out and confidently tell us that you are resting the brand and will recommission it in the future with a new format. I believe it’s the only way Top Gear can regain any credibility and build an appeal to a new, younger audience. After all, the car market is not the same as 22 years ago and it’ll certainly be very different in another 22 years. So take the chance to create something new and every bit as fresh as this used to be.

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This is Google, before Google was invented

I had the absolute pleasure of listening to Dame Wendy Hall on the BBC Podcast ‘A Life Scientific‘ Yesterday and she referred to a 50 minute TV programme from 1990 by Douglas Adams called Hyperland. They also played a small clip, where the ‘Software Agent’ played by Tom Baker came out with the following quote

“I’m a software agent and I only exist as what we call an application in your computer. I have the honour to provide instant access to every piece of information stored digitally, anywhere in the world. Any picture or film, any sound, any book, any statistic, any fact, any connection between anything you care to think of. You have only to tell me and it will be my humble duty to find it for you and present it to you for your interactive pleasure”

That’s Google, but before Google.

You can see it in full here 

But this just proves what a genius Adams was and that Google certainly weren’t the first to come up with the idea for what they do, they just came in and did it better than everyone else. There’s lots to learn from that.

Nike Ad with Tiger and Earl Woods

A few months ago when the Tiger Woods scandal first started to unfold, I wrote a piece about what the brands he was associated with would do, how they would react and which would desert him. You can read that here.

I was a bit inconclusive as to how the brands he hangs out with would react. But it appears they have decided to stick with him and embrace him for all his faults. This ad is an amazing one and must be unique where our fallen hero doesn’t get to speak, but rather stare slightly sheepishly into the camera whilst his late father asks him if he has learnt anything.

I watched the US Masters coverage last night on the BBC and I have to say that I was surprised to see that he seems to have been well and truly forgiven (or have they just forgotten?) by the US golf watching community. He was cheered by men, women and children as he played every shot and entered every green.

Maybe Nike have made a brilliant decision in sticking with him, but I guess the result on Sunday night will be the biggest single decider as to whether he is back for good. Me, I’m cheering on our boy Lee Westwood, with a firm support for the elegant Ian Poulter.

Updated

I’ve thought about this a lot since I first wrote it yesterday and watched more of the excellent BBC coverage again last night. I have to say, that I am slightly put out by Tiger Woods and his approach to his own brand. The more I thought about it, the more I realised that this is something of a desperate attempt to keep ‘in’ with his sponsors – but at any cost. I know how hard it was when I lost my own father, so for Tiger to literally sell his own father’s voice for the benefit of one of his sponsors is pretty low and shows the depths to which he will stoop to make money.

Augusta is a bubble. A micro climate where reality is suspended. A place where they’ll spend $80m on their practice area to create the perfect golf environment. Tiger has been the king of Augusta. Few of his peers can hold a candle to his performances on this course. His closing day is normally better than the field by a mile.

But yesterday was Seve’s 52nd birthday and he was my golf hero, before the brands took control of the players. He stands for individuality, fight, courage, respect and outrageous shot making. Tiger can claim the last, but the respect for even his father – who he claims was his hero and mentor – at the behest of his sponsors has gone – and I don’t see him ever getting it back.

Maybe the American public haven’t noticed this yet, but this is the beginning of the end for me. Not the affairs, the lies or even the car crash. Once you lose respect for yourself, your days as a brand icon are numbered.

Online advertising overtakes TV – but brands will suffer if they ignore it

It was announced on the BBC (so it must be right then!) that spending on online advertising in the UK has overtaken the spend on TV advertising for the first time. It came from a report prepared by Pricewaterhouse Coopers for the Internet Advertising Bureau.

Online spending grew 4.6% to £1.752bn – which doesn’t sound that large a growth in what is such a young and explosive market – whilst TV advertising fell by a rather more substantial 16.1% to £1.639bn.

This is great isn’t it?

All clients are becoming much more savvy and spending their money where they can get a measurable return and not throwing any of their hard kept budget at more general profile raising ads.

I think this is not great, not great at all, as brands will suffer in the long term for doing so.

Brilliant virals change perceptions, we all know that, but brilliant TV advertising changes generations. It just has a far greater impact than another click through to a website by someone bored in their office on a quiet Friday.

Internet advertising must be part of any advertising mix that’s obvious, but so must profile raising clever TV ads, if you want to create and maintain a world brand.

When Nick Kamen stepped out of his pants in a launderette ad for Levis, he literally rebuilt their brand from that day forward. He gave them ‘cool’ and they have worked hard ever since to keep it.

I can think of thousands of transformational TV ads, but Virals, with very few exceptions are often just a gag that wears thin all too fast. Its the creatives having a hoot and winning awards. But is it really winning them customers or just massive click through rates? When Chris Tarrant, presents them on late night TV, how much good is that really doing for the brand?

And the best bit?

The irony that it was PwC reporting the demise of TV ads.

PwC were the people who were laughed at through massive viral campaign of changing their name to ‘Introducing Monday’ in 2002 by the hilarious viral geniuses at B3ta. If you don’t remember that, have look here and here.

Pw C - We've got your name and you are a donkey
PwC - We've got your name and you are a donkey

It was the viral that created virals, but its brilliance was in its irreverence, not in its conformity.

If I owned a consumer brand, I’d be sticking by TV for a long time yet.

Ryanair and the destructive power of negative branding

Ryanair today announced a large drop in their full year profits which are down 78%. After adjustments  (which seems to be an accounting term used for trying to make things look better) they have actually posted a loss of £145.9 Million. They argue that this is all due to a revaluing of their investment in Aer Lingus but for us, this is more to do with the contemptuous way they are treating their brand and their customers.

Ryanair claim they offer many of their flights free, but yet they are still an unloved brand that many of us choose to use through lack of alternative rather than through active and positive decision making. At 20.30 and 20.31 last night two flights left Malaga bound for East Midlands Airport. Two different carriers flying the same route at the same time, which would you say was the busier?

Ryanair is a brand that is all based on price. You expect them to be slow, late and unpleasant and barely functional (even though they actually have a very good record for timekeeping), but you put up with a lot whilst the price is low. If the price rises, you will actively seek out alternatives. Now, in our opinion, many people actively dislike Ryanair.

Conversations with Michael O’Leary, the outspoken chief of the airline business, on the BBC about possibly charging people to use their toilets whilst in mid air hardly endear them to the very people they are asking to pay to fly with them.

In a poll by Tripadvisor of 4,000 of its members in 2006, were the least popular airline – an unwanted accolade they have gone on to retain in 2007 and 2008. In theory, people would therefore not use them. But their continued growth since then has proved that, whilst the price is right, people will still travel with them.

Maybe this drop in profits is the sign that their contemptuous treatment of customers and having a brand that stands for ‘tricking’ customers into paying more is one that is just not sustainable.

Michael O’Leary was talking recently on German TV about potentially offering long haul flights and what their version of business class could stand for. You can view that here, but watch out as he speaks less than politely.

In an interview this morning for the BBC, he said that their continued growth proves that Business Class is dead (as an obvious dig at British airways), but which is it to be? Blow Jobs on Business Class or sticking to their low cost, low service model?

With any brand, you have to decide what makes you different and then deliver it beautifully and consistently in every single way. Ryanair certainly deliver consistently, but beautifully, I think not.

I know who I’ve booked my family holiday flights with in the summer and it isn’t Ryanair.

Ryanair claim they offer many of their flights free, but yet they are still an unloved brand that many of us choose to use through lack of alternative rather than through active and positive decision making. At 20.30 and 20.31 last night two flights left Malaga bound for East Midlands Airport. Which would you say was the busier?
Ryanair is a brand that is all based on price. You expect them to be slow, late and unpleasant and barely functional (even though they actually have a very good record for timekeeping), but you put up with a lot whilst the price is low. If the price rises, you will actively seek out alternatives. Now, in our opinion, many people actively dislike Ryanair.
Conversations with Michael Ryan, the outspoken chief of the airline business, on the BBC about possibly charging people to use their toilets whilst in mid air hardly endear them to the very people they are asking to pay to fly with them.
In a poll by Tripadvisor of 4,000 of its members in 2006, were the least popular airline – an unwanted accolade they have gone on to retain in 2007 and 2008. In theory, people would therefore not use them. But their continued growth since then has proved that, whilst the price is right, people will still travel with them.
Maybe this drop in profits is the sign that their contemptuous treatment of customers and having a brand that stands for ‘tricking’ customers into paying ore is one that is just not sustainable.
Michael Ryan was talking recently on German TV about potentially offering long haul flights and what their version of business class could stand for.
You can view that here, but watch out as he speaks less than politely.
In an interview this morning for the BBC, he said that their continued growth proves that Business Class is dead (as an obvious dig at British airways), but which is it to be? Blow Jobs on Business Class or sticking to their low cost, low service model?
With any brand, you have to decide what makes you different and then deliver it beautifully and consistently in every single way. Ryanair certainly deliver consistently, but beautifully, I think not.
I know who I’ve booked my family holiday flights with in the summer and it isn’t Ryanair.