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Talk of the site: dead ants, Postman Pat and Olympics

LONDON - Welcome to our weekly roundup of the best user comments made on Brand Republic in forums, blogs and news, which offers a chance to catch-up on the debates and hot topics of the week.

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Views were equally divided on Mother's first work for the Post Office featuring Joan Collins, with even Post Office marketing director Gary Hockey-Morley chipping in.

Tim Brody says: "Brilliant script, brilliant acting (eventually), and the killing off of those stupid ants. I love it."

Barry Whyte agrees: "It's nicely self-depreciating -- acknowledging that the actual experience of visiting a Post Office isn't great and often involves tatty carpets -- something advertising can never fix. A brave thing for a client to buy, and a nice effort to turn a negative into a positive. It's just a pity that the positive they have chosen is "Britishness". Post Offices don't usually inspire patriotism in me, and 'Land of Hope and Glory' feels like a painful cliche."

Siobhan Long leads the critics: "Blatant rip off of Phoenix Nights where they all get together and talk about getting the Phoenix back. As I noticed that straight away, it's done nowt for me."

Ronnie Blogsville isn't impressed either: "I take it this isn't one of the 1000s of branches that's closing?! And does anyone remember when Mother was cool? Rubbish ad. Calling the post office a 'British Institution' and playing 'Land of Hope and Glory' in the background just smacks of overwhelming hypocrisy given the current PO state of affairs."

Emilien Anglada writes: "I really like when 'changing the carpet' is mentioned because since it's so true, it adds transparency and trust."

Duncan James retorts: "Transparency and trust? Only in W1 eyes. Transparency and trust are built through doing things for people, being there, not 'saying' through an ad. This is style over substance. Forget ads, put it into proper marketing and remember all the 'p's.'

While the client who paid for ad, Gary Hockey-Morley, writes: "I've read with interest the comments on our campaign, so I thought I'd join in. Influences? Well there have been many but British sitcoms were heavy in our mind, they give a good creative platform so we can entertain and inform. Transparency and trust are vital to use, hence the honesty about carpets. Ant Powder, well it's dramatic, we exploit the recognition and move on, all within a few seconds."

Tim Brody asks the client: "Gary - Was it difficult to sell the ant powder gag through the organisation?"

Which Gary Hockey-Morley answers: "On Ants, our view was that it has done a good job in terms of recognition but we'd found a better vehicle to get across our products and personality. So, it wasn't hard to sell the opening scene even though it was considered bold. We showed the adverts internally to literally hundreds of people to test, refine and start our relaunch from the inside out. Each time we did this it consistently got a laugh, so we knew it was right."

Simon Carter, who was involved in "ants" adds: "Good luck Gary - I genuinely hope it works for you. As the person at least partly responsible for the "ants"... I would argue that they were right at the time, but I agree they needed to move on. I guess my only cautious comment is that there is a risk that the ad gets seen as a "charity case" - ie encouraging people to buy your products only to save their local branch... as opposed to buying them because they are bloody good value. It's a fine line... and I am not sure yet... but I hope it works..."

In response to a story about ISBA issuing guidelines on making environmental claims in advertising, Chris Arnold writes: "In what has been called 'The Honest Economy' the public wants the truth. They are fed up with spin, half lies and big lies. They no longer trust advertising and look behind it. Getting found out can be very damaging to a brand. Any marketing director who sets out to 'green wash' could be costing their company millions in future damages when the truth gets out - and it does. Now a kid with a £600 laptop can bring a multi-million campaign (and the brand) down through the internet just by publishing the truth - it's called 'brand terrorism'".

Hugh Bessant's blog arguing that the only way to preserve the postal delivery and Postman Pat's job is not to adopt a consumer opt-in policy like email, caused mixed feelings.

Alex Parr writes: "Whilst a reduction in DM would surely affect the Royal Mail as you pointed out, it may just mean a scaling back of operations which wouldn't necessarily affect the rest of the mail service. (Yes it would mean redundancies but I've lost sympathy recently). I'm in two minds about opt-in, as a regular person I'm all for it. I hate junk mail. As a marketer it poses challenges, but maybe that's not a bad thing? It's challenges like this that force innovation and new approaches." To which Hugh Bessant responds: "It is not only redundancies Alex. If DM reduced significantly, daily collections and deliveries would be under threat, especially in rural areas. The cost of postage would have to rise significantly and the service would be severely reduced to the consumer."

While Alex Walsh says: "I don't support opt in as a result of legislation but I do think that it demonstrates respect to your customer and is a good starting point for any kind of relationship. I believe that every organisation should have the right to contact an individual once - particularly important for new companies and products - but the recipient then has the right to say "no more". The challenge to direct marketers then is simply to ensure that they don't annoy the recipients or at least not to such an extent that they take action"

Stuart Brown points out that opt-in manages to work for mobile marketing: "All of the points raised are very valid and I think it is great that such issues spark thought provoking discussions. The opt-in required for mobile marketing forces brands to think how they can better engage their consumers to be happy to opt in. The reason that I believe most people switch off from traditional direct mail is that it can feel intrusive and irrelevant. It is not what I want to see on my doormat when I return from a day's work."

In response to forum asking whether the ASA's regular run-in with Ryanair shows the watchdog is toothless, Peter Martin writes: "Who is not aware of ad campaigns that had the realities of the ASA's procedures factored into the production schedules?I was recently told of one guerilla ad/marketing/PR coordinated 'launch' that involved doing something designed to: a) Get complained about (PR) b) If that doesn't work naturally, make sure it does via a tame Daily Mail reporter c) Make a fuss about being complained about (more PR) d) Concede (even more PR) e) Make a fuss of the compromise (yeah, you guessed it) f) Try and score a puff piece in the Sundays about how it all happened (yawn),

A forum asking whether sponsorship of the Olympics is a useful marketing tool now following the news that Kodak and General Motors have not renewed, George Parker ripostes: "Having worked on a ton of accounts that were Olympic sponsors, I can tell you that the main reason these companies pour a ton of money down that black hole is so corporate management can fly in on their corporate jets and have a high old time entertaining the corporate management of their clients."

And finally, Hugh Bessant's blog defending the direct marketing industry against charges of waste has unsurprisingly acted as a lightening rod.

Andrew Payne defends the medium: "Seeing as the postal service can barely seem to stand on its feet as it is, it wouldn't survive at all if it didn't have the revenues that DM brings. Waste aside, the modern consumer must come to accept that if they want to watch TV they have to put up with the ads; if they want to watch films they have to put up with the product placement; if they want to get routine daily post through their letterbox they'll have to put up with ‘junk mail.' It's not really too great a sacrifice, is it?"

Martin Harrison lead off the critics: "The supply chain has been set up to make creation and delivery of the mailer to the individual as cheap as possible, by standardising format and rewarding volume. Look at the top DM spenders - Lloyds, Capital One, MBNA etc. Are these people seeking to entertain? Are they looking to spread happiness? Or are they offering expensive credit to as many people as physically possible for the least possible cost? While that may be defensible from a business perspective, how is defensible from a social perspective, never mind the environment? The problem with DM is that the quality of it is, in the main, woeful. If people were getting something other than a pile of 25 C5 white envelopes they might be a touch more receptive to the idea of it as a necessary evil."

David Tiltman writes: "It's coming to something when the only defence for DM is its contribution to the postal industry - a sorry sign of just how battered both sectors currently are. DM is only an easy target because clients and agencies on the whole have acted so irresponsibly. More than 20% of all mailshots are binned without even being opened - an absolutely shocking statistic.

Of course there's the odd stand-out bit of mail that is lauded in the press, but as a consumer I can't remember the last time I received one. My experience of direct mail is my bank trying to flog me something once a week (and including my bank details on the letter just to annoy me), a charity with its begging bowl out or some poorly targeted credit card offer. This is people's day-to-day experience of DM.

And as for the comparison with TV, television ads aren't targeted. They can be annoying (though generally less so than a mailshot), but they are mass, general, not addressing me personally. Mailings have your address on - they're invasive. It's a very different feeling."

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