Yesterday, February 4th 2010, Big Jack was diagnosed with cancer. He’s only 9 years old. It’s devastating news and we’re all still reeling from it.
Looking on the bright side (and you have to) the doctors are relatively positive that two months of intense chemotherapy will stand a good chance of dealing with the tumour and that surgery will not be necessary.
I’d already been planning this year’s charity bike ride (many will know that for the past couple of years a bunch of mates and I have hauled our sorry middle-aged backsides onto unforgiving racing bikes and pedaled across various bits of European countryside for charity). However, I hadn’t, as yet, decided on which charity to support in 2010. I have now and, unsurprisingly, I’ll be raising money for Cancer Research.
You can donate online here and anything you can spare would be greatly appreciated.
I'm off cycling again this year. Close followers will know that for the past couple of years a bunch of friends and I have spent a few days each spring cycling a few hundred kilometres for charity. We've become know (at least between ourselves) as Les Veloistes Gentils. It's perhaps the most rewarding thing I've ever been involved in.2008 saw us ride from London to St Emilion. Last year we crossed the Pyrenees, dipping our toes in the Med near Perpignan and plunging in the Atlantic at Biarritz six days later after crossing some of the most famous mountain passes on the way. The full story of that epic little adventure can be found here and pictures here. But 2010's ride looks like it'll be our most challenging to date. At just over 700km it's longer than last year's ride, and we're planning on doing it in five days rather than six…so that's an average of 140km a day. More than that, however, are the spiky bits. The picture above shows the ups and downs of the entire route, which starts in Geneva and ends in Avignon (more detail here). The first big spike – which comes fairly early on day two – is the legendary Tour de France climb to Alpe d'Huez. The second big spike, which comes later the same day (gulp…) is the Col du Galibier (as Wikipedia tells me "often the highest point of the Tour de France"). The spike right at the end, and the reason we're crossing country to finish in Avignon, is the awesome Mont Ventoux, for many cyclists the biggest challenge of them all. It's going to be immense. I'm really pleased that we'll be an even bigger group of riders this year. 10 of us tackled the first year's ride, we had a dozen last year and it looks like we'll have 18 this year. Plenty of apprehension; loads of excitement and the start of quite a bit of hard training right now. We've got a while to get in shape – the ride starts on June 20th – and once again we'll be raising money for charity (which one we'll confirm in the next couple of weeks). If you're a business that would like your name emblazoned across our jerseys in return for a modest amount of cash then I'd love to hear from you. We'll also do our best to give you plenty of publicity for your support.
Reading Jackie Cooper's latest essay I agree with a huge amount of what she says. Almost everything in fact. And why not? Having worked for Edelman in both freelance and permanent roles, I've had a bit of contact with Jackie and have enormous respect for her. As you'd expect, as founder of Jackie Cooper PR she's a true doyenne of the consumer PR world.But the headline (and also the first line in fact) really jars: "Why It's Time for Ad Agencies to Admit Defeat". The PR industry has a real complex about the advertising industry – and it's one which isn't generally reciprocated. I can't quite work out whether is an inferiority or superiority complex…but it's a complex. The industry seems to clutch desperately to anything that might sound the death knell for advertising agencies, presumably so PR can nab all the budget that it believes has always been PR's by right. I don't get it. It often reminds me of the desperation in this…PR's Kevin Keegan to advertising's Alex Ferguson. In the first line of her essay, Jackie says: "When ad agencies are rebranding themselves as "short form content agencies", and media agencies are suddenly sprouting production arms you know the jig is up." Hardly. The world of marketing is changing. Marketing services agencies of all types are having to adapt to a world dominated by conversation, community-building and engaging content: advertising, PR, media planning, direct marketing…it's a challenge for them all. But to think that there aren't very smart people sitting in ad agencies working out how they can remain relevant is crazy. And the changes that Jackie points out above are evidence of that. It's true that many advertising agencies haven't traditional been skilled in creating and delivering on-going consumer engagement campaigns; campaigns that start, develop and manage communities in which brands can participate. Their focus has been on 30-second spots, full-page ads and billboards. But that doesn't mean that they can't learn how to adapt (or, more likely, hire the expertise, as many are currently doing). They have the resources to do so and, more importantly, they often enjoy a direct line into the senior marketing decision-maker within brands and already have their hands on the bulk of the budget. 'All' they need to do is convince the client that they've re-engineered their business and crack on with the job. Unfortunately, despite arguably having an existing set of skills that are ideally suited to an 'engagement' marketing model, PR agencies are (generally) a step away from the marketing director and often pigeonholed as providing a specific set of services at a certain proportion of budget. The barriers to changing that are significant. In reality (or the very near reality) there should be no PR v. advertising discussion. Some PR agencies will thrive, some will fail. Ditto for the ad guys. So can we stop it now?
Well would you believe it. Rory from the Beeb thinks that Boxee – the gadget that allows you to bring the internet to your telly – was the highlight of CES (or at least the best from the Last Gadget Standing bit of CES).He said of Boxee: "…a device that could do what few in the tech industry have managed – make Apple's rival product look distinctively second best. The Boxee Box does something that is going to be a big obsession in 2010 – it takes the internet and puts it in your telly. There are plenty of other ways of getting internet content onto TV but they are either hopelessly complicated or, in the case of Apple TV, much too restricted. The Boxee Box lets you take all sorts of good web video stuff – from YouTube to the BBC iPlayer – and view it on your television using an interface that, in the words of the firm's marketing man Andrew Kippen "even a zebra could use." Plus there's a remote with a full keyboard if you really want to do your e-mail from the TV. He told me afterwards that the device was going to launch at $199 in the US in the first half of the year. But when would it come to Britain?
"We see all the developments that are going on in the UK and the movement of media online in that country makes it easy for Boxee to work there and we're eager to get there and start selling devices soon."