Well holy shamoly anna gwokamolly! Facebook have pulled out all the stops with their huge array of changes plastered alongside a mega celebrity bash!
These changes have been a long time coming and the
Twitterverse is awash with rumours that Facebook held onto their Timeline
feature to trump Google whenever they decided to announced something or pull a
Google haven’t been sitting pretty having made a raft of
additions to their Google plus offering including a new Adwords feature which
incorporates a ‘+1’ button on the bottom of the ad much like the overlay ads on
YouTube videos. Popular games like Angry Birds and Zynga Poker are now
available on a new separate section of Google plus with the former adding an
incentive to invite friends to unlock additional levels.
I would guess that most of you reading this now have heard a
lot more about Facebook changes than Google+ changes which reminds me of a
parallel with Apple & Microsoft with their announcement approach. Google do
appear to be taking a greater interest in developing & integrating more
with Google+ than previous half efforts like Orkut, Buzz and Wave. Although
there was a huge buzz around the social network at launch of initial invites,
the conversations have really died down. On my own Google+ set up, I am only
seeing a handful of advocates pushing the format forward.
Facebook have also been making a myriad of minor tweaks and
to my annoyance, almost every other day! Privacy settings have been amended
(with constant reminders much in the vein of the annoying Microsoft Office
Paperclip), photos have got bigger (laid out like Tripleprint photos on your
newsfeed), crazy long limits on comments (goodbye tweet like responses, hello
spam!), less importance on liking a brand page (goodbye to horrible ‘like
gates’), new subscription buttons to any public profile page (eg. A
subscription button is now on my personal profile page, so you can stalk me
without being my friend), lists (a Katango/Google+ circles thingymajig) and a
whole lot more!
Oh don’t forget mobile (cell phones for our American
friends) either! Google+ will probably integrate their social platform into
every future Android phone with many geo located features already available on
their existing app. Both Facebook & Google+ have had major issues with
reliable phone apps and that could continue if they keep making more continuous
changes to their platform as a whole.
The future is definitely favouring Facebook at the moment in
my opinion. They are the brand leader whilst Google+ is still the contender by
a long way. Hopefully Google+ will be here to stay as long as it is not
abandoned in the same way as Google PowerMeter or Facebook Deals. It’s a tough
market out there! The next question is how will the small guys like Twitter
For a supremely gifted actress, one who has tackled roles as diverse as an 18th century maid-come-lover of the Marquis de Sade
a romantically disillusioned 50’s Baltimore suburban housewife and a brusque illiterate ex-Nazi officer, Kate Winslet is seemingly dreadful at playing the role of a delighted Kate Winslet. On hearing that she had landed the ‘Outstanding Lead Performance in a Miniseries’ award at this year’s Emmy’s, the Oscar winning actress performed what at first seemed the most exaggerated display of glee I have yet to see – reverberating her fists like a child who has just seen the long-whined-for aisle sweets land plum in the shopping basket.
I write, ‘at first seemed’ because ever since the Emmy’s I have been brooding on the incident. I have been wracked with irresolution and puzzlement. Was Winslet acting or was her reaction genuine? Was it that she felt she needed to act overjoyed because she has already won an Oscar and this, a TV award, was small-fry in comparison? Were Winslet’s mannerisms an affected public flourishing when privately she was hardly registering emotionally or was she sincerely euphoric and her bodily actions merely the unquenchable outpouring of emotion that comes with all victory?
Although I have yet to deduce the definitive answer (perhaps you, blog-reader, can help me out with this) I’m led to believe that it lies in how the status-quo of TV as an aesthetic medium has developed over the last two decades. Throughout the nineties and naughties (apologies) it was often assumed that quality drama trickled down from the silver screen onto DVD before belatedly spilling onto TV a fair few years out-of-date. Alongside outmoded films, TV was, dramatically, the preserve of well-loved but dubiously acted & written soaps. Steadily however, this began to change and it is a transformation that begins in the land of Hollywood, North America, and with the apotheosis of pay-tv.
Fifteen years ago, US pay-tv (or cable as it is named in the US) was mostly renowned for repeats, music videos and hot-gospelling evangelism. Amongst the rubble, HBO initially defined itself with the now old one-two of broadcasting high profile boxing matches and films. Although more entertaining than watching Pastor Warren ranting brimstone and repentance, this appointment-to-view programming model (hence the name Home Box Office) still depended on leapfrogging the commercial queue. The question as to why one would subscribe would be answered ‘Because I get to see the films earlier’. HBO bought the rights to other’s content, be it films or sporting events, and this access maintained the turnover of subscriptions. Then, in an inspired gamble, they decided to try their hand at producing their own hour-long dramas.
Now, fifteen years later, HBO has become synonymous with creating, broadcasting and then selling polished drama. With a string of hits from The Sopranos to Sex and the City, Six Feet Under to The Wire, HBO has re-established TV as a medium capable of turning out intelligent storylines that revel in loose ends and morally ambiguous characters. It has also been a money spinner. Not only has it made HBO less reliant on buying content from the studios and production houses, they also make money off the distribution of their own content, be it DVD sales or the establishment of foreign partnerships, such as that which brought about Sky Atlantic. In 2010 HBO turned over $4 billion. This is money which is then recycled back into that which it has brought it success: cinematic drama. For instance, the pilot episode of the recent Steve Buscemi fronted prohibition drama, Boardwalk Empire, cost a whopping $20 million. This is smart television for Smart TVs.
In the words of the esteemed British playwright David Hare, ‘The future of American film lies on television’. The question remains however as to whether the peculiarity of the pay-tv system that has enabled US channels to turn to exportable high-end drama is able to be replicated in the British commercial market. One instant hitch is the assumed schism between the artistic licence of the writer and the perceived puritanism of the advertiser. Because HBO doesn’t run adverts the writers don’t have to tailor scripts to either the digression of the advertisers or, strictly speaking, to the tastes of the viewership. They are in the enviable position of being able to be patient, allowing initially unpopular shows such as Treme to germinate rather than flower instantaneously. As cinema has become more or more obsessed with the franchise and the blockbuster, this is the initial draw for many established screenwriters: they can write what they want.
Quality attracts quality – when the screenwriters are on board, so too usually are the stars. Not only therefore has pay-tv have budget to compete, it also has the artistic independence and depth which can attract the likes of Winslet. This is backed-up by the fact that the main British broadcasters which have pushed drama akin to that of HBO’s are, in essence, subscription networks, the BBC and Sky. BBC recently aired Hare’s first screenplay for the last twenty years, Page Eight, which stared Bill Nighy and Rachel Weisz, and Sky Atlantic remains the landing pad for sophisticated US output such as the recent Sean Bean vehicle Game of Thrones.
Despite the need to cater for viewers and advertisers alike, it is my prediction that the HBO bug will spread further into the British commercial market. Not only have we seen from the American network AMC, producers of the multi-award winning Mad Men, that potentially abrasive drama can run successfully on commercial television, in the UK the likes of Downton Abbey, written by Julian Fellowes and starring the incomparable Maggie Smith, has already proven that betting on quality can pay dividends. Drama is only going to get slicker and smarter. Therefore, it is no surprise to see that whence actors would once deliberate between performing in a film and a spate in the theatre, that the question ‘TV or not TV?’ has entered the stage.
On Saturday, I had the pleasure of frequenting one of the most popular restaurants around the world - Mc Donalds.
I admit that it was a moment of weakness which caught me in a busy shopping centre, but I buckled. While I was tucking into my Mc Chicken sandwich meal, a family sat down next to me who I spent some time watching while scoffing away. Two little girls, both around 9, sat side by side but had totally different opinions to what they ate. One, admittedly slightly more rotund, was happily inhaling her Happy Meal, not a worry in the world. The other (possibly her sister) sat by her side watching her eat with her lip curled in a disapproving sneer and didn’t have a bite to eat but instead pulled out her compact mirror and reapplied a layer of Barbie-pink lipstick, to accompany a face already covered in a layer of makeup complete with false eyelashes. Honestly, she could not have been more than 9-10years old – what has influenced these kids?
Let’s take the first, in my opinion, happier child. I have to admit that it was bad of me to criticise (being in the process of eating a Maccie D’s myself…) but I started to judge her parents for bringing her to this fast-food outlet. But at the end of the day…it’s not just the parents who have influence over what she wants to eat. I started to think about how else she may have been subjected to Mc Donalds - perhaps the family had seen a poster outside, or had seen an advert on the TV before they left the house? How easy is it for parents to put their foot down when their young beloved have seen a tasty-looking advert and wanted it NOW?
In recent years, concerns about the nation’s ever-expanding waistline have prompted some important investigations into society’s habits, further provoking government and health professionals to attempt to identify and tackle the root causes. One factor that has had a sizeable chunk of the blame directed at it is advertising. An increase in food and drink brands has led to an inevitable increase in targeted advertising, hoping to catch the eyes of the innocent and potentially vulnerable, those who “see and want”.
A few years ago, critics began to argue that ads for ‘unhealthy’ food were a contributory factor to childhood obesity and subsequently called for restrictions or even outright bans of advertising for less healthy products. The ASA took these protests on board and in 2007 responded by introducing stricter advertising rules around food and soft drinks. On TV, this has meant that products classed as high in fat, salt and sugar (HFSS) can no longer appear in or around children’s programmes or be targeted at them. In an effort to get around this rule, many brands have taken to advertising the ‘experience’ of a product, rather than the product itself. For example, you won’t catch a Mc Donalds Cheeseburger advert during The Simpsons, but you may well see a Maccie D’s ad promoting ‘Fun & Games with Giant Happy Meals’, thus skirting around the HFSS-ban whilst still advertising the brand itself.
As most of us all know, this isn’t the only rule which the ASA has enforced on advertising. There is the obvious no ‘false claims’ rule, restrictions on times which certain brands can advertise, rules that ban the promotion of any brand contributing towards an unhealthy lifestyle (e.g. linking alcohol with irresponsible behaviour), and most recently the ASA’s rulings about the use of airbrushing.
This brings me on to the second, more self-image-conscious, little girl. Gorgeous as she was, I was certainly a bit shocked at such a full face of make up on such a young one. Again, I began to think that it surely couldn’t only be her parent’s influence that prompted her to want to wear so much make up. At nine, I was playing “Castles and dungeons” in the garden, making Mudpies with my younger sister…not perfecting the art of applying false eyelashes – something that I still struggle with today.
In today’s very stylish society, everyone wants to be top of their game; the most gorgeous; the most glamorous; the most fashionable in comparison to their friends. If you’re not top of the trends, you’re forgotten about. Unsurprisingly, this is reflected in the advertising surrounding fashion and beauty brands, promoting that “be as hot as this model in our brand new sheer sleeve sequin t-shirt” idea or the “get flawless skin instantly by using this creamy foundation” image.
Already questioned by thousands of critics, parents and consumers in general, we have all begun to ask…….. ”Really???” But we will not be fooled any longer – rules have changed.
Britain’s best loved Geordie icon Cheryl Cole was thrown into the spotlight when it was revealed that she’d had £1,000 worth of hair extensions attached when her L’Oreal Elvive Full Restore shampoo advert was filmed. Though the advert certainly noted that Cheryl’s hair was “styled with some natural extensions”, this tiny message was flashed for a few seconds during the 30 second TV ad and stood only 2mm high in the press ads. 13 complaints about these adverts prompted the ASA to change the rules regarding airbrushing and digitally enhancing in adverts. If these enhancements are chosen to be used, brands must be careful not to over exaggerate the performance of a product as it is technically a false claim.
I always see adverts and think ‘WOW I’d love to look like her’, but I have the adult-understanding to know that ‘she’ is probably airbrushed to perfection and it isn’t an accurate representation of how she really looks, or how a product might actually work. Children don’t have this knowledge, they merely believe what they see and they want it. Dove produced a brilliant advert highlighting the effects of makeup artists and airbrushing, bringing to light just how false a lot of models and adverts actually look. Check it out here…
My point here is that children are mouldable – they are a totally different type of consumer to adults as there are no ‘considerations’ to be made pre-purchase. They just want it. End of story. Whether as parents or advertisers, it is up to us as adults to take responsibility for the effects that advertising might have on children. When the health or self-esteem of a child may be jeopardised, this is when rules must be made and quite rightly so, I say.
10th of September…Saturday morning…9:30 am….ITV1….These are the details that most of England’s burly, cauliflower eared men have had written down for the most part of this year.
For this is the day the England Rugby team kick off their World Cup campaign in New Zealand and although it may pain me to say it there is astronomically more chance of English fans not being let down, angry (and in my case emotionally crippled) from this world sporting event. The reality is that England’s team is genially one of the top 4 favorites to take home the Webb Ellis trophy having won and been runners up in the previous 2 Rugby world gatherings.
The station charged with the sole responsibility of delivering the vital footage to the television audience in the UK is ITV, who will be showing the games predominantly on their ITV1 main channel as well as few others along with highlights on their male targeted digital channel ITV4. Games will be televised live in UK around the hours of 4-11 in the morning due to the mammoth time difference that exists. Many believed that this would fatally inhibit the TV viewing figures in the United Kingdom. However through the good grace of God OR perhaps some lengthy broadcast negation meetings all of the England games and even most of the Wales and Scotland games are scheduled to K/O in the latter half of New Zealand’s weekend evenings, meaning the earliest that anybody in England will need to switch on the TV will be 7:00 am Greenwich meantime. Will this be enough to command the fans out their slumbers and even capture a new audience like the viewing figures suggested in the previous World Cup?
Suggestions that viewing figures for rugby are on an increase are further supported by the BBC's evidence that on average a record breaking 4.6 million tuned in to this year’s 6 Nations cup with a highest audience of 9.6 million for an England match. What was then just good news for rugby can now be turned into good news for business as ITV1 offers a complete advertisbale platform for a world sporting event. Other events such as the FIFA World Cup and Olympics are restricted by BBC's involvement, meaning advertisers have sometimes missed out on good opportunities. With ITV's service advertisers can now reach a truly mass audience that is engaged and captivated. The question that many purests might pose and fear the answer to, is with all of the corporate opportunity surrounding it, will this ‘gentlemanly’ sport soon be mauled by the same commercial scrum that blights that ghastly sport for thugs.
Let us know what you think about how well viewing figures will do for the Rugby World Cup? If it's a good thing ITV hold the sole broadcasting rights? And most importantly…..who you think will win?
With the end of a very successful Celebrity Big Brother drawing near, I feel a sense of sadness at the departure of Z list celebrities making fools of themselves on national television.
Celebrity BB has proved a massive hit for Channel 5, who took over the rights from Channel 4 after eight months of negotiations. Since it began on the 18th of August, the show has been watched by an average 2.35million viewers for the 9pm show and 2.25million for the 10pm show. When comparing the audience figures year on year, looking at the same time slots, Celebrity BB has increased Channel 5’s audience by approximately 740,000 between 9-10 and a huge 1million. The launch night alone was viewed by 5.08million people (actually peaking at 5.58million people just after 10pm), making it the fourth biggest Channel 5 show of all time. The numbers speak for themselves…
Big brands including Orange, McDonalds, Asda, Ford and Lucazade secured ad spots during the five ad breaks of the launch night which all ran between Freederm’s sponsorship indents – Freederm being the official sponsor of BB 2011 – and I’m sure they paid big bucks, which have no doubt been of a huge success to them.
But it’s not over just yet. I am happy to report that on Friday 9th Sept, the ‘normal’ Big Brother is going to burst onto our screens! Be honest now, who’s missed it? The bitching, the crying, the tasks, the possible blooming romances? I have! But to be frank I’m more intrigued about who will invade our screens in the twelfth year of Big Brother and let’s face it, there have been some ‘characters’ in past BBs. So on that note, I’m going to take a trip down memory lane to my top favourite BB characters of all time.
As you will all be aware by now, Big Bro’s original Mamma Davina McCall has been replaced by Brain Dowling, who I think is doing a fab job. I do miss Davina’s somewhat excited banter, and have happy memories of guessing what latest black outfit she might wear, but Brian is definitely worthy of the job, having being crowned the winner of the second series in 2001 and also of Ultimate BB in 2011. But fear not, Davina hasn’t disappeared from our screens. Staying loyal to Channel 4, she currently presents The Million Pound Drop, a show where the average Joe gets a chance to win a huge £1,000,000. This show has proved a major success with a top average of 2.5 million viewers tuning in. The show has also proved to be a massive hit across social networks with currently 225,000+ fans on Facebook and #millionpounddrop being trended as no. 1 worldwide on Twitter. Davina also presents on ITV (Long Lost Family), Sky 1 (Got to Dance) and on Living TV (The Biggest Loser) so if you need your fix, tune into these programmes and you won’t be disappointed.
It's been twelve years (yes twelve!) since Craig Phillips won the first ever BB and with a hefty cheque of £70,000 burning in his back pocket, the question on everyone’s lips at the time was 'What is he going to spend his money on?' A car? A house? A holiday? No. Craig gave the money to his late friend Joanne Harris who had Down's Syndrome as she needed money for a heart and lung transplant in America. Within days of winning he had raised enough money to do just that. Not many people could honestly say they would donate ALL their money to someone else but he did. This kind of compassion (and the fact he was a builder before appearing on the show) transformed his career from “Craig the Builder” to “Craig the famous Builder” and has since appeared and presented on many shows including ‘60 minute makeover’, ‘Renovation Street’, both of which were broadcast on ITV, ‘Trading Up’ and ‘Craig’s Trade Tips’ which featured on the BBC. Well done Craig!
Next up is another of my all-time favourite contestants, Jade Goody. She burst onto our screens in BB3 and instantly split the public down the middle. Some were astounded at her lack of general knowledge – Jade thought that the English city of Cambridge was in London and when corrected and told it was in East Anglia, she thought that "East Angular" was abroad. Duh! Who could forget her “kebab belly” and the infectious laughter that made viewers tune in to watch her? Although she didn’t win, she certainly stole the show. This led onto many projects such as bringing out fitness DVDs and more importantly her own reality show “Living with Jade”, documenting 2 years of her life up to her sad and untimely death at the age of 27 in 2009. The show ran for two years and pulled in over 136,000 viewers on Living TV. I can honestly say Jade will always be remembered by her loyal fans and her funeral showed that when thousands of people attended just to watch it from screens outside the church. Her legacy will live on as she raised cervical cancer awareness and in doing so has increased the number of women between 25 and 64 going for smear tests by 12%. She will be missed.
This guy was a rightful winner in my eyes and his name is Brian Belo. Who could not like the cheeky, eye twinkling Essex lad with phrases such as 'I'm a mackerel" or "I'm a yoghurt top!". Viewers were delighted to watch the blossoming romance between twin Amanda Marchant and himself and it was the sweet display of affection that helped crown Brian the winner of Big Brother 8. Who would have guessed that Nigerian born Brian is in fact a descendant of royalty! Fact! Since leaving BB Brian has dabbled in a few projects mostly cameos in his beloved Hollyoaks and Harry Hill’s TV Burps. In April 2011, it was reported that Brian planned on suing the makers (Lime Productions) of the ITV’s hit reality programme, The Only Way Is Essex, claiming they "stole his idea". He featured in the pilot, provisionally titled Totally Essexbut the producers decided to cut him out of the first series. Time will tell whether he receives the £10,000 he’s asked for!
And lastly, who could forget Jackie Stallone? In 2005 she entered the Celeb house as a ‘surprise’ contestant much to the shock of former daughter-in-law Brigitte Nielsen, who of course was married to Sylvester Stallone. A brilliant twist in this series as it created tension from the moment she opened her mouth to now the now infamous line of “Yeah Jackie!” Sadly her demands and lack of interest in her fellow contestants got her evicted after spending just four days in the house. Brief appearance but in my eyes, a complete legend!