Archive for June, 2011

Can you greenwash fur?

Tuesday, June 28th, 2011

AA Gill, a journalist who likes to give the appearance of courting controversy whenever he possibly can, has been to Denmark and looked into the resurgent fur trade.  His article in June 26th’s Sunday Times Magazine is not suitable for the sensitive animal lover.  Gill isn’t fond of mink as a creature and is somewhat graphic about the killing and skinning part of the process.

Whatever you feel about animal welfare in recent months its becoming apparent that we are clearly witnessing a clever campaign on the behalf of the fur industry finally to stage a turnaround in the world of fashion as far as fur is concerned.

Fur has suffered in the UK.  It went from a highly desirable status symbol to a garment people feared to wear in case someone threw something at them.  The turning point of the anti-fur lobby’s campaign was the well publicised film made in the mid eighties with the slogan “It takes over 40 dumb animals to make a fur coat, but only one to wear it”.

Quietly though it seems to be making a comeback. 

I personally don’t wear real fur.  I do wear leather and eat meat.  I don’t want to get into the arguments on morals or ethics of any of that here, but rather to look at the marketing effort.

The pro-fur lobby is producing a range of arguments about the fur.  They include that it is possible to farm mink commercially and responsibly, subject to veterinary guidelines ie compliance.  That nothing is more desirable than of real fur ie sensory.  That mankind has been wearing fur for millennia ie authenticity. 

The most interesting and unexpected twist is the greenwash argument – some would say propaganda.  The fur lobby is explaining to the world that compared to fake fur, real fur is biodegradeable, doesn’t involve as many chemical processes and is therefore much more ecologically friendly.

Whilst I don’t believe anyone is proposing a return to the wearing of the fur of rare animals (I haven’t seen mention anywhere of real leopard in any of the arguments), there is a softening of attitudes of all generations certainly visible in the media.  Many high end designers are using fur again, and the fur lobby is providing fashion colleges with the raw materials to encourage them to experiment.

The Sunday Times article says that global fur sales reached $14bn in 2010, up 71% since the end of the 1990s.   These are big numbers although with the average price of a new fur coat at several thousand dollars this isn’t as many units worldwide as it might sound.

If the trend continues it will be one of the most complete marketing turnarounds.  Google is the place to watch I think.  Search for “fur coat” online today and faux fur dominates the rankings.  Nothing from the anti-fur lobby is visible.  Let’s watch this space and see if real fur does enter the UK mainstream.

Don’t waste time

Wednesday, June 22nd, 2011

The other day I was in a scheduled 2 hour meeting when the organisers spent the first 10 minutes sorting out the room and the technology. Then the Highest Paid Person in the Organisation (the Hippo) gave a 15 minute introduction which could have taken 2 minutes. That’s 23 minutes wasted out of 120 – ie nearly 20 %.

Everyone else in the room was obviously being very polite. I was doing that pencil tap thing that really irritates – but I had to let off steam somehow.

What a waste of time and not in a good way. The rest of the meeting – once the Hippo had shut up – was actually fascinating. The final hour and 37 minutes flew by. So it is a good thing that I kept my frustration contained (to some extent anyway). 

However if we could have improved the productivity of that meeting by 20% – and that meeting is probably not untypical – then either we can improve profitability by 20% or everyone can go home 20% earlier.

Dr Deming revolutionised Japanese working practices after the 2nd World War by introducing the idea of Lean Working. One of his techniques is to ask every member of staff to audit their own working behaviour throughout the day and eliminate wastage. It would be good if we could adopt this across the media industry.

Let’s improve efficiency, break out of the down turn sooner, and go home earlier by refusing to have our time wasted.

Let’s have a campaign – or are you too busy in meetings ?

Invest in Change

Friday, June 17th, 2011

I didn’t miss my annual trip to the swanky Grove hotel (just outside glamorous Watford) this year after all.

Earlier this month I attended a really interesting meeting at the Founders Forum with Microsoft.

The main reason everyone was there was to watch internet millionaires gather together to look at new technology and businesses pitching for investment.  This alone was a lot of fun – those millionaires know how to enjoy themselves (there’s a film they made spoofing the event on YouTube at )

In a side room away from the main congress a group of media CEOs, COOs and MDs sat and discussed the issues facing our future.  The single thing we all raised as an issue was about the better use of data.  I’ve gone on record before now with a rant about the difficulty of producing better solutions with the current industry data.  We clearly have our own bespoke answers to this but at the same time continue to have to invest in industry research that isn’t fit for future purpose.  The scale of Microsoft’s own investment into R+D puts that industry research investment into perspective.  Our host Ashley Highfield, Managing Director & Vice President, Consumer & Online, referred to a spend of over $9 billion. 

Do you think our industry’s investment in R&D is enough ?  What about your own investment in innovation ?