No, no, of course I’m not taking it personally. Or…

I’ve had a really, really busy week, with more than enough rushing round London to keep me fully occupied, and suitably sore-footed by the end of every sweltering day.  And business is great, thanks – July invoices just gone out, and for the third month running well ahead of target.

I feel I need to say all that before I get onto what I want to write about, which is the fact that, my goodness, these days it seems an awful lot of people cancel meetings with me at the last moment.

Monday morning began with an old friend texting me to say he was struggling to get an overseas trip organised and please could we refix our breakfast.

On Tuesday there was a date in the diary for a coffee with another one-man brand consultant, and not having been in touch for a while I emailed, called and texted to make sure he was still on: literally on my way down the escalator at Warren St he texted back to say he didn’t realise the date had been confirmed and could we refix.

Wednesday should have been an agreeable lunch with another old chum from a well-known financial agency, until he texted an hour or two before to say that he was enmired in pitch madness and could we do it another time.

On Thursday morning it was a meeting booked in with a business partner to discuss a project we’re working on.  She called to report that a combination of work and domestic problems meant she couldn’t do it that day.

And then on Thursday evening I turned up at an agency where I’m giving a series of seminars on various aspects of financial services marketing (honest, they’re not as boring as they sound), and we agreed to postpone when it became apparent that I’d be addressing a rather small audience.  A combination of the office summer party the previous night, and some big urgent projects keeping a lot of people working late, had reduced the number of those attending to just two.  That’s the lot.

I’m not complaining, or not much.  I appreciate that these were all meetings that either didn’t need to happen at all (breakfasts, lunches) or didn’t need to happen on that particular day and can perfectly well happen at some other time when the people involved are less frantic.  And I’m doing well at not taking it personally, saying to myself that the things people were having to do instead of seeing me weren’t necessarily more important, or more enjoyable, but just more urgent.

But, I must say, although it’s true that during the week I did manage to fit in another 21 meetings of one sort or another pretty much on schedule, it’s not easy to run one’s life efficiently with this kind of level of last-minute turbulence.

Is it just me?  Or does this sort – and level – of thing happen to everyone?


Blimey, these Olympics officials are worse than Mariah Carey

I don’t know if the contract issued by the IOC and signed by the UK government has ever been made public – if not, it should have been.  But I’m sure that even those used to meeting the most demanding requirements of the most unreasonable showbiz divas would be stunned by a lot of the contents.

The single bit that has made me, and millions of others, most angry is the bit about the ‘Zil lanes’ – 30-odd miles of special lanes, almost all in Central London, which will be reserved for the exclusive use of the ‘Olympics community’ – officials, athletes, the media and sponsors.

These come into use tomorrow, and they will make large parts of London basically inaccessible to ordinary people in private cars.  The Euston/Marylebone Road, for example, used to seethe with traffic when there were three lanes each way;  some years ago one lane was taken out and reserved for buses and taxis only, and the road became even more of a nightmare for everyone else;  and now, with the arrival of the Zil lanes, there’ll be just one lane left for everyone trying to make their way along one of the most congested roads in Europe.

And it’s not just motorists who will suffer – in some places, in what has been dubbed the Public Transport Olympics, it is in fact public transport users who will suffer.  In Park Lane, for example, where all the 5-star hotels will be reserved exclusively for Olympics VIPs, the Zil lane runs along the kerbside and the bus lane is pushed out into the middle of the road. This means that while corrupt panjandrums step conveniently into their limos, buses are unable to stop from one end of Park Lane to the other, a distance of over a mile.  If any panjandrums find their room service a bit slower than usual, it’s probably because the hotel staff are still waiting for the bus to stop so that they can get off and trudge all the way back to work.

I must say, I just told someone on the phone that I don’t think I’ve felt crosser about something more or less political than when we all demonstrated against the Vietnam War in the late 60s.  How can we just accept this ridiculous nonsense?  What makes these people feel entitled to a degree of privilege not even available to the Queen or government ministers?  How could our government sign up to this and God knows how many other iniquities in the Olympics contract without the public – who are, of course, paying for the whole ludicrous farrago – having any knowledge of them?

Really, if I had any remaining gumption, I’d try to organise a campaign of civil disobedience – try to persuade every driver to drive in the Zil lanes all the time, and see what happens then.  Or, alternatively, organise a demo:  out of respect for those distant Stop The War demos, we could go back to Grosvenor Square and do it there.

Might not be doable though.  I think it may have a Zil lane:  they’d simply move us on.

Everything you weren’t very interested to know about those Tour de France team sponsors

Those of us who work in marketing, brand and communications but not in sponsorship all think it’s an almost-complete waste of money.  (Sponsorship, that is, not marketing, brand and communications.)

Having paid more attention than usual to this year’s Tour de France (not just because of Bradley, but also because it came within a few miles of my French place last week), I’ve been having a look at the team sponsors.  The Tour being a somewhat international but basically French event, I’m not sure whether I have a bit more useful objectivity on the subject, or just a bit more unhelpful ignorance.  Whichever, here is a brief analysis.

There is a small group of big international sponsors – make that a very small group – whose names will be known to many people:  Team Sky, of course, Radioshack/Nissan, Europcar, maybe Garmin/Sharp (embarrassing if one of their riders got lost).

Then there are some brands which I think are big in France:  FDJ/Bigmat (although I think FDJ, the French lottery, is rather bigger than the medium-sized builders’ merchants Bigmat),  Cofidis, Saur Sojasun, Vacansoleil.

And there are a few cycling-related brands that obviously belong here:  BMC, Cannondale, Shimano, Greenedge.

But, you know, there are an awful lot of sponsors left (bearing in mind that there are 22 teams and most are jointly-sponsored) who really don’t seem to have much of a reason to be there.  These range from the semi-sensible (Liquigas of Italy, Rabobank and Saxo Bank from the world of financial services, giant Spanish telecoms brand Movistar) to the rationally-unjustifiable (a team apparently sponsored by Astana, the capital city of Kazakhstan, a team sponsored by a bunch of Russian companies who hide behind the team’s brand Katusha, PVC window company Belisol, Belgian pharmaceuticals minnow Omega, Italian steel company Lampre, Ukrainian steel company ISD, Australian mining explosives firm Orica, independent Dutch oil exploration company Argos, etc etc etc…)

Well.  There may be good personal or financial reasons for these sponsorships.  But from a marketing point of view, there aren’t.  As I said, those of us who work in marketing, brand and communications but not in sponsorship all think it’s an almost-complete waste of money.  And after looking at the Tour de France team sponsors details, I have to say that I think so more than ever.




Another almost-imperceptible movement towards the exit

Has anyone ever left a job, and an office, more slowly than this?

My move towards the exit actually began right at the start of 2009, when I launched Lucian Camp Consulting and started to divide my time between my roles as Chairman of Tangible and what I fairly quickly defined as Entire Workforce of the consultancy.

Then, in summer 2010, I stood down from Tangible and became the Entire Workforce on a full-time basis – but, just to create a bit of confusion and to avoid any suggestion of overly precipitate action, I arranged to pay a fee to Tangible so that I could stay in my old office and continue to enjoy the invaluable support and assistance of Shelley and team in the finance department, Richard the IT manager, the lovely Abi who organises the meeting rooms and of course the irreplaceable Sue, who has carried on spending a bit of her time as my PA even though she does much grander administrative things the rest of the time.

That agreement came to an end on 1st July, and the latest news is that I have now moved out of the Tangible office in Midford Place.  Surely, then, this must mark the end of a working relationship that began way back in 1997 when I turned up to work with Steve Chipperfield at what was then the newly-rebranded CCHM down in Grosvenor Gardens?  Well, not quite.  I shall be moving into a new home after the holiday season, on Monday 2nd September. Until then, I shall be working a bit from home, and quite a lot from the International Office, which is what I not-entirely-jokingly call my place in France.

You’ll appreciate that neither home nor the International Office has much to offer by way of support services, so between now and 2nd September I shall be continuing to bug Shelley, Richard, Abi, Sue and the rest of them.  And even though I’m not actually based in Midford Place any more, there do seem to be good reasons at the moment why I need to drop in about three days a week.

This means that assuming the move into the new home happens on schedule on 2nd September, the whole exit process will have taken about 42 months from first step to final departure.  That must be some kind of record, mustn’t it?

Good thing I’m nice and busy at the moment

Things change when I’m busy.  I blog less, as you may have noticed.  I sit here at my machine at strange and regrettable times (6.27am as I write).  And every now and then, I feel I have no choice other that to turn a piece of work down.

I turned something down the other day – well, sort of.  In fact, to be honest, I took the job on, although with slight reluctance – it was a fairly heavyweight writing job, and compared to advising on brand strategy and suchlike, copywriting is a) much harder work and b) incredibly much less well paid.

Then, literally within 72 hours of taking the job on, I saw the client’s name elsewhere.  Nothing too remarkable about that, you might say:  working in the financial world, I see clients’ names all the time.  And anyway, that’s the way the principle of salience works:  once a name means something to you, you start noticing it.  It’s like when you get a new car, and all of a sudden everyone seems to be driving the same model.

Except that where I saw the name was in fact in the second or third para of one of those front-page lead stories in the Times about dodgy tax avoidance schemes.  And, for the avoidance of doubt, my new client was identified as a leading provider of them.

The new client is 100% confident that the schemes fall on the right side of the avoidance/evasion line:  and anyway, they don’t do the most controversial ones any more and I wouldn’t have to cover them in the copy.

You may say that the only reason why, on reflection, I declined as politely as I could to carry on with the job was that I was already very busy, well ahead of my target for the third quarter and regretting having taken it on in the first place.  Maybe so.  Perhaps if it had been the only visible source of income for the next couple of months I’d have taken a different view.

Still, you can do the right thing for the wrong reasons, can’t you.