UAE begins process to ban all types of tobacco sponsorship

January 7, 2010

Sheikh Khalifa Bin Zayed, president of the UAE, yesterday signed a legislative bill which restricts smoking venues across the country and bans all types of advertisements and the promotion or sponsorship of tobacco products.

The European Union enforced similar legislation in 2005, which brought an end to all tobacco-related advertising in consumer print titles and newspapers. Outdoor, TV and radio advertising had already been outlawed due to their potential to influence children.

Tobacco companies have since sought new opportunities in sporting events such a Formula 1, branding cars with their livery. The practice has been banned at races in countries affected by the anti-smoking laws.

Despite a fall in popularity elsewhere in the world, brands from tobacco giants such as British American Tobacco and Philip Morris still hold strong appeal in the Middle East.

An anti-smoking commitee will be created to implement the law in the UAE, though a start date for its enforcement is not yet established.

Tesco gets Tony Blair on board to aid Middle East plans

November 3, 2009

British supermarket Tesco has held talks with former prime minister and current Middle East peace envoy Tony Blair to help smooth its expansion into the region, reported Brand Republic yesterday.

According to reports in a UK newspaper, Blair was offered a fee in the region of 6 million AED to act as a “figurehead” for the brand, which  is the world’s third largest retailer.

It is believed Tesco hoped Blair would be able to use his diplomatic clout to aid its plans in the region. However, the paper said talks broke down over an “unknown reason” unconnected with money.

Blair’s talks with Tesco has led to questions over whether it is appropriate for a peace envoy to represent a supermarket’s interest in the region. Blair gives economic and political advice through his company Tony Blair Associates.

Tesco is behind Wal-Mart and French supermarket Carrefour in the race for world supermarket share. Limited opportunities to expand in its saturated UK base and has seen it look overseas in recent years.

The most notable opening for Tesco has been its Fresh & Easy chain on the west coast of the US. However its international chain spreads over Thailand, the Czech Republic, South Korea and Poland.

In response to the Blair story Tesco said: “We wouldn’t comment on which advisers we may or may not talk to, or speculation about potential markets for Tesco.”

Tony Blair Associates denied Blair had any commercial relationship with Tesco.

WPP Group suffers 8.7% organic revenue drop

November 1, 2009

WPP Group, which encompasses Ogilvy Advertising, Y&R, Mediaedge:cia, Wunderman, Grey and many more, has suffered an organic revenue fall of 8.7% but has declared that “less worse” economic conditions mean there has been “no Armageddon” for the industry.

Like-for-like gross margin, which WPP said was a better measure of competitive performance, fell by 8.3% — a smaller decline than in previous quarters.

Overall revenues, taking into account acquisitions and currency fluctuations, rose by 16.7% to around $3.3 billion.

In a trading statement, the company said: “There is little doubt that consumer and corporate confidence has recovered somewhat from the panic levels of the fourth quarter of 2008 and first quarter of 2009.

“Confidence, however, remains fragile amongst consumers, because of the shadow of high unemployment levels and amongst corporates, because Armageddon and Apocalypse were barely avoided in September 2008.”

WPP said that UK revenues for the third quarter had fallen again when compared to the second quarter, reflecting the fact that while France, Germany and the US are now officially out of recession, the UK  is not.

In the US, the fall in revenues stood at 6.1%, compared with 9.4% in the first quarter. Other areas to see improvement were Western Europe and Asia Pacific.

Coke to appoint ‘happiness ambassadors’ for social media mash-up

October 22, 2009

Coca-Cola has launched a new ‘social media mash-up’ campaign, that will see the brand appoint three ‘happiness ambassadors’ to travel the world and spread their happiness and enthusiasm wherever they go.

cokeAccording to Coke, the chosen group will meet ‘everyday people’ on their 150,000 mile journey and will share their experiences on Flickr, Twitter, Facebook and YouTube as they go. Their mission is to ‘share their happiness and enthusiasm with the rest of the world’.

Nine people have been shortlisted to fill the positions and Coke is asking the public to vote on who they think is most suited to the job. The project, dubbed Expedition206, is part of the wider Open Happiness campaign.

During the year-long initiative, the chosen group will visit 206 countries, representing Coke’s various markets. According to the current proposed route, they’ll hit the region around July/August 2010, at the height of summer temperatures.

Coke hopes that people across the world will act as local travel guides, suggesting places for the group to go and helping them find the secret of happiness.

The group leaves Madrid on 1 January 2010 and culminates in the US on 31 December 2010 after visiting all corners of the globe.

Omnicom’s global profits slide in Q3

October 22, 2009

Omnicom, the global advertising group that runs agency networks including BBDO and DDB, has seen its profits fall by 22.5 per cent during the three months ending 30 September.

In its third quarter results, released today, the group, run by John Wren, reported that year-on-year profits had decreased from $213.6 million to $165.6 million, with worldwide revenue falling 14.4 per cent to $2.83 billion.

In the US alone, revenue for the period dropped by 13.2 per cent to $1.5 billion, while international revenue decreased 15.8 per cent to $1.35 billion.

The figures meant Omnicom’s operating profit for the three-month period fell from $373.4 million in 2008 to $294.8 million in 2009.

News Corp moves to ‘second phase’ in paid-for online content

September 29, 2009

News Corporation is reassured by research it has undertaken into the willingness of readers to pay for content online, and has moved to the ‘second phase’ of its switch away from free content.

Australian newspaper The Sydney Morning Herald, which is owned by a News Corp rival, reports that a memo has gone out to staff at the News Digital Media division saying that in Sydney “we are about to move into the second phase of the project”. It was sent by Richard Freudenstein, who was chief operating officer at BSkyB in the UK until 2006 and now runs NDM.

It comes just days after research conducted by Harris Interactive for Paid Content UK found that three quarters of online news readers would switch to an alternative free source if their favourite news site began charging for access and that only 5% said they would pay to continue reading their preferred source.

In the memo, Freudenstein says that the company is reassured by its own research. It said: “News [Corp] has conducted some audience research here in Australia and in the UK and US, which gives us confidence that, if we get the product and delivery system right, people will happily pay for news content online, on their computer, mobile, e-reader or other device.”

News Corp chairman and chief executive Rupert Murdoch has been at the forefront of the charge to make delivering news online a profitable business, as advertising-led models fail to deliver enough revenue.

News Corp plans to introduce charges for its properties across the globe. It owns newspapers such as The Sun and the News of the World in the UK; the Wall Street Journal and New York Post in the US, and The Australian and the Courier Mail in Australia.

Twitter should charge for usage of service says investor

September 24, 2009

Twitter should charge for the use of its service via mobile phones if it is to convert its huge popularity into cash, one of its venture capital investors said to the UK’s Brand Republic today.

The suggestion comes as momentum builds behind Twitter’s plans to devise a business model that can generate money from its large number of users. Earlier this month, Twitter altered its terms and conditions to allow it to implement targeted advertising across the site.

Joi Ito, a Twitter investor who has previously invested in Flickr and, said: “When Twitter grows, SMS usage goes up. Sites are now able to promote across friends’ [Twitter] networks, traffic to certain kinds of sites increases. There’s a lot of things Twitter enables. And as a normal internet company would do, we’d look at who’s benefiting the most in this value chain, and where is there the least friction [for Twitter] to get paid.”

Ito said he was not speaking on Twitter’s behalf, but added that he believes “mobile will be an important part of the [Twitter] strategy.”

Separately, a new Twitter-based hotel booking engine has launched as brands attempt to figure out a way to capitalise on the Twitter phenomenon.

Inoqo claims to provide a solution for recession-hit hoteliers and travellers who need a hotel room at very short notice. The service opened to hotels this week in the USA, France, Portugal, England, Scotland, Ireland and South Africa.

Twitter users can book a room by following one of Inoqo’s “CityStream” Twitter feeds to watch the last-minute deals as they roll in. Once a user has identified a deal, they place an order via Inoqo’s own booking system. The company is privately funded, and has plans for an affiliate program that will allow bloggers and website owners to embed widgets on their sites.