February 2011

Colin Firth and Natalie Portman won the Oscars but were the real winners these two pwc partners?

Published on: 28 Feb 2011

Last night the Oscars were held at the Kodak theatre on Hollywood Boulevard and whilst Colin Firth won the Oscar for the best actor and Natalie Portman for the best actress, surely the stars of the night were none other than two people from the Big 4?

Brad Oltmanns and Rick Rosas from pwc were responsible for overseeing the voting for the Oscars as well as handing out the envelopes containing the winners’ names to the award presenters.

A press release by pwc said that “To ensure the utmost secrecy and security, PwC prepares two briefcases with a complete set of envelopes bearing the Oscar winners’ names. Both briefcases are then transported to the ceremony via separate, secret routes with each of the PwC balloting leaders. As a second precautionary measure, the PwC balloting leaders also memorize the names of the award winners. At the show, Oltmanns and Rosas remain backstage and hand each envelope to award presenters before they walk onstage.”

There are also some interesting statistics including an estimated 450,000+  votes counted in the 77 years that pwc have been involved with the Oscar ceremony as well as an approximate 1,700 hours spent on counting and verifying this year’s results.

Now, pwc are one of the top consulting companies in the world and they work on some of the most complex and detailed business projects.

If you take a step back, Mr Oltmanns and Mr Rosas must be the envy of most accountants. Whilst counting votes has to be done accurately and confidentially it’s not the most complex project the firm works on.

So, a relatively straightforward project and the chance to meet the Hollywood stars each year. Not a bad job if you can get it!

Is India about to join the European Union?

Published on: 23 Feb 2011

At one stage or another as a business professional you’ll have to make a speech or presentation in front of a group of people. Sometimes it will be in front of a large group of people.

The chances are that you’ll probably feel a bit nervous as surveys consistently show that public speaking is one of the most feared aspects of business life.

Over my career I’ve been lucky enough to see some excellent presentations and have also seen some not so good presentations as well.

I’ve never seen a speech at the United Nations though but you would think that the speeches made at the UN, together with the delivery techniques of the speakers would be first rate.

Wouldn’t you?

India’s minister of external affairs did his country’s first speech since India recently began its 2 year term as a temporary member of the UN Security Council.

Mr Krishna, aged 78,  is a very experienced diplomat and delivered a speech on the subject of security and development.

He took his notes and got off to a confident start.

It all suddenly started going a bit wrong though when after a couple of minutes he read out the phrase, “I’d like to express my satisfaction regarding the happy coincidence of having two members of the Portuguese-speaking countries”.

Further into the speech he then started stressing the importance of improved coordination between the UN and the European Union.

It was at this stage that a colleague interrupted him to advise him to stop reading as he had in fact mistakenly picked up the wrong speech and was reading the speech that had been prepared by the Portuguese representative.

So, the next time you are preparing a speech maybe it’s an idea to write your name in big capitals at the top of your notes.

Getting your exam results: better than your wedding day?

Published on: 21 Feb 2011

I received a call first thing this morning from an individual that shall remain nameless. He was really pleased as he had just received his ACCA exam results and he had passed his final two exams.

He was so pleased that he actually said today was better than his wedding day (hence the decision for him to remain anonymous in case his wife who is also an accountant is reading!).

ACCA exam results day and wedding days certainly are memorable and over in Hong Kong, the fast food chain McDonalds has seen a gap in the market and are diversifying into McWeddings.

Had this been launched on 1 April then I would have been tempted to assume it was an April fool’s joke but no it’s genuine and may well make business sense for the company.

Anyone who’s been to Hong Kong will know that it’s a buzzing, fast moving place. Traditional Chinese weddings can be very expensive and for those couples that have dated in McDonalds then why not take it a step further and get married in McDonalds?

The McDonald’s “Warm and sweet wedding package,” starts at HK$9999 (approximately £800) and the first couple to get married at McDonalds did so last week on Valentine’s Day. It’s not clear though at this stage whether the ceremony replaced the words “would you like fries with that” to “would you like a wife with that”.

Many congratulations to everyone that has been successful with their ACCA exam results today and if the enjoyment from receiving your results is better than your wedding night then all the hard work was definitely worth it.

I’ll have two beers, some peanuts and 50 shares please…

Published on: 18 Feb 2011

Fancy having a drink of beer and getting some shares in the company as well?

Well, if you’re in Australia that is exactly what you can do at the moment.

Taking a novel approach to raising finance the Australian beer brand Broo is currently offering free shares with purchases of their beer.

Consumers need to purchase between one and fifty cartons of Broo via their website for AUD 54.99 each (approximately £35) and then they are entitled to get 10 free shares in the company for each cartoon.

The company is hoping to give away up to 10 million shares and these will be shares with full voting rights so it’s definitely more than a PR exercise.

The share prospectus can be found here but shares are only available to Australian residents who have until the end of the month to apply for them.

If you’re a heavy drinker then you won’t become the major shareholder in the company as the maximum number of shares each individual can get is 500.

All in all this seems a great idea by the company. Drinking beer and investing at the same time – sounds like a nice strategy!

Are we about to see the end of Doritos?

Published on: 11 Feb 2011

Advertising by big companies used to mainly involve the more traditional methods such as TV, radio and newspaper advertising.

Then came along viral marketing which uses the power of the people to spread the news “like a virus” amongst their friends and social networking sites.

Frito-Lay, the $12 billion North American convenience food division of Pepsi-Cola, has just launched a marketing promotion that cleverly aims to combine traditional TV adverting with a viral marketing component.

An online campaign in Canada has just been launched which asks people to write the storyline for the last 20 seconds of its new Doritos commercial.

The commercial shows two research scientists working on the next flavour of Doritos. They then present their flavour to a science fiction looking character called the Flavour Master who then tells the scientists that “the lesser flavour must be destroyed”.

Viewers are then invited to submit their ideas for the end of the commercial and choose which flavour will stay and which flavour will go.

There’s a pretty nice prize for the ending that gets the most votes and wins the contest. The winner will receive $25,000 in cash as well as 1% of future sales of the Doritos flavour that was saved in the contest.

If you’re really into your Doritos then an additional incentive as well as the financial one is that the winner will also become the first member of Doritos Think Tank which will allow them to be involved in upcoming Doritos projects including their branding strategy in the coming year.

All in all it’s a nice idea by Frito-Lay to combine the power of the internet and social media to market their products. They are also engaging their customers by asking the public to choose the winners.

The contest can be found at writetheend.ca but before you decide to cancel all your office work today and commence work as a script writer note that you have to be a Canadian citizen to enter.

There’s also an interesting requirement in the contest rules.

14 finalists will be shortlisted for the final decision and the contest rules state that the people shortlisted must be able to “correctly answer without assistance of any kind, whether mechanical or otherwise, a time-limited mathematical skill-testing question to be administered at a mutually convenient time by telephone”.

This appears to be a precaution to ensure that people selected for the final stages have an intellectual ability above a certain minimum level but it would certainly be a challenge if you had 30 seconds to “find R” in the following mathematical skill-testing question:

Just how many mines are there in London and Toronto?

Published on: 09 Feb 2011

It’s Valentine’s Day next Monday and love appears to be in the air as far as stock exchanges are concerned.

Last year, the Australian and Singaporean stock exchanges announced plans to merge.

Earlier today the London Stock Exchange and Toronto Stock Exchange announced that they had formally agreed to merge and Deutsche Borse and NYSE Euronext, two of the world’s largest stock exchange operators, have now just disclosed that they are in “advanced merger discussions”.

Wow – it’s all happening on the exchanges.

If you look at the transatlantic merger between the London and Toronto exchanges then the merger has been valued at an impressive £5.5 billion.

It has been presented very much as a “merger of equals” and not a takeover (although the London Stock Exchange shareholders will get 55% of the newly created entity).

The new entity will have its headquarters in both London and Toronto and whilst some people may say that having two headquarters is a bit of a “cop out”, it does avoid the accusation that one organisation has taken over the other.

There will of course be an interesting internal discussion about where THE boardroom will be located. The more likely situation though is that they will have two boardrooms, one in London and one in Toronto.

Either way the new enlarged entity will certainly become a dominant player. It will have over 6,700 listings and will become the largest exchange in terms of companies traded with an aggregate market capitalisation of approximately £3.7 trillion.

Mining companies will also no doubt be interested as the Toronto exchange claims to be the world’s leading resources market and approximately a third of the companies in the FTSE 100 Index (the 100 largest companies on the London Stock Exchange) are from the mining and energy sectors.

The proposed benefits of the merger include anticipated annual savings of £35 million by the second year of the merger.

Whether they could save more by only having the one boardroom table is a separate discussion point.

They make some great clothes but their marketing approach isn’t so good…

Published on: 07 Feb 2011

Picture the scene. You’re a well known American fashion brand and you’ve just launched your new Spring 2011 collection.

Meanwhile, on the other side of the world there is serious unrest in Egypt with people dying for their beliefs.

The social networking site Twitter was full of comments and updates about the situation in Cairo. For those of you not familiar with Twitter, posts on the site can be preceded with a hashtag so that people can easily search for a particular item.

The #Cairo hashtag was being used on Twitter to report from the troubling events in Egypt.

Somebody from the fashion brand Kenneth Cole came up with the idea of hijacking the #Cairo hashtag to promote their new fashion collection. Their inappropriate Tweet is shown below.

Guerrilla marketing can be very successful. Our earlier posts on the Bavaria girls and the Hugo Boss yacht for example identify guerrilla marketing tactics that can work.

Kenneth Cole’s highjacking of the #Cairo hashtag though received large scale condemnation and probably hasn’t done the brand too many favours.

They subsequently removed the Tweet and issued an apology.

Are we about to see Nokiasoft or Microkia phones?

Published on: 04 Feb 2011

I used to have a Nokia phone. It had a good battery and made great calls.

Then smartphones came along and I progressed onto an Apple iPhone. It looked super slick and did a lot of things.

Alas, problems with the battery and a slow processor meant that I fell out of love with it and recently decided to replace it.

I briefly looked at the Nokia phones and in particular their flagship phone the N8. The reviews were pretty bad and instead I decided on the Desire HD phone from  HTC.

Now my phone history isn’t the most scintillating of reads but what I found interesting was that Nokia appear to have gone from having arguably the top phones to really having not a lot to offer in today’s Smartphone market.

The challenges faced by Stephen Elop, the new CEO of Nokia have been blogged elsewhere but it seems that the anticipated success of their great hope, the N8 hasn’t materialised.

Nokia’s first quarterly results since Mr Elop joined have just been released.

Whilst their figures are growing with Smartphone sales of 28.3 million units (compared to 20.8 million units for the corresponding quarter in the previous year), their share of the Smartphone market has fallen to 31% (vs. 40% in the 2009 equivalent quarter).

On 11 February there is an investor meeting where Nokia will outline their new strategy but Mr Elop offered a few hints this week.

He stated that the company should have a better strategy around operating systems.

At the moment the 2 big operating systems in the Smartphone market are Apple and Android (the Google open source platform used by Samsung and HTC amongst others).

Nokia currently use their own Symbian operating system with a planned shift to the mobile Linux-based MeeGo operating system. Neither of these systems appear to be particularly impressive.

Mr Elop also mentioned the need for the company to “build or join a competitive ecosystem”.

Now, let’s just take a step back here and look at some of the facts:

Nokia make great handsets but they haven’t got a particularly good operating system. Apple are their arch competitors and switching to an open source Android operating system would make it challenging for them to rise above the other companies using Android.

Now here’s an interesting thought. A couple of months ago Microsoft launched their Windows 7 mobile platform. It’s reportedly technically very good but arguably needs a major handset manufacturer to take it on board.

Mr Elop’s previous employer before joining Nokia was none other than Microsoft.

Will we see Nokiasoft or Microkia phones in the near future?

The ExP Group