What does your car number plate tell us about you?

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The US state of California has a lot going for it.

car-advertisingIt has some of the most scenic coastline to be found anywhere in the world, some great wine and with Hollywood and Silicon Valley it  has a wealth of artistic and creative minds.

What it also has however is a budget deficit of around $20 billion.

Arnold Schwarzenegger, the former actor and now the Governor of California certainly has a challenge on his hands to reduce the deficit.

One idea that is being discussed though is in my opinion really rather clever and introduces us to a potentially new form of advertising medium.

The State is considering introducing digital adverts onto car number plates. The idea is that the digital plates would look like normal plates when the car is moving but after it has been stopped for more than a few seconds at traffic lights or in a traffic jam the device would switch from showing the car registration number on the plate to showing a digital advert.

When stationary the registration number would still be shown but would be smaller and the advert would take the dominant position.

In effect, the car would become a mobile billboard with significant advertising revenue being generated for the state. Advertising Agencies in California are no doubt licking their lips in anticipation at the opportunities that this would offer in terms of creativity.

Whilst on the subject of creative adverts involving vehicles I think that the following advert for Copenhagen Zoo that appeared on a bus in the Danish capital will take some beating.

For those of you with a nervous disposition rest assured that it’s only art work on the outside and not a 100 metre long Boa Constrictor taking on a bus.

What’s in a pair of shoes? Quite a bit if it’s a Jimmy Choo shoe but…

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With celebrity clients such as Angelina Jolie and Victoria Beckham, Jimmy Choo is one of the most famous shoe brands in the world.

It is a real success story having been started 14 years ago by Tamara Mellon, a former editor at Vogue magazine, with a loan from her father of £150,000. There are now reports that it could be sold for up to £500 million.

Ms. Mellon started the business after meeting a shoe maker called Jimmy Choo during her time with Vogue. Mr Choo used to make a small number of handmade shoes which the magazine used for photo shoots. Ms. Mellon saw the potential in scaling up the business and 14 years later there are now over 100 stores around the world with prices for some shoes being well in excess of £1,000.

So, why has the business been so successful?

Whilst design and quality are obviously key features, the brand arguably took off when famous celebrities such as Julia Roberts and Beyonce started wearing them.

But it’s not just shoes that they sell. They have also expanded into items such as handbags, sunglasses and scarves.  In business speak this is referred to as “brand extension”.

A further example of brand extension is also in the pipeline for Jimmy Choo. Last year they signed a licence agreement with Inter Parfums for producing and distributing perfume under the Jimmy Choo brand.

Another well known footwear manufacturer is Cat®. They are renowned for producing tough, hard wearing “work boot style” footwear.

The brand itself came about as a brand extension of Caterpillar® Inc, the construction and mining equipment manufacturer.

The key thing that needs to be present for brand extension to be successful is the “fit”.

Glamorous Jimmy Choo shoes work well with fashionable sunglasses and high quality perfumes whilst the “toughness” of Caterpillar® Inc equipment works equally well with rugged work boot style footwear.

Will we see Jimmy Choo expanding their brand into mining equipment? Somehow, I don’t think so.

If you wear a fluorescent jacket at work you’re not necessarily an engineer.

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Health and safety procedures can be vital for safeguarding workers.

If you happen to be driving by the town of Els Alamus near Barcelona in Spain though don’t automatically assume that the workers in the road wearing the yellow vests are repairing the highway.

Women wearing very little clothing and standing by the roadside on the outskirts of major towns and cities are a common sight in Spain. There are an estimated 300,000 women working in the country as prostitutes.

Sex workers in the town of Els Alamus though have recently faced a significant number of fines.

Surprisingly, these fines were not for the prostitution itself as this is currently legal in Spain.

Instead, they were fined for breaching a 2004 law which states that workers on major highways must wear high visibility clothing. A classic health and safety policy which helps protect road workers and drivers from harm.

Not to be outdone by the legislation the sex workers have simply decided to wear fluorescent vests when looking for their customers.

Looking on the bright side for these ladies, the wearing of bright yellow vests not only enables them to satisfy health and safety rules but it also makes it easier for the reported one in four Spanish men who have paid for sex to spot them.

It’s not until you qualify that you appreciate it.

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ACCA P3 and CIMA E3 are great papers. Students often say to me that they love them but strangely enough they only realise this once they have qualified!

This may sound a bit confusing but the thing with these papers is that they are genuinely interesting. With the pressures of passing the exams as well as work and family life however it’s often the case that students cannot appreciate the interesting areas within the subject until they’ve got the exams out of the way.

Over the years one major area that has distinguished the good students from the not so good students is the ability to be aware of what is happening in the economy and the business world and to link this in to the exam subject matter.

This doesn’t have to be hard work. It’s not an ongoing test but rather the ability to look at everyday news and link it to the concept of strategy. For example, it was recently reported in that despite there being a recession in the UK  the cinemas were having the highest admissions for over 7 years. Year on year, the attendance at cinemas had increased by over 5%. It’s argued that the reasoning behind this is that it’s one of the cheaper forms of entertainment. People are therefore cutting back on certain more expensive forms of entertainment in favour of the less expensive versions.

Having read this in the news the good students would then ask themselves what other businesses could be doing well in the recession and what ones will suffer.  Linking this to the exam, is there an easy mark or two to make a note of the industry the case study company is involved in and how the recession will affect it? Will it be in a strong position when the recession comes to an end?

Showing an awareness of what is happening in the real world and linking it to the exam will go down well with the examiner.

Australia. Welcome to the land of sun, sand and intervention orders served via Facebook.

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Police forces are classic Not-for-Profit Organisations and whilst they don’t have similar revenue streams to those which are found within commercial for-profit organisations they do have to balance the books between their funding (revenue) and their costs.

The Police force in the Australian state of Victoria came up with a novel approach to serving an intervention order that not only ensured that the offender received the order but also saved money.

An individual in Australia had allegedly been harassing and threatening his ex-partner. An order was made against him instructing him to cease this behavior and to stop contacting her.

It was however proving difficult for the police to track him down. They had tried actual visits, sending details by post as well as phone calls to serve the order on him but all to no avail.

They identified that he was an avid Facebook user and in a novel approach to matters the police transcribed all the court documents and sent them to his Facebook inbox.

Going one step further they also recorded the following video for him which was again delivered through the medium of Facebook.

After receiving everything via Facebook, the offender has now agreed to comply with the intervention order although it is not clear whether he clicked the “like” button on his Facebook page after he first viewed the video.

When is a foot not a foot?

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Fast food is big business but for Subway, the world’s largest restaurant chain with 38,000 restaurants in 100 countries, something isn’t quite big enough.

Subway is famous for their “Footlong” sandwiches whose name implies should be a foot long (12 inches / 30 cm).

Their “Footlong” has been the backbone of their advertising for a number of years and any company’s advertising should be accurate and shouldn’t be misleading.

Well up step Australian Subway customer Matt Corby who purchased a Footlong and measured it before eating it. He then took a photo and posted it on Subway’s Facebook page with the request “subway pls respond”.

The photo is shown above and as can clearly be seen the Footlong isn’t in fact a foot but is 1 inch short at 11 inches.

Was this evidence that Subway had been deliberately misleading their customers by calling it a Footlong when it should have been called an “11 inch long”?

Does the extra inch matter?

Well, things took off quickly on Facebook and there were soon more than 100,000 likes and over 5,000 comments to Matt’s post. The shock discovery that the Footlong was an inch short of bread soon spread around the world.

Subway quickly supplied the following statement to the Chicago Tribune newspaper:

“We have redoubled our efforts to ensure consistency and correct length in every sandwich we serve. Our commitment remains steadfast to ensure that every Subway Footlong sandwich is 12 inches at each location worldwide.”

Is this going to be a good enough solution to the problem of the missing inch of bread?

Unfortunately for Subway within hours a number of lawsuits were filed in America in connection with the missing inch.

One of the lawsuits filed by Mr Buren from Chicago for example is claiming that the Footlong sandwich product is false advertising and as a result he is suing the company for $5 million.

Now, I’m an accountant and not a lawyer but if he’s successful the $5 million will buy an awful lot of 1 inch pieces of bread…

What have James Bond and accountants got in common?

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James Bond – fast cars, fast women and saving the world. It’s all in a day’s work for 007.

A lot of the readers of this blog are accountants and as accountants we all know from personal experience that driving fast cars, entertaining fast women and saving the world can be a very tiring business.

So, what better way to unwind at the end of the day than with a drink of Mr Bond’s famous “shaken, not stirred” vodka martini?

Mr Bond has been drinking his vodka martinis (shaken, not stirred) since the Dr No film was released 50 years ago.

Anyone that goes to see the latest Bond movie Skyfall that was released last week though won’t see him drinking the famous “007 drink” but instead will see him drinking a nice cool Heineken beer.

We’ve highlighted before how good Heineken are at guerrilla marketing and the latest Bond movie is a great example of product placement.

Product placement is where a company’s products are “placed” into films and TV shows. They aren’t explicitly advertised but rather it’s a more discrete promotion where people “subconsciously” see the product.

Heineken no doubt paid a significant amount of money to have their product in the hands of the legendary spy and I have to say that it works well.

After all, a quick meeting in the office today amongst the male members of the team came to the conclusion that the photo above of bond girl Berenice Marlohe holding a bottle of Heineken beer was one of the finest examples of post-modern contemporary photographic artwork.

One final thing though and now that you’ve driven your fast car, entertained a fast woman and saved the world today, before you settle down tonight in front of the TV with your slippers and you reach for your Heineken beer, remember that a bottle of beer doesn’t react well to being shaken or stirred…

Who was taking the biggest risk?

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Ok, so he jumped from a height of 39 km (24 miles) and he’s travelled faster than the speed of sound but surely Red Bull was taking more of a risk than Felix Baumgartner.

If you were like me and were one of the millions around the world who last night watched the inspirational (or some would say mad) Austrian break world records by parachuting from the edge of space then I think the risk was surely with Felix.

As I watched it I was so impressed. Not only by the bravery of Felix but also the technology that allowed people around the world to watch live footage from the edge of space.

If you look at some business concepts around the event though there are a couple that spring to mind.

First of all, whilst it turned out to be a huge success for the sponsors Red Bull, if there had been some problems for poor Felix and he didn’t make it back to earth in one piece the negative publicity would have been pretty bad (admittedly not as bad a feeling for Red Bull compared to what Felix would have felt but still pretty bad none the less).

The business risk of undertaking such a stunt by Red Bull would no doubt have been reviewed in detail and numerous precautions put in place. One simple precaution was that the live footage was in fact with a 20 second delay so that in the unfortunate event of something going dramatically wrong, the live feed could be cut before millions around the world saw Felix explode into thousands of small pieces live on TV.

Red Bull is an energy drink that has a brand image of “speed and adventure” and have sponsored numerous events such as aerobatic flying and extreme mountain biking. This was their most ambitious event yet though and its success has been reported as being equivalent to £100 million of advertising spend.

In other words, the publicity that Red Bull got from the event was equivalent to them spending £100 million on advertising.

The second business issue that occurred to me was that I saw the event live on YouTube and I wasn’t the only one. A record number of 8 million viewers saw the event live on YouTube.

Is this going to be the way forward for viewing live events?

Will more and more events be shown live on YouTube and will more and more people watch things on YouTube?

If you’re working in the strategy department of a TV company for example then you should definitely be reviewing the rise of importance of sites such as YouTube.

On the subject of YouTube I’m delighted that we’ve recently put some free ACCA, CIMA and FIA courses onto YouTube at www.youtube.com/theexpgroup

One thing for certain though is that we will never get anywhere near the number of YouTube views that Red Bull’s historic event received but then again making our videos wasn’t quite as dangerous…

Is this the best or worst resignation letter ever?

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Here’s an interesting question. If you resign from your job, what should your resignation letter look like?

Should it be simple, brief and straight to the point or should it be sent to the whole office and include various accusations about your boss including a certain, how shall we say it but, adult liaison in a meeting room with a colleague?

Well if your name is Kieran Allen then the second option appears to be the correct answer.

Mr Allen used to work for MEC, one of the leading media agencies in London. Yesterday he resigned and his resignation letter contains some pretty juicy accusations.

Now whilst this isn’t the first resignation letter that contains some juicy accusations it is the first resignation letter with juicy accusations that has gone viral on the Internet and as a result has been seen by millions around the world.

To avoid a knock at the door from some lawyers, I’ll keep the manager’s name anonymous (although if anyone wants to see the full letter then a simple search on the Internet will reveal it!) but Mr Allen claimed that he left MEC after 2 1/2 years of “loyal service” because of the treatment he received from his manager.

Mr Allen claimed he was forced to take time off work due to stress after being overloaded with work by the manager and he claimed the manager made him feel like a complete outsider on his return.

We’ve all been overloaded with work at some stage or other so this is initial claim isn’t that exciting.

The more interesting accusations though were when he claimed in his letter that the manager “regularly made sexist and other bigoted remarks” and “took a female colleague out for a drink on the day he interviewed her, then took her back to the MEC offices that night and had sexual relations with her in the meeting room on the 3rd floor”.

Mr Allen then went on to say that all of these allegations were “common knowledge throughout the team”.

Some people will applaud Mr Allen for his resignation letter whilst others (no doubt including his manager) will say that he should have kept his issues to himself.

Either way there are some serious lessons to be learnt from all of this. For example, it’s probably advisable to make sure you knock on the door of the meeting room on the 3rd floor at MEC before opening it…

Should this former Deloitte accountant become a doctor?

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One of the key attributes of finance and business people should be ethical behaviour. Note that I say “should be” as not everyone seems to agree with this approach.

Former Deloitte UK employee Nahied Kabir seems to have a slightly different view of what is acceptable in terms of ethical behavior.

Here’s a quick multiple choice question for you to see how ethical you are compared to Mr. Kabir.

Question – You’re struggling a bit with your professional exams and your employer’s policy is that if you don’t pass your exam within 2 attempts you’ll lose your job. Do you:

a) Focus your efforts on passing your exams. Or,

b) Focus your efforts on forging two doctor’s certificate.

Now, in my opinion (and hopefully in your opinion as well!) the correct answer is (b) (a).

Alas for former Deloitte employee Mr. Kabir he chose option (b).

In summary, Mr. Kabir failed an exam twice and at a meeting to discuss terminating his employment contract with Deloitte he produced a forged doctor’s note.

Deloitte let him sit the exam again and he passed this time. He then had a further 3 exams to sit and you guessed it he failed all 3.

At the next meeting to discuss things with Deloitte he claimed that he failed due to the ill health of his mother. He then produced a second forged doctor’s note from another doctor claiming his mother was suffering from ill health.

Proving that as well as being a pretty rubbish accountant he was also pretty bad at forging letters, the forged letter from the second doctor was exactly the same as the forged letter from the first doctor with the exception of only 4 words!

It’s probably no surprise to you that Mr. Kabir is now no longer working with Deloitte and the accounting body he was sitting his exams with (ICAEW) have published their report on the disciplinary action they took against him.

Again, it’s probably no surprise that he was “declared unfit to become a member of ICAEW”.

There’s no news yet whether Mr. Kabir is planning a successful career as a bank note forger…