Thursday, 23 December 2010

Countdown to Santa

As I write this, the digital countdown clock shows that it is only 1 day, 21 hours, 12 mins and 06 secs until Santa arrives. And as exciting as that prospect still is, the adult in me needs some kind of proof. As the digital clock keeps tumbling (now 1 day, 21 hours, 8 mins and 11 secs – this is going to get boring!!!) it occurs to me that only the most sophisticated techniques and technology can perform such a task and my theory was proven when we found the NORAD Tracks Santa web-site.

Wow! I had no idea. Not only does it maintain the accurate assessment of Santa’s ETA down my chimney – and, as the song strongly argues, why doesn’t he ever get stuck? – but NORAD uses four high-tech systems to track Santa – radar, satellites, Santa Cams and fighter jets. Fighter Jets? Fantastic, tell me more!

Canadian NORAD fighter pilots flying the CF-18 intercept welcome Santa to North America. In the United States, American NORAD fighter pilots in either the F-15 or the F-16 get the thrill of flying alongside Santa and his famous reindeer: Dasher, Dancer, Prancer, Vixen, Comet, Cupid, Donner, Blitzen and, of course, Rudolph.

At time of writing, I still have no clue if every other nation with this capability keeps tabs on our favourite rotund red-faced gentleman this way. Or, for that matter, why they would want to keep it so secret when, year after year, they all do such a stonking job. Surely that’s something to shout about despite whether you’ve been naughty or nice!

So, with the clock now at 1 day, 20 hrs, 43 mins and 49 secs I retire to my festive holidays knowing that, unless the fighter jets get called away to defend the sovereignty of all Christian nations against those who feel that the birth of the Christ Child is an affront to their beliefs, my presents will be underneath the tree when I finally drag myself downstairs to the gift-frenzy that is the modern Christmas morning.

And that’s a comforting thought with a final time check at 1 day, 20 hrs, 39 mins and 32 secs!

Merry Christmas and thank you NORAD

Posted by Nick Hart

Friday, 17 December 2010

Fitness First goes mobile…a second time!

Fitness First was the first Idealogy client willing to experiment in the mobile arena way back in 2007/08; a long time before the rest of the market caught onto mobile applications.

The fast-growing Smartphone market of 09/10 and some significant analytical research by our digital team proved, beyond doubt, that a large proportion (10% and growing) of Fitness First’s online visitors came via a mobile device and current trends prove that this is only set to increase in 2011.

We approached them with a proposal to convert the most useful parts of their site into a mobile version, whilst still running it from one centralised source for easy administration. This solution, alongside a cost effective estimate with a strong ROI, made it relatively straightforward for them to give us the green light.

The actual project is fairly simple design-wise. Mobile sites need to be slick, responsive and easy-to-use while still emphasising the brand, so simplicity really is the key, as, to date, Smartphones still aren’t the fastest things in the world. Then the important considerations are good clean coding, testing and finally, speed to launch. This we duly achieved and the site is now live. If you visit on a mobile you’ll now be directed to the new mobile version of their site.

Posted by Simon Johnson

Thursday, 16 December 2010

Charlotte (ISP) Blake - the true Idealogy Service Provider

When your role encompasses everything financial and everything HR it's hard to find the time to add yet another dimension to the amazing service you offer your team. But for Charlotte Blake it's all in a day's work, this calender year closes with some of the finest information imparted to the Idealogy group... Which mince pies are worth your (paid by Charlotte) wages!

Upon the board on floor two is a table, listed are the major brands of mince pie, and threatened into participating are those nearest to Charlotte. Pies are eaten, daily, and scores marked out of 10. As Greggs took a day 1 position, the benchmark is set pretty high. Would you put money on Asda to top it??? Well it would be a safe bet as they're pulling two 9's out of the bag straight off. The rest of the board files in like a more exciting cousin to this years Formula 1 season as we charge forward past M&S, Mr Kipling and on towards Aldi and Waitrose.

So we'll be sure to keep you posted on full results but for now, see what you make of Charlotte's league table, and more worryingly, see what you make of Idealogy's combined waistline as the season nears!

Posted by Idealogy

Tuesday, 14 December 2010

Charity begins at Christmas!

In this festive season, where excess is ‘de rigeur’, Idealogy has decided to breathe life into the sentiment that “it’s not the giving, it’s the thought that counts!” We spent a long time debating what we could do differently for our clients for Christmas 2010. In the end, our decision was to make charitable donations to 2 notable and admired organisations that Idealogy people have a huge personal indebtedness to; The Breast Cancer Campaign and The Alzheimer’s Society. We are proud to support both of these remarkable organisations and hope that all of our clients and partners identify with our position when the Christmas bundles don’t arrive.

May we take this opportunity to wish you a happy and peaceful festive season and all the very best for 2011 from all at Idealogy.

If you would like to make a donation please follow these links:

Posted by Idealogy

Saturday, 11 December 2010

Yuletide Jog

One of our largest clients, Fitness First, were recently tasked with a mission - 'to shape up the business world and create fitter office teams full of energy!' and so that meant that Idealogy were also tasked with a mission - 'to produce a dedicated Fitness First microsite with an individual look and feel that enabled members and non-members of Fitness First to quickly become involved in the 'Operation Shape Up' corporate campaign.'

Piece of cake… no, thinking about it, better make it a piece of fruit...

From a participants point of view there are 4 stages to Operation Shape Up:

Registration, Initial Assessment, Secondary Assessment and Results. You sign-up, select your preferred club and then:
1. Take the shape up assessment at the start
2. Workout at least 6 times over the next 3 weeks
3. Take the shape up assessment again
4. See the improved results

Whether the user has been to a Fitness First Club before or not doesn't matter; clever stuff going on in the background of the site takes care of that. Already a member? We recognise that email address, go to this page! So, your company has a corporate account with Fitness First? Right, go to this page. What do you mean you just want temporary membership for Operation Shape Up only? OK, go to this page.

The main thing is to get everybody motivated, quickly and seamlessly, with support not only from the allocated Personal Trainers at the respective clubs but via personalised data sheets that at various stages of the campaign are emailed to the users - The Shape Up Guide, Male and Female Score Cards, Visits Card, Company Results etc. This is in addition to users' personalised pages on the site itself, where scores given for each stage of the assessment need to be entered for later use and progress is tracked.

So, completed just in time for Christmas, the site looks set to provide a great tonic to festive over excess.

Posted by Paul Skinner

Thursday, 9 December 2010

The Idealogy of Christmas

Of all the things we try to keep secrets about, the ritual of Secret Santa is probably the hardest to control. To be honest, it’s a bugger! (That’s one thing crossed off my Christmas list!)

It’s the complete opposite of Chinese Whispers – starting a rumour at one end of a line and seeing if it bears much resemblance to the original message when it gets to the last ‘listener’. With Secret Santa, you’re doomed! You (naively) trust a group of ‘responsible’ people to select a name from a hat, and then buy an anonymous gift. Which seems simple to that point, but then they have to keep it a secret when the gifts are handed out. Some hope! When the drink is flowing, tongues are loosened and people start to engage in hand-to-hand combat the moment a good present comes out of the box. It all gets a bit like an episode of Takeshi’s Castle….

So, let’s take it right back to basics. What do we understand about Christmas, individually and collectively? What does it mean? What are the cultural and historical contexts of Christmas in the UK, USA and the Rest of the World? Why is the meaning shaped by the social and cultural activities surrounding Christmas (watching Christmas films, television, listening or engaging with popular music and carols), its relationship to a set of basic values (the idealised construct of the family), social relationships (community), and the ways in which ideologies are used, mobilised and designed to influence, not least in times of conflict, terrorism and war.

A microcosm of all of this is the issue created by wanting to use ‘Merry Christmas’ when designing the office Christmas card. That’s a no-no! You simply can’t do it any more for fear of offending people who have only a ‘less-than-passing’ allegiance to a once proud and Western orientated Christian festival. Life can be so unfair!

And while we’re on about it, where did the names Kris Kringle, Santa Claus, Saint Nick and even Father Christmas all come from? You want the truth? You can’t handle the truth (A Few Good Men. 1992). Well, they are all based on ‘Christkindl’ or the Christ Child and take their origins from German folklore. Then each culture, even down to national and regional identities, adds it’s own layers of tradition, charm and even mystery – ‘you’d better get to bed Children, because Santa will know who’s been naughty or nice!’

From Charles Dickens' seminal tale, A Christmas Carol, Coca-Cola-nisation, Victorian cartoons and Christmas cards, to Dr Who, The Office, 'A Fairy Tale of New York', 'Happy Christmas (War is Over)', and such dystopian films as Jingle All the Way, The Nightmare Before Christmas and All I Want For Christmas, all add their unique characteristics.

Then there are the news stories that impact on, and some might say cloud, our views of this truly seasonal conceit – the Christmas Day Bomber, the Indonesian Tsunami, the global events that take the festive edge off of our pagan celebrations.

And then, of course, how does Christmas relate to social change, and how do recent events such as 9/11 and the continuing conflict in Iraq and Afghanistan, focus attention on traditional themes of community and family. Christmas, Ideology and Popular Culture offer us all an opportunity to experience the world's most popular festival in our own way and, if we’re interested, understand what it means to the outsider, and often the disbeliever, looking in.

Which brings us neatly back to our problem with keeping secrets. It’s a 21st century phenomenon that means we are never more than a click away from a piece of news, a social network, a way to spend money or the latest drink sensation to hit the pubs.

So with that in mind, how are we supposed to keep anything secret under our big red hats?

Seasons Greetings from Idealogy

Posted by Simon Dover

Tuesday, 7 December 2010

Drifting in for a pint at the local

Now here’s dangerous ground!  Mess with local tradition and it will drive you to drink!

Take a bastion of community life, a pub with huge local heritage and loyalty, named in a way that really does ‘do exactly what it says on the tin!”  Surround it with a centuries old regional custom, then try to persuade the new owners, the staff and the locals to change the name and refresh the customer experience.

As easy as falling off a horse? Not really…but a really brave project for all concerned; the only real trick we needed to pull off was to get it to work in the hearts and minds of all involved. So, with all that background, Idealogy’s Head of Client Services, Anna Ecuyer, set off to talk ‘rebrand’ to New Forest Hotels, the owners of The Beaulieu Road Inn, a local hostelry in the grounds of their Beaulieu Hotel, and a focus for New Forest life for many, many years. To quote one of the staff, “It’s obvious where it is, even if you don’t know the area”. It’s hard to argue with that kind of logic…but argue we did!

Following meetings with New Forest Hotel’s marketing team and an extensive round of local research, Idealogy found their ‘pewter mug’. The Beaulieu Road, and in particular the Beaulieu Road Railway Station, had for centuries been the focus of the New Forest Drift – the round up of local ponies to be wormed (ugh!), branded, tailed and often auctioned. Commoners who live within the bounds of the Forest own all the ponies and ownership rights are jealously guarded; passed down through generations of families. Then we discovered what we thought were a number of New Forest Pub Bands. The Agisters, who organise The Drift, and The Verderers, who employ The Agisters and who have complete control of all the stallions in the New Forest. At this point, we were in danger of uncovering a new episode from Lord Of The Rings, so we drew a line under the local history and turned for further insight to the local Beaulieu Road Inn patrons and the people responsible for managing the customer experience – the Pub staff.

And, as you’d expect, at first we met fairly stiff resistance to any form of change. Our joint research gave us some interesting options, including a proposed name change to The Drift Inn – simple, evocative and a perfect way to breathe new life and appeal into a hidden gem of the regional experience. 

Well, they said yes and a significant re-brand followed! Today, the Drift Inn team are responsible for bringing their new brand, newly refurbished pub (and menu) and indeed the experience itself to life, telling the story of The Drift and creating the atmosphere for patrons who, for so long, have been supporters of a regional stronghold.

Now that’s worth a glass of Old Thumper, don’t you think?


Posted by Anna Ecuyer

Wednesday, 1 December 2010

Kenwood Triblade commercial

Q. What does it take to gain a 25% market share of the handblender market from a single run of TV commercials?
A. Idealogy, a studio, cameras, lights, a food stylist, an actress, set-builders, runners and a whole heap of sweet potato!

But when it came to seeing more of the action for the French market, it wasn't all as easy as soup.

Having created 2009's highly successful TV commercial for Kenwood in the UK, we were then asked to create a more in-depth vision for the French market (perhaps less trusting of Kenwood's '3 blades faster, 3 blades easier, 3 blades cleaner' claims). So the brief was - show more movement in the pan, and show the masher-attachment at it's best... easy right?

Well the old addage in TV is never work with children or animals and we can safely add food to this list too. You'd be amazed at how a pan full of pre-blended soup refuses to behave how you want it to, and that it takes 5 takes to 'see' the blending action (tip - add some dried herbs to the surface of the liquid). What's more, Kenwood's TriBlade hand-blender is SO powerful (700watts!) we had to fit it to a dimmer to slow the thing down so the cameras could capture the magic!

The finished version is here so you can see for yourself the outcome of a day and a half's planning, setting-up, filming and editing. This video's now gone off to French studios for the recording of it's voice over. We hope it sells as many units over there as it has here.

Posted by Nick Hart