Wednesday, 27 October 2010

Halifax ISA ISA Woman, How Do I Hate You? Let Me Count The Ways...

Unlike most of the human race, I love a good advert. I'm not a psychopath, I don't like bad adverts, but when an ad is executed perfectly, I really enjoy watching them. I could talk all day about my favourite adverts, and I really do think that although I buy what is advertised like a total sucker, I'm being made happy by this fact. After all, I enjoyed the advert so much that I remembered it, therefore they deserve to win my custom. A shallow way to live, yes, but I'm 100% consumer, so there's not much I can do about that I'm afraid.

It upsets me then, that some companies feel they can invade my comfortable living room with their badly-constructed, cliché (be it visual or sentence-based) ridden market cries. How dare they demand my attention for thirty whole seconds, when what they have to offer is a disturbing mish-mash of unfinished ideas and annoying jingles. "Washing machines live longer with Calgon". Could they not have tried a little harder? I suppose you've got to give them credit for their down-to-the-facts no-nonsense approach, but to get me to buy their product they're going to need to add some cinematics to the equation.

Some companies, however, abandon all attempts to just get their message across, and apparently go completely bananas in search of the perfect way to flog their merch. They suddenly become aware, for no reason, that the Public (capital P to denote a non-existent mass of similarity) are complete idiots who need to be pandered to and entertained in their own moronic way. The best example of this type of cultural holocaust are the Halifax adverts.

For the best part of a decade, Halifax adverts have been wholly unbearable, mainly due to Howard and his singing and jigging about like a pillock. Some people liked them though. These people were those older women in your office, who giggled as they repeated choice lines from them. The people who send FW: emails with "THIS IS TRUE, TRY IT FOR URSELV" in the subject line. People who actually buy ringtones. People who think the Compare the Meercat website is "genius". They were wrong, but they liked them. The newish (well, a year or-so old) adverts however, defy convention, belief and the rules of common decency.

Set in an impossibly clean and naturally-lit Radio Station, the Halifax crew are for some reason broadcasting their interest rates to the nation via vaguely tongue-in-cheek ad-breaks.

I hate these adverts more than third world injustice.

I'm not sure if it's the incessant chirpiness of the characters that so offends me, or whether I'm still smarting from a succession of unfair bank charges they laid upon my name several years ago, but what I am sure of is that I hate one of the gang more than the others by a long long way.

ISA ISA Baby woman. I hate you. I shouldn't care so much about a character in an advert, but I do. You make me clench my fists in anger when I see your face. Your head movements make me want to throw babies down the stairs. The way you treat your pretend co-workers is horrendous, hen-pecking the girls and flirting aggressively with the guys - it's not obvious, but evident that behind the scenes your character bitches like Gok Wan three days after new year when he's given up fags and booze. I feel sorry for the brown-haired lass you co-starred with in an earlier advert; it was clear you threatened to steal her boyfriend if she upstaged you.

Your joke isn't funny! ISA ISA baby. ISA ISA baby. No matter how many times I think about it, I still can't understand why it is on my TV so frequently. She is the type of person who looks around the room for acknowledgement when she says a joke. In the radio station staffroom, she is the person who despite the air of exhaustion laughs loudly at her phone, and when nobody asks what she's laughing at, exclaims anyway that her friend just sent her "a REALLY funny message!" but does not tell you what it says. Her car has stickers on it that say "Mad Bitch on board!" or "Powered by chocolate". 

ISA ISA woman, should you really be so fervent in your advances towards fellow colleagues? Making an ironic nod towards shit 90s nostalgia (Thanks @mattmaloney) is not a brilliant way to make a good first impression, especially if that person has more than half a brain-stem and is one of your colleagues. He's seen you at the office Christmas party, smashed on vodka and cranberry, trying to snog Barry from reprographics and wearing a cat-ears headband which you have declared as "totally random!" to everybody in the room. You spilled rose wine on his shirt at Barbara's leaving do in your haste to leave the table for karaoke. Despite your boasts, you did not sound like Mariah Carey, and had to be put in a taxi early after you began sobbing in the bathroom for an indeterminate reason. He looks interested out of common decency, please leave the poor man alone.

How one misjudged idea has managed to go so wrong is beyond me, but by spending so much money on an advert that makes me want to hang myself they have achieved one thing - I will never be using or buying any of their products. I have strong principles. Despite their high overdraft rate for students I didn't open an account with them because I hated Howard so much (and also because of the Charges Grudge).

Fuck you, Halifax advertisements. Fuck you.

Tuesday, 26 October 2010

The Best Band in the World Make A Film

Everyone has a favourite band. A lot of these favourite bands are rather dubious to the outsider, despite fervent protests of their supreme superiority.

My favourite band is, and always has been, Daft Punk. Well, except when I was younger and thought that my Top 40 mixtapes were the only thing worth listening to. Seeing them live put the cherry on top - I will always be in love with those faceless shiny biker robots from heaven.

There's a really good preview of the film here - Hollywood News Videos

 I want you all to watch this and weep with stunned amazement, as I did when I first saw it. Tron and Daft Punk. Can my life get any better?

Friday, 15 October 2010

Reclaim Your Lunch Break With Dorset Cereals!

Do you set enough time aside every day to have a proper lunch? If you work in a service-based job like I do, something involving retail or customer service, you'll probably be given set breaks where you get to sit down with a cup of water-soluble caffeine, but if you work in an office, there's a whole different dynamic going on.

The perils of a double-dip recession sound mainly sherbet and swizzle stick-based, but the reality is far more bleak. People are working day in day out in fear that their job might be whisked away from under them, like a well-worn metaphorical rug. As a direct result, people are working late for no extra pay, and shunning lunch hours in favour of getting extra meeting prep in, all because of the underlying fear that non-committal will be punished.

Of course bad behaviour at work is met with formal rebukes, but should your tea break be looked upon as an unnecessary luxury? Should employers really be following Gordon Gekko's motto "lunch is for wimps"? Or are they happy that you're taking healthy rest and you're just paranoid? Well?

Not everybody can live the rural idyll of pet goats and home-grown veg, but we can all treat ourselves to a half-hour of decent food and relaxation, whether we work in a factory or a boutique hotel. That's why Dorset Cereals have started a campaign to get frazzled workers out of the office and into a bonafide, proper lunch break! And, as luck would have it, they've just brought out three more flavours of their frankly yummyscrumptious cereal bars to put in your lunch box. How convenient! I'll be reviewing them later this week, all for you, you understand. I'm so good to you.

I've clubbed together with the lovely Rob from Dorset Cereals to offer four of my readers the chance to win some of these lovely lunch bags packed with chewy oaty cereal bar goodness, and as an added bonus, I'm making one lucky mega-winner a special prize pack with a recipe book and other things I haven't quite decided on yet inside!

All you have to do is enter my little competition.What I'd like you to do is send me a little comment or email about what your ideal lunch dates - maybe you'd want to chew the fat with Stephen Fry over a salad Nicoisse, maybe you'd prefer to drool over an ice-cream sundae with all your friends. The best ones will be chosen by me, and will be posted on this blog with a link to your website (if you have one).

So get cracking with your stories!
I got carried away and didn't say when the closing date was!

Visit their website: where you can find a pdf "OUT TO LUNCH!" sign for your computer!

Tuesday, 12 October 2010

Shit Films and Dubious Recommendations

Over-enthusiastic and completely fabricated film critic quotes are not a new phenomenon - how about Sony in 2001? But this time I'm not ranting and raving about a well-publicised lie, I'm amused by something altogether more legal.

There's yet another 3D Cartoon mess all over the cinemas at the moment. Alpha and Omega is an animated story about two wolves in love (of course), and believe it or not, the reviews for it have not been fantastic.

 [Image from]

My usual haunt for finding out whether films are worth seeing is Rotten Tomatoes, and I was given quite a lot to giggle about with some of the bite sized reviews. "Alpha and Omega, an unambitious 3-D animation about a couple of young wolves in love, isn't so much howlingly bad as it is howlingly boring." says Michael O'Sullivan from the Washington Post. "It's an ugly, laughless 3-D cartoon about wolves that is so wussified and stupidified that it'll bore kids and make their adult minders wish they'd done something comparatively interesting, like cleaning the gutters in the rain." adds Kyle Smith from the New York Post. Sounds great huh?

This got me thinking. Who on earth gave it the very flattering quotes for the advert I saw for it in-between episodes of Jeremy Kyle? (Two brothers battling for a stake in a £25000 inheritance....that might not exist! Back after the break...) I couldn't help but try to find out.

NYC Movie Guru. Sounds pretty authoritative. "Charming...Hilarious....Will win your heart" it says. "At an ideal running time of 1 hour and 28 minutes, Alpha and Omega is a thrilling adventure full of imagination and humor. It’s the best animated film of the season. You don’t have to be a kid to enjoy it." Want to read the review? Here you go. Not the glossy page I was expecting from the main positive reviewer for a fairly famous film. I might not be the only person who found this a bit odd.

As an independent blog, I'm glad they are sticking to their own opinions. When a movie reaches our cinema screens with little better than a well-read blog telling potential viewers that it's good though, does this mean the industry is wasting it's time and money making these 3D computer animated Lion King rip-offs? Should Justin Long really be whoring himself out like this? Will 3D ever be left alone like the gimmick it truly is?

I don't have a point really, I just wanted to know what you all thought....

Wednesday, 6 October 2010

Don't Rile A Journalism Graduate - Ben Dudley v Arcedia Direct

When you graduate from university, the first thing you want to secure is a full-time job within the industry you're familiar with. With the job market being so very useless and saturated with minimum-wage call centre dross, stumbling across a vacancy that suits your talents can be about as exciting as riding a llama around a Christmas pudding factory. What I'm trying to say, is that jobs are hard to come by.

Ben Dudley, a 2010 Journalism graduate and fellow Leeds Trinity and All Saints botherer, was recently given a taste of how it would feel to be wanted by a successful company. It was exciting. They asked him to turn up for an interview almost immediately, giving off the distinct flavour of we-want-you desperation. Here is Ben to describe exactly who Bristol-based Arcedia Direct actually are.

"Basically they advertise a job as a 14k - 16k a year advertiser," he says "and everyone who applies gets invited to an interview. They ring you up as soon as they get the application, and offer you an interview the same day or the next day.

"Once I got to their office, there were about 25 other people there at the same time as me. You get taken into an office in groups of 3 - 4, and they promise you the world. They say they are looking for managers who will be paid 90k a year within 6 months of joining the company, and a whole lot of other promises.

"When I questioned them on salary vs commission, he got very defensive and ended the interview as soon as possible, telling us to come back the next day. I asked around, and everyone who was interviewed was invited back the next day and offered the job.

"When I got home I researched the company online, and they make people go around the streets knocking on doors trying to sell things to vulnerable people such as the elderly. Then the managers take all the commission people make. I found one story of a guy who worked for almost two months and was paid £30 in total."

It turns out that around this time last year, the Daily Mirror in a freak incident of real investigative journalism delved into the murky waters of Arcedia Direct. Here is the article, in which reporter Johnny O'Callaghan went undercover (sort-of) to find out more about the allegations of extortion and under-pay by getting himself a job with them. While on the job he noted:
* Some young staff earning below the minimum wage.
* Agents on self-employment contracts with no right to a minimum wage and no access to benefits such as sick pay, holiday pay or redundancy payments.
* Staff encouraged to work harder to win promotion and earn extra money from the sales of junior colleagues.

 So, on finding out this information, what would you do? Would you go to the second interview anyway? Would you confront them? Would you simply not turn up?

 "Being that I'm more likely apply to the Chilean federation of Miners than to one of their jobs again, I didn't go. That's when I sent the angry email."

Below is the torrent of awesome that Ben decided to send Arcedia Direct, to explain why he would not be present at their second interview stage.

Arcedia Direct have yet to reply.

[If you have any experience with Arcedia Direct, or you are a representative and would like to defend your frankly, reprehensible behaviour, please contact me at]
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