Big brother?

I’m becoming more concerned by the day about targeted adverts.

When I was at MIPIM this year I very nearly bought a watch. I don’t actually need another watch – but that’s hardly the point is it? I saw a Meistersinger watch in one of the boutique stores and almost splashed the cash – I didn’t. I was sensible. I came home with a view to doing a bit more research.


I still haven’t bought a new watch.

But every time I log onto Facebook I am confronted with adverts for “Iconic Watches’ – and the link takes me to on-line stores I have visited. Yesterday I got my morning edition of Gizmag – with the days latest gadget offering and the mast advert is … watches. Iconic watches.

I have no real issue with being targeted as part of a wider demographic – but this is plain intrusive. It’s clever – but cannot be right.

They do say that Google know about your searches before you start them – that is why when you start typing in the search box it guesses the next part of the sentence or search. But this new level of ‘guessing’ is a step too far?

What else do they know about us?

And why do they think I want a Bellroy Wallet too? I have never searched for one of those?

The MIPIM 2014 round up….

MIPIM 2014 finished last week and I think it was one of the best shows yet. Nottingham City Council stepped back up the plate after three years of private sector sponsorship. We still sponsored the event; but the City put money in too.

If you follow the blog you will know that we elected for a theme about ‘talented Nottingham’ which has a number of levels. Firstly the amount of raw talent in the city and the growing Creative Quarter. But secondly that when people come to city to invest (possibly by opening an office) they look at the physical assets and the pool of talent in the workforce.

We wanted something to convey the talent – which set us apart from the crowd. We had three things – a 3D App, a CD of Notts music and a film. The film is below.

I think the film is brilliant – I wasn’t sure if the City would buy into it – but they did.

What do you think?

Daily Mail facts (well approximate facts)

I am going to post some of the things we did at MIPIM last week tomorrow. But on Saturday the Daily Mail printed a ‘story’ about the “Jolly” of the MIPIM festival.

The Nottingham HQ is on the left ...

The Nottingham HQ is on the left …

You can read it here.

The paragraph about Nottingham says, “Team Nottingham, the delegation from Nottingham, took over as its headquarters the top floor of a bar overlooking the beach, paid for by private sector partners.

Three facts.

Fact One – “The top floor of a bar”. Well sort of – it was the first floor above a bar- there are three above the room hired. Not quite the ‘top’ then.

Fact Two “overlooking the beach”. Again, not quite. The beach is some way to the East of the restaurant. You can see the brutalist 1960′s architecture of the Palais De Festivals. And possibly some masts of yachts in the harbour. But not the beach.

Fact Three “the private sector paid for [the HQ]“. Well again, not quite. The private sector sponsored the attendance at the event – but those funds were not directly attributed to one part of the show or other. The Council funded part of the trip too. The private sector did pay for a drinks reception – at which there were over 200 Investors, developers and advisors.

I do realise that it is fairly pointless arguing with the National Press on this, but I do suggest that it a great pity when facts get in the way of a good story.

Back to the facts tomorrow!

Welcome to MIPIM 2014

I can’t believe it is a year since I was in Cannes at the international property show – lovingly known as MIPIM. In fact this is my 10th year – my badge has turned gold!


This year is different for Nottingham – for the last three years the private sector have paid for and represented the City. This year we are back to a supporting role. But the support team is bigger and the City are fielding their largest ever presence.

MIPIM is much misunderstood. It is a global property show. It is a concentration of Investors and Developers. They are looking for opportunities. We are here to promote the opportunities in and around Nottingham. We are majoring on the Enterprise Zones. But also on the theme of ‘Talented Nottingham”.

As soon as I am able I will post the brilliant films that has been made by Spool Films and Confetti. We also have a very clever 3d App which shows off the potential EZ’s – in their full glory!

We have breakfasts, lunches and dinners – all with the intention to promote Nottingham. We are also to play cricket on the beach with the talented Derek Randall…

Tomorrow we have press day – which is our opportunity to set out what we are hoping to achieve.

I’ll keep you posted on progress in the week!

Blogging elsewhere!

It’s been a busy week and I am in the final preparations for MIPIM. So busy I didn’t have time to write for my own blog! But I did do a guest blog for my friends at Cartwright Communications… Click below for the link!

Guest Blog here

MIPIM – a sense of deja vu

My colleague Matt Hannah and I were on stand-by for a potential early morning interview on Radio Nottingham yesterday. I wasn’t that keen as it’s always an early start for me – especially as my body is still slightly confused as to the time of day!

Team Nottingham 2014

Team Nottingham 2014

We were told late on Monday that we weren’t required.

You can listen to the piece on Radio Nottingham ‘listen again’ here – but only for the next few days. You need to fast forward to 2 hrs 06 minutes in – just after the 8am news.

MIPIM is a difficult concept for people to understand. And it doesn’t help when you have an introduction that paints Cannes as a famed film festival, sunny, stunning beach resort! A place for a great holiday.

The interview was off to a bad start by Robert Oxley from The Taxpayers Alliance – who trotted out a fairly familiar – ‘waste of public money’ message. A message that remains wide of the mark. And a miserable misunderstanding of what MIPIM is about!

But the worst was still to come – when Andy Whittaker started on Nick McDonald – pushing on detail which really missed the point.

We have asked Radio Nottingham for a chance to put the private sector side of the story – but they have refused. I’m not sure where the balance is there?

But just to clarify:

£80,000 is being contributed by the private sector – £45,000 by Nottingham City Council. £20,000 is coming from Central Government to push our Enterprise zones.

There are four major events – a dinner, a breakfast, a drinks party (funded entirely by the private sector and not included in the budget) and a cricket event with Derek Randall from Notts Cricket Club. There will be other events arranged on an ad-hoc basis from the Team Nottingham base.

The total team is now around 25 people – all with a message to promote Nottingham to developers and investors.

There is an ‘App’ with details of the sites we are promoting. In addition there is a film being made.

It’s a shame Radio Nottingham don’t want to share this information – focusing more on ‘what class of travel’ are the councillors travelling on!

Wrestling pigs springs to mind?

By the way – it’s not “Cans” – it’s “Canne”. Just saying.

UPDATE 12 Feb 14

There was a right to reply and my client Jackie Sadek spoke on behalf of the private sector on Alan Clifford’s show tonight on Radio Nottingham. You can hear Jackie starting at 1.19.00 here.

Nottingham – a key message?

When you start thinking about Nottingham and the way in which we can sell ourselves you often fall into a trap of sounding as though you could be in any of our competitor cities. It’s a bit like walking down a High Street and seeing Jessops, Claire’s Accessories, ad nauseam. You could be forgiven for not knowing where you are.


And you can’t always rely on the stuff which people expect. In Nottingham we have great news around the Tram (lines 1 and 2), the dualling of the A453, Station improvements and the improvements to the ring road. These are just glue – good glue – but just glue.

When I was pressing for us to have a Mayor one of the things that crossed my mind was that, as a City, we have ‘great ingredients but no master-chef‘. This isn’t a criticism of the politicians per se – simply that they have a short-term political agenda – by necessity. I started out in this ‘plan’ by saying that our horizon needs to be 20+ years – not five years. This was touched upon by Bill Grimsey too – see yesterdays blog.

I guess that’s what I’m pushing for – a longer term plan – but with some vision. And a key message. The latter is something we have been in search of for many years.

The City are opting for ‘from good the great‘ – which is OK. But it doesn’t really tell people about what we are about – what’s beneath the skin – what makes us a different. A few years ago we used ‘City of Rebels’ – which, although it can be misunderstood (!), does sum us up!

This year when we head off for MIPIM in the South of France on our annual ‘promotion’ of Nottingham on the world stage we will adopt two key themes. The first is that we are a City of Talented people – see my post last week about NTU. But also that this is a ‘Cool’ place – nodding a literal hat at Jake Bugg et al and a more lateral nod to the fact the South-East seems to be overheating – Nottingham can offer some respite.

Fundamentally this is all positive stuff.

Nottingham 2014 – 2034 – the plan


Nottingham is slipping in the retail rankings. Broadmarsh continues to be the major blight on the City. Victoria Centre isn’t befitting City of our size. We have some good things on the horizon in terms of infrastructure (tram, A453, railway station upgrade, ring road improvements and the like). But these only form the ‘glue’ that holds the city together. We need more than that. ‘Content’ is everything!

Fact – we need a plan.

Fact – it needs to go beyond the political election timetable of 5 years.

Fact – we cannot change the City overnight. It is going to take a long time.

Fact – we need to be bold and ambitious.

Fact – it needs to reflect the changes in retail that have already happened! The patient is dead – stop the CPR.

None of this should really be a surprise. But I think we have been complacent in the past. I think we have assumed that we are better than our East Midlands competitors – Derby and Leicester particularly. But they have got better – and they are both good at shouting about it. We sometimes haven’t been. We need to change that.

If Nottingham were a business and was looking for backers it would need a plan – a Business Plan. That plan should set out a strategy and a direction. It should identify the strengths and the weaknesses. It should seize the opportunities and identify the threats. This may sound blindingly obvious – but it wasn’t until Bill Grimsey raised this in his Grimsey Review that it really occurred to me that you could apply those business principles to a City. I have been thinking about it ever since.

Much of the grist of the last paragraph we probably know – but it is disparate and cluttered. Every time we set off for MIPIM (to promote the City) we struggle with a single coherent message. We have lots of messages. Some are vanilla flavoured which other cities have. Others are good – but easily get lost in the noise. If I hear ‘open for business’ again I may be driven to violence…

So we need to think about the plan…

And this needs to be a plan owned by all of us. As a collective. And ideally ‘crowdsourced’.

Retro – and very cool

If you are wondering what to get me for Christmas I have a plan.


Although I’m a ‘Canon Man’ I must say that the new Nikon camera launched this week looks rather cool. It is a back to basics camera – which nods back to a time when we all had film cameras. It looks like a film camera but boasts a full frame sensor- that means superb quality.

But the reason I thought this release was interesting was that Nikon have made a conscious decision to remove the ‘video camera’ element which has crept into most models now. In fact my own camera is used by the BBC to film on occasion – the quality of the video is so good.

It is interesting that in a crowded market place how you need to find a means by which you differentiate yourself. In this case Nikon have done exactly that. There are hundreds of camera models – low, medium and high range – but most cram features we’ll never use. They try to be all things to all men.

A marketeer will tell you just how important differentiation is. And it doesn’t apply to just products – it applies to Cities and places too. This week I saw that one of our neighbouring cities are heading off to MIPIM next year and on the front page of their brochure they have proudly announced that they are ‘open for business’.

Nottingham has so many great messages we have to be careful about being all things … I can only suggest that ‘open for business‘ message is the antithesis to differentiation. We mustn’t use it. Even when others do!

PS – you will need to raid the piggy bank of £2,750 for the camera!

Leicester enters – stage left (MIPIM 2013)

My MIPIM days left so little time for blogging this year, I’ll do a round up next week.

Leicester City v Newcastle United

But I thought I would just touch upon Leicesters presence at MIPIM this year. I went to their dinner on Wednesday night in the old town in Cannes.

It had been a busy day with the full complement of Cities on my agenda – Derby Breakfast, Nottingham drinks and then dinner with the Mayor Of Leicester, Sir Peter Soulsby in the evening. The dinner was well attended by Leicester developers and professionals. Leicester are where we, Team Nottingham were probably last year. They have raised private sector money and used their LEP to have a visibility.

Sir Peter was excellent – and I was able to speak to him about a requirement we have for some land in the City. He strikes me as a person who is making things happen.

We turned our back on the idea of a Mayor last year and I still can’t help wondering whether this was a mistake. He doesn’t do the small time politics stuff, he is interested in the outcomes and how he can make Leicester better. I’m not saying that Nottingham don’t want to see things change – but there is a different culture and attitude evident…

Well done Leicester.