Monday, March 28, 2005

Trade mark water? They'll patent fresh air next

Yorkshire Water, the privatised utility that 10 years ago managed to run out of water, has pulled of another PR coup. This time they've registered Icytonic as a trademark for drinking water.

Launching this earthshattering news at the same time as it landed its hapless customers with a 9% rise in water bills, the company is delighted to tell gullible hacks that their "product" costs less than .5p per litre and is best served chilled.

Fancy that, well I never and go to the foot of our stairs, as they say in these parts.

Strange amidst all this corporate backslapping, but there seems to be very little media comment on the funding of future dividends for Yorkshire Water's shareholders. The company's figures show that 31.6% of the revenue it raises from its customers goes on "funding investment" - which includes dividends, so it remains to be seen just how much will find its way into shareholders' pockets.

In the mid 90s, Yorkshire Water found many of its shortcomings and PR stunts exposed by a pressure group called Yorkshire Water Watch. With bills now on the rise and the company seemingly intent on covering up bad news with PR puffery, it's to be hoped that Watervoice, the new customer's champion, will be as effective in cutting through the spin and corporate doublespeak that is Yorkshire Water's first resort when the going gets tough.

Wednesday, March 09, 2005

The House of Lords, that great bastion of liberty...

Who would have thought it. After years of being denigrated as a geriatric talking shop, their Lord and Ladyships transformed themselves into the great protectors of civil liberty and slayers of tyrants. On Monday and Tuesday of this week the Lords inflicted 5 (count 'em Charles) defeats on the government's anti terror proposals.

I got fed up with counting the number of times Charles Clarke said no further concessions would be made - and then made them anyway. Even after the former Metropolitan Police Commissioner raised the possibility of 200 active al Qaeida operatives at large in the UK (scare tactic or not), the Lords still wouldn't hand Clarke his much sought after role as judge, jury and home arrest jailer.

When you remember how Blair gerrymandered the upper chamber "by appointment" when he got rid of the hereditary peers' voting rights; just think what damage an elected Senate could have done.

Data protection - the illusion of security?

News that Reed Elsevier's Matrix database has been hacked, allowing unauthorised access to information on up to 32,000 people must surely alert many to the false hope promised by data protection legislation and talk of "safe harbors" for data sent overseas by major financial institutions.

Details are sketchy - at the request of the FBI, Reed aren't giving too much away - but it has to raise questions about banks and other financial organisations use of "offshore" data processing facilities.

Even if customers give express consent to their details being sent to India or the far east for processing, how can we ever be sure that it will remain secure?

Friday, March 04, 2005

What's in a name - apart from a little bit of tradition?

Quite a lot, if you're the Leeds and Holbeck Building Society apparently. After a century and half of being named after the City of Leeds and Holbeck - a traditional, working class suburb where the Society was founded in 1845, Ian Ward, the Chief Executive, now wants to drop Holbeck and just have "Leeds" in the title - because he wants to identify the Society with the "vibrant" northern capital of business.

Personally, I'd rather have the tradition than the designer-suited glitz - and I hope the Society's members agree when it gets put to the vote at the end of March. Why not open an account with the Society and give Mr Ward a really vibrant answer?

Tuesday, March 01, 2005

Martial nation

National tabloid and TV advertising campaigns are a costly business and I can't but wonder who's going to pick up the tab for the Army Cadet Force's adult instructor campaign.

The timing is also interesting. Can't remember any UK cadet force (Sea Cadets, Air Training Corps, Army Cadet Force) advertising for instructors in this way before; could it have anything to do with recruitment concerns? Or does the MoD envisage a long term need for soldiers??

Advertising for volunteer youth workers is one thing but this campaign - at this time - raises concerns that the Army is trying to push military training for teenagers on the quiet.