Business Communication

Mastercard hits rock bottom in advertising

The poster in the Athens metro featured a young man next to a swimming pool at Santorini.

“Waking up in the sky: Priceless 
With your MasterCard you are welcome all
in resorts, hotels, villas and spas.”

Oh really?  Welcome are you?  Whoever wrote that hasn’t travelled much in Greece, have they?  Sure, major hotels and fancy spas in major tourist locations might accept Mastercard. But that is the tip of the iceberg of course.  Most rooms to let don’t have any way to accept a Mastercard.  At best they might take you down to the tourist shop, charge the card and get cash from their friend there.  (I have done this!)  But wait, another ad:

“With your Mastercard you are welcome all over Greece, in supermarkets, fruit markets and grocery stores.”

Yeah right!  Outside of major cities and big supermarkets, if you try showing a credit card in a “fruit market” everyone will laugh at you of course.   And any small “grocery store” on an island is more likely to accept your jewellery as payment than a Mastercard!

I tried hard to think what else Mastercard might want to achieve.  Maybe they want to pressure store owners to install credit card machines.   So advertising in the summer when everyone involved in tourism isn’t in Athens to see their campaign makes loads of sense….not!   Maybe they will just run it for a couple of weeks, take pictures and then tell everybody that they did it, see if that impresses them!

Coming face-to-face with
your schoolbook pictures: Priceless®
With your MasterCard, you are welcome all over Greece,
in museums and galleries

This one cracked me up.  If I had a pen with me I would have added “if the museum is not on strike, or the keeper hasn’t left early that day, or it isn’t some weird holiday you have never heard of, or it isn’t one of those little museums with just one guard and no electricity or internet connection which doesn’t accept credit cards….”   The picture of a statue was also really weird, some angle which felt distinctly uncomfortable.  Surely not an image any one found in “schoolbook pictures”!

But the fourth advert of the series in the metro was probably the best:

Forgetting to update your status: Priceless
With your MasterCard you are welcome all over Greece
in bars, night clubs and discos

This whole campaign is some sort of weird fiction.  As if some exec in the US dreamed up a campaign in ten minutes projecting a long term goal from one of his powerpoint presentations.   It is in many ways like holding up a “everything that is wrong with Greek tourism” summary in four advertisements.   In an upside down world maybe you can go to a noisy bar and pull out a Mastercard to pay for your drink.   But surely not in Greece!

Oh, and it is impossible not to “update your status” because all the Greeks do at the club is play with their cell phones…



Communication Society

Send in the Olympics…and then the IMF!

(Note: By popular local demand this article has been translated to Greek with various extra links to older articles about the Olympics here.)

This is not some conspiracy theory.  My question is simple:  What is the effect of turning a huge global spotlight on a country via the Olympics?

Of course I am thinking of Greece and a recent conversation – for the umpteenth time – about the economic impact.  That isn’t really the point.   Multiple fine economists have studied micro, macro and …malaka economics concerning impact and it is always a pretty grim picture.  But forget all that and please don’t get caught up in whether or not we needed a stadium for baseball.   Or whether they killed all the stray dogs inhumanely or not.

What did the world see of Greece because of the Olympics?  For a couple of years in the run up all you heard of us was pretty grim horror stories.  How bad our economy is, how terrible the workers unions are, how difficult it is to get anything done, how the prime minister had to do it himself… it just went on and on.  A British newspaper would make fun of us, we spiked our backs in indignation but the story stuck.   Greeks are lazy, just like we thought they were, and completely incapable of getting anything done in time.   British, American and German companies have to fly in at the last minute to get it done.

The fact that the Athens Olympics “went well” is beside the point from a communication point of view.   Everyone just assumed (quite rightly) that it is a party that always goes well in the end.   Same crowd, same stars, same music.  There haven’t been any “failed” Olympics because it always comes together in the end.  Nothing to do with the Greeks, it is the organizers that get it done.  One way or another.   We just pay the bill.

So many years of bad news about Greece, then a few weeks of pleasantries.   Then some of you went on holiday here and then the whole circus headed for the next host country.  What was left as an impression?   That Greece is hopeless.   A lost case.   An easy target for any sort of economic speculation…hey, wait a minute, that’s exactly what happened isn’t it?   Greeks think the whole world is against them.   Ancient obsession.   Jews, Germans,Persians, Americans, even aliens have supposedly targeted Greeks as the “chosen” enemy because we are so good!  They are all jealous or something like that.

Well this is the first time it feels like they are right!   Greece was indeed singled out in a pretty unique way.  Both in terms of policies, in the way other countries ganged up against it (or for it, depends on your conspiracy hat) and the media had a field day.   We complain about German media, but what did we expect?  We have been selling the image of lazy Greeks, on lazy islands, with lazy donkeys, sipping ouzo and taking siestas for so long that it would be rather hard to change now!  

The Olympics aren’t to blame for the Greek financial crisis.   And conspiracy theorists are wrong:  these things aren’t preplanned by some evil Genius or ten ultra rich people.  But the way the Olympics shone a light on all of our weaknesses helped Greece take the scapegoat position a lot more easily than it would have otherwise.    Selling unusually harsh measures needs a strong story to work on.   And a corrupt and lazy country, incapable of organising the Games is a pretty good start in building a global negative myth to get that sort of story off the ground…

Business Technology

Moving the i-Goalposts

In the old days we used to have great flame wars of PC vs Mac.  Back then Apple was going to conquer the desktop.  They never even got close of course.  Everyone talked about Apple machines but bought PCs.  There was always some secret plan, some new technology, a “gamechanger” just around the corner that Apple was about to reveal.  There was firewire (much better than USB!) or other Apple-proprietary flops which remained in the Apple ecosystem or just quietly died out.  Apple fan boys still talk about them.  Apparently the world was wrong to go mainstream with Windows and Intel, “if only they had all picked the better technology” and gone with Apple….

Similar story with iPads.  For the second time in Apple’s history, education would be key.   Schools apparently would fill up with iPads.  The PC is no longer important, check out market share of all devices and iOS is conquering the planet!  Well, no, it didn’t.  iPads are already retreating big time in terms of market share.   Apple’s latest hope, the collaboration with IBM is probably first fanboy fiction which actually has a hope.   But only because of IBM infrastructure and serious technology.

Apple couldn’t support going mainstream.   Much like Facebook struggled to keep up with demand as it growed.   Billions of hits on your servers from all around the world is quite something to handle.   On Apple-only technology it would be impossible.   Since switching to Intel of course, things are much better.   Apple can pretend to be running on Apple hardware, get real software companies to handle the software and actually gradually catch up with Microsoft and Google, SAP, Oracle and all the other serious companies.  They use Oracle and IBM for their data centers since 2010.  In order for Apple to support its own Content Delivery Network they will need to steal a damn lot of specialized engineers, copy or buy the pop count models of Level3/Edgecast/Limelight or buy them out, figure out how iPhone users are different and then lose money big time for several years until they figure out the optimum configuration.

The plateau reached by iPhones is typical in this respect.  While others talk about iOS catching up and iWatches, I watch the total user base numbers.   Only Google can handle the number of Android devices around.  People nag about the Play store but who else could build an infrastructure able to handle the payload?   If Apple made a cheaper iPhone and sold more of them, they would need to outsource even more of their infrastructure.   Sooner or later the myth bubble would burst.   Apple needs to keep up the fantasy of a “different” and “superior” ecosystem.   Have you striving for the “ideal” of living with iPhone, iPad, MacBooks all around you.   And this despite the fact that Apple was never able to build a proper retail channel?

In fact, the greatest news about the Apple-IBM deal is that IBM might force Apple to stop changing adaptors, connectors, file formats and everything else they change all the time!  Because which corporate buyer in their right mind will invest in a company that suddenly stops supporting a device you bought only 2 or 3 years ago?  Steve Jobs might get away with telling consumers to hold their iPhone differently in order to get better reception, but corporate contracts don’t have quite the same patience….   IBM might also provide some much need oomph in terms of Artificial Intelligence through the Watson platform because – let’s face it – Siri has no chance in hell of catching up with Google does it?

The myth of a superior operating system has been maintained by Apple not through real innovation but through acquisitions.   They never spent enough on R&D to come up with real technological breakthroughs.   Steve Jobs was a genius not in “giving the people what they didn’t know they wanted” but in dressing up technologies that already existed.   You can only do that so much though.   So he bought in stuff.   Look at a the list of Apple acquisitions.   When Apple wanted to pretend they were kings of digital video they knew their software was rubbish.  It was written by the same guy who wrote PremierePro, the software they made fun of!  So they bought other companies and gave it away with Final Cut.   Software that used to sell for $10,000 on its own, was suddenly thrown in the suite for free.  As long as you buy in to the Apple fantasy…

I have written before that Tim Cook really is Apple’s only hope.  IBMesque moves will save the company.  But handling their fanboys fanatic approach to everything is slowing them down.