Germany to return to the Deutschmark?

Interesting report on Newsnight last Tuesday. It reported on the trouble with countries such as Ireland, Portugal, Greece and Italy who have massive debt levels. As we're seeing with Ireland, the country is on it's knees and desperately seeking financial help. There is concern that the problems with Ireland and these countries will affect the value of the Euro. Economists hope that the economic strength of key Euro countries such France and Germany will help subsidise the Euro.

Germany in particular is a key country, it reported GDP growth of 3.9% in the last 3 months and this pushes the strength of the Euro. Interestingly the report highlighted that such is the growth of Germany that it is making the Euro too expensive for the countries that are struggling. As the Euro value increases, exports are being less and the cost of living rising.

One way to combat this would be to allow Germany to leave the Euro, this would then allow the Euro to fall in value making it easier for the struggling countries to start spending and be more lucrative to trade goods.

I thought this was a really interesting situation. Speaking to a couple of German friends, they would be more than happy to go back to the Deutschmark as they too believe the Euro is too expensive. Personally I would love to see the re-introduction of old currencies again, I think it brings charm and personality to a country although I understand the rationale behind a single currency, particularly for those living on the European continent.

Christmas TV Ads

The Superstores have started their big pushes for the festive season.

Let me know you're favourites. Mine are Marks & Spencer and Tesco. Marks & Spencer have brought in the usual mix of celebrities to cover their target age range. Peter Kay was good decision, not only for ad visibility, but to promote their Big & Tall range. I really like the ad, it's bright, refreshing and shows the clothes in a great light. It will work well for them.

Tesco's have decided to keep with Fay Ripley and Mark Addy as Mum and Dad while bringing in Britain's Got Talent's Amanda Holden. Nicely executed ad concentrating on consumables rather than food. Lots of product on show, the store looks nice in the background.

I like the message behind Sainsbury's, the ad is beautifully shot but I'm unsure about the lack of product. Morrison's has remained focussed on educating us on the source of their products. This time they bring in children who visit farms (and in-store) to learn about the vegetables and meat - nice idea as it focusses in on Mum's and healthy eating while showcasing product. Waitrose have concentrated on using celebrity chef expertise to showcase their premium product.

Goodyear EfficientGrip Fuel Giveaway

As I approached the M6, J19 roundabout this morning it seemed very busier than usual around the Esso petrol station. A massive Goodyear Blimp was floating above and about 10 people in florescent jackets and placards stood in the middle of the dual carriageway (just like the guy in the picture).

This stunt was all part of a campaign to raise awareness of EfficientGrip, a new tyre developed by Goodyear which reduces the amount of rolling resistance, thus using less energy and saving motorists money on petrol.

It is said that it can save drivers 1 litre of fuel in every tank as well as offering good tyre durability, increased wet weather performance and a quieter ride. I had a set of Goodyear F1 Eagle's on my Golf GTI a year ago following rave reviews from the likes of EVO magazine. I found them to be an uncomfortable ride, the noise was loud and the performance terrible. I switched to Continental Sport Contacts and have found them to be much better.

Not only are Goodyear offering £20 free fuel but will award a £10 fuel voucher for each tyre when fitted!

It is a great, high visibility campaign. There was a huge queue this morning outside Esso petrol station and for those receiving the free fuel I'm sure they will remember the brand!

Goodyear aren't the only ones to have tried this stunt, other attempts include Electronic Arts which played on fuel being used as currency in Venezuela for their new computer game Mercenaries 2 and Hyundai also offered a free fuel top in the US to promote their new fuel efficient models.

Clever Ads

Sometimes it can be hard to get clients on board to develop really nice creative ideas, many want to take the safe route which can not always generate good volumes of sales. To help I try to put ideas in the mind of the client. I came across these beauties yesterday as I was prepping up for a client meeting.

The ideas wonderfully illustrate the message from the products. Despite being smaller, the new range of Komatsu tractors are still very powerful. The Gorilla ladder's standing base is so big and sturdy that it's like the ground has come up with you.

Facebook launches Social Inbox

Facebook have launched a brand new messaging system, which introduces a fusion of email, SMS and Facebook messaging.

Speaking at a Facebook conference today, founder Mark Zuckerberg announced that "email is dead", claiming it to be "too slow and formal".

It is something I've thought about for a while now. At work we send thousands of emails a week. Emails are important as they obviously track a timeline of conversation and we are then able to save emails into job bags for future reference. This is something which is lost in a verbal conversation and can be lost using instant messaging.

A solution where you can have a platform like Outlook, but instead of simply receiving an email, you could start an instant real time conversation which would then be saved into a folder just like email would be ideal.

This is a solution which Zuckerberg is putting forward although texts and all method of written conversation would also be saved in a historical timeline instead of being scattered on various solutions. The inbox will also be split into friends, general email and junk. A nice touch.

It is a genius solution, showing great understanding. It is a great move for Facebook.

And yes, all Facebook users will be getting a Facebook email address, although Zuckerberg was keen to stress it wouldn't be an "email address" as such, perhaps more an "identity".

To start with Social Inbox will be by invite only, however if you head to - you can ask for an invite.

Fosters Funny Alan Partridge

Ste Coogan is on a roll at the moment. He has just launched a new series of the brilliant Alan Partridge on and is involved with new BBC 2 comedy "The Trip" with Rob Brydon.

The new Alan Partridge episodes are excellent. 10 minutes each, they quickly take you back immediately to the much missed TV series of old. This time Partridge is fronting "North Norfolk Digital" with the episodes filmed through the studio webcam. Alan is as boring as ever, jingles as diabolical as ever but the subtle humour from Coogan is as sharp as ever.

What can go wrong does go wrong (and as we find in episode 2 this week) Alan takes part in a radio documentary on his family history, only to find one of his relatives dies of syphilis prompting Alan to remark "if I was going on a man's radio show to accuse one of his ancestors of having a sexual disease I wouldn't want to be pretty sure, I would want to be the next step up; which is, presumably, 'uber sure'".

The series is also a great social media strategy from Fosters. The results must be staggering, both from a brand equity perspective to the amount of news coverage. You can check them out on YouTube below.

If you love these check out The Trip on BBC 2, which follows Ste Coogan and Rob Brydon as they travel around North England reviewing restaurants. Directed by Michael Winterbottom, it is beautifully produced as Coogan and Brydon vibe off each other with hysterical impressions while you try to figure who is real and who is an actor in the surroundings. It is also great to see the North beautifully shot, and to me the food courses create just as much as the great dialogue.

The Social Network

Becky and I watched The Social Network the other evening. The film is based on the book "Accidental Millionaires" by Ben Mezrich (with the screenplay by Aaron Sorkin of A Few Good Men fame and directed by David Fincher, who was also involved with Se7en and Benjamin Button. Kevin Spacey was also Executive Producer) and explores the beginning and development of Facebook.

As I spend pretty much everyday on Facebook, both on a personal and business perspective, I was really interested to see Mezrich's insight into the development of Facebook, especially as he was supposedly supported by Facebook co-founder Eduardin Saverin.

The film is fascinating and although the film centers around Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg, it is Saverin who plays a major part in the Facebook story. The story can be told thus:

* Winklevoss twins approach Zuckerberg after he launches Facemash, a "hot or not" website which was created from hacking into the Havard Universities student photo database.
* The Winklevoss twins look to launch the Havard Connection. A social networking website similar to Facebook today.
* Zuckerberg starts developing the site before deciding to make it his own behind the Winklevoss twins knowledge and creates Facebook.
* Best friend, Saverin is announced as Financial Director, Saverin finds investment for Facebook at the beginning and develops the Facebook relationship algorithm.
* Saverin clashes with Zuckerberg over business direction. Saverin wants to introduce advertising to create revenue, while Zuckerberg didn't want to as he felt it was "cool" that Facebook didn't include ads. Zuckerberg was right.
* Zuckerberg meets Napster founder Sean Smith, despite being chalk and cheese share direction.
* Facebook moves to California while Saverin spends time away in New York searching for advertisers.
* Behind the scenes Smith introduces investment banks and eventually Saverin looses his shares after being tricked into a dodgy contract.

So, who would have thought that our beloved Facebook could be so corrupt?! There is no way of knowing how much of this is true but Zuckerberg did end up paying the Winklevoss twins $65 million in compensation and Saverin's shares were also restored.

Zuckerberg is a discreet character, he keeps himself to himself. He has admited that the majority of the film is untrue but the majority of the shirts he wears in the film is correct. He is portrayed as an arrogant, well assured individual in the film, watching interviews with him it is hard to accept that. Although a strange thing I noted is that during the lawsuit between Saverin and Zuckerberg in the film, Saverin still held Zuckerberg in high regard despite being conned by his best friend, so perhaps there is something else there.

This is one of my favourite interviews of Zuckerberg, I think it is a good reminder that the despite his intelligence and wealth, the guy is only in his early twenties!

5 months with the club

November marked my 5th month anniversary with Weaver Valley Cycling Club. In such a short period of time I feel I've developed as a cyclist. I'm not by any means the finished article but I've ridden on the track and my hill climbing has improved so I'm now not totally off the back. This is mostly down to watching others developing my technique and having better anticipation and gear selection when it came to the hill.

I've unfortunately not had a consistent run of club runs due to personal commitments and also helping out with marshalling. I've normally had 2 or 3 in a row weekends with a week off but I'm finding that I'm loosing weight and I'm learning that when the pace eases up, to take drink, a deep breath and getting ready for the next onslaught.

I enjoy the company within the club, everyone is great and supportive. There are some amazing cyclists, where they get the power and energy from I don't know! You learn the best groups to be in for your own ability and I'm really enjoying my cycling. I also enjoy being part of the cycling community, getting involved in marshalling etc.

Getting involved with a cycling club is definitely worth it, I've found that a lot of new members are already very fit from having been involved in marathons or triathalons previously, others have built their way up gradually like me. So, if you're thinking of joining a club for the 2011 season, I would say make sure you have a couple of sportives in the legs to test your ability and get involved.