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  • Dark forces in the departure lounge: a seven-point guide to resignation

    July 22, 2011 @ 8:30 am | by Laura Slattery

    With institutional corruption in the British media / police / parliament becoming increasingly difficult to veil in shabby apologia, the personnel involved are falling over each other to fall on their sword – well it’s better than falling into custody. Rebekah Brooks, Les Hinton, Sir Paul Stephenson, John Yates… all of them have clocked out with varying degrees of haste, style and dignity. But getting your resignation right is about more than securing a golden goodbye sealed with a loving confidentiality clause.

    You can resign to spend more time with your family, like a 1990s Tory minister, or to spend less time with your family, like David Miliband. You can be the first out of a revolving door, like Siobhán Donaghy, the first popstar to claim the title “ex-Sugababe”. You can cite principles, like crisp salesman Gary Lineker, who quit his column at the Mail on Sunday after it secretly recorded the head of the FA – only to sign up for the, er, News of the World instead.

    You can declare that there are “dark forces” at work, like one of 2011′s leading sexists, the ex-Sky Sports presenter Richard Keys. Or you can attempt a temporary blaze of glory like Steven Slater, the Jet Blue air steward who upon landing announced his resignation via the plane intercom, grabbed a couple of beers from the trolley and activated the emergency inflatable slide – only to later change his mind about wanting to quit.

    For those who have the opportunity to figure out the best way to shuffle off the official payroll, there’s a menu of eclectic exit strategies to choose from:

    1. A distraction, not a disgrace.

    Classic PR manoeuvre: Attribute your resignation not to your alleged mistake/offence, but to the public outcry about that mistake/offence, then follow this up with a bold claim to selflessness. In a spot of medal-winning rationale, Met commissioner Stephenson felt it best to go now rather than get stuck into the security preparation for the London 2012 Olympics with a Murdoch-shaped cloud hanging over him – that just wouldn’t be fair to Londoners. Similarly, Anthony Weiner, the former US Representative obliged to resign after sending what we will politely call a graphic tweet, regretted that “the distraction” had made it impossible to continue “to fight for the middle class and those struggling to make it”. He was abandoning the cause, he said, “so my colleagues can get back to work”.

    2. Stylistic flourish 101

    While the Twitter monster has doubtless not yet claimed its last scalp from office, a tweet can also be the medium by which you announce your sacking departure. Jonathan Schwartz, the chief executive of Sun Microsystems edged out last year when Oracle bought Sun, decided to merge social media platform with historic cultural artform when he tweeted his resignation with a haiku. “Today’s my last day at Sun. I’ll miss it. Seems only fitting to end on a #haiku. Financial crisis/Stalled too many customers/CEO no more.” The poetry must have sapped his inspiration, however, as @openjonathan hasn’t tweeted in quite some time.

    3. Stylistic flourish (Honours)

    It’s always a good idea if you can combine your resignation letter with a de facto application for your next career. This, essentially, is what ex-Daily Star reporter Richard Peppiatt did when he decided he’d had enough of reporting fantasy as news. “I see a cascade of shit pirouetting from your penthouse office, caking each layer of management, splattering all in between,” he wrote to proprietor Richard Desmond. Nice. If you’re a man who wants to write for a living, rather than spend your days impersonating Muslim women for the sake of an inflammatory headline, it’s a smart move to make sure everyone knows you can master such basics as a) rational argument, b) sentence rhythm, c) dry, cutting humour and d) the personal touch. Peppiatt’s letter was published by more than one “quality” newspaper and he is now found frequenting television studios providing an insider’s commentary on all things dodgily tabloid – thanks to News International, he is a pundit much in demand.

    Former News International chief executive Rebekah Brooks appears before a parliamentary committee on phone hacking on Tuesday. But was it her tardy resignation that did the most PR damage? Photo: REUTERS/Parbul TV

    4. Scorched earth policy

    Sarcasm and contempt are cheap if you’re so rich you never have to pretend to work again. Hedge fund trader Andrew Lahde made an 866 per cent return in 2007 by betting that the US subprime market would collapse. His farewell open letter on quitting the industry in 2008 was withering about “the low hanging fruit, i.e. idiots whose parents paid for prep school, Yale, and then the Harvard MBA”. They were “there for the taking”, he said. “These people who were (often) truly not worthy of the education they received (or supposedly received) rose to the top of companies such as AIG, Bear Stearns and Lehman Brothers and all levels of our government. All of this behaviour… only ended up making it easier for me to find people stupid enough to take the other side of my trades. God bless America.”

    5. Exit, pursued by Ant and Dec

    With so many household villains seeking opportunities for redemption, the contestant wishlist of the producers of I’m a Celebrity, Get Me Out of Here must be getting longer by the day – and if you think it’s unlikely that, say, an ex-head of the Metropolitan police would venture into the jungle in order to be dowsed in kangaroo saliva, then consider that former deputy assistant commissioner of the Met, Brian Paddick, did almost exactly that three years ago. Paddick, whose resignation from the Met falls into the “jumped after being pushed” category, survived the Queensland cameras with minimum humiliation and was last seen making a return to the more serious endeavour of being a London mayoral candidate for the Liberal Democrats.

    6. Leverage your experience

    As Bank of Ireland governor, Richard Burrows must have learned a thing or two about toxic industries. So upon leaving the bank in 2009, what better career move than to take up residency as chairman of British American Tobacco? Former Halifax Bank of Scotland chief executive Andy Hornby swapped mortgages for moisturisers when he joined Boots, only to resign from that job less than two years later, saying he needed a break. This week, he was appointed the boss of bookmakers Coral, making him the ultimate casino banker. In a corporate culture where the former head of risk management at Lehman Brothers can get a job as treasurer of the World Bank, it’s hard to sneer whenever someone whose career seems in the toilet talks about “pursuing new opportunities” round the other side of the U-bend. The chances are they will. 

    7. Why not get your life back?

    After the Gulf of Mexico oil spill, BP chief executive Tony Hayward’s entire lexicon, his entire demeanour, seemed like one big long resignation monologue staged to attract maximum levels of transatlantic opprobrium. The man dubbed “Big Oil’s Mr Bean” notoriously declared he would “like his life back” not long after the explosion at the Deepwater Horizon oil rig killed 11 workers. The leak from its rig was still pumping thick black crude oil into the gulf at a rate of up to 60,000 barrels a day when Hayward decided to spend a day watching his yacht compete in an Isle of Wight boat race. His inevitable resignation statement contained a peerless mea non-culpa: “I will always feel a deep responsibility, regardless of where blame is ultimately found to lie.”

  • That calls for a new advertising slogan…probably

    April 6, 2011 @ 7:30 am | by Laura Slattery

    Carlsberg has ditched its “probably the best lager in the world” slogan after it proved insufficiently definitive to pull in brand-wandering drinkers. It was probably time. The line was originally voiced in 1975 by the actor and alcoholic Orson Welles, whose subsequent death makes it hard to assess his views on this blow to his legacy. In any case, the new slogan – “that calls for a Carlsberg” – sounds to me like tacit acknowledgement of alcohol’s potential misuse as an emotional crutch. Funnily enough, Carlsberg has aimed instead for the subtly different “reward after a hard day’s work” vibe.

    YouTube Preview Image

    The purveyors of beer boldly predicted yesterday that as a result of the new branding, the company will double its profits by 2015. If it achieves that, it will call for champagne. Meanwhile, in the interest of commercial nostalgia, here are five more advertising slogans that are no longer with us, but continue to scar our memories like cultural chicken pox:

    1. Someone you love would love some, Mum: Jacob’s “Kimberley, Mikado and Coconut Cream” slogan has not entirely gone away, but it has mutated into “someone you love would love some fun”. The “fun” in question is on display in Jacob’s loathsome new television ad, which dedicates itself to finding the hitherto undiscovered links between biscuits and corsetry. It’s a feast of audiovisual grimness made in the style of a Gwen Stefani music video from hell. Maybe that’s the point.

    2. A Mars a day helps you work, rest and play: This jingle, used between 1959 and 1995, fails the pesky “nutritional claims” section of modern advertising rules on the basis that a Mars a day doesn’t literally help you work, rest and play. Mars did revive it a few years ago, but omitted the awkwardly untrue “a Mars a day helps you” bit. Its more recent slogans include the 2002 effort “pleasure you can’t measure” – which acts as a kind of corporate riposte to those confectionery customers who get upset about the bars’ shrinking size.

    3. The future’s bright, the future’s Orange: UK telecoms company Orange “retired” this irksome (in other words, massively successful) slogan four years ago, presumably on the basis that the future is now. Lately, Orange’s sponsorship of the Baftas has been accompanied by numerous expensive cinema ads featuring all manner of Hollywood talent, plus Jack Black. Its television spots have also curiously tapped into smartphone trends while simultaneously feeding paranoia that people who use social media are socially inept.

    4. Campaign for Real Beauty: Dove is shimmying away from its “Real Beauty” line, according to Marketing Week, which makes me feel warm inside, as I always found its soap-sponsored image politics to be ever so slightly patronising. It was okay to have hips or freckles, Dove informed us - as long as you just so happened to be amazingly photogenic. Anyhow, the “real” women have reportedly been abandoned in favour of a campaign dubbed “Body Language”, which I fear has probably nothing to do with the Kylie Minogue album of the same name.

    5. Only the crumbliest, flakiest chocolate / Tastes like chocolate never tasted before: And indeed never would be tasted, should your Flake live up to this slogan and disintegrate into the bubble bath before it could actually reach your mouth. Cadbury periodically kills off the suggestive “Flake girl” and tries something more pretentioussophisticated, but this is one of those lines that’s liable to come and go for the sake of the easy publicity. This time, they’ll probably just wait until everyone has forgotten about the whole Joss Stone thing.

  • You shouldn’t have. No, you really shouldn’t have

    December 24, 2010 @ 8:30 am | by Laura Slattery

    There is a lot to be said for a festive pair of socks. They’re warm, they’re practical and with any luck, they’ll have a cheery snowflake pattern – to remind you of what snow used to look like when it was all nice and white and theoretical and Bing Crosby-like. Christmas socks, like a good reindeer jumper, are in fact really excellent gifts masquerading as cliches. That’s not something that can be said for this lot, my personal list of items that I wouldn’t even bother faking gratitude for:

    1. Straight Up: My Autobiography by Danny Dyer. Who? Why? How? Danny Dyer is the British actor who earlier this year, in his guise as an agony uncle for lad’s mag Zoo, suggested that a heartbroken reader ”cut his ex’s face, and then no one will want her”. That’s not really what I call the spirit of Christmas. Now Dyer, who claims he was misquoted, was rather good in Andrea Arnold’s short film Wasp. But that’s no reason to encourage his literary career by purchasing a memoir that “tears it up proper”, apparently. In general, it’s best to leave the domestic violence to EastEnders.

    2. Going Rogue: An American Life by Sarah Palin. Read by the author. Oh no, NOT THE AUDIO VERSION. Listening to Palin, the inexplicably popular Tea Party lady, one feels new sympathy for Margaret Thatcher, who underwent vocal training to lower her voice by several semi-tones after advisers suggested she was too shrill. Palin’s dogs-only range proves Thatcher needn’t have bothered. While I’d usually object to the notion of a deeper voice = more gravitas on the grounds that it reaffirms the “naturalness” of male authority, in Palin’s case I’d make an exception.

    3. The “Snuggie” from JML. JML is the ubiquitous direct sales firm with the kind of over-excitable pitches that encourage crawling back under the duvet forever. If you want to “use your laptop without being cold”, stick on a cardigan: do not be tempted by the sleeved ”Snuggie” blanket, which looks like the kind of thing Brian Blessed would wear on stage. In the Snuggie’s festive TV ad, a family of four sit wearing their matching cult-like druid’s cloaks and paper hats, looking like they’re taking part in a cut-price and slightly sinister re-enactment of the Nativity. A good rule of thumb: if an ad has its own YouTube parodies, don’t buy what it’s selling.

    4. Cath Kidston business card holder. I’ll admit this is the kind of kitsch paraphernalia that I’m vulnerable to. But it’s all wrong. Firstly, no one wants to be reminded of work on Christmas Day. Secondly, a floral-patterned business card holder? Really? If you do have the kind of job that requires the cheesy exchange of business cards at the end of the meeting, you’re probably working in a profession that requires the maintenance of a degree of drab seriousness. In other words, it’s not the ideal opportunity for showcasing one’s affection for the retro, cutesy, reclaimed housewife-chic Cath Kidston aesthetic. That’s for cupcakes.

    5. Working the Red Carpet by Lorraine Keane. There is a bit of a book theme emerging here, which possibly reflects the old NME assertion that even crap CDs can make excellent ashtrays. I’ve nothing against the ex-TV3 stalwart Lorraine Keane, who seems like a nice person. If you want a coffee table book showcasing pictures of her with fellow broadcasters Gaybo and so on, then this is the stocking filler for you. But let’s not pretend there is such a thing as a Hollywood-lite red carpet glamourfest in Ireland: anyone who happens to be passing Dublin’s Savoy Cinema while they’re having a premiere knows the truth.


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