Caveat transmitter // Nurofen for footie fans // Icelandic products a go-go
It seems there are a number of GroupM staff afflicted by fat-finger syndrome, writes Dominic Mills as he looks at the latest legal spat to engulf adland - plus: why Nurofen is absolute testament to the power of branding, and get ready for the Iceland effect...
I bet Sarah Vine, woman-behind-the-throne of her husband Michael Gove's leadership bid, wishes she had access to WPP's crack team of lawyers.
That way she might have prevented the leaking of her now-infamous email on the grounds that it contained privileged information.
Like Vine, it seems that there are a number of GroupM staff afflicted by fat-finger syndrome, whizzing off emails containing confidential information to the Ebiquity-owned auditors Firm Decisions, and generally behaving carelessly with information about all sorts of stuff like AVBs, media owner contracts and the like.
GroupM has reacted in the only way it seems to know, which is to reach for its expensive lawyers. If you're so-minded you can read the full details of the GroupM plaintiff document and Firm Decisions' response at the bottom of this story.
Some of the legal sparring is hilarious. The GroupM filing claims it is part of 'the world's leading marketing communications services group'. Firm Decisions denies this, saying WPP is a leading marketing communications group etc blah, but not the leading blah blah' (my emphases). I bet the lawyers charged a few quid for dancing on the head of that particular pin.
Since this has all gone legal, no-one is allowed to talk about it, but it's worth noting that there is a bit of previous friction between the two parties, to wit:
- Firm Decisions' role in the embarrassment that engulfed MediaCom Australia two years ago, and the claim by Firm Decisions that a GroupM employee had subsequently bad-mouthed it to a client
- GroupM's failed attempt, also in 2014, to sue the UK government following the pitch between it and Carat for its £400m media contract, a pitch where Ebiquity/Firm Decisions was the consultant
- Firm Decisions' role in the recent ANA report on US media buying practices.
I dare say the pair will settle out of court, which means we'll never get to see the dirty laundry. What a disappointment.
If only the law could be changed so that the legal disclaimer that sits at the bottom of corporate emails - this is part of the GroupM one: "Privileged/Confidential Information may be contained in this message. If you are not the addressee indicated in this message (or responsible for delivery of the message to such person), you may not copy or deliver this message to anyone. In such case, you should destroy this message and kindly notify the sender by reply email" - was rendered null and void.
The legal term for this could be 'caveat transmittor', so that anybody who fat fingers out confidential documents by mistake just has to suck it up.
Columnists, for example, could benefit enormously. Over the years I have received countless documents in emails, some sent by mistake, some deliberately, that I can neither read nor use. So frustrating.
The power of branding (and placebos)
If only Nurofen made a pill for foot pain or heartache, England fans and Roy Hodgson would be swallowing them like sweets.
But sadly, last week's ASA ruling banning Nurofen from running ads for its back pain remedy on the grounds that they were misleading means Reckitt Benckiser won't be developing yet more variants.
These would have sat alongside Nurofen for period pains, Nurofen for tension headaches, Nurofen for migraines, and Nurofen for joint pain and Nurofen for just-watched-England-lose-again and Nurofen for feeling-pissed-off-for-no-identifiable-reason.
The offending ads are now nowhere to be seen, but essentially claimed that by some whizzo way, the ibuprofen that makes up Nurofen Joint and Back magically found its way to the sufferer's back, somehow avoiding areas (head, joints etc) that didn't need fixing.
Of course it doesn't work like that. We all know that you can buy the same remedy as a generic brand for about a tenth of the price. But it might not be as efficacious.
But don't just take my word: in last Sunday's Observer, David Mitchell quoted science writer Ben Goldacre's observation that "whatever pharmacology theory tells you, the brand-named version is better."
It's probably not what the advertising effectiveness industry should hang its hat on - despite this 9-minute video rant about the profiteering of big pharma - but Nurofen is absolute testament to the power of branding.
If effective branding and advertising is all about a) imbuing a generic product with perceived superiority and b) pricing power, then Nurofen is the ad industry's poster child. Oh, and testament to the power of placebo. If you believe it works, then it does.
Coming soon to a shelf near you: Icelandic stuff
Despite crashing out to France last weekend in Euro 2016, I'm predicting that the world is going to go Iceland crazy. Inspired by the football team and that mesmeric chant - Oooh! (10-second pause) Oooh! (10-second pause) - we're going to be swamped by products of Icelandic provenance.
Indeed, I'm sure the Iceland team were fuelled by the only Icelandic product I am aware is available in UK shops - Skyr, which claims to be a low-fat, high-protein yoghurt.
The England team, for their part, were no doubt fuelled by a high-fat, low-protein yoghurt.
But what could they send us? They've tried financial services and banks, but that was a disaster .
I'm sure they've got loads of great alcohol brands and mineral water, but the next big things will be boiled sheeps' head, cured shark and tinned puffin meat.
If anyone can advertise those to success, that would be a triumph for the industry.