Flack on Friday: Mike Ashley, Sir Martin Sorrell, Iceland, and PRs make mugs of themselves

In Flack this week: A star turn by Mike Ashley's PR man in Commons hearing, Sir Martin Sorrell's hourly rate, which UK retailer is the (obvious) sponsor of the Icelandic football team? And introducing the AGE (Always Google Everything) rule...

Whether 'tis better for comms advisers to remain in the background?

There were many elements of Sports Direct boss Mike Ashley’s performance before the Business and Skills Select Committee on Tuesday that were noteworthy, including his admission that the company had effectively outgrown his ability to manage it.

But there were two aspects that stood out most for Flack – and comms professionals who were keeping a beady eye on proceedings.

The first was Ashley’s decision to have his comms adviser sitting next to him in a chair often used by a witnesses’ legal counsel. Many PRs said they had never seen such a spectacle and Flack agrees: isn't it better for the professionals to stay out of the limelight and for the witness to learn their lines well enough for the performance at hand?

The second moment came at the end when MPs asked Ashley if he would have liked to have purchased stricken retailer BHS.

His minder told the panel this was a "no comment" and he and Ashley looked down at the ground before, tension at fever pitch, Ashley blurted out: "I can’t resist it – I wanted to buy BHS." He then apologised to his man for speaking when he should not, adding: "I’m not City trained."

Flack’s word to the wise: if you must take them into the room with you, at least heed their advice.

pic credit: PA/PA Wire/Press Association Images

The £70m question

The controversy around WPP chief Sir Martin Sorrell’s pay rumbled on this week at the group’s AGM, where around one in three shareholders voted against his £70m remuneration package.

One commentator made this interesting comment (although Flack seriously doubts that Mr Sorrell is a 9-to-5 type of boss):

Others were more concerned about the proceedings itself, with The Times’ technology and communications editor making reference to WPP’s moves in Cuba:

PRs make mugs of themselves for the Mail

Excellent crisis management this week by the in-house team at insurer Direct Line. A personal finance journalist at the Daily Mail apparently rang up to say they had no mugs left, and wondered whether Direct Line had any promotional crockery lying around. (Flack must admit to being slightly concerned at how this should be allowed to happen at what is the UK's biggest publisher, with annual revenue approaching £2bn, but that's a story for another day.)

To its credit, Direct Line capitalised on the situation – preparing mugs of their mugs, and their press office number, and having a box sent over to the by then tea-starved Mail hacks' office. Cheers!

Iceland backs Iceland

With Euro 2016 kicking off in a matter of hours, it seems appropriate for Flack to highlight its favourite left-field sport sponsorship so far.

In an inspired move, the retail chain Iceland, with help from 3 Monkeys Zeno, has announced that it will be sponsoring the Icelandic national squad at the upcoming tournament. Apparently, the retailer came up with the idea after it was inundated with messages of congratulations after Iceland qualified for the Euros.

To support the tie-in, Iceland put together a series of motivational short films and spoof videos with the world’s 34th best football team.

As well as promotional giveaways in stores, the Iceland 'frozen pea van' will visit Iceland games during Euro 2016, giving away co-branded scarves to help get British supporters behind the smallest nation in the tournament.

Flack’s not sure scarves will be necessary in the French summer heat, but it’s a nice touch.

Box clever

Another inventive campaign now. You may remember that Ford won plaudits for a campaign a few months back that saw a car paraded in a transparent box on the back of a lorry through the streets of London.

The car maker has recruited YouTube star Lewis Hilsenteger of Unbox Therapy, a quirky online show about consumer products, and Gavin and Stacey actor Joanna Page for a new film featuring some box-related fun involving the unpacking of a new Ford KA+. WPP’s Bisqit agency created this vid, with support from Ford’s WPP team in London. Enjoy.

AGE (Always Google Everything)

Two salient reminders this week of the good old AGE (Always Google Everything) rule. To be fair, the rule was invented by Flack yesterday in order to make a point, but it's worth abiding by. First reminder: the news that the Euro 2016 tournament mascot shares its name with a sex toy. Second reminder: Adidas launching a new kit for the national team of 'Columbia'. Or, as it should be spelled, Colombia. On the plus side, both footballing stories allow for plenty of 'own goal' headlines.

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