New Day, Same Story…

A team of executives at Transport For London sit in the boardroom with their head in their hands racking their brains for ideas. What are they going to do about the phenomenal success of Uber and its effect on London’s black cabs? Lower the prices of black cab fares? No. Attempt to successfully break into digital? Nah. Admit defeat and negotiate with Uber to become part of TfL services to make the network stronger? Nope. How about we change black cabs to blue cabs? You know…offer what’s been done before but a bit different? Perfect. Genius. Start immediately.

This of course didn’t actually happen but a very similar conversation must’ve occurred at publisher Trinity Mirror’s head office in the process that lead up to the creation of The New Day, a new national daily newspaper launched today. In the same month that The Independent saw the light, another newspaper is supposedly going to do what’s necessary to keep print media alive.

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Whatever kind of new product you launch, it needs a unique selling point. When you’re launching a product in an area that’s on the way down, that USP better be groundbreaking. Editor Alison Philips states that “the idea is that this paper should give you in 40 pages everything on any given day in a 30-minute read, without being bombarded with content you don’t need”. The newspaper will also be free of political bias. Throw in “and you only have to spend 20 pence” on the end and you’ve got yourself a reenactment of what The i Newspaper promised on its launch. Memories.

The New Day is priced at 25p for the next two weeks before it increases to 50p. Despite my previous discussion of the possibility of a paid-for social media landscape; Twitter and Facebook will remain free. And which news publication has announced it will have a presence on both of these social media platforms? The New Day.

Chief Executive of Trinity Mirror Simon Fox has raised an interesting point when discussing the strategy of their launch explaining that there isn’t a market gap for breaking news websites and that they’re not aiming to start a war with rivals but are trying to tempt people back to print media. From a business perspective this makes sense to me but why not try to understand why the readers left in the first place and adhere to their needs? It must be better to give people what they want rather than tempt people to think differently.

Alison Philips also mentioned that research shows that the public want a newspaper with balanced opinion, relating to the idea of people not being able to find ‘the right one for me’. But this does not mean the public don’t want opinion and arguments, they just fear being labelled and being judged on what they read. If it weren’t for the success of MailOnline’s speedy and image-focussed content, the fear of being called a “Daily Mail reader” could’ve lead to a cease of distribution years ago. Well…at least among university campuses.

The London Economic argues that print media will remain successful as newspapers “offer informed perspectives, strong arguments and compelling entertainment that you won’t find on social media or have the patience for online” which is true, but can all this fit into something that can be read in 30 minutes with no political bias at all?

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The Metro’s success if often used as an argument that print media is going strong. Editor Ted Young argues “Anyone who says print is dead should come on my tube in the morning” referencing the number of commuters who pick up a Metro on their way to work. I occasionally pick up a Metro too for two reasons: The first being that it’s free and I love free stuff, the second being that there isn’t really that much else to do on the tube. As for content, the Guilty Pleasures pages are about the most informative part for me. When it comes to actual news, the Metro is just a repeat of everything I saw on Twitter yesterday.

Overall, I do not think print media will ever die. There will always be a certain human need for newspapers that technology will never replace. The Financial Times will always need to be read on the train to work, Sunday broadsheets will need to be browsed over coffee on the weekend and tabloids need to be available for those who refuse to own a smartphone. As for a news publisher launching an entirely new newspaper…it sounds like a step back rather than a step forward.

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Could We End Up Paying For Social Media?

When another year comes to an end we all love to look back at what has changed. The great thing about being interested in PR and Social Media is that usually these areas continue to improve and become more powerful whilst continuing to surprise us every single year. When the curious among us downloaded Instagram five years ago with the intention of giving amateur photography a try we didn’t expect it to one day become our number one resource for keeping up with celebrity gossip and fashion trends. When we got our first iPhones and had to get our friends to explain how to add those cute little faces to our text messages we never suspected that one day the crying with laughter emoji would be named Word Of The Year by the Oxford Dictionary and when front-facing cameras started to become commonplace across many smartphones we could’ve never imagined that a publisher specialising in Art & Design books which had documented the work of Manolo Blahnik, Terry Richardson and Oscar de la Renta would one day sell a book of selfies by a reality TV star.

These elements of unpredictability are what continue to develop my interest in communications. Knowing that this industry has years and years of development and innovation ahead of itself keep me guessing about what’s going to happen next.

But with twelve new months ahead of us, what could we possibly be looking back on this time next year? The pessimist within me who I usually keep buried deep down has sadly come out and has quite an unfortunate prediction for 2016.

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The Sun no longer Charges a Subscription Fee for its Online Content

This year brought two interesting announcements in the world of print media, an area of communications which continues to do its best to convince us it’s still relevant and going strong with the same level of self-defensiveness as a sixth form dropout or a teenager who took a vow of chastity. Contradictorily, The Sun caved in to the growing desire for digital by removing its paywall allowing for its online content to be accessed and shared by all for free. It’s a move that’s necessary for success despite having the highest circulation of any daily newspaper in the UK.

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Playboy Magazine will be making Major Changes next year

It was also revealed that Playboy magazine would no longer be providing what made it so famous to begin with…nudity. Covergirl and actress Pamela Anderson will be closing the doors on the mansion’s history in its February 2016 issue before the magazine moves towards a major emphasis on men’s lifestyle articles akin to competitors GQ and Esquire. But Hugh Hefner is no born-again feminist ally, the company has just accepted that new marketing measures need to be taken when brainless adolescent boys and creepy old men don’t need to reach to the top shelf anymore when everything imaginable can easily be found online. There’s also no hope of getting Facebook clicks and Instagram likes when images depicting nudity on those networks are banned. The brand even revealed that it makes more money from licensing its logo to be used on fragrances, clothing, home decor etc than it does from magazine sales. Maybe the obsession with having a Playboy-themed bedroom shared among many girls I knew when I was growing up was what helped them to break even all this time.

You may think that a tabloid that’s a great news source providing your only interests are football and The X Factor and a magazine that has put enough fuel in the engine of misogyny to add at least another fifty years onto the fight for women’s liberation aren’t really great talking points when assessing the state of communications. But these decisions represent something important: The internet is powerful and everybody recognises that. If the correlation between the number of new Netflix subscriptions compared to cancelled TV Licenses or the obscene wealth generated by the founders of tech startups hasn’t proved that already, the progress of the business and media world certainly has.

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Hashtags and Retweets are replacing TV Views and Print Circulation

There are three factors that have made digital communications so successful: It’s free, it’s virtually instant and it’s more personal. M&S didn’t have to hope a lot of young women would see their skirt featured in a magazine when all they had to do was hand it to Alexa Chung’s stylist to assure images of her wearing it would be tweeted, Instagrammed and shared around the world in seconds resulting in sales being driven through the roof. Palms Hotel didn’t need to spend thousands on a publicity stunt and hope a news network would take interest when they got Gigi Gorgeous and Trisha Paytas to stay the night and vlog about it assuring plenty of website hits and word-of-mouth promotion from their massive YouTube following. EE don’t need to plan a campaign to make the public aware of their customer service system when their customers already know they can easily just send a tweet or write on their Facebook timeline to quickly receive assistance.

But behind every business strategy is the goal of selling a product and making money. Online advertising previously kept the profit rolling in when we sat at our computers. In a world where the internet is accessed more on smartphones than on laptops and where the consumer hates being advertised at, as evidenced by the fact that online ad blocking software remains the most downloaded browser extension, the rise of the “pay to remove ads” upgrade was enough to do the trick. But the internet is not a company, it is a network of people. The modern use of digital platforms has resulted in the people who facilitate communications between organisations and consumers becoming businesspeople in their own right…and they want to cash in on their success. Zoella’s got bills to pay too.

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The Power of YouTube Stars Continues to Grow

My attention was brought to this area by a company called Patreon. A mix of a crowd-funder and a paywall. The app and website encourages fans of artists and creators to pledge to fund projects such as a YouTube web series in return for rewards such as access to “exclusive feeds” of content by the creator or the ability to watch videos before they’re published on YouTube. To me this sounds fair for an artist or entertainer who needs to purchase camera and tech equipment or fund a creative team but what would happen if the YouTube sensations who became so famous for being “relatable” and “organic” jumped onto this trend? I’m aware that there’s a lot more to a career as a vlogger than sitting in front of a webcam and talking but with multiple endorsement deals and substantial cheques from Google AdSense would it be fair for them to ask their fans for more money?

YouTube themselves have also recognised that advertising doesn’t always cut it with their launch of YouTube Red in the USA. The idea is very similar to Spotify Premium, one of YouTube’s biggest competitors regarding music streaming, by charging a monthly fee to remove advertisements as well as options to download videos to watch offline and the ability to continue listening to videos in the background when you’ve exited the app.

Again, this sounds like a fair deal where nobody will really miss out on anything. However, continuing to look at the similarity to Spotify Premium, there’s potential for YouTube to pull the ‘exclusive content’ trick here. When Spotify first launched they promised the ability to stream certain new releases exclusively for Spotify Premium subscribers to try and shake £10 a month out of us. Now, the massive music streaming network may be trying that move again so what’s to stop YouTube from doing the same with the release of long-awaited movie trailers, music videos or content from its top digital talent?

When it comes to having a lot of Twitter or Instagram followers there’s currently no money to be made unless you can score some product placement and endorsement deals. Beauty gurus get sent enough free makeup to open their own department store, the fitness fanatics proudly display their protein shake or waist trainer they’ve probably never used and the selfie-obsessed usually end up with teeth whitening kits and hair extensions galore. But this could all be about to change.

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People with Large Social Media Followings could soon be Taking Charge

The Kardashians are now arguably more famous for their social media presence than their reality show. Kim Kardashian is one of the most popular people on Instagram with over 50 million followers, Kendall Jenner has the most likes on a photo ever and all members of the family consistently appear alongside impressive social media statistics.

But why should some techies in Silicone Valley take all the credit, right? This year the Kardashian and Jenner sisters each released their own apps containing similar content that would’ve previously been provided by existing social media platforms such as live streams, photoshoots and makeup tutorials. The only difference is that you’ll have to pay £1.95/$2.99 a month to access the content of each sister. And considering that the girls are already set to rake in $32 Million per year from their apps there’s little case to argue that other popular influencers won’t do the same. The Sun took down their paywall to try and increase their online traffic but those who already have digital success could soon be leaving those of us who don’t pay for subscriptions begging for more.

So what does this mean for our other beloved social media platforms? A monthly fee for Twitter Premium where you can send tweets of up to 300 characters? In-app purchases on Instagram to unlock the most popular filters for £5 each? A fee to change your Facebook profile picture more than once a year? I’ll stop before I give someone ideas.

Snapchat is already charging for its fun and playful editing tools and the ability to replay snaps so what’s stopping other essential social media channels from capitalising on optional extras? My prediction of 2015 becoming the year Snapchat has come true, hopefully my prediction of a paid-for social media landscape won’t.

Guest Post on The PR Fraternity: 10 Greenwich PR Student Struggles

 

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To start off the new academic year, I have written about the struggles PR students face at the University of Greenwich. You can check it out here.

The PR Fraternity is a student society at the University of Greenwich with the aim of creating a network of students, alumni and professionals with an interest in PR in order to inspire and educate the next generation of PR practitioners.

Could 2015 Be The Year Of Snapchat?

Although operating since 2010 with an intention of creating an environment to share amateur photography with a retro vibe akin to Instamatic and Polaroid images, 2014 was named the year of Instagram. The app with 300 million users where over 70 million photos are shared each day’s most liked post may be wedding pictures from the world’s most talked about couple but the app has also helped fight for justice and spread the word of good causes. An Instagram presence has become almost essential for anyone communicating through social media and everyone from the obvious culprits (pop stars, models, designers…) to organisations you wouldn’t expect to be jumping on what many consider a relatively new trend such as supermarket chain Lidl or the brand that makes a fashionista shudder Crocs is using the popular app.

So what next for 2015?

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Instagram has cemented itself alongside Facebook and Twitter as an essential social media platform for individuals and organisations. It would be a struggle to find an iPhone without the three apps present. But there is another social media app commonly appearing beside them: Snapchat.

Snapchat launched in 2011. My first experience with the platform was not until 2013 with the app becoming extremely popular particularly among teenagers. The app allows users to send a picture or video with a timer of up to 10 seconds, the recipients may only view what has been sent for this time before it’s gone forever (or the sender will receive a notification saying that someone has taken a screenshot of their ‘snap’, so be careful who you trust). No likes, no comments, just views.

I originally assumed it would be another one of those apps that everyone seems to have only to get bored of and then move on to something else within a month or so (RIP Temple Run 2012-2012). Yet here we are in 2015 with 400 million pictures and videos sent through the app every day by users across the world. A probable theory for its success is the aspect of privacy. Teenagers seem to be repeatedly told “When you put something online it’s there forever!” by parents and teachers warning of the dangers of Facebook, yet here we have a platform where something is posted online but gone in 10 seconds.

Contrastingly, the idea of the app being more private makes it easier for predators to persuade victims to send inappropriate photos through the app. The Snapchat Safety Centre was set up this year to encourage safe use of the platform.

The idea of using Snapchat from a business perspective sprung from the introduction of ‘Snapchat Stories‘. An individual can post as much media as they choose to their ‘story’ where it can be viewed by friends for 24 hours. Instagram’s focus on visual updates rather than primarily text based Facebook and Twitter gave an even more personal and detailed approach to posting a status update, Snapchat took this even further by allowing photos and videos of what happens in your day to be posted in an environment where the worry of not getting enough likes won’t hinder your decision to make a post.

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The real opportunity for communications began with Snapchat Live which shows a collection of posts taken from the Snapchat community’s stories at specific events. Those present at certain sporting events, fashion weeks or music festivals could post what they are experiencing live for everyone to see on Snapchat. This was the beginning of Snapchat being seen as a news outlet. Rather than organisers potentially lowering attendees by televising events or inviting journalists who could share negative views, event organisers can present a non-biased view of the experience that those attending are having to gain hype and interest among the millions of users.

The concept sounds similar to Trending Topics on Twitter. However, unlike hashtags or phrases that trend on Twitter, every type of Snapchat Live event appears at the top of the list of a user’s friends’ snapchat stories encouraging them to watch which allows previously unaware or uninterested members of the public to potentially want to look for more media coverage.

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But the reason why 2015 may be the year Snapchat takes over is the introduction of Snapchat Discover. This allows editorial teams to post stories that can be accessed easily. Twitter was praised for its 140 character limit which is important in the quick-paced digitial world. Snapchat allows users to be briefed about news and current events with the option of finding out more. But the feature is more than just a news feed…

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The endless possibilities of communication and promotion techniques through Snapchat were proven by Madonna’s premiere of her new music video through Snapchat Discover. Music videos typically make their debut on YouTube, but a rule change to charting singles in 2013 made promoters in the music industry look for new ways to get high first week sales as it was announced that the Billboard Hot 100 Chart was to include YouTube streaming in its data.

By allowing Snapchat users to view the “Living For Love” music video for 24 hours, an audience expanding Madonna’s existing fan-base was made aware of the new release. This did not just cause those who liked the single to purchase it upon its release but also meant that when the video was posted on YouTube more people returned to view it which lead to a higher chart position for the song that would not have been initially achieved without the use of Snapchat.

It is interesting to see the focus of social media and technology move entirely towards mobile devices. Although Instagram has launched a method of viewing posts through its website since its launch, it began exclusively as a smartphone app. Absolutely every Snapchat feature requires a smartphone and that hasn’t stopped the popularity of the platform growing with every new idea being a success. Could this be the beginning of the inevitable movement to a smartphone-powered world?

Feminism is the New Black: Political Statement or Exploiting a Movement?

Last year, Beyonce pulled what can already be considered as one of the biggest PR risks of all time by releasing an entire album without any prior promotion. A stunt so shocking that professors at Harvard University study how she managed to do it. But she did, the earth stood still as the pop queen posted an Instagram video announcing that her 5th album complete with music videos for every song was on iTunes.

Millions of unsuspecting fans around the world were too overcome with shock to focus on anything other than the work of the Texan superstar. The universe was in the palm of Beyonce’s hand and whatever she had to say, people would listen.

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Whilst the album provided mostly of what she does best, catchy R&B beats to dance the night away to, the diva used her power to make the world pay attention to feminism. The song ’***Flawless’ became a huge hit and its lyrics a pop culture staple, there are plenty of “I Woke Up Like This” t-shirts, sweaters, mugs and phone cases out there.

Musicians making political statements or voicing their views is not a new concept. Band Aid remind us every year to be charitable to those in need at Christmas, Madonna encouraged safe sex during the outbreak of the AIDS virus and Lady Gaga gave a voice to those struggling to accept themselves. However, the Queen B used a sample from a speech by Chimanda Ngozi Adichie titled ‘We Should All Be Feminists’. A key point of the speech was the quoting of the dictionary definition of a feminist: “A person who believes in the social, political and economic equality of the sexes”. Feminism has been a talking point ever since.

When any company is marketing a product (and there are a group of people sat around a boardroom table at Columbia Records who see Beyonce as a product to sell), they know to target their product at a particular demographic. Of course, this is usually based on the service they’re providing. After all, there’s no point selling trying to sell car insurance to toddlers.

Entertainment is a slightly trickier business. Everybody loves music but not everybody will love one particular artist. Of course we love our favourite artists because we think they have a good voice, are great performers or we just can’t help but love their music but sadly in today’s world, talent just isn’t enough to get everyone talking.

Drawing attention to a celebrity’s feminist views is probably a much safer PR tactic than getting everyone talking about a drunken night out or a leaked sex tape but should important social movements be used as promotion techniques?

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When a person is famous, has the respect of many people and has been given a platform to express their views and inspire many people it may be seen as a disservice to those who are part of their community to not address social issues and try to make a change. Look at actress Laverne Cox for example, as soon as the groundbreaking online TV series Orange Is The New Black launched her into the spotlight she used the attention she received to advocate for the rights of transgendered people and showed her support for other members of the LGBT community.

Beyonce’s role as an activist appears slightly more complicated. Rewind to April 2013, eight months before ***Flawless was heard. By this time, Beyonce had dominated the charts with a song to remind ladies they didn’t need a man and also released a catchy dance track with female empowerment at its heart. Seems like the perfect platform for somebody with the goal of starting a feminist revolution, right?

However, when asked by British Vogue if she was a feminist, the international superstar seemed a little reluctant about her position:

“That word can be very extreme…but I guess I am a modern-day feminist. I do believe in equality. Why do you have to choose what type of woman you are? Why do you have to label yourself anything? I’m just a woman and I love being a woman.”

Yet today, if someone were asked to name a famous feminist figure, Mrs Knowles-Carter would probably be the first to come to mind. Many of her fans became interested in the feminist movement after the song’s release, which is of course not a bad thing, but what did feminists think?

As part of a two hour discussion presented by The New School titled ‘Are You Still a Slave? – Liberating the Black Female Body’, feminist scholar Bell Hooks disagreed with Beyonce’s role:

“I see a part of Beyonce that is in fact anti-feminist, that is assaulting…that is a terrorist. Especially in the terms of impact on young girls.”

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Following from the idea that asking someone to name a famous feminist figure would result in Beyonce’s name being mentioned, the name of another influential woman is likely to come to mind: Emma Watson.

Any social media user, or at least anyone active on Twitter, will be familiar with last year’s #HeForShe campaign. Emma Watson gave a speech at the United Nations approaching the battle for gender equality with men as the focus:

“Men…Gender equality is your issue too. Because to date, I’ve seen my father’s role as a parent being valued less by society despite my needing his presence as a child as much as my mother’s. I’ve seen young men suffering from mental illness unable to ask for help for fear it would make them look less “macho”…Men don’t have the benefits of equality either.”

It’s difficult to accuse someone appointed as the UN Women Goodwill Ambassador as using a social justice movement purely for image purposes. But when your picture is on the cover of a “feminist issue” of a fashion magazine also mentioning that every woman should use 92 makeup products it’s easy to see why people aren’t on your side.

A viral blog post published by Huffington Post said that Emma Watson was not the ‘game changer’ that Vanity Fair had described her as and criticised her for moving the focus of feminism away from the people who need the movement’s help the most: women.

Interestingly, TIME Magazine didn’t even see #HeForShe as helpful to men. An article published by Cathy Young described it as “rotten for men” and accused Emma Watson of addressing “First World Problems” instead of more serious cases of injustice in the world.

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Feminism has reached a point where some may now even view it as a trend. And what better home for a trend than the fashion world? Last September, Paris’ Grand Palais was transformed into “Boulevard Chanel” where models stomped, not strutted, to a strong marching soundtrack. The show that featured handbags printed with statements such as “feministe mais feminine” and “ladies first” concluded with a protest lead by the house’s creative director Karl Lagerfeld and supermodel Cara Delevingne.

Lagerfeld described fashion as “modern updated feminism” and the conversation of whether fashion can be feminist has been going on for quite some time. Coco Chanel and Yves Saint Laurent were described as artists who liberated women with their designs yet the issue of magazine editorials and advertising that body-shame women doesn’t sound empowering at all.

V Magazine discussed a more positive case for feminism being a part of fashion in an article titled ‘Feminism: Trending, But Not A Trend’:

“Feminism on the runway is most likely a trickle-down reaction. From inexcusable attacks on reproductive rights, to abhorrent assaults on women everywhere from New York to New Delhi, to gross violations of women’s human rights, feminist issues are in the headlines. The cultural zeitgeist always affects fashion, in one way or another. So why would the call for female equality be an exception?”

The knowledge of the feminist movement that people now have is a wonderful thing. Its movement into pop culture results in more people becoming aware, becoming interested and then hopefully becoming active.

At a recent visit to the London office of Weber Shandwick, one of the world’s leading global public relations firms, CEO Colin Byrne explained that brands are trying to align with pop culture when selling to consumers. Whether we live in a world where such social issues are cared about by organizations or just used as a tool to sell us products is a question we must ask ourselves.

Avoid The (C)rush: 8 Things To Do In London After Work

The use of public transport between the hours of 4pm and 7pm requires skill, determination and power. You must enter a state of calm and serenity where you can’t let yourself get mad that someone is standing on the left of the escalator, that someone is probably trying to steal your wallet, that you probably have sweat patches under you arms as you reach to hold on to the handle or that the person standing right next to you smells of McDonalds which both disgusts you and makes you hungry at the same time.

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With the festive season springing upon us, it’s only going to get worse. All those christmas shoppers grabbing what they can, tourists trying to experience Christmas in the city and students trying to get home makes for a recipe for commuter disaster. Transport For London have recognised that overcrowding is a problem since the Olympic Games were held in the capital in 2012. Transport For London commissioner Peter Hendy jokingly suggested that Londoners should just stay out later to “have a beer with a colleague” or “enjoy the attractions of the South Bank” in order to avoid the congestion on the transport network.

Whilst we’ll probably have to wait a lot longer for another Olympics, Christmas comes each time this year and there’s no escaping the crowds it brings. We could live in hope that TfL will give us the improved services over the festive period that they are promising or we could realise that Peter Hendy may have been talking some sense after all. Why rush home when you live in the best city in the world? Here’s my list of 8 things you can enjoy which are made even more fun when you know you’re missing out on a nightmare ride home.

1. Free Tours At The National Gallery

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Everybody loves the occasional (or more than occasional for some) moan about the government, particularly what they spend our money on. Luckily the list of things funded by the government includes FREE access to the wonderful galleries and museums that London has to offer. Don’t know that much about art to make use of this? No problem. The National Gallery offers free expert guided tours to inform and inspire you. Tours are usually held in the daytime but the Friday Lates tours at 7pm allows plenty of time for you to stroll over to Trafalgar Sqaure after work to view the fantastic collection.

2. Sip Some Bubble Tea

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This Taiwanese treat from the 80s has been working its way through the Chinatowns of western cities over the past years and has now arrived in London. Bubble Tea consists of either fruit or milk tea with a twist…chewy tapioca balls. The feeling and experience of drinking it is a lot of fun, especially with the quirky atmosphere of Bubbleology to complement it, however it can’t quite be explained. All the more reason to head to one of the many Bubbleology locations across the city and choose from the insane variety of flavours. If you work near the South Kensington area, the Cromwell Place location is surrounded by many restaurants and bars to discover afterwards.

3. Get Thrifty

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Take the idea of second-hand clothing being grotty and mundane and get rid of it, thrift shopping is the most fun and affordable way of dressing chic and adding a vintage flair to your wardrobe. After all, pretty much everything that comes into style these days is something that was brought back from the past so why head to Sloane Street to pick up something stylish with its hefty price tag when you can get as much as you can fit in a carrier back at The East End Thrift Store for just £10? From fur coats to designer denim, this hidden gem described by Vogue as “the legendary cult vintage store” is just a catwalk stomp away from Bank.

4. Watch The Ballet Or The Opera For A Fiver

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It may be stereotyped as something for the elite and the wealthy but seats need to be filled of which there are plenty at the Royal Opera House at Covent Garden. Two months ago I enjoyed a production of a contemporary ballet named Manon from my amphitheatre bench in which I could see everything and everyone for just £5. I then made my way to the bar during an interval to discover that even the cheapest and smallest glass of wine cost more than my ticket. There’s no shame in taking the free tap water.

5. Take The Jack The Ripper Walking Tour

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The mystery that surrounds Jack The Ripper is something that makes London so intriguing. This tour combines both interesting history and the chance to check out places you may want to visit in the future as you walk from Tower Hill and uncover the secrets of this unsolved case. Many complain that it gets dark far too quickly and this time of year but you’ll love how it adds to the mood of this eerie experience.

6. Take A Blue Plaque Walk

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Don’t start rolling your eyes and dismissing this one as boring just yet when you know that on both your commutes and your days-out you find yourself getting a little smile out of seeing one of the 850 blue plaques scattered around town. Who knew that passing the home of the author of the only book you had to read at school that you actually enjoyed or that actress whose time you wished you lived in could improve your mood? English Heritage did. A walk around Belgravia to see the homes of those such as actress Vivien Leigh is as interesting as it is relaxing after a day in the office. Or head to English Heritage’s website and find the location of a blue plaque of someone who particularly interests you.

7. Enjoy Some Jazz At Ronnie Scott’s

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Stay in town a little later at the oldest jazz club in the world. This plush, intimate venue has hosted every jazz great from the last half century. Doors open at 6pm in the week for you to grab a drink whilst waiting for the opening act either at a table near the stage or whilst louging upstairs on a comfortable sofa.

8. Avoid Winter Wonderland And Opt For Somerset House

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It’s so cold you can see your breath yet the crowdedness is making you so warm you’re almost sweating through your parka. Good thing entry is free so you can leave as soon as you’ve had enough and make your way through the dark Hyde Park as you wonder which way it is to the nearest tube. If Winter Wonderland just isn’t for you (and you know you deserve better) there’s always the option of ice skating at Somerset House. Is there any better way to unwind after work whilst embracing the festive spirit than a skate followed by a cream tea or, if you’re feeling extra fancy, champagne and truffles? For those who like to party there are even club nights on the rink, yes you read that right.

The Campaign Cameo: Do the stars belong in the fashion world?

Celebrity endorsements are nothing new. Whether it’s Katy Perry banishing blemishes with Proactiv or Beyonce enjoying a cold can of Pepsi, the idea of finding a way to link a person admired by the public to a product has been around for decades. This concept is definitely not alien to the fashion world either (Remember Dolce & Gabbana’s Fall 2010 campaign with Madonna?) but it doesn’t take a Vogue subscriber to know that the stars are coming out in the spring campaigns.

Three campaigns that seem to have caught the eye of many are the spring campaigns for Versace, Balmain and Marc Jacobs featuring Lady Gaga, Rihanna and Miley Cyrus respectively. All three have surpassed being simply an A-list celebrity and have now cemented themselves as household names worldwide. They’re more than just their music. They’re a look, an attitiude, a brand. They have the power to rule the world but should we give them the power to rule fashion?

Even though fashion is always changing, every house remains true its personality. The rebellious punk attitude of Vivienne Westwood, the French elegance of Dior and the timeless minimalism of Calvin Klein just to name a few can always be noticed in their collections. A creative director knows that the campaigns must not just display their best pieces but reflect their style to customers and critics.

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First we’ll take a look at Lady Gaga. Although some argue her career is declining she is somebody nobody will ever forget. She is part of the string that binds pop culture together. And like her or not, you simply cannot deny her impact.

It would be a lie to say Lady Gaga was the first pop star to really care about fashion but when her songs Just Dance and Poker Face threw her into the spotlight in 2009 there was clearly something that set her apart from the other pop girls: what she wore. If there was an awards show, a TV appearance or a red carpet event where anyone knew Lady Gaga was attending everyone was thinking the same thing, ‘I wonder what Lady Gaga will wear’.

Many will tell you Gaga wasn’t the first to dress eccentrically which is of course true but she was the first out of her fellow reigning pop princesses at the time to do so. We started to see the other female pop divas caring more about fashion and seeing a five minute slot on a talk show to sing their new single as an opportunity for a theatrical performance.

Did she really know anything about fashion? Was it just an attention stunt? Who cares. With help from Nicola Formichetti (who is now the creative director of Mugler who Lady Gaga made her runway debut for) she was conquering two worlds; the world of pop and the world of fashion.

Alexander McQueen’s designs were undoubtedly for powerful and fierce women and Gaga appeared to be exactly that so it’s no surprise that her single Bad Romance, the song that assured everyone she was going nowhere, was premiered at the finale of his Spring/Summer 2010 runway show.

Although a friendship between Gaga and McQueen was often talked about, a friendship with another designer is clear. Donatella Versace. After her The Born This Way Ball world tour made a stop in Milan the two were hanging out after the concert and at the hotel. She was even the musical director of a Versace Versus (a younger, more teen-focussed line) event. Versace has been associated with punk and eccentricity, two thing Miss Gaga seems to embody constantly.

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The relationship between Versace and Germanotta (sometimes it’s easy to forget she has an actual name) is clear but if it isn’t clear enough for you perhaps you should take a listen to Gaga’s latest album ARTPOP, track 10 to be specific. A song dedicated to the lady herself simply titled Donatella.

Then pretty soon, we had the Lady Gaga for Versace campaign and we are left to wonder; is this friendship or business? Did Gaga write that song to show how much she loves her dear friend and appreciates her work despite the ‘bimbo’ feel to the song? Did Donatella think Gaga represented the overall image of Versace? Is Lady Gaga being used to promote Versace? Is Versace being used to promote Lady Gaga?

In my personal opinion, I feel Lady Gaga is a good representation for the house in terms of her personality and a campaign must reflect this. There is one issue however: is she really model material?

I am by no means in any position to dictate what is beautiful and what is not. Beauty is of course in the eye of the beholder but the fashion industry seem to have a clear idea of what is and what is not beautiful. At a sweet little height of around 5’1” and a rumoured dress size of US 6 (well, we can’t know for sure) she doesn’t quite fit the model criteria.

My conclusion on Gaga: she is not trying to expand into modelling. We won’t be seeing her in a campaign for any other top designers or walking at fashion week. This is simply about a relationship with Versace. Whether it is personal and real or for business purposes remains unknown.

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Then we have Miley Cyrus. Born into fame. A level of fame that quadrupled when her acting and singing career took off in Hannah Montana and then utterly exploded in mid-2013 with her new image. As much as I hate this expression: unless you’ve been living under a rock for the past year you’ll already know plenty about Miley.

She’s not so much a fashion icon as Lady Gaga (she’s usually talked about for the lack of clothes she’s wearing rather than those she has on) but more of a cultural icon. Described by Pharell Williams as “a by-product of America”. She was born into a family of country singers, grew up when Britney Spears and Christina Aguilera ruled the radios and placed in the spotlight when hip-hop was the new pop. It’s easy to see how her career is at this point.

Recently Miley has more of an urban style with an edge. Kenzo is designing the outfits for her upcoming Bangerz World Tour which is understandable giving their image. So why Marc Jacobs?

“We all just love her and her entire being, her energy, her talent, her intelligence, everything. There’s nothing I don’t like about her. She is just genuine and very natural” said Mr Jacobs himself when asked why the 21 year old twerker was chosen for the campaign. But not everyone was on his side.

If you know Marc Jacobs, you may have noticed this campaign looked different to those in the past. Photographer Juergen Teller usually shoots for Marc but when told Miley would be on set “He just didn’t want to shoot her”.

Personally, I understand where Teller is coming from. I do not feel that Miley represents the image of the brand and would not have suited the look of the usual MJ campaign style. But after all this is Marc’s decision.

However I do believe that Cyrus has a future in modelling. If she decides she never wants to sing again in the same way she decided she never wants to act again, modelling could be a good path for her. Her hairstyle and bone structure give her an androgynous look that photographers and designers love.

My conclusion on her being chosen for the campaign? Simply promotion for Marc Jacobs. Marc Jacobs is on its way to being the top New York label in the same way Miley is on her way to being at the top of the pop game and that is the most definite of the few links between them. Also of course, the entire world’s eyes are still on Miley therefore the campaign would obviously bring Marc Jacobs attention.

Miley knows she’s making the most money doing what she does best; being the controversial pop sensation of the moment, so it’s unlikely she wanted to try modelling for herself. But she can’t hold her current title forever. Somebody else will come along and be the next shocker soon enough. The option to model is clearly there for her in the future.

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Lastly, let’s take a look at Rihanna. I think we are past the point of seeing Rihanna as a person now. She’s a brand. Which is both a good and bad thing. Everybody knows her and even if you really don’t like her you know there are one or two songs you love and you think she’s gorgeous. But by becoming a brand, she may have lost her identity.

Rihanna is a classic case of the manufactured pop star. A pretty young girl with talent and potential is discovered and a crew large enough to lead a country are thrust upon her controlling her style and her sound.

After taking over the pop scene and becoming somebody that will be remembered for years and years to come it seemed her team became power-hungry. A deal with MAC Cosmetics may not be a good enough example as Lady Gaga and Nicki Minaj have both worked with MAC in the past but an attempt to move her into the fashion and beauty scene was clear with Rihanna for River Island.

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Anybody living in the United Kingdom will tell you that River Island is (for the time being) ruling the high street. More trend-focussed than H&M without being as pricey as Topshop or Zara has given it this position. Anything sold in River Island will be fashionable amongst high street shoppers. Her team made the right move starting her here. Her collection would instantly be in style and people from outside the UK would develop a greater interest in River Island due to the publicity surrounding it. Perfect.

While it is dubious as to whether she designed the collections herself, it’s clear that the clothes sold were things Rihanna would wear. Until her team reinvent her look yet again that is.

An obvious step up in the fashion world from River Island, Rihanna is featured in Balmain’s spring campaign. Creative director Olivier Rousteing explains the choice:

“In front of the camera, she makes you feel like she is the only girl in the world. When the woman that inspires you wears your creations, your vision feels complete.”

If this is truthful, we cannot argue with it. If Rihanna’s current style is the inspiration behind the collection, it is understandable that she is featured. The clothes in the collection do seem to be something Rihanna would wear unlike the Marc Jacobs collection where I cannot see Cyrus suiting anything.

As for a future in modelling, I can’t see it. Instead of what seems to be a world domination plan Rihanna’s team should continue to do what they do best and work on promoting her level of fame from ‘pop queen’ to ‘timeless icon’. As a representative for a brand she’s perfect as people adore her but I don’t think we’ll be seeing her on the catwalk soon.

I may be coming across as bitter which is not my intention as I am a huge fan of Gaga, Rihanna and Miley with an iTunes library and posters on the wall to prove it and anybody showing an interest in fashion is a good thing in my eyes. I just feel they are not playing fair.

Back when Rihanna was known as Robyn and lived in Barbados, she had big dreams of becoming famous doing what she loved: singing and performing. The same goes for Gaga when she was just young Stefani growing up in NYC. They know what it’s like to work hard to achieve your dreams and now they are rewarded with the lives they always wanted.

Somewhere out there, someone is dreaming of becoming the next top supermodel. Someone is dreaming of walking in fashion week and being in a campaign for Versace, Balmain or Marc Jacobs. Surely it is better to be creating the next Kate Moss or Naomi Campbell from a young model with a dream rather than renting pop stars?