Bad day at the office 15

Never mind the buttocks low res

New card design triggers Anarchy in the UK Cash Cowboys

Anarchy in the UK Cash Cowboys

Vicious internecine warfare has broken out again in the offices of UK Cash Cowboys where I work, about the new designs on the front of our credit cards. If you haven’t seen them yet, I guess you’ve not been on social media today. The artwork, which sends up the iconic album cover of Never Mind The Buttocks by 1970’s punk legends The Jizz Rifles, was created by our London agency PRICKS (Pratt Rypov Igo Charlatan Konman & Shytter), who were responsible for our recent TV ads of a ukulele-playing pigeon and a tortoise on a roller-skate. For anyone unfamiliar with the famous Never Mind The Buttocks cover, it features a picture of a guy with a rather prominent erection in a pair of tight swim trunks. Our CMO Dick Holder described the radical credit card design as “one in the eye for the other banks”.

Dick announced the strapline – Bring a bit of hypocrisy to your wallet!  that would support the ad campaign to me and the rest of the in-house marketing team yesterday, before it all went live today.

Stig Chuchwarden, the designer who sits opposite me in the creative studio, summed it up nicely when he threw me a baffled look over Dick’s shoulder, silently mouthing the words, “what the fuck?”

Apparently a veritable shitstorm has broken in the press today after several newspapers took offence at the use of the word ‘buttocks’ on a credit card. Marketing Week called it “utter cock”. While even PRICKS own Managing Director Uge Pratt went slightly defensive, describing his agency’s campaign as “a breathtakingly audacious piece of advertising bullshit”.  It caused our CEO Cleopatra LeGrande to rush out a hasty press release this morning defending the crass artwork that will be shoved into the faces of unsuspecting shop assistants across the world from today.

The card cock up comes at a sticky time for UK Cash Cowboys and our Rottweiler of a CEO, who have come in for a barrage of criticism this week. First when it was revealed that our crap pension actually blocks customers from being able to get at the money they’ve saved up, when they come to retire, a story which The Telegraph first ran last Friday. And secondly when a rumour began going round the office that LeGrande was being investigated for insider dealing. Woo fucking hoo. Fist pumps all round the studio were the order of the day when that little baby first popped up.

In an article last week in the Daily Rail’s, ‘Mafia Bank Bosses’ supplement, it was revealed that:

“LeGrande had worked for the disgraced Fred Goering, who she helped steer the Royal Bank of Snodland to the brink of collapse during the financial crisis. For five years she ran its calamitous £65bn mortgage business, lending money to destitute nutters like it was going out of fashion. Finally, when she got wind that the bank was about to go tits up, she phoned Sir Rich Pickle, who had always told her she would be welcomed back at the Cowboys. The timing of her departure in 2007 was immaculate, coming little less than a year before the bank went over a cliff.”

There was a little graphic in the article showing how Cleopatra had sold her RBS shares for £21.98 each in 2007. They subsequently fell to 50p in the bailout, and are still only worth £3.50 today. The headline in the graphic called it ‘Good timing’.  However, there’s a rumour going round that someone has drawn LeGrande’s ‘immaculate timing’ to the attention of the Financial Conduct Authority, pointing out that it appears to tick every box in the definition of ‘insider information’.

“A non-public fact regarding the plans or condition of a publicly traded company that could provide a financial advantage when used to buy or sell shares of the company’s stock. Insider information is typically gained by someone who is working within or close to a listed company. If a person uses insider information to place trades, he or she can be found guilty of insider trading. Insider trading is illegal when the material information has not been made public and has been traded on. This is because the information gives those having this knowledge an unfair advantage.”

Watch this space, as they say. But if anyone’s expecting to see our haughty CEO in chains any time soon, don’t get your hopes up. Cleopatra LeGrande’s CV lists a diploma she received from the Sepp Blatter school of bribery and corruption among her professional qualifcations. Not for nothing is she known in the banking world as the Teflon Tracy. Brushing off all the criticism her press release began in typically bullish mood this morning:

“No, the credit card designs aren’t a pathetic marketing gimmick, you fuckwits. They’re just the latest step in our quest to cheapen and debase UK banking. For a long time now UK banks have been professional and business-like, with the same attitude towards their financial products and customers. At UK Cash Cowboys we’re aiming to change that, by completely mugging everyone off. In launching these cards we wanted to celebrate the Cowboys heritage and difference, by commemorating the iconic punk band 38 years after they first signed to Cowboys Records. The Jizz Rifles challenged the establishment. They swore and spat in people’s faces. Just as we are doing today in our quest to drag UK banking into the gutter. Did people really think we’d let them have their pension savings back when they reached retirement? How the fuck do they expect me to cream off a fat profit to pay my bonus if they take all their money out, FFS! If you’re all too thick to see that it’s not my problem love. Now get out of my way, I have a lunch appointment with the Chancellor at twelve.”

For those who don’t know, The Jizz Rifles were first signed up to Cowboys Records in May 1977 after being dropped by both EMI and A&M Records. Their loud trashy music, foul-mouthed lyrics, obscene gestures and torn clothes held together with safety pins were at the forefront of the iconic punk rebellion in the late 70s.

When the band’s lead singer Jimmy Gangrene sang the words “I am a paedo-phile, I am a paedo-phile!” all those years ago, I bet he never imagined The Jizz Rifles’ name would one day be used to endorse our credit card at the Cowboys. Then again, I bet he never thought he’d appear in the reality TV series I’m A Failed Celebrity Who Nobody Remembers Anymore Get Me Out Of Here, or on a TV ad for Downton Margarine. Strange times we live in.

The Jizz Rifles are an important part of Cowboys’ history,” said our Global Group Chairman, Sir Rich Pickle, fighting a stiff rear-guard action from his Caribbean retreat Slapper Island this morning. “Okay, UK Cash Cowboys might be a total joke as a bank, run by a psychotic CEO who’ll kill anyone who stands in the way of her obscene end of year bonus, but the Cowboys’ brand has a long and distinguished track record of pretending to be on the consumer’s side while completely mugging everyone off, so I love the fact that the team have chosen to fuck the public over again in this way. Even after nearly 40 years the Rifles’ power to jizz all over your face is undimmed.”

Apparently Cleopatra, who received a CBE for services to bullying in this year’s New Year’s Honours list, was locked in a two-hour conf call with Sir Rich this morning, cooking up some bullshit story to try and deflect the storm of criticism that the lame marketing gimmick has attracted. Afterwards it was agreed Sir Rich would post a statement on the Cowboys’ blog, under the headline: ‘Never mind the buttocks, we’re still being censored!’  Here’s what he posted, word for word.

“When Cleopatra LeGrande, the CEO of our Cowboys banking franchise in the UK, suggested celebrating Cowboys’ unique music heritage by launching Jizz Rifles credit cards, I thought it was a blinding idea. I was looking forward to seeing the classic Never Mind The Buttocks slogan loud and proud across our advertising again. It’s fun, iconic and the guy in the Speedos with the huge erection will certainly catch the eye. However, as we began to book in advertising slots we discovered some newspapers still took offence at the word buttocks and asked for censored versions of our ads. The Jizz Rifles clearly still have the power to provoke nearly 40 years on. As Jimmy Gangrene would say, ‘It’s deja vu all over again!’

“Did you know that apparently buttocks is the eighth most offensive word in the English language? I really don’t see what everyone’s problem is. Only last year I emailed Cowboys Atlantic’s CEO Ben Dover using the word buttocks and his IT system blocked my message for being ‘profane, vulgar or offensive’. WTF? Fucking sort it Ben, you muppet, I told him. Or you’re out. When Ben protested I smugly reminded him about the time we won a court case proving the word ‘buttocks’ was not rude or profane. If you remember, the Bitchfield police in Norfolk once took us to court for advertising Never Mind The Buttocks in our Cowboys Records store windows back in the 70s. They argued ‘buttocks’ was a derivative of ‘arse’, FFS. How ridiculous can you get. I contacted the linguistics professor at the world-famous Bitchfield University, who soon put them straight. ‘What a load of shite,’ he said. ‘Buttocks has clearly nothing to do with arse. What are they thinking of? Fucking amateurs.’ On the contrary, as he went on to prove through scholarly argument, ‘buttocks’ was a popular nickname given to 17th Century nuns. As it turned out, the professor actually turned out to be a transgender nun himself, and appeared as our expert witness in court – complete with his dog collar and bra. The case was thrown out. ‘Thanks for clearing that up,’ said Ben.

“That was back in 1977. Who would have thought the word ‘buttocks’ would still be censored in 2015? Then again, who would have thought the guy who brought you The Jizz Rifles would own a bank? Radical huh? I’m such trendy guy even though I’m a hundred and thirty four years old. That’s what money can do, pal. Hey, thankfully, my bank is a bank unlike any other. That’s what this campaign is saying. We’re a bank committed to mugging everyone off, taking the piss out of the public by pretending to be young and trendy, a consumer champion on your side, while selling you rank financial tat that frankly I wouldn’t recommend to my nineteen year old Swedish au pair’s dog, Randy. We laugh in your faces, losers. As we like to say: There’s Cowboys, and there’s UK Cash Cowboys, so buttocks to that! Fuck you!”

I’ll perhaps give the final word to the Daily Rail’s financial columnist Oprah Purse. Referring to our new gaudily-designed credit card’s hefty 2,348,099% interest rate, Oprah asked the question, “Never mind the artwork, what about the APR?”

It’s a good question. And to be fair, one I had flagged to my boss Norman Shylock in a meeting a few weeks ago, but he slapped me down, saying nobody would notice if we put a nice picture of the front.

STOP PRESS:

We’re apparently also under investigation by the FCA on suspicion of producing financial advertisements while under the influence of illegal substances. The news just broke on Reuters after images of our Jizz Rifles credit cards started going viral on Twatter.

Yawn, I’m off to lunch.

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Raheem Sterling – take a look inside this football agent’s head and be scared, very scared

The Football Agent - front cover

The Football Agent – front cover

“Rich Dinero is the world’s richest football agent. His job is turning modest young men into money-grabbing mercenaries earning two hundred grand a week. It’s brought him a champagne lifestyle of fast cars, beautiful women and private jets. The secret to his success? He never takes no for an answer. Until he meets Fliss, a pretty young receptionist who won’t play ball. And the game is on. .”

So runs the gist of The Football Agent. Rich Dinero is one of the new breed of Machiavellian movers and shakers who’ve become such an integral part of the modern game. Or as some might describe them, a plague. As we draw close to the business end of another English Premier League season the spectre of agent power has raised its ugly head again. The much publicised PR disaster for Liverpool’s 20 year-old striker Raheem Sterling is a case study in how to piss off fans, club, and team-mates. Liverpool’s new contract offer of £100,000 a week was reportedly thrown back in their face, despite it being close to a 200% pay rise on Sterling’s existing £35,000 a week. Minimum wage, Raheem? As I write, word on the street has it that Sterling’s ‘advisers’ are encouraging the greedy oik to hold out for a figure closer to £150,000 a week. You heard that right. One hundred and fifty grand a WEEK. Not a year. A week. And there are fifty two of those in a year. Nice work if you can get it.

Back in the day when player loyalty was taken for granted, such mercenary greed would have made fans’ blood boil. But with the amount of money now swilling around in the game, greed is becoming the norm. Nowadays even a five year contract isn’t worth the paper it’s written on. It can be ripped up the following week, and the player toddles smugly on his way in pursuit of the filthy lucre. In Sterling’s case, he has basically handed Liverpool a ransom note. A hundred and fifty grand a week, or I walk.

Raheem Shaquille Sterling is not the first young footballer to have had his head turned by an exploitative Svengali type posing as an ‘advisor’. Let’s face it, many of us would find it hard to turn down the kind of rock-star lifestyle being dangled in front of these testosterone-fuelled young men. Once an agent latches on like some sucker fish, all notions of ethical behaviour go out the window. The players are taken to West End clubs, wined and dined at movie star restaurants, showered with expensive gifts as a demonstration of the millionaire lifestyle awaiting them, IF they put themselves in the agent’s hands. For most of these impressionable youngsters, it’s game over.

The result has seen an astronomical rise in player wages in recent years. Not to mention transfer fees. It’s become such a phenomenon that the BBC have built a special web-page where you can compare what you earn to modern footballer. Just make sure you have a stiff drink first. I tried an annual figure of £30,000, which is close to the national average wage in the UK. The comparison that came back shocked me, at a time when there’s so much poverty and austerity around. We’ve built a world where even a person in a decent job earning £30k a year would need to work for 617 YEARS to earn what Real Madrid’s Christiano Ronaldo earns EVERY YEAR. That’s a footballer we’re talking about. Not some Nobel Prize winner. Not a brain surgeon. Nor a brilliant nuclear physicist. If I’d started in the 14th Century and earned £30k a year, I’d only just be nearing the total of £18,200,000 Ronaldo earned last year alone. For kicking a bit of leather around on a muddy field. I’ll leave you to work out the madness of a world where that’s considered perfectly normal.

Of course it wouldn’t be fair to pin all the blame on agents. The kind of money Sky have been injecting into football over the last ten years has attracted some notable multi-billionaires with huge cheque books. Rich sugar daddies who have been buying up clubs like toys, fuelling the expensive bidding wars for the biggest stars. And let’s all hold up our hands. We’re the ones queuing up to hand Sky a shedload of money each month for their wall to wall sports coverage. There are genuine push-pull forces at work here, from which none of us can be absolved.

That said, there seems little doubt that agents are pouring petrol on the fire. By turning players’ heads, spreading rumours, deliberately unsettling them at their clubs, they are manipulating a lucrative game of musical chairs where footballers are flogged from club to club like knocked-off jewellery. Each move driving the player’s perceived value ever higher, eroding player loyalty to the point of extinction. Notable exceptions like Liverpool and England legend Stevie Gerrard who has remained a one-club man throughout his career, must shake their heads and wonder when jumped up young money-grubbers like Sterling (who couldn’t lace Gerrard’s boots as a player) put in wage demands higher than Gerrard ever earned in his entire career. Clearly the disparity in the sums involved has nothing to do with talent. It has everything to do with agents. And greed. And it’s not hard to see why.

Every time a multi-million pound transfer fee is agreed, the agent takes his cut. Every time he quadruples the wages of his client, he quadruples his own percentage. It is absolutely in an agent’s interest to be constantly moving a player from club to club as often as he can. To put ideas in his head. To make him feel he can always get more somewhere else. Next year. The year after. In such a world it’s hardly surprising that many big name agents have grown wealthier than the ‘portfolios’ of millionaire footballers they represent.

You could be forgiven for thinking things couldn’t get much worse. But here’s the thing. It used to be that football agents were required to pass tough examinations and have all the proper insurances in place. Not anymore. Only last month (on 1 April 2015) FIFA actually took the brakes off, by deregulating the licensing system for agents even further, incredible though that may seem. And no, it wasn’t an April fool’s joke. It was FIFA, perhaps the most corrupt old-boy’s network on the planet, run by the grand-daddy of dodgy deal-making himself, Sepp Blatter. Thanks to Blatter any old used-car salesman can now get a letterhead made up and call themselves a football agent. God help us.

Like many a fan who hands over a grand of their hard-earned cash every year for a season ticket, there are times when all this greed and disloyalty make you want to give up and walk away. But for most of us there is no choice. It’s in the blood. We’re as likely to give up on our team as we are on our parents. So that’s why I’ve written this book, for football fans everywhere. To get one back on the agents, and expose them for the greedy, unscrupulous gits they are. The Football Agent is an attempt to look inside an agent’s head from a fan’s point of view. If you’re an agent, sorry, but this is how you look from the terraces to us, the fans you treat like scum. Have a look in the mirror. It ain’t pretty. I’ll leave the last word to Dinero himself.

“I was thinking like the other day, how having any woman you want in the world can be like a massive responsibility. For instance. I’ve had Hollywood actresses round here with egos the size of Old Trafford. What a pain in the arse they were. You wouldn’t believe half the shit they make you wade through just for a simple poke. Sometimes I think fuck it, who needs that kind of shit after a hard day at the office. I am Rich Dinero. The most successful football agent in the history of the beautiful game. If I want to go down Orgasmic and pick up a local slapper with great tits and an accent like Eliza Doolittle, who’ll bugger off back to Topshop in the morning with a century in her knickers and no questions asked, fuck it, I will. Who needs some spoiled charley snorter whose agent is gonna wake you up at five in the morning waving a confidentiality clause under your nose, and they can’t find their Blahniks under the bed, and they look at you through mullered eyes as they chop up their breakfast on the dresser with a Barclaycard, and all their slap has worn off and you look at them and think, jesus, how did you ever get into films?”

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