T Time: How Do is done

Regular guest columnist, Tony Murray- managing editor of Gafencu Men magazine in Hong Kong, former editor of Adline, The Marketeer and The Drum- offers his own opinions, not that of Smoking Gun PR, on medialand’s latest news. Click here for his blog, and more of his thoughts.

It’s 5pm in old Hong Kong town and old Hong Kong town habits die hard.  Back in Blightyland it’s 10 am. Old ladies have, by now, been scrutinising Tesco’s vegetable aisle for only the finest radishes for nearly three hours, piles of today’s unread Metros are en route to be recycled into next week’s unread Metros and it’s time for How-do’s first update of the day.

Trepidation grips aficionados of the North West regional marketing and media scene, from Macclesfield to Mong Kok, from Wythenshawe to Wan Chai. What will this new day bring? Which PR consultancy will be claiming a client of seven-years-standing as a new win? Which digital agency will have amicably parted company with whom? Which transparent company re-branding exercise precedes a looming liquidation, well-known to all, apparently, save the How-do Crew? The community aggogles.

Sadly, in a little corner of England with the M3 postcode, it is forever Tuesday May 8th. About four O’Clock. With Groundhog Day predictability, Sly Bailey has, once again, resigned as chief exec of Trinity Mirror, Creative Concern is still looking to re-brand the new Cornerhouse and Karen Young, co-founder of the “Manchester-based integrated agency KMS Media” has, apparently, wrapped The Wrap. Forever.

Some things smack of serendipity. Whose morning would not be brightened by forever re-reading of Sly Bailey’s dismissal, the woman to whom the “Bring Back Maxwell” ceramic mug industry owes the whole of its turnover? Why was she ever appointed? Trinity Mirror senior appointment-making top guys, the clue was in the name. Learn a lesson and strike Sneaky Bushmills off your short-list now.

Fair play to Karen Young, though, she maintained one vital How-do tradition to the end. Her farewell Wrap was self-serving, lacking in insight and mentioned football. It was as if she knew. (For those still curious as to the name Creative Concern opted for for the transplanted Cornerhouse, I’m reliably informed it was “Beryl”).

On a more serious note, for five years How-do served the industry well. As an on-line brand, it came from nowhere, the product of proprietor Nick Jaspan’s post-Northwest Enquirer brooding. It emerged at a time when the Manc community, in particular, was facing its biggest change since the fax made regional sales representation obsolete (somewhere around 1986). It was, of course, the news that one of the world’s biggest broadcasters was coming to town – well the bit of it that comments on speedway races and makes primary-coloured non-peak time fare for prepubescents and stoned stus.

It would be invidious to single out one individual story or thread that nurtured the North West community’s love affair with How-Do, though it’s on-going fascination with Channel M and bemused pursuit of Michael Welch (the ill-starred fraudster who defrauded the NWDA of £440,000 before it had the chance to squander it on “hearts and minds” campaigns and pitching processes of bewildering length and complexity) strike me as particular highlights.

In the end, it was the sheer volume and variety of material that How-do carried that has ensured it is missed to this day. It may have lacked a degree of editorial judgment, allowing a number of organizations to get away with pretty much anything this side of nun-buggery but, in the end, it was this ‘honest broker’ approach that ensured it lasted as long as it did. How-do bore no grudges and made no judgements. It didn’t unduly promote advertisers, nor smite those that declined to help with the gas bill – a lesson that others in the sector should learn from, but won’t.

During its five-year run, How-do became part of the daily routine for media owners, PR consultants, advertising agencies, digital companies, designers and even seemed to crack the client market. It went on to stage the How-do Awards, the NW industry’s largest annual awards gathering since the hey-day of the Roses (any day pre-August 1999 frankly).

It departed the scene just as the BBC move that inspired its launch finally became a reality. The volume of material that was its every day diet is now restricted to individual company’s websites and the occasional nib on the MEN Monday media page.

Is this a loss? Well yes. The mere existence of How-do was a testimony to the vibrancy and diversity of the North West media and marketing community. Even the bits of it that are in Liverpool. No other area of the UK, outside of London, could have sustained such an on-line entity.

Will it be back? Well no. I doubt it. The wrangling that surrounded the abortive merger between How-do and Manchester Confidential has left Nick Jaspan, the project’s undoubted auteur, unlikely to return to the fray.

Even Mark “Gordo” Garner the serial-proprietor behind ManCon could not replace Jaspan at the How-do helm, though we should be grateful for the mature, reputation-enhancing and dignified manner with which he has comported himself since HD’s unfortunate demise.

How do. How did. How done.

How-do.co.uk may be gone, but you can still get nearly 40 per cent off a glass of prosecco at the Kaleido Bar and Grill (near Urbis) thanks to ManCon.
God bless yer.

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