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How would you describe Lidl? Is it really “poor food for poor people”?

How would you describe Lidl? Is it really “poor food for poor people”?

How would you describe Lidl? Is it really “poor food for poor people”?

The papers were full of it yesterday on the back of Lidl announcing sales of premium vintage and non-vintage wines such as Châteauneuf-du-Pape. All the messages were on about posh goods next to the usual tat. The phrase that came up time and time again was that "the firm is trying to move away from its poor food for poor people image".

I found this interesting, as I think it’s perhaps a legacy of a long-gone time. It’s not close to how I would characterise Lidl (or Aldi) and so I’m interested to find out if this is a true reflection of the general perception of Lidl, both among those who shop there and those who don’t.

Certainly a basket of shopping at Lidl can be very cheap. True too is the fact that it is used by many as a place to cheaply stock up on your bog roll and necessities – with a catch-up shop for the other stuff done at the main supermarkets. Yet for me this is less about quality of food and more about the range of choice.

I would categorise both Lidl and Aldi as ‘limited brand’ supermarkets – when you shop in them, you don’t necessarily get the brands you are used to, nor do you get the great plethora of options for each food item that you do elsewhere.

Instead, you get a limited choice of own brand and other brands – far fewer options of your tinned tuna than in a large Tesco store. But this is the defining point – a limited number of choices doesn’t necessarily limit quality.

So my question, which I’d love you to feedback on below is; what is YOUR perception of Lidl and Aldi? And do say whether you shop there or not.

Do I really look like that?

Do I really look like that?

Do I really look like that?

Daybreak has asked me to shoot a short promo film for my new 7.40am Deals of the Week slot I’ll be doing every Thursday. I agreed, but I was then slightly shocked to be sent the storyboard below.

I have to admit I laughed out loud when I saw it – do I really look like that?

I’ve never really been in one of these before, they don’t do them for my type of TV. It’s more an advertisy thing, which, of course, is what a promo is. So I thought you may enjoy it.

Do I really look like that?

Do I really look like that?

MoneySavingExpert overtakes M&S in UK’s best brands

MoneySavingExpert  overtakes M&S in UK's most trusted brands

MoneySavingExpert overtakes M&S in UK's best brands

I can hardly believe I’ve just written that title. Yet I’ve just seen it in the papers (here’s the Guardian version) from YouGov’s newly-released annual Brand Index. Wow! It’ll only be the site’s 10th birthday in February.

Frankly, last year I’d already smacked my gob writing that we’d overtaken Apple as we hit 5th spot. Yet to be ahead of the UK high street bastion that is M&S is knee-trembling.

Here’s the top 10. (Last year’s figures, taken from here, are in brackets)
1. BBC iPlayer (1)
2. John Lewis (4)
3. Amazon (2)
4. MoneySavingExpert (5)
5. Marks & Spencer (3)
6. Apple iPad (Apple itself was 6 last year)
7. Sainsbury’s (7)
8. (new entry)
9. Samsung (9)
10. Cathedral City (8)

The one missing from last year is Google, which has dropped out of the top 10.

I hope its not too Oscar-speechy to write here how proud I am of my team.  There are just over 40 people working for MoneySavingExpert, and yet we are playing with some of the world’s mega-corporates, who employ more than that in their internal communications teams, never mind marketing.

And, of course, while I’m gushing… thank you for the trust. We will endeavour to continue to deserve it.

Is it wrong to work at a cinema or be a binman?

Is it wrong to work at a cinema or be a binman?

Is it wrong to work at a cinema or be a binman?

Picture the scene. It’s a TV talent show on one of the big channels. A talented young person’s fought through to the finals and is desperate to sing or perform. The producer doing the talking in the head interview finds out the person used to work at a cinema / McDonald’s / a bar…

We all know the format. The producer badgers the person to get the emotional reply to ‘how much would winning this mean to you?’. Then, in a nice juxtaposition, throws in a question of ‘how would it feel if you had to go back and work in the cinema?’.

Of course following the natural path of questions, the result is the obligatory aspiration-sapping 15 second sound bite of "I never want to go back to working in the cinema, I had to go there every night showing people to their seats, it was awful”,( with the “compared to being a pop star bit edited off the end”).

Every time this makes me want to throw my socks at the TV. For the sake of a bit of TV emotion, we risk denigrating all our young people who get out there, work hard, get a job, earn money for themselves, graft and move up the ladder. It has sacrificed all this for the seduction of impressionable teens into the dream of a statistically negligible chance for most, of the instant hit of fame.

With high youth unemployment, and barely a year on from the riots, in this year’s raft of talent shows (they’re all infected by this, it’s not peculiar to any particular channel) it’s time to be a little bit more careful.

Thankfully, it isn’t a completely one-way street. What prompted me to write this was a glorious note in the Sunday Times article ‘Henrique the binman dances his way to a starring role’ (note link via a paywall). For once it told a tale of how the dancer who played the young man who got the girl in the opening ceremony, had in January been a binman and rather than being glad to leave it behind, valued what it had given him…

He said he looked back on that phase of his life with pride.

I know I do what I have to do to support people around me,help them not to pay for things for me. Money is sometimes a problem because I’m always going to performances to expand my knowledge in theatre and dance."

This is how it should be. Yes, some people are fortunate enough to rise above the crowd and gain success, but respect is due to all those who get out of bed to do a hard day’s work. TV talent show producers, please remember this.

Eek, my competitiveness embarrassed me at the Ultimate News Quiz

Eek, my competitiveness embarrassed me at the Ultimate News Quiz

Eek, my competitiveness embarrassed me at the Ultimate News Quiz

The Ultimate News Quiz is an annual event, where teams/tables from across broadcast news organisations compete in aid of Action for Children. The room was jammed with many big names from TV and radio news – Andrew Marr, Adam Boulton, Emily Maitlis and others like Martha Lane Fox, Rory Bremner and more.

My agent had put a team together including me, Mrs MSE, Angela Rippon, Judi James, Dani Sinha and more. As I’m a tad competitive I was charged with being captain and marshalling the troops. Yet it was a relatively forlorn hope, Dani was our only current newscaster, other teams were jammed with people active in producing and reading news.

When quizmaster Alastair Stewart asked questions like: "Who alleged Dominique Strauss-Kahn assaulted her in a hotel room in New York?", or "What was the name of the man whose death started the Tunisian uprising?" – people who’d covered the story, or learned to pronounce it – had a big advantage.

Anyway, we ended up 18th out of 25, though it actually felt like a victory as we’d been bottom for much of the contest, but clawed our way up by playing our joker on the best round.

Embarrassing myself

Towards the end, as the table next to us, CNN, were winning, I made a wee joke of deciding to defect (one of the ladies on that team had already declared herself to me as a MoneySaver – so there had already been some cross-table banter) to savour their victory.

So, spotting an empty seat on their table I said "I want to join YOU." I was met with a raft of rather taken-aback stares, as if I’d said something truly shocking.

Then it dawned on me. While I was just there for a fun night out, for many people whose day job is working in a newsroom, this was a networking event.

To sidle across and say "I want to join you" is effectively like shrieking out "give me a job" – not exactly subtle. (And while CNN’s great, working there certainly isn’t me.) I felt my insides eating me up, and with a blush I quickly tried to rectify the situation with "this isn’t an audition, I just want to be on the winning team". 

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