When sincerity is a lopsided smile

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The Independent Online
I ONCE met a man who said his hobby was reading company reports. He was an interesting chap, so I thought I would give it a try to see what higher state of consciousness I ended up in.

It failed, I'm afraid, because I became fixed on the expression chairmen were wearing in their obligatory photographs. It is clear that a big part of a public relations person's function is to decide whether the boss should look happy, serious or perhaps some blend of the two. The ideal, after all, is to look hardheaded and softhearted at the same time.

In a thoroughly unscientific survey of a few dozen reports, I find that grim is in with only a few companies: they include Tony Greener of Guinness (who looks plain bored) and Malcolm Walker of Iceland (worried). The smilers do somewhat better. Christopher Pope of Eldridge Pope is one, probably because he's holding a wine glass; Michael Woodhouse of Bowater has obviously just been told a rib tickler, while Laporte's cheerful Roger Bexon looks as though he has been snapped in a photobooth.

But the half-and-half option is the clear favourite, albeit one that has bred any number of variations. Thus Alan Turner of BPB hardly smiles but has a twinkle in his eyes (or is that clever lighting?); by contrast Sir Bruce Pattullo, governor of the Bank of Scotland, has a housemasterly smile combined with a severe "Have you done your Latin prep, boy?" look in his eyes.

They clearly had a bust-up at Abbey National. Lord Tugendhat appears twice on the same page - once small, in colour and grinning broadly; once large, in mono and serious.

The lord had clearly failed to master a technique perfected by the Americans, and used in any number of alarming portraits: the half-smile. If you can smile on one side of your face only, you are in American eyes a truly sincere guy.

It is no coincidence surely that the two best lopsided smiles come from Sir John Egan of BAA and Archie Norman of Asda. Both went to business school, where they probably spent months perfecting it.

SWATCH has launched a range of watches called Irony. This is because they are made of metal, and presumably contrast with the established Plasticky range.

However, Swatch has raised a host of possibilities for new brand names. The next line could perhaps be called Mockery, Sarcasm or Derision, while a move downmarket could give us Scorn, Scoff or Sneer. Come to think of it, the Swatch Scoff sounds rather good.

High society

A FRIEND was amazed to check her Cheltenham & Gloucester building society account and find it several hundred pounds fatter than she had expected. Not being a reader of these pages, she did not know that this was a Lloyds Bank bribe - sorry, reward - for its takeover of C&G. "I went to C&G in the first place because I had so little money," she said. "They were the only ones who would let me join." Blessed are the poor...

KLEINWORT BENSON, the well-known German bank, has been running silly advertisements in those little squares at the top of the Financial Times. They say, simply: "Kleinwort Benson. We're focused."

In other words, we are not a bank, we are a telescope or perhaps a pair of binoculars.

It is amazing how wedded marketing people are to over- used cliches. When not being flexible, banks are usually global or innovative, and probably both. But if we can't dissuade them from using tired words, we might be able to help them combine them in jollier ways. To this end, I reproduce a "buzzword generator" kindly supplied by a media training company called Press Here.

Just pick a word from each column, and you have yourself a thoroughly modern phrase or, if you prefer, an integrated management concept.

The test of time

ANOTHER reader has spotted ancient British equipment chugging away round the world. Martin Riches of London has written to say that the opera house in Rio de Janeiro still has all its original British-made machinery. It was built at the turn of the century and, he says, the lifts, fire doors and sprinklers are also British.

I'm still hoping to find a working machine more than 100 years old - it must be out there somewhere.

Meanwhile, we may have to make do with an ancient British building. Punta de Sa Torre is a nice little property near the fishing village of Mezquida in Men- orca. For pounds 245,000, you will get a villa and a defence tower built by Robert D'Arcy to the design of CW Pasley.

It was built in 1799, when Menorca was British territory in dire need of defending against the French. You may recall that Admiral Byng failure's to keep them out of the island some years earlier caused him to be shot, as Voltaire said, "pour encourager les autres".

MORE linguistic decline. Here at Bunhill Towers we get many letters inviting us to this, that and the other. How do we decide which to go to?

It's easy - we just chuck out the ones that describe themselves as "invites". We could send out "refuses", I suppose, but we're really much too busy saying yes to the invitations.


As an alternative to training, you could try this: pick a word from each list to create an impressive phrase

Integrated Management Options

Total Organisational Flexibility

Parallel Monitored Capability

Functional Mobility

Responsive Digital Programming

Optimal Logistical Concept

Synchronised Transitional Projection

Compatible Incremental Hardware

Balanced Virtual Contingency