Why a snake and half-naked gladiators are all it takes . . .

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The Independent Online
THE gentleman in the photograph is Richard Sanderson, general manager of Black & Decker UK. The lady to his left is called Lightning and the gent on the other side is Cobra - they appear in a television entertainment called Gladiators. The snake around his neck is a boa constrictor, and the objects Mr Cobra and Ms Lightning are holding are called Snakelights.

You will have guessed that this is a public relations stunt to promote the Snakelight. The fact it is appearing here shows the PR people realise that a photo of a couple of near-naked people and a snake stands a reasonable chance of publication. But it would have been a much better story if the boa constrictor had started . . . constricting.

In 1970, Reliant was launching its three-wheeled Bond Bug - a journalist got into one in full view of everyone, and immediately rolled it. Then there were Richard Branson's hot air balloon flights and trans-Atlantic sea crossings - something disastrous always seemed to happen.

But the best cock-up was surely just after Black Monday in1987. The Government decided to go ahead with its planned BP flotation, complete wih a televised unfurling of the share price on the front of the company's skyscraper in the City. Three SAS types abseiled down the building - and got stuck half way down.

IN THE interests of humanity, Bunhill has decided to abolish one of the most over-used cries in the business lexicon - "we must level the playing field!"

How? By calculating exactly how much that would cost. The expression is invariably used to whinge about some perceived unfairness. If everyone knows what it really costs to level a playing field, the whingers will have to say: "The playing field is tipped by 5.2 degrees and we must level it!" or some such. They will soon get bored at the loss of pizzazz, and another cliche will be kicked into touch.

First take your playing field - a standard-sized football field, 110 yards by 65 yards. Tip it by x degrees. Dig out your old trigonometry textbooks. Write down: "Opposite over adjacent equals tangent". Grimace. Borrow a scientific calculator and discover that this means the end of the field must be moved up by 1.92x yards.

Multiply this and divide by two to get the area of the triangle (see diagram) - this is 105.6x square yards. Then multiply this figure by the width of the playing field, 65 yards, to get the volume of earth we need. The result is 6,864 cubic yards for each degree the field is tipped.

Now to level the field. A friendly builders' merchant recommends a sharp sand and stone ballast at pounds 29.90 a cubic metre. Translating into proper measurements, that works out at pounds 22.86 a cubic yard. Total cost of levelling your playing field is therefore pounds 156,911.04 per degree it is tilted - plus VAT.

In a similar vein, does anyone know how many drops there are in a bottle of ink? There's a bottle of champagne for anyone who can tell me - or who can destroy any other irritating cliche.

No SE, no comment

BUNHILL'S's vote for a Christmas present for the Stock Exchange: a dictionary. Earlier this week, the Exchange announced it was suing David Jones, chief executive of ShareLink, for defamation. This followed remarks Mr Jones had made about the Exchange's termination of a real-time share price feed to ShareLink's partner Electronic Share Information.

Along with the press release about the writ, the Exchange added that "in general terms" it supports "any innovative use" of the Internet to "display and broadcast public information".

Intrigued, we rang the Exchange. How did it define "innovative", and would ESI's plans come under that definition? "Sorry, we can't comment." Well, does it regard its share-price data as public information? "Sorry, we can't comment."

Then we discovered. On Friday, the Stock Exchange said it planned to give information about companies listed on its Alternative Investment Market on the Internet. So that's what innovative means: anything new - as long as it is done by the Stock Exchange.

THE COUPLE who captured the nation's imagination by successfully suing Lloyds Bank for bad advice are looking for a public relations adviser. PR Week says that Julia Verity is writing a book about the case but fears interest is waning. She said: "I'm not sure how to create interest in the book and feel a PR person might be able to offer some advice."

Advice? Presumably anyone thinking of applying will have already consulted their lawyer.

Driven down the tube

IN CASE you didn't think London underground stations were crowded enough, TPA, a "media contractor", is planning to put cars on platforms as an advertising gimmick. It is negotiating with a manufacturer and a car- hire company to put a vehicle on the platform at the Angel.

Londoners may know that Angel has an extra wide platform but it is also one of the deepest stations. TPA is offering a bottle of fizz for the first person to guess correctly how the car will be got on to the platform; and another for the reader with the most ingenious way of doing it. Start thinking.