Tag Archives | AMAS Consulting

Aileen O’Toole and the National Consumer Agency

In doing the research for this post, I was looking for links between Aileen O’Toole and her nominees to her IdeasCampaign Advisory Committe.

One piece of information I found at the same time was this little nugget that I suppose I should have been aware of previously.

In 2005, Aileen O’Toole was nominated by the then Minister for Enterprise, Trade and Employment Mary Harney as a member of the Consumer Strategy Group back.

The key recommendation of the Consumer Strategy Group was the formation of the National Consumer Agency.

Following the setting up of the National Consumer Agency, who do you think the online consultancy services contract for the newly set up agency went to?

Yep, you’ve guessed it, Amas and their managing director Aileen O’Toole.

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IdeasCampaign – Advisory Council Named

I’ve written a couple of times so far about how I’m not convinced about the IdeasCampaign that is being promoted by Amas and Aileen O’Toole.

Don’t get me wrong here – I’m all in favour of anything that can help this country out of the trouble it’s in at the moment. I’ve commented before that entrepreneurship in this country was in trouble during the Celtic Tiger once people realised it was easier to provide for their retirement by buying and renting property rather than setting up businesses and employing others as my own parents did in the 1980’s.

The IdeasCampaign today isn’t what it was announced as last week on PrimeTime on RTE. On that programme, we were told that Aileen O’Toole was almost assuming a “social entrepreneurship” role by promoting this as her own personal idea for the public to get involved in. This week, however, the IdeasCampaign is a public relations campaign being promoted by a public relations company – Amas.

We don’t know why the campaign has changed direction, or why lots of behind the scenes changes were made to the website have been made without any explanation – such changing the original terms and conditions.

My post here asks some of the key questions that I’d like to see the people behind the IdeasCampaign answer.

In my mind, the IdeasCampaign has nothing to do with the public apart from the expectation that us poor unfortunates should hand over our ideas for free to a group of high up connected business people who would make money off the back of those ideas, according to the original terms and conditions.

And to further enforce that belief, have you seen the Advisory Group that Aileen O’Toole has appointed to sift through the ideas and prepare a report that will ridiculously be presented straight to Cabinet. The usual suspects that Aileen O’Toole has brought together are:

Frank Gallagher – Property developer and drinking buddie of Bertie Ahern.

Moya Doherty – Multi-millionaire, though an unfortunate shareholder in Anglo Irish Bank

Alan Gray – Economist who’s company works for the government

Kieran McGowan – Associated of Aileen O’Toole through Business in the Community board membership

Tina Roche – Employee of Business in the Community, where Aileen O’Toole is board member

Ian McShane (no relation) – Aileen O’Tooles company Amas works for his company, and they’re connected through the JNIR

Dr. Don Thornhill – Board Member of Forfas, for whom Amas and Aileen O’Toole work (here)

That leaves Sean Gallagher of Dragons Den fame and Paul Rellis of Microsoft Ireland and American Chamber.

This is the “in crowd”. There’s nothing new or innovative here. These Advisory Council members, I guess, have always had direct access to the powers that be, but now they’re just doing it off the back of the ideas of the general public.

There are no members of the public on this Council. The members of the public who submitted their ideas have been completely forgotten now that their ideas have been collected and collated.

All I’m hearing when I see these names and hear about Advisory Councils providing strategic advice and shaping an action plan are the words “useless quango”.

I personally have no faith in this campaign. I sincerely hope that something good comes from it, but I’m not holding my breath.

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I’m still not convinced by the IdeasCampaign

I’m looking forward to this morning to seeing the usual suspects on the IdeasCampaign “Independent Advisory Group”. The whole thing strikes me as very Fianna Fail in execution. Next, we’ll be having a Tribunal to get everything implemented. In about 10 years time.

To my mind, there should be no doubt as to the political involvement in all of this, remember – we’re expected to believe that a regular mary public, Aileen O’Toole, has set up a campaign to collect ideas from the general public that, according to the Taoiseach, “will be fast-tracked to the Cabinet sub-committee on Economic Renewal for assessment and implementation”. The Green Party can hardly get their ideas put before Cabinet most of the time, yet Aileen O’Toole gets her ideas “fast tracked”.

So, I’ve seen enough so far to still not be fully convinced about the motives behind this campaign. There was the Terms & Conditions changes, the fact that the ideas aren’t being shared with the key stakeholders (us, the general public), and the fact that an unnamed committee was formed to review the ideas rather than opening them up to the public for comment, enhancement and ultimately, support.

Apparently, there are now more than 1200 ideas that have been submitted to the site, of which the “best” will be put forward directly to cabinet. But where’s the transparency here? Brian Cowen has a serious problem with Declan Ganley using his money to try to influence things just because he’s rich, saying of the political fundraising issue that it would be “undermined by those who only pay lip service to transparency”. So far, I fear that we’re facing a similar hi-jacking of the democratic process and route to cabinet here with the IdeasCampaign. Who’s to say that the ideas put forward don’t come from those behind the campaign, claiming to have the backing of the public, when it’s actually them bypassing the public to get their ideas to cabinet?

This campaign started as a personal idea from Aileen O’Toole that she was doing (with a little support) from Amas. This was to be a public ideas gathering exercise, for the public and of the public. Yet, so far, apart from handing over any good ideas that they may have, the public have been completely excluded. Why?

From something that started off, apparently, as a personal idea, it has now very definitely been recategorised as a PR campaign from a PR company. Even the posts on the blog are being changed to remove the personal aspect to redefine it as a campaign.

Originally posted on Friday morning:

The Ideas Campaign was featured on this morning’s edition of RTÉ Radio 1’s flagship news programme “Morning Ireland”. Aileen O’Toole talked about the campaign and the huge response since last night’s launch.

New Version, updated over the weekend:

The Ideas Campaign was featured on this morning’s edition of RTÉ Radio 1’s flagship news programme “Morning Ireland”. Campaign director Aileen O’Toole talked about the campaign and the huge response since last night’s launch.

Now, you may ask what’s the big deal. Well, to my view, there’s a whole lot more going on in the background here that the public are not finding out about. In marketing terms, after less than 5 days of the “campaign” it’s been repositioned already – from personal to professional. In marketing and PR terms, I would have thought that such a change in tack after such a short period of time would be seen as a spectacular failure. Why the changes?

If the public are to have much faith in what’s going on, then full information needs to be provided.

  • Who’s actually behind the campaign? Who’s funding it?
  • Who really convinced RTE PrimeTime to take the unprecedented step of launching a professional organisations website on their programme? PRIMETIME ffs!
  • If the ideas submitted were sold (according to the original T’s & C’s) then who was going to get the money?
  • Was it to be Aileen O’Toole in her capacity as the original promoter?
  • Or now that it’s a “campaign”, would the money have gone to Amas, or someone else?
  • Will the public get to see all ideas submitted, or just the subset submitted to cabinet?
  • Will we be told who originally submitted the ideas?

Don’t get me wrong here. An IdeasCampaign it to be recommended and supported. In fact, two of them is great. Maybe even three. How about four ideas campaigns? Lots of ideas campaigns out there – it’s a pity only David McWilliams’ site is sharing the ideas submitted. Unfortunately though, for David, no one in Govenment listened to him for the last 5 years, so they’re unlikely to start now. Maybe he could submit them anonymously on the IdeasCampaign.ie website and actually get the government to listen to him.

But as I saw from quoted by Joe Drumgoole yesterday on Twitter, “An idea is so small a part of a business that it’s almost a rounding error”. He went on to add “Value of idea = 0. Value of idea + execution plan = 0.001, Value of idea + evidence of execution = 0.01 etc. etc.”

An “action campaign” anyone?

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IdeasCampaign – Is it really that good of an idea for you?

Those of you who are regular readers here will probably have guessed that I’m a little bit cynical – but will eventually come around to a positive. Like identifying rip offs and bad value around the country, but then proposing ways to avoid them and save yourself some cash.

I have to admit that when I first read about the IdeasCampaign that I started out fairly cynical. The immediate connection to a PR company (stated as only lightly involved originally, and now totally behind it) had me wondering  – as always, you’ve to “follow the money” to work out the real motives.

The clincher for me, and the reason I’ll be avoiding IdeasCampaign and suggesting that you do likewise, is in the terms and conditions on the site:

In submitting an idea you also agree to its publication in any form by The Ideas Campaign. By submitting the idea you are thereby granting The Ideas Campaign the perpetual, irrevocable, non-exclusive right to use, reproduce, copy, modify, edit, translate, publish, display, post, transmit, distribute, sell or part company with your submitted idea without any compensation to you, anonymously or in the aggregate, for internal or external purposes, alone or as part of other works in any form, media or technology.

So, you have a good idea. The people behind the IdeasCampaign think it’s a good idea. So they’ll go off and sell your idea “without any compensation to you”. If you do have a good idea, why would you subject yourself to that?

Now I know why, as I noticed last night, there is no way on the website for you to actually see any of the ideas submitted via the site. With such terms and conditions, there’s no way they’ll share the ideas submitted in case there is a money making gem in the middle of it.

What I’m still pondering is how these people, Amas and Aileen O’Toole, managed to get this project actually launched via Prime Time last night, and heavily covered again on Morning Ireland this morning. I wonder how aware RTE were that they were really promoting a (and providing a huge amount of free advertising) money making effort for a private company rather than what the site originally described itself as (but now removed) as a personal aspirational project from Aileen O’Toole (now the Campaign Director!)?

And now the positive note. There are plenty organisations out there, good and bad, that can help you develop a business idea that you have.

Go to your local county enterprise board and talk to them about it – the couple that I’ve dealt with in the past are inundating me with e-mails now telling me what they can do for people with business ideas and looking to set up small businesses in these difficult times.

In the meantime – don’t give your good ideas to the IdeasCampaign. Unless of course they change those terms and conditions.

Updated: No sooner had I this published than I find that they’ve changed their terms and conditions:

In submitting an idea you also agree to its publication in any form by The Ideas Campaign. By submitting the idea you are thereby granting The Ideas Campaign the perpetual, irrevocable, non-exclusive right to use, reproduce, copy, modify, edit, translate, publish, display, post, transmit, distribute or part company with your submitted idea without any compensation to you, anonymously or in the aggregate, for internal or external purposes, alone or as part of other works in any form, media or technology.

Well, they’ve changed the terms and conditions, but not a whole lot. Maybe hold off still from submitting your ideas. See how everything pans out. As far as the website says now, they’ll start sharing some of their 450 ideas (submitted so far) with the general public next week.

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Online Survey – the best Irish sites to use, and the worst

One of my Google Alerts on the National Consumer Agency today brought me an article from Saturdays Irish Examiner regarding a survey carried out by AMAS Consulting about popular internet shopping sites.

The full survey can be accessed here. The survey is aimed at finding Ireland leading eCommerce sites.

AMAS find that Meteor have the best site, giving it 10 out of 10. They find Ryanair bottom of the heap, only just above Peats, both of which scored only 5 out of 10.

I’m familiar with the Ryanair site, and mostly find it okay to use, but it is obvious that the less observant user will get caught out by the requirement to opt out of some charges – a point highlighted by the survey. I’m not familiar with the Meteor site, but I dare anyone try to find in less than 30 seconds a simple and clear comparison between their various different call costs on different price plans – something I think is missing, or very well hidden, on all 4 mobile service provider websites.

The research is also referenced here in Fridays Irish Times (sub necessary). Interestingly, the Aer Lingus site scores pretty highly (8 out of 10) despite implementing the same functionality which the Ryanair site provides but which causes it to be marked down.

I also found it very interesting to see the companies that AMAS consulting company work for. According to that link, they work for Eircom, the owner of the company with the best website Meteor, as well as working for for the primary competitor of Ryanair, Aer Lingus.

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