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Good and Bad PR: NHS drones shine whilst Co-op Arena and robot dogs fall flat this week

The week has flown by, did you miss me? I thought so. Let’s take a slow amble through the hits and misses in the world of PR from the last 7 days.

AVIVA heads into stormy waters

Everyone’s favourite, stag, hen and pre-A&E drinking venue, Butlins, has gone to war with insurers. When the chalet’s got flooded from the extreme weather of last year the “holiday” camp had to shut down for repairs and refurbishment of the affected areas.

Whilst some scamps may have suggested that the damage caused £X million pounds worth of improvements, the actual repair bill was around £60m. AVIVA is refusing to pay out the full amount as it says “storm damage” is capped at £25m. Butlins is saying it was not classed as a storm because the MET office did not give it a name.

AVIVA is basically trying to get out of paying on a technicality, albeit a very expensive one. This is where the Bad PR comes in.

Insurance companies are famed for trying to use every excuse in the book to try and avoid paying out on a claim. I should know, I used to work in comms for one of the largest in the world.

With high-profile cases like this, it could have been a quick, if expensive, media win for AVIVA. Imagine the swathes of positive PR it could have won if they had publicised being behind the funding of the rebuild of one of Britain’s most iconic holiday park brands.

A furore that has turned sour and done nothing but reinforce the stereotypical reputation of insurance firms.

Co-op spends rumoured £100m on bad publicity

Four years ago Co-op marketing bosses were popping the bottle tops off their northern-made real ale to celebrate winning the naming rights battle for Manchester’s newest entertainment venue. They paid an estimated £100m for that 15-year naming rights deal.

Fast forward to the venue supposedly going live in April 2024 and the Co-op will be raging. It has brought them nothing but bad publicity so far. It all started so well. The pre-publicity was flying and even included the nation’s favourite garlic-bread lover, Sir Peter of Kay, signing up to do the opening night.

Then the problems started landing. Tickets were cancelled, the test event bombed, and the much heralded “wide concourses” that would apparently make guests think they were in a huge food hall rather than a corridor, seemed a bit too roomy and devoid of character.

To make matters worse, Sir Peter then chimed off a few jokes at their expense and when that happens, you know you are on a sticky wicket. The comms from the venue were also a bit “no shit Sherlock” such as “It is critical to ensure we have a consistent total power supply to our fully electric sustainable venue”… ya reckon?

The Co-op brand team will not be happy!

NHS WINGS its way to bloody good PR

Regular readers of this column (basically just my sister, since my dad passed away) will know that I have celebrated and berated Amazon in equal measure over the years around its drone delivery story.

I will admit to being one of the many columnists who praised the brand when it first announced it was planning drone deliveries. I remember chatting to my dad about this and he was excited at the prospect of “shooting down” drones that carried boxes that looked like they had expensive cargo in. He was ever the innovator.

Anyway, just a week after Amazon cancelled another drone delivery test project in California, the ever-resourceful NHS have decided to hop on the drone delivery PR bandwagon… but it looks like this may work.

A group of NHS hospitals in London have partnered with Apian, a medical logistics company, and WINGS, a Google owned drone brand, to organise a drone delivery service for emergency blood bags in the capital.

The media have loved this story, as do I. A few red flags though. Tests have not yet taken place and, more importantly, the Civil Aviation Authority, the original cock-blockers (depending on what was being delivered) to the Amazon drone delivery plan, are also being remarkably quiet about the NHS flying blood story.

Let’s not get too worried about the details though. Let’s celebrate the NHS win and hope it happens in time for the rumoured start-date of summer 2024.

Excuse me madam, your dog is on fire!

The last story must be Bad PR, right? No good can surely come from robot dogs with flame throwers on their back being sold for $9k over in the USA. Other than Bond villains, who needs flame-thrower-clad-dogs?

It has been a big week in the world of dog-based robotics. Who would have thought it? A science lab headed up by Bio-Robotics in America has revealed it has “trained” its robot dogs to be able to run and navigate across any terrain.

Their dog-bots now understand when to walk on two legs to avoid unsafe terrain and can basically navigate pretty much any obstacle to come and get you, if it is so commanded.

Deep joy.

However, it is not all sinister news from the world of murder-machine-dogs. Boston Dynamics, the OG’s of creating scary robots seem to have had a change of heart and are now cladding some of their dog-bots with fancy costumes and fur.

So, you will now be chased for non-compliance with the machines by what looks like actual Pixar film characters. Someone needs to have a word with the robot makers, they have clearly been sat too close to the glue-gun.

Got it right or wrong, I don’t really care, but do let me know. I am @10Yetis on The TwitterX or find me on

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