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Humpers for goalposts, watching paint dry and channel hopping: Prolific North’s 10 best-read stories of 2022

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It’s something of a cliché to describe the year that’s just passed as a rollercoaster so we’ll avoid the temptation, but 2022 has definitely been a year of striking contrasts.

As January dawned, things seemed to be looking up. The worst of the pandemic was surely behind us, we’d managed at least some kind of Christmas and New Year for the first time since Covid had cancelled them since 2019, and things were apparently looking up.

By February, the bloodiest war in Europe for decades was just getting underway and over the course of the year this would lead to soaring energy prices, in turn contributing to rising inflation and a recession that is either knocking on the door, or already in full flow, depending on who you believe.

That’s before we even get to the knockabout slapstick comedy that would replace the UK parliament over the summer, with three Prime Ministers in about as many months and a disastrous budget courtesy of the middle one, Liz Truss, that would see the pound collapse, mortgages rocket, and damage of around $30bn the economy to that some experts claim it could take ‘years’ to fully repair.

Thankfully, the digital and creative sectors proved themselves adapt at keeping calm and carrying on regardless and we’ve had a busy year here at Prolific North as a result. Here are the 10 stories that most piqued your interest over the course of the year.

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10) Rapper and YouTuber KSI signs syndication contract with Kyma Media


YouTuber, boxer, rapper and video game influencer — Watford-born KSI is a man of many talents, and earlier this year he signed with Manchester agency Kyma Media on a multi-year content syndication partnership.

KSI, real name Olajide Olayinka Williams “JJ” Olatunji, is a member of UK YouTube collective The Sidemen, although he initially rose to fame posting gaming commentary videos of the popular FIFA football games on his YouTube channel, which was first registered in 2009. He’s also in the race for this year’s Christmas number one.

Read more here.


Hannah Miller
9) ITV’s Northern correspondent moved to join BBC Breakfast


There was shock transfer news in the spring as Hannah Miller, ITV News’ award-winning North of England correspondent, Granada Reports’ political correspondent and regular on the same network’s Peston political digest show was jumping ship to take up the role of business correspondent for BBC Breakfast.

Miller said of her new role: “I am delighted to be joining the BBC Breakfast team at a time where work and money are at the forefront of people’s minds. I look forward to continuing the excellent work the team already do in helping audiences to understand complex economic stories, as well as delivering original journalism.”

Read more here.


Crown paints
8) Driven revealed its new Crown Paints ad – drama followed


Cheshire agency driven was tasked with delivering the first major new TV campaign in years for decorating mainstay Crown Paints back in August. The campaign was quirky for sure, but no one could have predicted the drama that would unfold when Twitterati including comedian Jenny Eclair condemned it as misogynistic and offensive.

The ASA was invoked, while the ad’s supporters took to their keyboards to decry woke culture. The whole affair proved to be something of a storm in a tester pot and blew over in a few days, although not before Eclair had temporarily disabled her Twitter account as the rival factions grew increasingly vocal online. What’s for sure is that the campaign attracted more attention than even the most optimistic of Crown’s marketing team could have predicted.

Read more here.


Booking.com
7) Booking.com is moving its global HQ to Manchester and hiring “in a big way”


Prolific North revealed over the summer that online travel giant Booking.com would be moving its global headquarters to Manchester as part of a £100m investment in the region over a 10-year period.

The new Manchester HQ, which officially opened in mid-December when 1,300 staff moved in, is in Manchester’s Enterprise City and will ultimately be the base for 2,000 employees. Austin Sheppard, Booking.com’s VP of engineering, hailed Manchester as a “magnet” of technology talent in an exclusive interview with Prolific North, and praised its universities and history in the world of computer science through the likes of Alan Turing.

Read more here.


Toddler Club
6) Gemma Atkinson lined up to present The Toddler Club


Popular actress and radio host Gemma Atkinson took on a new role this year as host of CBeebies’ The Toddler Club.

Produced by Three Arrows Media, MediaCityUK-based CBeebies commissioned an initial 40 x 14 minute episodes of the show, an older sibling to CBeebies’ The Baby Club. The show began broadcasting in April and seeks to “encourage parents, carers and their toddlers to spend time together and explore the world around them.”

Read more here.


Manchester Arena bombing
5) BBC Panorama tracks the Manchester Arena bomb deniers


An October investigation by BBC Panorama took us into the world of the conspiracy theorists who not only deny that the Manchester Arena bombing, which killed 22 people and injured more than 100 in 2017, took place but also stalk victims and their families in an attempt to disprove their version of events.

Research by King’s College London for the doc suggested that one-in-seven people in the UK doubt the official versions of UK terror attacks, with a similar number believing that the Arena bombing specifically involved so-called ‘crisis actors.’

Read more here.


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4) Lifting the lid on the toxic culture at some Northern PR and marketing workplaces


Rachael Hesno’s Prolific North investigation of the work culture behind the shiny glass facades of some of the North’s leading PR and marketing organisations was an eye opener. Inspired by an on-spec message from a long-suffering PR pro in the run-up to World Mental Health Day, we heard of disciplinary procedures for not responding to WhatsApp messages over the weekend, harassment of employees while legitimately off work sick and widespread reports of stress, anxiety and burnout.

Thankfully, we uncovered plenty of examples of good practice too, as you can learn here.


Leith is coming to Manchester
3) Scottish ad giant Leith heading South


Manchester may have a reputation as ‘the rainy city,’ but it could seem like the Costas to the staff of the Edinburgh ad behemoth Leith, who announced they’re opening an English base there in October.

Leith, whose clients include IRN-BRU, Network Rail, Nando’s and The Scottish Government, reported a bumper 2021, growing revenue to £11.5m and headcount to 131. The latest, 2022, headcount additions include former Havas head of film Neil Williams, alongside 10 other Manchester new hires who will be focusing on Leith’s production and healthcare offerings.

Read more here.


Bolton Wanderers
2) Bolton Wanderers seek new stadium name


The new season was only a few weeks old when Bolton Wanderers announced that it was looking for a third stadium name in eight years since its long-standing naming deal with local sportswear firm Reebok came to an end in 2014.

The current, four-year deal with Bolton University expires at the end of the 2022/23 season and the club has hired sports commercial partnerships and recruitment specialist Sporting Group International to deliver a new naming rights agreement. SGI’s previous big-name global clients include Bologna FC, Olympique Marseille and Indian Super League side Hyderabad FC.

Read more here.


Everton stadium
1) Adult website Stripchat bids for Everton stadium name rights


It was a double at the top of this year’s charts for football stadium naming rights, and we’re sure we shouldn’t read too much into the fact that this year’s most popular story featured not only a well-known football team, but also an American provider of decidedly ‘grown-up’ pursuits.

US adult webcam site Stripchat claimed in October to have offered $200m over 10 years to christen Everton’s £500m new home ‘The Stripchat Sustainability Stadium’ and promised the world’s most sustainable stadium, as well as sexual health events during No Nuts November and support for veterans with PTSD. Stripchat’s intentions certainly sound noble, but at the time of writing the stadium remains nameless.

Read more here.

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