When it comes to marketing, the only way to know what really works is… testing. So, I’m listing the three yurts on three well-known websites and will pay close attention to the results. Mustardseed is with booking.com, Peaseblossom is with Airbnb, and Puck is with Canopy & Stars. Of course, I also try and attract direct bookings – so I’m in the competition, too. (It doesn’t matter who you book through, really – you win every time.)

Happy Holiday Games. And may the odds be ever in everyone’s favour.

You will probably know that it’s been 400 years since Shakespeare finally put down his pen. (After writing his Will, perhaps.) To mark this event – and because the yurts in écovallée are named after the fairies in A Midsummer Night’s Dream – I’ve put this final ad together.


shakespeare yurt ad

True Shakespeare fans will be pleased to know that the font used is Arial.

Well, more of another idea for a headline.

another ecovallee concept

(I think I prefer this, but it depends on the context. The earlier ad has more of a generic headline, but was designed for the wall of a break room – ie, A holiday that’s out of the world of this functional room. But today I met a friend of a friend who came to see écovallée for the first time. He stood at the top corner between the yurt and the kitchen and said: “This is my dream.” And I remembered that, yes, it was my dream – and now, it’s there. Shakespeare lovers will also know why we called the three yurts Mustardseed, Peaseblossom and Puck.)


During the last nine years, I’ve (occasionally) paid to advertise écovallée in relevant newspapers and magazines. But I’ve never been able to attribute a single booking to that activity. When écovallée was listed in The Guardian as one of the top 10 luxury campsites in Europe, it sold out in three days (full disclosure: there was only one yurt available that year). Our 15 minutes of fame on prime-time ITV led to… precisely one booking. Twitter doesn’t lead to much – even when tweets are re-tweeted to thousands. The Facebook page has yet prove itself. And, let’s be honest, who uses Google+? In fact, this blog is responsible for more bookings than everything else put together.

So my question to you – should you choose to answer it – is: What prompts you to book your holiday – advertising, editorial, social media, or something else? When the world changes at ever-increasing broadband speed, it’s hard to keep up.

In the meantime, here’s an ad I put together yesterday, for a friend to put up at work. Even if we’re not sure what’s effective, we have to keep trying…

ecovalle ad 2016

The local tourist board very kindly shot a video showing some of the places to go and things to do, around 45 minutes from the écovallée family yurt camp. In the video, you’ll see shots of Milandes, Castelnaud, Marqueyssac, Beynac and Domme, and some views of the river just east of here.

If you got up early, you could go to all these places in one day. But we’d recommend spreading them out over at least two days. It’s a holiday. Not a competition.

Besides – look at the sky. It’ll be hot.

I used to earn what I thought was good money, doing something I didn’t particularly enjoy. During my 20s, I wasn’t too bothered by the ethics of my job, largely because I was paying back a sizeable debt incurred while trying to become a musician.

The month I finished paying off that debt, I resigned.

But the industry I worked for didn’t let me go. After so many years of diligent work, I’d become good at my job. The global headquarters of the agency I worked for offered me a very livable wage to work in the US, so I went.

After 18 months, I came back to London and worked freelance and full-time for various agencies (some of them very well known), until I left the business in 2007.

I was always going to leave. The signs were there from the beginning. I stuck it out longer than was comfortable because I was waiting for something to come along that would give my life some meaning. Something that, at the end of my days, I could look back on with a sense of achievement. That thing, as regular readers will know, was écovallée.

Now, at this point I should confess to new readers that I am not the Edward Snowden. (Nor is my wife. I’m not actually married.) But I am in many ways an Edward Snowden. And so, my new theory goes, are you.

You see, the business I left was advertising. As I mention in my book, advertising is a business involving some lovely people who do a lot of horrible work*. One of the last jobs I worked on, for example, was sub-prime mortgages. The brief was a disgrace. The product was disgusting. An ethical agency would have thrown it back at the client and resigned the account. I had my say and then went to work, selling it to the best of my ability while hoping it would be profoundly unsuccessful. (In my defence, I always wrote the truth in the subtext. I encourage readers to study ads extremely carefully. It’s actually illegal to lie in advertising – in the UK anyway – but misdirection is commonplace. I admit, it’s a pretty thin defence.)

Obviously, doing that work was a choice. I could have walked. And I did, a few weeks later. Like Edward Snowden the other day. Two of the many differences** between me and he are that I was not pursued by the world’s law enforcement agencies or the media, and that I have made myself – and the écovallée yurt camp – very easy to find.

But Snowden’s whistle blowing spectacular has got me thinking – and not just about ways to attract new readers to the blog using key words like #edward #snowden and #whistleblowing ***.

As I’ve been walking slowly round other people’s gardens expending irreplaceable fossil fuels to keep their lawns looking lovely, even though the owners live hundreds or thousands of miles away, I’ve been working on a theory.

And my theory goes like this: When we’re younger, we’re happy to take the money and not worry about the consequences. If we’re paid lots of money, even better. But there comes a point around 30 when your sense of mortality kicks in (I gave up smoking at this point – several times), or your conscience wakes up, and you start to look more seriously at what you are doing with your life. You start to question its value, rather than its monetary worth. And if you don’t like what you see, you can do one of two things.

You can choose to stay in the job that makes you unhappy. Consciously choosing that option may give you a sense of power you may have forgotten you have. You may even be happier for it. (I’m not judgemental: Go you!)

Or you can choose to leave your job, relationship, country – whatever. You may go through all manner of discomfort following this decision. But you will at least know that it was your choice, consciously made. And whatever happens, you will be happier for it in the end.

This is what I think the real Edward Snowden has done. Wiki tells me he was 30 a few days ago, which fits my theory very well. I ran the theory past a guest recently and he told me how he left what many would consider a dream job to take a massive pay cut and now effectively runs an organic farm. So the theory holds at least some water. What do you think?

*This is from my perspective as an Edward Snowden and depends on the clients, products and briefs to which I was exposed. If you are an agency or client who feels you do not meet this profile – that you are in fact highly ethical people with excellent products to offer the world, please continue reading here.

**Also including age, height, weight, nationality etc.

***Come back in a few days and I’ll show you what this will do to my stats, though. Should be interesting.

This should really have the headline: One… last… grenade…

Some people have said they’re having problems buying the book from the facebook shop. (Apparently some handheld devices won’t let people buy – something to do with cookies – which I suspect is a deplorable ploy to lock people into their own systems.) Other people have said they don’t trust facebook at all.

But that’s beside the point.

The point is, I’ve published “The yurt camp, the English mafia and the French resistance” to Kindle. So more people can buy it more easily, and I get to write “Descent into Hell” more quickly. To buy the book as fast as possible, I’ve even included a link – here.

There. That’s the last time I’ll mention the book for a while, although I’ll do something in the side bar to indicate how sales are going. At the moment, slothful, which is better than sluggish, but you’d have to look quite hard to tell the difference.