Thursday, June 25, 2015

Magnum's attempt to raise women's "self-esteem" is not helping

This is one from my backlog of reader-submitted content. Rachel P, who lives in Spain, sent me this Twitter ad from Magnum ice cream bars. She translates the headline as "how to raise a Spanish woman's self-esteem."

Yeah, ice cream, stiletto heels, and jewellery. That'll do 'er. Because feminism is so 20th Century.

Here's the Tweet:

It says, roughly, "How do Spanish women enjoy the pleasure of the best chocolate ice-cream?"

Magnum, a Unilever brand, is no stranger to controversial ads. Marketing primarily to women, they seem to have no problem insulting them with stuff like this. Tiresome.

Tuesday, June 23, 2015

Tylenol does a beautiful ad that says nothing about Tylenol #HowWeFamily

Sometimes, my industry makes me too cynical. I completely understand why brands want to associate themselves with progressive social issues. The inevitable blowback, from reactionary groups such as One Million Moms, get them oodles of positive earned media. But is it really moving product? Let's have a look:

Beautiful piece. It could have been produced by any one of dozens of human rights groups, if only they had the money. And there's a campaign microsite (of course) for online engagement.

But it's not a human rights PSA. It is an ad for a pain medicine. And the branding is stuck on so bluntly that it seems like more of a sponsored short film than an ad.

Don't get me wrong. I like the video and I agree with its sentiment. But at what point do we question whether consumer brands are manipulating us by piggy-backing on the important social issues of our day? And is that OK with us anyway?

I think it is, but only if we consume the media (and product) with the open-eyed awareness that we are being advertised to. Johnson &Johnson aren't just being nice. They're following a plotted brand strategy, after testing the market last Christmas with a similar ad.

Ad Age quotes Manoj Raghunandanan, senior director-marketing of J&J's McNeil Consumer Healthcare, saying that research conducted after the December campaign "brought significant improvement in brand-equity scores on such survey questions as 'this is a brand that understands me'," which translated into greater sales and market share for Tylenol, "despite the brand putting no other advertising support behind its Extra Strength Tylenol flagship products during that period."

Nothing about the product's efficacy, nor its price, nor even its safety. Just family-focussed branding that builds trust and positive associations.

Perhaps this is the future for brand advertising, and to be honest it feels pretty good. Just don't forget that you are always a customer.

Tuesday, June 16, 2015

In light of Rachel Dolezal, remember Iron Eyes Cody

Most people middle aged or older remember the "Crying Indian" campaign for Keep America Beautiful:

Most of them, by now, also know that Iron Eyes Cody was no Native American. Born to Sicilian Immigrants in southwestern Louisiana in 1904, Espera Oscar de Corti became an actor in his youth, and found that he could "pass" as a Native American in Hollywood.

de Corti, changing his name to "Cody," claimed to have Cherokee-Cree heritage. He played native roles in dozens of westerns, with John Wayne and other stars of the mid-20th century. His chanting was featured in the Joni Michtell song "Lakota." And, of course, he was the Noble Savage face of Keep America Beautiful. All while sharing more heritage with Christopher Columbus than with the people who got the shit end of the Columbian Exchange.

By all accounts Iron Eyes Cody tried to honour his assumed ancestry. He became an activist for Native American causes, and did lecture tours preaching against the harm of alcohol. He married a Seneca archaeologist, Bertha Parker, and they adopted two adopted two Dakota and/or Maricopa children. He even wrote a book about native sign language.

He also invented a backstory, quoted by Glendale News Press from  a 1951 local newspaper article:
“Iron Eyes learned much of his Indian lore in the days when, as a youth, he toured the country with his father, Thomas Long Plume, in a wild west show. During his travels, he taught himself the sign language of other tribes of Indians” 
The article said that the television star and his wife would appear at a Glendale Historical Society event to tell the story of the “Indian Sign Language in Pictures'' and would demonstrate Indian arts and customs. Plus, the couple would bring along their 3-month-old “papoose” Robin (Robert Timothy). All were to be attired in Indian regalia.
In 1996, three years before his death, Iron Eyes Cody was outed as European by his half-sister, May Abshire, who offered proof of the actor's Sicilian parentage to the Times-Picayune. Cody denied the allegations.

Today, such a shocking exposé, proving that an upstanding member of an ethnic community was really an outsider, would be all over social media. Just like Rachel Dolezal.

I'm having a hard time digging up any initial reactions to Iron Eyes Cody's outing from indigenous people in the United States or Canada. How is he remembered? Did he help make native issues more visible, or did he obnoxiously appropriate an oppressed culture that didn't belong to him?

Please comment below. It's moderated, but I'll approve it ASAP.

Wednesday, June 3, 2015

The HidrateMe Smart Water Bottle Kickstarter is satire, right?

It's a water bottle. That tracks how much you drink, and glows when you need to drink more. As well as telling your smartphone.

The very earnest start-up, the new-agey feel of the intro, and the over-the-top testimonials all seem like some kind of sophisticated social commentary on the times we live in. But it's apparently a real thing, and people have put up over $80,000 to back it on Kickstarter.

If you look closely at the "rewards" section, it's clear that Kickstarter is being used to pre-sell the bottles. For about $45 a pop.

It's sickly amusing to me that so many people would be willing to pay almost fifty bucks for a bottle that reminds you to drink it. (And it's not even full of single-malt Scotch.)

I guess there is, literally, a sucker born every minute.

h/t Gawker

Monday, June 1, 2015

Another outrageously sexist London Underground ad

via @JenniTrimlett

It seems to be the latest fad in transit advertising: 

1. Make outrageously sexist ad2. Revel in the attention3. Profit
 Why else would advertisers continue to post this rubbish, if not to get a reaction?

via @ella_sharp1

This campaign, as I saw it on Mirror, isn't "edgy" or clever; it's just more deliberate denigration of women for eyeballs and clicks.

So why am I contributing to the problem, by sharing it here? Because we need to change the conversation about this kind of advertising, and the public spaces it pollutes. This is especially timely because Transport for London has banned other ads, such as one for the play My Night With Reg,  and another for a Royal Academy of Arts exhibition on Lucas Cranach the Elder, because of artistic nudity.

This prudishness about the human body, combined with a "lad-mag" lack of sensitivity about gender issues, leads me to believe that Transport for London's advertising department is run by elderly men who have not been allowed to receive any other contact from the outside world since 1975.

I won't even talk about the brand behind these stupid ads. They're not worth my time or yours. But Transport for London needs to smarten the hell up, and develop some 21st century ad standards.