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Further to Carling's brave, unflinching depiction of the debilitating effects of alcoholism in their recent TV spot, Jack Daniel's are also getting in on the action. If there's a bleaker and more tragic alcohol advert tagline than this before Christmas, I'll be amazed.

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Tough economic times call for tough marketing tactics. Let's cut to the chase, Oasis:

You are now entering Chinatown:

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Only in recent years have drinks companies even begun to acknowledge that there might be a downside to their product, with “drink responsibly” taglines in print and helpline numbers appearing on cinema adverts, and none have yet openly tackled the problem of alcoholism. So congratulations are due to Carling for finally tackling this taboo in their poignant new TV spot.


The ad features a man sitting on a train, thinking only about his next drink. Everything he sees from the window has associations with his own experiences—an unnamed woman, games of football, gigs he has attended—which, in turn, he can view only through the prism of his addiction. The beer he is anticipating he envisions in bright colour, while his experiences are all portrayed in black and white, perhaps because they are tinged with regret; who knows what domestic or sporting violence he has been responsible for while drunk? Finally he escapes the train (does he even stay on the train till his intended stop? This is left ambiguous) and slopes off guiltily and alone to the first visible place where he can feed his addiction without suffering the judgment of others. It's a sad and accurate portrait of a lonely and ultimately debilitating illness, and Carling should be commended for raising awareness of it.

At least, I'm presuming this is what they were intending.
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Wenlock and Mandeville, the mascots created for next year’s Olympics, might be a bit rubbish but were at least an attempt to be reasonably creative in what is an incredibly stale area of design.

However, they appear to have stepped over the line from “faintly unusual” to “genuinely unsettling” with this gem (and “thanks” to [livejournal.com profile] flaneurette for flagging it up):

Made no less unsettling by the fact that hovering over the picture on its product page brings up a HUGE MAGNIFICATION of the thing without warning on the other side of the page.
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So what's going on here, Hula Hoops?

via @mrchrisaddison
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Damn you, world. I offer you the benign Pop Pads and you spurn them. A decade later we have products like Party Pants Pads (“Cloth Pads for the Princess on her Period”; “Women deserve better. Women deserve Party In My Pants”), which make even Pop Pads’ fiercest detractors regard them nostalgically. You had your chance, though. Now, if anyone invites people to submit their own pad designs, this is the best you can expect from me:

Pad-tip to [livejournal.com profile] strictlytrue for the design-your-own link.
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It’s not the first ad campaign that has tried to stimulate the audience’s interest by encouraging them to intervene in its storyline, but it’s certainly the most lacklustre. It’s apparently five years since Kris Marshall (him off My Family) and Esther Hall (her off Spooks and Waking the Dead, it says here) started making ads showing how BT products could be seamlessly integrated into the chaos of contemporary family life. He had moved in with her and her kids, the storyline went, and whatever challenges and obstacles this domestic situation might produce, at least they would all be able to rely on the phone and internet connectivity of a BT Home Hub.

This campaign rumbled on for about three years, troubling no-one particularly, and then Marshall, in real life, was hit by a car. At first there were fears that he had been seriously injured, but he made a full recovery. After that, though, something went very weird. The ads continued to be made but, as far as I can remember, at no point after Marshall's physical recovery did he and Hall appear on screen at the same time. The storyline took a new turn: his character had to move a long way away due to work and their long-distance relationship got a bit awkward for a while, but they were determined to make it work (in their separately filmed sequences). Eventually she asked his character (on the phone) to marry her, and around that time it became clear that the writers were trying to inject a note of suspense—would he say yes? Would he turn her down? Would the Home Hub keep disconnecting because the data limit had been exceeded? Was anyone actually invested in this thing?

By now, I was hooked. What was really going on with this situation? It seemed clear that Marshall’s real-life accident had had some kind of impact on his fictional character’s life. What would be the twist? Were the ads subsequent to the collision all just “Adam’s” dying thoughts about his newly adopted family? The episode where “Jane” appeared to tell people she was getting married didn’t even mention “Adam’s” name; was this a cruel flash-forward to her rebuilding her life after his untimely death and marrying someone else? Was some kind of alternate reality involved? Where, basically, was M Night Shymalan?

Now BT is apparently offering us the chance to decide this couple’s future. Rather than going the full Web 2.0, though, the makers are staying firmly in the 90s and offering us only two options to choose between, so we don’t have carte blanche to write in with something like “They can’t get married—he’s clearly her son”. If neither of the storylines on offer involves, at a minimum, “Adam” falling into a parallel dimension in 2008 and struggling ever since to find his way back, I will officially lose interest.

EDIT FEB 2011: BT's latest transmissions from inside Kris Marshall's head don't bode well:

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Some businesses thrive on a pun in their name. Outlet, for example, is an agency for rental properties for people looking specifically to live with other LGB(etc) people. This property rental company, however, might just be tempting fate:

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Really, we’re going with this slogan? Oh, okay.

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If you’re going to run a campaign guaranteeing that I won’t find more minutes for £30, you might first want to check that I can’t. Otherwise the ASA might want a word.
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With the vast number of fantasy roleplaying games online, you can find one on pretty much any subject you desire.

Who knew its origins were so exciting?


Sep. 8th, 2008 03:21 pm
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Be honest, Pringles, it’s not really going to be “a whole new experience”, is it? It’s going to be remarkably akin to the familiar dismal experience of eating a bunch of Pringles. Basically, it’s Pringles Gourmet all over again.

For an alternative, less zesty approach to marketing, check out this zinger from a hoarding in Pimlico.

It’s even better if you imagine it being said by Alan Partridge.
webofevil: (*gulp*)
Probably not available for much longer from Asda: High School Musical branded underpants for young girls bearing the words “Dive In”.


Jul. 2nd, 2008 11:28 am
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‘Part of the market research process [for the Ford Edsel] had been to find a suitable name for the new car. This should have been a good idea. After all, the highly popular Ford Thunderbird car, which had been launched in 1954, had gained its evocative name as a result of market research findings. This time, research teams were sent out to New York, Chicago and Michigan, where members of the public were asked what they thought of certain names and to come up with their own suggestions. There was also a competition among employees to come up with the best name, and the company even contacted the popular poet Marianne Moore. Her brief was to find a name which would signify a “visceral feeling of elegance, fleetness, advanced features and design”. Her rather eccentric suggestions included Mongoose Civique, Resilient Bullet, Utopian Turtletop and the Varsity Stroke.

‘Altogether, the company now had a pool of 10,000 names to choose from. Too many, according to company chairman, Ernest Breech, as he scanned through the names during a meeting of the Ford Executive Committee in November 1956. “Why don’t we just call it Edsel?” he asked, exasperated. Henry Ford II, the grandson of Henry Ford, agreed. Edsel was the name of his father and the Ford founder’s only son.

‘Not everyone held the same opinion, though. The PR director, C Gayle Warnock, knew that Edsel was not the right name. It had been an early suggestion, and had not been liked by those members of the public who had taken part in the market research (in word-association tests, it had been associated with “weasel” and “pretzel”—hardly the best associations for a dynamic new car). Warnock had preferred other names on the list, such as Pacer, Ranger, Corsair or Citation. When the decision was made, Warnock made his feelings perfectly clear [by] declaring: “We have just lost 200,000 sales”.

‘… the car’s front-end bonnet and grille commanded the most attention. “The front end design was the most prominent feature,” confirms Phil Skinner, a respected Edsel historian. “If you consider other cars from the mid-1950s, they all looked somewhat alike. Basically it was two headlights and a horizontal grille. By having the big impact ring in the middle—what we now call a horse collar—it really set the Edsel apart.”

‘Although some members of the automotive press commended this distinctive look, most were unappreciative. One reviewer famously remarked that it looked “like an Oldsmobile sucking a lemon”, while another thought the front-end grille was less like a horse collar and more like a toilet seat. (The customer comments later proved to be even worse with some saying that the grille looked like a “vagina with teeth”.)’

- Matt Haig, Brand Failures
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“Okay, people. The Lynx campaign’s going well. Brand recognition is through the roof, focus groups tell us that women hate the ‘chocolate man’ ad while men love it and we’ve had the obligatory telling-off from the ASA for broadcasting it too early and freaking out the kids. How can we possibly follow that?”

It’s obvious, really. Come up with an associated image so profoundly alarming that pretty much any subsequent campaign will be warmly embraced as a blessed relief by even the most ardent opponent of Lynx’s knowingly sexist ads. Tractors dragging women through muddy streets by their hair? A “pimp for a day” competition? The strapline “They’re Only Worth Talking To If They’re Worth Fucking”? Really, anything is fine so long as we’re never again exposed to this miserable vision:

Three disturbing brand mannequins and lads’ “favourite” Keeley Hazell on a cold damp day by the Thames—the latter having just learnt, judging from her expression, that she has been fined for speeding


Dec. 7th, 2007 12:22 pm
webofevil: (*gulp*)
Many thanks to [livejournal.com profile] tao_ for dragging my attention to something that was already lurking in my flat. Brochures for all manner of random crap still arrive for people who haven’t lived here for going on eight years. One of the recent crop came from Brora Scottish Cashmere. I flicked through it to see if there was anything eyecatching and then discarded it, since typically it consisted of pictures like this:

“David”, we are led to believe, paid £219 for that herringbone top and £95 for the shirt, which leads me to suspect that “David” is running some sort of black ops budget, working some outrageous margins into the outgoings he’s reporting to his wife while he salts the bulk of it away towards one day buying his own attack helicopter.

I should clearly take more time before dismissing things as uninteresting, though, as I entirely managed to miss “Henry” )
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Everyone who knows me personally already knows this story. However, there is a pressing need to share it now.

Years ago, a slightly silly drunken conversation led to a simple idea. This idea is, according to no definable criteria in the respondent, either one of the best or the single worst idea you have ever encountered. Here it is in full:

Sanitary towels featuring removable—and collectable—pictures of pop stars.

All right, so in the original conversation there had been no “removable” element, and we had enjoyed the thought of the expression on, say, Ronan Keating’s face when he discovered what his image was being used for. But it struck me later that there were actual possibilities here; specifically, the chance to demystify an entire area of adulthood for kids just emerging into it. To this day there are still girls whose parents have decided they are too young to be told “the facts”, and consequently when they have their first period they think they’re dying. A product like “Pop Pads” [presentation here] would make that scenario all but impossible.

My friend L was working for a marketing company in the States. One day in central London—not long after 9/11, I see from the emails—I bumped into the boss of his whole company as he sneaked a crafty fag outside their London office. “Hallo, [livejournal.com profile] webofevil,” he said. “Hallo, [name withheld],” I said. “How are you doing?” he said. I told him that I had had this idea about Pop Pads, and I was mulling over whether there was any possible mileage in them. “Sounds interesting,” he said. “I’ll talk to some people and see if we can get any interest.” “Thanks, [name withheld],” I said. “See you later.” “See you later, [livejournal.com profile] webofevil,” he said. He went back inside and I took about 40 minutes to trundle home. When I got there I checked my emails. I had one from L in New York that began:
His boss had gone straight back to his desk and sent a company-wide email entitled “L’s mate [livejournal.com profile] webofevil has an idea” telling everyone all about it. Unfortunately this boss had a reputation for being good at assembling teams of people to work together, but for being a bit of a flake himself. It was generally understood, though not by him, that if he ever showed signs of tipping over the edge, it was probably time to jump ship. His Pop Pads email was taken to be that very sign, which was why L went on to say, “I could swing for you, it has produced endless derision and a distinct sense of unease in the office”. People started surreptitiously updating their CVs. By the end of the following week some had started to go for the odd job interview. Soon key people were leaving. By the beginning of the following year the firm could not stem its personnel losses and was starting to suffer. Finally in June the British office filed for bankruptcy, while the American office went the same way a month later. Pop Pads turned out to be a torpedo direct to the hull of what had previously been a successful company.

L eventually forgave me for pretty much directly losing him his job, as he went and found a better one. What’s more, a couple of years later his wife was delighted to find a brand that made Pop Pads look classy: Dittie’s relentlessly cheerful approach to menstruation seems designed to induce tension headaches. On their site you can play Tampon Bowling or subscribe to their newsletter, “The Monthly Cycle - Sign up to make your period more fun!” The first I knew of this was when I walked into the bar of a London hotel that L was staying in; he pulled something out of his bag and threw it at me, yelling, “You were right, you bastard!” It was a box of Dittie tampons, each of which had a different empowering message—a “unique Girl Code”—printed on the wrapper, such as, “A real friend talks to you, not behind your back”, “Today is the day to tell the mean snotty girl that if she really liked herself, she wouldn’t be so mean and snotty” and “It’s not my Aunt Flow, it’s not my special friend – it’s me, it’s all beautiful me!” Also: “Who puts the secret in my secret sauce? I do!”

Still, Pop Pads remain a highly potent idea, capable of inciting inspiration but also of wreaking great destruction. So why am I bringing them up now, especially so soon after lunch? Because [livejournal.com profile] flaneurette has brought to my attention this article on Make-It-Yourself Menstrual Pads:

By my calculation they have very nearly achieved awareness of Pop Pads, and will probably have reached full Pop Pads capacity in a matter of months, if not sooner. For the good of companies across the world THEY MUST BE STOPPED. We’re through the looking glass here, people.

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