Thursday, July 30, 2015

Proposed "Museum of Women’s History" ends up cashing in on Jack The Ripper

Via Wikimedia Commons

Imagine if Montreal promised to open a museum of women's history, and instead dedicated it to Marc Lépine.

Something similar has happened in London. A museum that was promised to be “the only dedicated resource in the East End to women’s history” opened last week, opened to reveal this:

Via Alamy Live News

A document  sent by the museum's architects to Tower Hamlets council last summer,  to get permission to convert an empty Victorian shop into a museum,  "included pictures of suffragettes and equal pay campaigners and designs for a museum called the Museum of Women’s History," reports the Guardian.

Instead, they got a place dedicated to an anonymous serial killer who targeted women sex workers and mutilated their reproductive organs.

The businessman behind the tourist trap, Mark Palmer-Edgecumbe, told the Standard:

“We did plan to do a museum about social history of women but as the project developed we decided a more interesting angle was from the perspective of the victims of Jack the Ripper. It is absolutely not celebrating the crime of Jack the Ripper but looking at why and how the women got in that situation in the first place.”

And what, exactly, is that supposed to mean? More shockingly, the Mark Palmer-Edgecumbe quoted is a diversity and corporate social responsibility expert who has worked with Google, Barclays, and the Global Diversity List, (associated with The Economist).

His LinkedIn profile reads, "I am passionate about all aspects of diversity and corporate social responsibility and believe that all individuals should have the opportunity to fulfil their potential. For me diversity and CSR are key business issues that I am adept in utilising to add financial, commercial and reputational benefits to organisations - as well as creating a great company for employees and customers."

He also mentions that he was voted to  the top 25 most influential LGBT people Globally by the World Pride / Guardian Powerlist in 2012, and that he is the Chairman of Board of Trustees at The Inclusive Foundation "a UK based Charitable Foundation aimed at helping young people to realise their full potential."

Is this really the same person? What the hell is going on over there?

(Thanks to Patrick for the tip)

Tuesday, July 21, 2015

Nestlé strips down for "natural" Coffee-Mate

I'll give Nestlé credit; this ad for "natural" Coffee-Mate creamer is getting tons of earned media. And it would need to, since the Coffee-Mate brand has long stood for "non-dairy creamer."

So, to show people that this new product has real dairy in it, they body-painted "nude" baristas (and a few customers) in a coffee shop in what looks to be an experiential stunt:

"Boobs," get it? Natural dairy. Ha ha. But at least they involved men as well in this gag. They even made a point of sexually objectifying the guy more bluntly, although this is hardly progressive.

It's not that bold of an idea, though. Topless coffee bars were a fad out west a few years ago, and public nude body painting stunts go back decades.

But then again, advertising ain't art. It's about getting attention and triggering recall. This ad achieves the former, and might achieve the latter if people can forget a lifetime of associations between Coffee-Mate and unnatural coffee whiteners.

It's also a very American brand ad, which takes full advantage of that country's weird relationship with nudity. As many celebrities' Instagram drama has shown, nude buttocks are perfectly acceptable to the American general public, while women's nipples are not. Take a closer look at the video, and you'll note that not only are the "nude" actors wearing thongs, but the women are oddly nipple-less while the men are not.

It's the same thing that you see on TV, with shows like Naked and Afraid — lots of tease with nude bodies from the rear, with all genitals and female nipples blurred out. Considering all of the real nudity on the internet, this PG sexuality is simultaneously exploitative and bland. In other words, not really "natural" at all.

Via Eater. Thanks to JVL for the tip.

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.