Thursday, August 27, 2009

Whistler holds out against the Olympic advertising avalanche

Interesting article in a Whistler regional newsmagazine:

Olympic advertisers will be out in full force during the 2010 Winter Olympics, delivering their messages to a captive audience in Vancouver. But not so in Whistler.

Corporations like McDonald's, Visa and Coca-Cola hoping to reach mass consumer markets as hundreds of thousands of spectators travel to and from Olympic and Paralympic events won't have much opportunity to advertise in Whistler.

And it's not as though they don't want to.

Advertising opportunities for Olympic sponsors, said organizers, would likely be well received in Whistler.

Unlike the city, however, the resort municipality prohibits billboards, video signs and building wraps in its boundaries and it isn't keen on extensive transit advertising either.

Though B.C. Transit has confirmed that Olympic organizers retain the rights for advertising on the outside of the buses, as yet there are no plans to do so in respect of Whistler's current practices.

"We are deferring to the RMOW and simply complying to existing community standards," said Bill Cooper, director of commercial rights for the Vancouver Organizing Committee for the 2010 Games (VANOC).

It will make for a much different Olympic experience here compared to the city.

With Olympic advertising revenues expected to double those of previous games, it's almost refreshing to see a community like Whistler stick to its principles.

And this is coming from an Ottawa adman who bemoans his city's lack of outdoor advertising opportunities.

What do you think: are they anti-corporate heroes, or crazy hippies?

Tuesday, August 25, 2009

Microsoft: Hopeless

I guess it's "awkward ethnic outreach" week on Change Marketing...

Yesterday, I mentioned how McDonald's is going to great lengths to ingratiate itself to the African American market.

Well, Microsoft has taken a different approach:

Can you spot the difference? (Click for full size.)

The left one is for Microsoft's English-language "business productivity infrastructure" site. The left one is the Polish version.

In a bizarro-world version of "Black guy photoshopped in", MS has decided that Poland is okay with Asian people, but not black people.

It's now making the rounds of the social media.

And while some people may forget Poland once in a while, it's doubtful that this will go unnoticed.

(thanks to Patrick for the tip/links)

Followup: You can watch the fallout here.

Monday, August 24, 2009

Hope: The McDonald's version

Have you seen 365Black yet?

I just received the link from my loyal reader Casey:

At McDonald's®, we believe that African-American culture and achievement should be celebrated 365 days a year — not just during Black History Month. That's the idea behind It's a place where you can learn more about education, employment, career advancement and entrepreneurship opportunities, and meet real people whose lives have been touched by McDonald's. Plus, you can also have a chance to win exciting once-in-a-lifetime opportunities. So make sure you visit often — you just might get inspired.

That's right. McDonald's is not "The Man", as 1970s blaxploitation movies would say. They are down with the people. Particularly the black people.

Like the unique African Baobab tree, which nourishes its community with its leaves and fruit, McDonald's has branched out to the African-American community nourishing it with valuable programs and opportunities.

Yeah, I don't buy it either. But it is not an unexpected move for the fast food giant, which has long been appropriating the language of the African American community with its AAE grammar in the slogan "I'm Lovin' It".

It's also interesting in light of the perception that African Americans are targetted by fast food marketing. PETA even has a whole movement around it, with Forest "Don't f**k with it" Whitaker as a spokesman.

Netwellness claims that the African American community is particularly hard-hit by the adverse effects of the modern lifestyle: 28.8% of men and 50.8% of African American women are considered obese.

And according to a study by the American Public Health Association:

Poorer neighborhoods with a higher proportion of African American residents have fewer healthy options available, both in food selections and in food preparation; restaurants in these neighborhoods heavily promote unhealthy food options to residents.

To be fair, it's still up to individual consumers to make their consumer choices. And rather than pushing hamburgers, McDonald's is using the site to promote its corporate social responsibility around African American community engagement, with scholarships, employment, and media partners. They've even done health outreach. But, as with any business move, nobody could have any doubt as to what the bottom line is.

So what do you think? Smart branding? Cynical cashing in on the Obama era? Underhanded marketing ploy? Or just playing to their audience?

Whatever your take on their motives, I'm sure it will stir up lots of discussion.

(Image stolen from Adrants)

Wednesday, August 19, 2009

Colder than Toronto's sense of irony

The rule used to be simple: making fun of the weak is mean, but making fun of the strong is expected.

It seems nobody told a few Torontonians that. Because their feelings were hurt, Coors Light has pulled this outdoor campaign from Vancouver:

This was just the latest in a long-running "colder-than" campaign that began with headlines like "Colder than Kim when you called her Kate" and has since moved on to regional variations:

The amusing part in all this, as the Vancouver Sun points out, is that the ad was actually created in Toronto by Draftfcb.

So, whatever happened to Canada's self-deprecating sense of humour? As one T.O.-based commenter on the CTV coverage noted, "People need to grow a backbone and stop whining so much."

...or at least get in on the fun. I'm just sorry I missed the deadline on Coors' colder than copywriting contest. I would've suggested something biting about Ottawa!

Friday, August 7, 2009

In defence of oafism

My colleague Christopher sent me a new column, written by a friend of his at the Globe and Mail, about the rash of stupid and goofy male stereotypes in advertising:

If they're not messing up your house, running into glass doors or trying in vain to outsmart an air freshener, you'll find them eating the inedible or falling down for no reason whatsoever.

At least, that's what some advertisers would have you believe. More and more marketers are trying to tap into the overwhelming buying power of wives and mothers at the expense of their other halves. Dads are dumb, boyfriends are bumbling and husbands are utterly hopeless as brands strive to relate to women by showing men as especially goofy or incompetent.

The article quotes a women's marketing specialist who decries the apparent double standard. "If we ever did that to women, it would be so politically incorrect."

This is not the first time "oafism" has become an issue in current popular culture. From the Honeymooners to the Simpsons, TV shows have always found the "bumbling male with a heart of gold" stereotype successful.

As a bumbling male with a heart of gold who writes ads, I don't really have a problem with it. It may aim for the cheap seats, in terms of humour, but I don't think it's really harming the status of men. There are very few stereotypes you're still allowed to make fun of these days. I don't mind that one of them is mine.

The worst you could say is that cardboard stereotypes like Ray Romano's old TV character show creative laziness on the part of writers, and don't really give male or female audiences a lot of intellectual or cultural credit. On the other hand, classic literature has been using antiheroes to get laughs since time immemorial.

While it was once dumb-ass noblemen with witty servants, since the 1950s the stereotype has been oafish husband and clever wife. What interests me now is that women seem more offended by what the stereotype implies than men — perhaps exactly because making fun of "the man" shows that the societal power relationship is still all-too-often lopsided.

But why do men put up with being put down?

A couple of years back, I was in a focus group where we were testing several TV concepts in storyboard. One of them featured a lovable yet goofy everyman. A woman in the audience complained about the apparent sexism. "Why is it the man who always ends up looking stupid?" she insisted.

A man in the group countered: "Because we like it that way. That's how we get away with dumb stuff."

Amen, brother, but keep it quiet! Now excuse me while I pretend I don't know how to boil an egg.

Thursday, August 6, 2009

What the L?

Doing so much social issues marketing work, we use the word "public" quite a bit: "public transit", "Public Safety Canada", "Public Health Agency of Canada", etc. But a certain embarrassing typo has become a curse of our internal written communications. Yes, that's right — it's a missing "L".

The situation got so bad once that we actually received a memo to remove the word "pubic" from our Microsoft Office dictionaries, so that it would always be flagged. This makes legitimate uses of the word in copy somewhat annoying (our healthcare work occasionally involves discussing STIs), but at least we won't be in danger of sending clients an unintentionally naughty message.

At least we're not the only ones. Check out this screen cap of a Google News search:

In case that's too small to read, there are references to "Amherst Pubic Library", "Napa County Pubic Health Division", the line "crime prevention starts with them, the pubic", "several arrests for pubic drunkenness", "a $24.7 million pubic share offering" and Porter Airlines' "initial pubic offering" (my personal favourites), as well as a "framework which will enable us to compete for a wider range of pubic sector research projects". Only the first hit is an accurate use of the word. That's gold, Jerry!

In these days of too much automated proofreading, the embarrassing typo is obviously here to stay.

Besides the other classic of putting too many "T"s in the word "its", what awkward typos trip you up?

Wednesday, August 5, 2009

Trust in Advertising

Nielsen's Global Online ‘Trust in Advertising’ study shows that consumer trust in admen is down, and faith in word-of-mouth is still on top:

Compare this to the same survey results from two years ago:

Bad news for strictly traditional advertising, great opportunity for plans that successfully integrate buzz and social media.

Branded corporate communications, however, also made considerable gains. But it's interesting to break this down regionally and compare it to how authoritarian you believe each of these cultures to be:

Brand websites, globally the most trusted form of advertiser-led advertising, hold the greatest sway in China (82 percent). Following China are Pakistan (81 percent) and Vietnam (80 percent). However, brand websites tend to be trusted least amongst Swedish (40 percent) and Israeli (45 percent) Internet consumers. In the US, 62 percent of Internet consumers said they trusted brand sponsorships, placing the United States 21st out of the 50 countries surveyed.

While brands hold great sway in China, it's interesting to note that yesterday the BBC reported a Chinese internet survey showing that prostitution is now considered to be the third most trustworthy "profession", placing sex workers behind only farmers and the clergy.

Admen were not mentioned.

Tuesday, August 4, 2009

A circular argument

I logged on to Facebook at lunch, and was confronted by this curious social ad:

Now, as a working adman I know this tactic all too well — but that doesn't mean I'm immune to the tease. However, instead of taking my chances on a blind click-through, I googled it.

It's a Facebook cause page:

"The Circle, yes THE Circle, humanity's old friend and hardest working shape, is under attack and desperately needs your help.

The world's largest corporation is trying to limit the use of the shape that has belonged to everyone and nobody since time out of mind.

Help SAVE the CIRCLE. Join the campaign for freedom of speech and internet rights."

Turns out Walmart has filed an injunction against UFCW's Walmart Workers Canada group, demanding that they not use the company name, uniforms, in their communications or even, "an oval, circular or semi-circular design that adopts the essential characteristics and color scheme of Wal-Mart's Rebranded Indicia."

This is just the latest round in the battle to unionize Walmart in Quebec, and one that UFCW is taking to the court of social media.

The injunction is clearly aimed at unauthorized use of brand elements, but Walmart Workers Canada are throwing the vague wording back at the lawyers, pointing out the absurdity of banning circles. There's even an Onion-esque fake news video on YouTube:

Will this one catch on? The video is a little awkward, granted, but this is just the kind of push-button slacktivism that social media are famous for. So far, the Facebook page only has 405 members and the YouTube vid hit 2,321 views. But PR-wise, this can't be good news for the big box boys.