Thursday, March 8, 2018

Is McDonald's #internationalwomensday2018 logo-flip a Freudian slip?

MSN reports that, for International Women's Day, McDonald's has flipped the golden arches on one restaurant sign, as well as on social media, to make the M a W.

I've seen comments that it unintentionally ends up looking like breasts. Which brings up the weird psychology behind the original logo.

From Quartz:
Do you get an irresistible urge to visit McDonald’s whenever you see the golden arches? That’s because, subconsciously, the magnificent yellow M reminds you of breasts. At least, that was the theory of the psychologist and marketing design consultant who persuaded the corporation to keep its logo in the 1960s.
The psychologist/consultant was  Louis Cheskin, who applied the Freud-friendly social science of the time to an analysis of the original golden arches, and he believed that the brand's double-dome evoked feelings of maternal love and sustenance.

This may sound a little flakey now, but Cheskin was an innovator in the deep instincts evoked by colour and shape in branding. His advice convinced Ray Kroc to allow the original arches (which used to be an architectural element) to be transformed into what would one day become a global behemoth of a brand.

Monday, November 6, 2017

How advertising innovations gave the world President Trump

It's been less than a year since we all woke up, rubbed our eyes, and realized that the United States of America had elected a blowhard reality show host as President.

It seemed impossible. But that was just the beginning of one unbelievable thing after another.

The suspicions and accusations of Russian interference in American political discourse felt like sour grapes to some, but now we're seeing proof. Last week, the US House Intelligence Committee published a selection of Facebook and Instagram posts and ads that came from accounts now known to be Russian-controlled.

Most of them speak the language of memes, at least what a "meme" is considered to be in the twentyteens: a captioned image that provokes a strong positive or negative reaction. Many, like the infamous Jesus-boxing-Hillary image above, also had a call-to-action that would help them spread virally.

The memes and other posts are highly-targeted, and many are aimed squarely at the fault lines of American society, both pro- and anti-Trump:

What's the point? Analysts call it Putin's attempt to destabilize the west, so that allied countries are less able to act against Russian interests. In the case of the USA, the goal was obviously to promote the election of a singularly unqualified presidential candidate, Donald Trump, who may or may not already by compromised by Russian intelligence.

At the same time, look at what's happening to the two major parties in the US: The Democrats lost the election partially due to infighting, which was additionally fuelled by pro-Sanders Russian ads, and Republican infighting allowed Trump to emerge triumphant.

As a social (and social media) marketer, I can't help but look at the strategy behind this with a mix of wonder and disgust. Segmentation, and telling people what they want to hear, are old advertising strategy. However, social media has provided a more targeted and intimate advertiser-consumer experience than ever before. Advertisers, or rather advertising platforms (Facebook, Google, etc.) also know more about consumers on an individual level than any direct marketer in the past could imagine. Apply some behavioural psychology to this, and maybe you can disrupt democracy itself.

How did we, the world, allow ourselves to become so easy to manipulate? Blame advertising. The desire of marketers to get inside consumers' heads is relentless, and it's really working. Just a couple of days ago, my partner was looking at soufflĂ© dishes online. While she was still doing that (as we have a shared family account for Gmail) ads for soufflĂ© dishes started appearing on my Facebook feed. This is simple behavioural retargeting, but it works.

In the mysterious inner workings of Facebook, all of my online relationships and posts are analyzed to better serve me content and ads that will be of interest to me. That was the plan, anyway. In reality, our social media networks become expanding bubbles of confirmation bias that can actually transform and/or stratify our worldview.

For a consumer advertiser, the goal is to build brand loyalty. Today, a brand can take advantage of the information Facebook and Google collect to attach their brand to "the big issues" and develop loyalty that is based on lifestyle, community, and even politics.

For the propagandists behind the 2016 US election disruptions, however, the goal was to inflame fierce loyalty within one's political sphere, while sowing FUD (fear, uncertainty, and doubt) about their opponents. The result is an influence on voting behaviour and the breakdown of the American political system.

When all is revealed by the House Intelligence Committee, 2016-17 will become a case study in mass persuasion, creating a belief system that turned voters away from mainstream politicians and into the arms of a complete disaster of a President. People didn't need to be convinced Trump was great, only that existing system was broken and Trump could disrupt it for the benefit of his base.

This operation, by the way, is ongoing, as any review of the replies to a Trump tweet will show. The United States is fractured, and the jagged pieces are drifting further away from each other every day.

Monday, September 18, 2017

#LaPizzaWeek Montreal figures women don't eat pizza anyway, so...

Despite the tagline "Everybody Loves Pizza," La Pizza Week Montreal has chosen to insult at least half of humanity with this poster.

The Italian headline translates literally to "this cock doesn't rub me," although it's a colloquial phrase that means "I don't give a fuck." Well, obviously.

Whether this piece of work offends your feminist principles, your creative sensibilities (as it's really awfully executed), or your love of Loi 101, you might want to let your favourite Montreal pizzeria know that their name is on this nonsense.


More update: I had assumed it was stock, but the pic appears to be from a catalogue or something. Grossest thing is that the image is used in "pizzagate" posts.

Saturday, September 9, 2017

Being banned from Facebook and Instagram sends "honest" bra ad viral

Some ads are made to be "banned." This one, from the Australian division of underwear brand Berlei, pushed the bounds of breast portrayal and was subsequently taken down from the brand's Facebook and Instagram pages for being "offensive."'s Angela Mollard writes:
Berlei’s ad is not gratuitous. It’s not sleazy or even sexual. Rather, it’s a fistpump-worthy piece of advertising that addresses women’s body concerns head or, rather, breast on. Yes there’s boobs bouncing under a sports bra and women trying to cover their nipples and prod or poke bits of flesh back into an unsatisfactory garment, but that’s life with breasts.

I'd have to agree, although the ad is certainly provocative in a very deliberate way.

As of this moment (10:30 EDT, Saturday September 9, 2017) the ad has almost 225,000 views on YouTube. Expect to see many more as the earned media does its job.

Are people interested in this ad because it's about breasts? Of course! Is that a problem? Perhaps to some prudish American social media moguls. But it seems pretty feminist to me.

If you have any thoughts on the ad, please feel free to comment. I'll be ramping up this blog again over the next few weeks, so expect to see more posts. Let's talk about ethics in advertising!

Tuesday, May 9, 2017

KFC reminds moms that it's their job to cook. On #MothersDay

The idea is pretty cute: Kentucky Fried Chicken publishes a romance novella starring Colonel Sanders as a mysterious Victorian sailor.

It's funny stuff by Wieden + Kennedy. But there's a problem here, and it has to do with what "moms" are expected to do when it's not Mother's Day.

Let's hear it directly from the mouth of George Felix, director of advertising for KFC U.S.:

"...this Mother's Day, the bucket of chicken I get for my wife will come with a side of steamy romance novella. Dinner is taken care of and she'll have the time to escape her busy schedule."

Dinner's taken care of? That's great! Mom gets the night off from cooking for her family. Because that's what moms are expected to do, right?

I get that advertising isn't supposed to push social progress, but rather sell stuff. And KFC has been selling fried chicken as a "break for mom" since the beginning.

You get the idea.

Nonetheless, the dusty old ideas about family division of labour seem to work for the KFC brand, who claim a 40% jump in sales on Mother's Day.

Moral of the story? More men and children need to learn how to cook.