Oh, that’s clever!

I noticed an advertisement at my local bus stop the other day that made me smile. It was a NESCAFÉ ad for its Blend 43 Black Roast.

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Their ‘most intense coffee ever’ has a terrifically clever tagline. ‘EATS OTHER COFFEE FOR BREAKFAST.’ It’s bold. Menacing, almost. And so is the typeset. A little research into this ad campaign reveals more clever copy in the print ad: ‘…a true blend of strength, because mornings are no time for weakness,’ and ‘all in the name of full on taste.’

I don’t usually drink instant coffee (oh dear, that sounds like I’m a coffee snob) but I might have to give this one a try. All because it claims to be Rich, Dark and Bold and I like coffee with a bit of attitude.

Some ads are so clever they make me want to be a copywriter. Just as watching L.A. Law made me want to be a lawyer. Or watching the movie Nadia about Romanian gymnast Nadia Comaneci when I was a kid led to repurposing the arm of our sofa as a balance beam and the corners of the carpet for final poses (minus the multiple backflips). Gymnastics and law were obviously short-lived dreams – my flexibility is restricted to bending my thumbs backwards and I find that slamming my hand on the table and shouting ‘Objection!’ doesn’t have quite the same effect as when Jimmy Smits did it in court. But copywriting, there may be life in that dream yet….

The best ads are memorable. The ones that have carved their way into my Advertisement Hall of Fame include:

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1. WORDPLAY: Vidal Sassoon’s 1980s slogan “If you don’t look good, we don’t look good.” A simple play on words that worked for the haircare industry. The models looked good, because supposedly they used Vidal Sassoon haircare products. So the company looked good, because they’ve created products that work, can be trusted, and have an invested interest in you looking good. Simple and so effective.

 

 

 

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2. DIVERSITY: United Colors of Benetton‘s billboards and posters with models of varying ethnicities and skin tones wearing bright, colourful clothes.

Memorable because it was very rare in Malaysia in the 1980s or 90s to see darker-skinned models featured in local advertising, despite the make-up of the local population.

A welcome respite from all those Fair & Lovely commercials, these Benetton ads appealed to me even if no one really wore sweaters in 33°C Kuala Lumpur heat.

3. SHOCK: Pathway Project, a UK-based charity that supports adults and children affected by domestic violence, released an image that quickly went viral on social media just before the 2018 FIFA World Cup. It wasn’t pleasant, but it stuck. abuse

The statistic was based on a 2013 study by Lancashire University, looking at the number of domestic abuse incidents reported to the Lancashire police force over three World Cup tournaments from 2002 to 2010. The authors of the study called it ‘relatively small’. But still disturbing, and I was curious about the rest of the study.

When England lost: domestic abuse rates were 38% higher (than on tournament days when England were not playing).

When England won or drew a match: domestic abuse rates were still 26% higher. I hated the stats, but I loved this ad, and I hoped it had a positive effect.

Which ads, current or past, stick in your head?

©2019 Seetha Nambiar Dodd

What’s news?

On my bus journey to work, I usually try to read something. Most of the time I succeed, barring occasional distractions. I either read a book, or an article that I’ve saved on my phone. Recently, I read a few articles that made me wish my bus ride was longer, but not all of what I read was pleasant. Certain stories just require more contemplation than a 15 minute journey will afford. Here are the three that stuck in my head and continued to work my brain long after I’d read them, much like those HIIT workouts that keep burning fat even when you’re sitting on your bottom. Or so I’ve been told.

Story #1: The Good

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The French postal service, La Poste, identified two modern dilemmas that needing solving – one financial, one social:

  • the decreasing number of letters being sent in today’s digital world, and
  • the increasing number of elderly people who live alone.

In a move that has received mixed feedback, they came up with a new service called ‘Veiller sur mes parents,’ or ‘Watch over my parents.’ This allows customers to pay for postal workers to check on their elderly relatives.

The uptake has been positive – about 6,000 elderly people (average age: 82) use the service, which includes weekly visits and a report sent to the family. There is also the option of a 24-hour helpline and alert system.

Critics say that friendly gestures of calling in on the elderly were already happening, for free, by postal workers. But La Poste claim this service is pioneering and much needed when many adult children live far away from their ageing parents. It provides human connection for the elderly and reassurance for their children.

The article made me happy and a little bit sad at the same time.

Story #2: The Bad

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Business news website, Business Insider India ran a story on the joint winners of the 2019 Nobel Prize in Economics. The piece quickly spread across social media for its choice of headline:
“Indian-American MIT Prof Abhijit Banerjee and wife Esther Duflo win Nobel prize in Economics”

So the headline tells us that Abhijit Banerjee is a professor at MIT, and that he is Indian-American. But all we know of Esther Duflo is ‘wife’. I get that there are different narrative voices in journalism, but this is one perspective that needs to change.

Esther Duflo is also an MIT professor. The article, in fairness, does mention this later on, and that she is French-American, but these details are in relation to a different endeavour, from 2003 (not the Nobel Prize she has just won in 2019), and is again tagged onto her husband’s achievements. The headline also neglects to mention the third member of the winning trio – Michael Kremer, professor at Harvard.

Consider the difference:
“Nobel Economics Prize Goes to Pioneers in Reducing Poverty – Three professors, Abhijit Banerjee and Esther Duflo, both of M.I.T., and Michael Kremer of Harvard, were honored.” (New York Times)
American trio win Nobel Economics Prize for work on poverty.” (Agence France-Presse)
3 economists share Nobel Prize” (NHK World Japan)

Esther Duflo – professor, American, economist, youngest person to be awarded the Novel Prize in Economic Sciences – commented after winning the award: “Showing that it is possible for a woman to succeed and be recognised for success I hope is going to inspire many, many other women to continue working and many other men to give them the respect they deserve.”

Business Insider India – please take note because your bias is showing.

Story #3: The Ugly

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Tennis pro Naomi Osaka has been subjected to media scrutiny and controversy over her ‘image’ and racial identity due to her mixed heritage. (She has a Japanese mother and a Haitian father.) The Japanese press question how ‘Japanese’ she is, and often insist she speaks in Japanese, even though she grew up in America and has stated that she prefers to speak in English. Earlier this year, a Japanese noodle company was forced to remove a commercial in which Naomi was depicted with pale skin and light brown hair (so nothing like Naomi at all).

On the day Naomi won the Pan Pacific Open, Japanese comedy duo ‘A Masso’ joked at a live comedy event that Naomi ”needed bleach” because she was “too sunburned.” The audience was not impressed with the ‘comedy’ but Naomi maintained her cool.

Then in a powerful, classy return that has been hailed as a ‘masterclass in public relations,’ Naomi took to Twitter in response to the duo’s nasty comments and plugged Shiseido, for whom she is a brand ambassador, with this winner:
“Too sunburned” lol that’s wild. Little did they know, with Shiseido anessa perfect uv sunscreen I never get sunburned.

Game, set, match – Osaka.

©2019 Seetha Nambiar Dodd

Bloody awesome

Advertisements for female sanitary products have never been very realistic. A Google search on ‘vintage sanitary ads’ reveals that in the olden days, periods were very much secret business, and products were designed to facilitate your carefree, athletic life without you ever having to say the taboo word period, deal with any actual blood, or ever experience tiredness or cramps.

When I was growing up, the ads were also quite cryptic. Happy girls and women jumping, running, dating – and doing all of this in pristine, tight, white clothing. You wouldn’t know, the first time you watched these ads, what you were being sold.

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There might have been brief references to the ‘product’ but these were shrouded in secrecy. The packaging was meant to be ‘discreet’ and the theme was that no one would know.  There was also not a single mention of blood. The most daring ads had visuals of a sanitary pad being absorbency-tested with an odd, blue liquid.

Thank goodness, then, for Libra Australia, who have adopted the manifesto of their parent company, Essity, and decided that it is time for Australia to normalise periods, two years after the campaign was released in the UK. “Contrary to popular belief, women don’t bleed blue liquid, they bleed blood,” says the tagline of their campaign, #bloodnormal. “Periods are normal. Showing them should be too.”

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#bloodnormal

About bloody time.

The ad is controversial. It features real-life situations where girls and women deal with having a period. And yes, some of it is unpleasant. After being aired on prime-time Australian TV last month, there were over 600 complaints from viewers that the ads were inappropriate – the highest number of complaints for any ad in 2019.  The complaints used words like disgusting, offensive and confronting. But Australia’s industry regulator, Ad Standards, dismissed the complaints as not being in breach of viewing standards but in fact “promoting equality and the demystification of menstruation.”

Perhaps the controversy is precisely the reason why these ads need to continue. Libra aims to educate, not to shock. The more we see it, the more normal it becomes, and normalising periods is the goal of the campaign. The director of the #bloodnormal video, Daniel Wolfe, was inspired by a quote he saw on social media which said, “Can’t wait for the day when women no longer pass tampons to a friend like they are a Class A drug.”

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Indian company NH1 Design’s award-winning campaign in 2017

If nothing else, this research from Libra Australia is reason enough for encouraging open conversation about periods:
“67% of teenage girls would rather fail a subject at school than have their class know they were on their period.”

Now that’s confronting.

©2019 Seetha Nambiar Dodd

National Bikini Day?

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July 5th is ‘National Bikini Day’. I only know this because I get a lot of junk mail. Scanning through my inbox, I find a swimsuit company (Australian) proudly declaring this special day via email. There is even a hashtag: #nationalbikiniday. They aren’t just imparting useful information, of course, they are also sneakily trying to sell me swimwear.

But as I read this email, while wearing thermal pyjamas and drinking hot tea out of a thermo-flask, I sense it isn’t National Bikini Day in Australia, where July is the coldest month of the year.

So, as any curious writer would do, I Google it. And here’s what I find:

  • The bikini was first revealed on 5 July 1946 in Paris by French mechanical engineer turned fashion designer, Louis Réard
  • Réard wanted the name of his new swimsuit to be shocking, and for the launch to be ‘explosive’, so he named the garment after the Bikini Atoll, a group of islands in the Pacific Ocean where the atomic bomb was being tested in 1946.
  • Bikini Day is observed on 1 March in Japan, to commemorate the Japanese fishermen who became accidental victims of nuclear testing at Bikini Atoll.

But while we’re talking about shocking swimwear, I feel the need to discuss the new micro swimwear trends that have bombarded the internet recently. Buckles instead of straps, bikinis that look like they’ve been put on the wrong way round for the lack of coverage, and swimsuit bottoms cut so high they reach your armpits.

Exhibit A. Swimwear I don’t understand from an online retailer that I love. bikini-day.png

A few observations:
1. I am not surprised this is on ‘Final Sale’ – must be hard to shift. Out of your crevices.

2. ‘This product cannot be returned or exchanged unless faulty.’ Well. Seems there is already a fundamental fault in the product, i.e. it would be tricky to swim in it.

3. The discount, because I had to check, works out at 66.6%. The greatest trick this ‘one-piece’ ever pulled was convincing you it is a swimsuit.

4. $29.71 (plus postage) is not the final price you will pay. What about the additional considerations of waxing, tanning, chafing, and then the cost of another swimsuit for actual swimming.

But that email isn’t just a marketing ploy. Sources confirm 5 July is indeed, Bikini Day. Other notable days this month include:
10th July: Piña Colada day
13th July: International Rock Day
16th July: Guinea Pig Appreciation Day
31st July: Uncommon Instrument Awareness Day.

If you’ll excuse me, I’m off to celebrate July by sitting on a rock, Piña Colada in hand and preparing to play the comb & tissue paper. Until the sun comes out, I’ll be accessorising my bikini with a full-length puffer jacket and Ugg boots.
#bikiniday? #i♥guineapigs

©2019 Seetha Nambiar Dodd