Posts Tagged ‘adverts’

chroniclogo21From Paul Isakson. Found this at the top of Google returns for “future marketing”. It’s almost exactly a year old. Maybe I’m lazy for clicking on the first return; maybe I’m going undercover as a consumer. Who can tell? It advises against social networking marketing by “trying to be everyone’s friend”. It advocates an approach where the consumer doesn’t distinguish the marketing experience from the product experience. It quotes .. on the belief that brand and product have converged, and it advises all those who don’t have an interesting product in the first place to abandon hope.

Now, fairly shallow searching hasn’t yet yielded any particularly strong refutations of this argument, nor much that goes further on a theoretical basis. Paul Isakson had a post just the other day which asserted much the same thing:

“How should we leverage social media?”

paul isakson future marketing

Makes me think people haven’t been listening to him for nearly a year, or more.

The mutual backrub approach to marketing: if you give people something cool, they’ll talk about it. Reading about it made me think back to the quite parochial problem-solving I do with marketing in my blog. We wanted to get attention and an honest-endorsement from the administrator of a local-concern Facebook group. I went round and round in circles with myself trying to work out how to use our resources -free tickets to the event- to get the guy to mention it without seeming crass or setting off his antiflags.

Eventually we filled in with content expansion, something to make it worth a personal email, and I settled on cutting the tangible resources out of the equation, which allowed for a much simpler and more honest solution. An email bringing it to his attention and -crucially- asking for his advice on something (anything), and he mentioned the event with a simple endorsement on the group wall. Because he likes to feel like a broker in the community he started, and likes having something to talk about to endorse. This is the second magic spell that’s peculiar to community marketing: if you make people feel cool, they’ll talk about it.

That’s the magic behind “secret sellers” of the Pattern Recognition nightclub ilk, who drop brands into their otherwise rather extreme conversation. That’s the logic behind unique experience ARGs: cakes and honey. If ad eyeballs are the bread, then Unique Experiences are the circus.

They go beyond pattern recognition by persuading the experiencee to ignore the extent to which his experience is part of a pattern: instead, he is part of something special. The user may understand that he is a tesselating part of the pattern. “Groupmind” problem solving is a big part of current ARG design: the thinking is that people like to feel part of a group working towards a whole. But a large part of the power comes from the belief the user is if not indispensable, then at least special.


Of course, specialisation costs money, crafting specialised experiences moreso. That was easy enough in the event promotion example: we had access to a guy with some level of clout within a small community, and it was all conducted more or less at the “amateur” level. We find it useful to walk a line between having name-recognition and being ourselves a “local concern”, which is the balancing act of brand fandom.

Professional engagement with amateur-level talkers or mavens or group participants either has to be dishonest or very, very carefully handled.

penny arcade marketing shelly yu missfit forums boards secret preteen

It’s an extreme example, but my mind always goes back to those journalists (from all levels of the citizen-professional spectrum) who invited themselves onto the boards of Facebook groups formed in the aftermath of the VT Shootings. I did a bit of study on that while working as a freelance researcher, but at their height the comments were going up faster than I could read them. Still, journalists going on and asking for input were largely met with vitriolic backlash, no matter how carefully they phrased. They were Not Welcome on those public spaces.

Kids my age described feeling “violated” when our University authorities knew that they’d been at a banned party: they didn’t say so, but the Uni had clearly been “snooping” into publicly-posted photos.

Fooling some of the people

This has all been talked about before. “Make people’s lives better” says Isakson, and quotes a CEO on how “brand and product have converged”. You can’t sell it unless it’s cool, and if it’s cool enough it largely sells itself. And there is a balancing act for cool: you have to put yourself out there, but not so much that it irritates people. Marketing is the obsessive-compulsive running for class President.

Another quote from the shareslides above is about a consumer who “doesn’t seperate the marketing experience from the product experience”. That would be the dream of a product which literally sells itself, but it’s frankly meaningless when you’re dealing with the basic synaesthetia of advertising. That is to say, describing one sensation with analogy to another: scent with erotic image, for example, or excitement with beverage.

[I can’t find a link anywhere for the Sprite “great snowboarders” ad, which is stupid because it’s the only one of theirs I can remember. It went something like this: [Exciting downhill, exciting downhill] “What do all great snowboarders drink?” [Dude spills straight into sprite machine] “The same as all the not so great ones”.

Instead try this out:

nicely done, but to be honest why even bother with the titlecard at the end? Make it a series of four :30 spots instead, with the guy getting angrier and angrier, the bottle more prominent, forever uncertain whether the clip is corporate-made or not.

That uncertainty is what’s fun about the Trader Joe’s Song (Via Brand Autopsy). Maybe this time, you think watching it, someone earnestly, honestly loves something for its own sake. Life really can break out in perfect song and dance, this once. So you want to believe.

Image ads like these are one long excercise in making image and product inseperable. But image can only do so by obscuring the product completely, hoping no-one ever actually tastes the product but instead internalises the advert (like, say, Relentless). Or by building a consensus about the relationship between the brand and the product. And it’s marketers’ ability to influence that consensus that’s dissolving, as a tradeoff for their new tools.



Tim-Tam Slammers

Once again, these things have been talked about before. In an attempt to contribute to the worldwide brute-force attempt to solve these puzzles, I want to consider one small segment, from which we take today’s title: “The funny thing about my back is…”. It’s indulgence marketing, which I talked about a few days ago in connection with the Bourneville ad.  What would Utility Marketing look like when applied to the age-old technique of indulgence marketing?

Utility marketing is about providing a service that “gives people time back”, which is then associated in some way with the brand: it’s not about brand information as “pollution” or, in Anthony Lilley’s parlance, taxation. It’s part of the wider logic of making things easier to sell before you start selling them. Again from Brand Autopsy:

“Ask a Mighty Fine employee behind the counter how they’re doing and you’ll likely hear, “Mighty Fine.” They smile. They laugh. They look like they are having fun. Which all benefits the customer experience. Mighty Fine prides itself on hiring only “A Players” who are positive, supportive, and cooperative. To attract “A Players,” they pay above-average wages and offer much better than expected benefits. Mighty Fine knows by astonishing employees, they in turn, will astonish customers.

This is about a burger joint. But what would an A-player for the indulgence technique look like? Who is an expert in making you feel like you deserve that product, this once? Because whoever they are, they have an opportunity to provide a valuable national service by encouraging spending. More on Japan’s money-mattress crisis further down.

jell-o vintage ad racist hilarious jello mammy

Via Found in Mom’s Basement.

“Mammy sent dis ovah”

Jell-O is known to all sections as “America’s Most Famous Dessert.” In the South, for instance, it is inexpensive enough to be found in the cabins of old plantations. It is delicious enough to meet the standards of good living at the “Big House.” It is dainty enough for milady’s afternoon tea. It is appealing enough to turn the sinful, of any color, away from his neighbor’s melon patch.

It’s surprisingly racy, open-minded copy, after the manner of Spike Milligan: it challenges you with your stereotypes, offers up a bare-faced taste of the forbidden. And for getting past your effrontery, you’re invited to congratulate yourself, to indulge yourself. It’s a chauffeur-driven soup-kitchen dinner.

So how to think about this, in a modern connection? Advertisers no doubt already think about which poster will be placed next to which, or how ads are sequenced: they should start thinking about putting Organic Indulgence ads after car ads: Sustainable Furniture after overpriced cologne. They should identify through mutual rejection of excess, like the Obama-SUV ad.

It’s pointless to claim you’re thinking ahead of Google: I expect to soon see Gmail intelligent advertising responding negatively to keywords: charity donations or carbon offsets ads generated alongside emails with text references to “Vacation”, “Yacht”, “Promotion” or “Dubai”.

We know what an A-Player for a charity looks like: the magnificent Don’t Vote ads, or John Cleese on Comic Relief a few years ago staring in silence at the screen for upwards of four minutes while he’s “waiting for you to donate some money”, before shrieking “Oh get on with it, you cheap B*******!”

More than zero-footprint chocolate, I’m talking cocoa-bean picking vacations. I’m talking survival for indulgence: making your indulgence stores your personal Vegas.



Note that it’s official, according to the Economist: Japan’s economy is nosing.

japan economy spending nosedive crash slump

Combine that with the announcementa few hours ago of the resignation of Finance Minister Soichii Nakagawa, who the other day appeared to be drunk at a G7 crisis talks press conference. How Hilarity Ensued.

Maybe it’s the right time for this, via AsiaJin: Virtual Meat for Hard Times.

air yakiniku virtual meat

Air Yakiniku is a video sensory-supplement for cheap dining: beyond simple fake-sensation ads, it’s free indulgence. You set the table with rice and sauce and laptop, click to run the video of a hand sizzling and then picking up the meat, and then you chow down on a mouthful of rice, eyes fixed on the screen, senses hopefully totally fooled. Personally, I just bring a book to our canteen, and try not to look at what I’m eating. I’m currently reading the superb Eileen Chang. I figure I’ll try and get ahead of the Nobel Literature curve this once.

Lastly, today’s thumbnail comes from the Chronic Catnip Company, which has one of the most entertaining, well characterised pitches I’ve ever seen on an utterly useless expenditure.

I’m going to bed, then school, then work, then make-up, then to research how Nudges could influence the Wealth Effect.



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Hang fire

chronic catnip company logo thumbnailRecovering from a hangover by reading Nobody Scores! and giggling like a simpleton.

internets apocalypse nobody scoresI wrote a while ago about Indian TV advertising: “most advanced in the world, in terms of biological imperative”, was the phrase. It’s right up there in terms of brand cheekiness, too. This campaign has probably stopped, since it was running when I was there over New Year, but I was still thinking about it the other day, which is a good sign (though I couldn’t remember the brand for the life of me).

It’s about “emphasising what women want – men, as opposed to wannabes“, apparently. Maybe its memorability for me is partly because of its remarkably succinct use of a gora (Western) backpacker dipshit as a signifier for the “wannabe”, although in that sense its visual semantics are also slightly confusing to my eyes, because like most B-list Indian Ad models or “Item girls”, the ad’s Girls look as Western as possible.

“Axe is a strong leader in this category …the guy to look up to, and we know that,” says Shah [Marketing manager, Paras]. “We’re close behind, and this gives us the freedom and cheeky irreverence to take on the giant and be compared to the topmost brand in this space. There is a thin red line between fun and offence and we haven’t crossed it.”

It’s a pretty limp parody, all told, but well executed.

PS Japanman has a good post about queueing in Japan, which made me think of Get in Line Games, a company producing queue-centric group game software which queuers use via mobile phone.

Lastly this: Salvador Dali on US fifties game show “What’s my Line”, which is a joy to watch as found art and as vintage entertainment

Actually in the general context of the questioning we would have to accept that all the affirmitive replies except perhaps the last one are not misleading in any major degree however I think the last answer is misleading and we could not accurately describe our guest as a leading man.

He’s a misleading man?”


the greater the work the easier the parody

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Two adverts:

Bear in mind I haven’t watched British television in five months.

John Lydon, flogging butter. MediaGuardian featured this with their go-to air of rueful shock: it doesn’t surprise them, of course, since they saw this sort of thing coming. And it says a great deal about the nation. What exactly? Well, you’ll just have to watch the 4th-party embed. And then decide.

Now, there’s a lot to be said about Lydon going from verbal nailbombing to salesman, albeit one who doesn’t appear to be fluent in human langauges. What’s interesting to me is not that he’s using the Johnny Rotten persona to sell, but that he has been so easily used as a persona to formulate the ad’s punchline.

The signs are all there that he serves as a symbol, not a celebrity: his bizarre cadences are left in, but the slogan voiceover for the titlecard at the end is by a different actor. It’s mercilessly edited throughout, but most obviously cut on his punchline line about how he “thinks it tastes” / “the best”: his endorsement is immaterial to the ad and its audience, pretty much forgotten, his final scene of intimacy, supposed “home life” and personal preference as much a pastiche as his tweeds. [Don’t get me wrong, the man might well have a converted farmhouse and an Aga. The point is that that’s the joke.]

The whole script serves the central gag that it’s not about slogans, specifically “Best of British” ones: and for that purpose Lydon is a marker for a pantomime antibritishness and an iconoclasm that supposedly treasures its own opinion. He could have been replaced with another defaced national symbol, like the Churchill dog nursing a vivisected pubis, or with a mohican of turf on his head.

It’s another anti-ad ad, just like the naked/anonymous “Obama” KIA SUV ad.




The Bourneville “Myth” ad. Appearing in, among other things, ads during Cricket on Indian networks, and the Comedy Central ads for legal online Colbert Report episodes and South Park. The gag here is how [some] Americans love how the British hate the Americans. What’s weird here isn’t the well-performed but blandly scripted tourist buffoonery of the protagonist, but how the script is at pains to be reasonably accurate about what “the old chaps” might have had to do: “defeat the French at sea or the Aussies in Cricket”, instead of going the fantastical Disney Brit route: “clean a hundred chimneys that morning, or refrain from crumpets”.

Thus we know it’s an ad designed to be viewed in Britain, and I suppose, by unjust cultural extension, in India. So why does it show on untargeted American distribution as well? Because the whole design is to foster a sense of self-selection in the audience. The viewer who recognises culturally inappropriate or unsympathetic behaviour automatically qualifies themselves for the ad’s very literally conveyed ‘elite’ appeal. It’s in marked contrast to the spate of ads a couple of years ago about chocolates or ice creams which were indulgent, unearned, naughty, sexy. Among other things, the Maltesers “light on your conscience” series was a response to those ads, and the Bourneville ads are evidence of the mainstream culture of indulgence having come full circle.

Indulgence must be earned, the foolish protagonist concedes that he has learned, as we have learned from those anonymous British extras. And that learning, in itself, is worth a treat. The myth of “asking yourself if you’ve earned it” attached to a specific commodity offers the same reward/conscience/reward system as does driving a hybrid or eating voting donuts or a reduced-fat sandwich, or learning from the British, of all people.


Stuff on Japan will come tomorrow.

In the meantime, I’ve been reading Daisy Owl, which has been staving off the pangs and insomnia while Achewood hasn’t been updating. It’s not a perfect substitute, of course: its early stages are better than the first Achewood strips, but to my mind that means it’ll never have the eye for cruelty or sadness that Onstad’s work has.


clock and dagger

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phillipe1He: “A lot of these girls have fangs…”

Me: “Yes, or are in some unobtrusive way demonic.”

Introduced my friend BPL to Danny Choo’s figurine reviews, in the course of an hourlong skype conversation. I’ve missed talking to him, because it’s always refreshing to find someone who shares a lot of my interests, but approaches others of them as odd pursuits which only shallowly intersect with his serious nerd passions. As a Magic player, for instance, he’s spent a lot of time in comics shops, but I was startled to find anyone, least of all him, still under the impression that comics are generally speaking musclebound, misogynist pulp, or at least sparkle-filter tooth-rotting manga.

pixy hiyori naked figurine danny choo

Of course, that kind of formula tat is still the best consistently-selling weekly format, just like in movie theatres. Nick said to me when we were just starting out on Iland scripting: “I think I enjoy making comics more than reading them”, and I think I’m finding the same. A treeware comic has to be really something special for me to read it cover to cover (although I can forgive a webcomic almost any amount of short cuts, revision, poor scripting or cheap jokes so long as it updates regular. That’s the fun of the medium).

I once spent a long rant to K trying to use Watchmen as proof of legitimacy: that comics can be literature, though almost none have managed it. His coolness was frustrating: I had to admit that Moore was the exception, and since he could quite reasonably argue that the majority of the medium was gnash, there wasn’t a particular revelation at the end of the argument.

I cited Margaret Atwood’s semantic squeamishness at hearing Oryx and Crake described as “sci-fi”, one of my great disappointments in literary heroism.  K just dismissed it as a generational thing, but that’s no excuse for a great writer, or so I insisted. Her failure of generic enlightenment doesn’t diminish the book , or course, but neither would the label Science Fiction, except apparently in her mind. And hence probably in the minds of much of her audience. Ki o mite, mori o miteinai.

margaret atwood science fiction scifi schi-fi oryx crake

Ben and I also talked a lot about online distribution and publishing. Nick and I had made a joke earlier in the week about our sheer presumption: we might distribute teasers or limited chapters or something online, but ultimately we want people to go out and buy a book from the shops? What kind of punk kids did we think we were?

There’s the ownership argument, of course: DVD box sets are still doing alright, despite falling overall media sales. You get the sense of ownership with a box, as well as the convenience, and buying a whole personal Veronica Mars marathon is also an indulgence which might fall into the category of distractions and anodynes which actually increase in sales during a recession. We both have Family Guy box sets, and in retrospect Ben was able to say that his purchase had in some way contributed to keeping the show on air a while longer. “That’s a positive contribution that I’ve made as a consumer, and as a consumer you can’t say that very often”.

danny choo room

Ben is also part of a (possibly dying, possibly not) breed which will never get into the habit of reading regularly updating things online, outside of some very specific interests. With his usual charm he pointed out that if I, his friend, published a book, then he would undoubtedly buy it and read it through. But if I maintained a webcomic, on the other hand, he would probably never follow it. (You’re a sweetheart lad. Say goodbye to that free copy. Not that you’re reading this, of course) I can’t feel too insulted: the man was introduced to Gunnerkrigg Court and manages not to check it every day. Weirdo.

gunnerkrigg court tictoc bird

Spent this afternoon writing magazine copy and trawling through various areas of the London Media job market, that venal field of harriers and waspish matey placement ads. Was listening to Chris Morris’s Blue Jam monologues from his early 90’s Radio 1 show while doing so, which was a slightly schizoid and inadvisable choice. He strips and tars his hated “Media People” through the naked eyes of his Kholstomer-like child-tramp protagonist (who incidentally is one of the most sympathetic and timely literary depictions of mental illness since Gogol). And he lets them feather themselves, with an imitating voice that’s far more convincing than Nathan Barley ever was.

It’s strange-making, ostranenie, using a madness of uncomprehension to expose a madness of mundaneness.

economies of language

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phillipeTea ceremony practice yesterday morning, then scripting and magazine work and avoidance work. I bought some chalk and started using my windows as blackboards for Iland plotting, A Beautiful Mind-style, and now I can’t really see out. Not that there’s much to see in my dim construction-aesthetic zoned residential. Then to school to practice my new kanji regime and supervise an hour of child madness in the gym. Back for a dinner that can only be described as gelatinous, then economy-drinking with the fellows before we headed out for an electronica gig. We really don’t do that enough: talked about the odd frictionless art and storytelling of what will one day be known as The Simpsons’ Late Period. And movies, nerd pursuits of one kind or another, superheroes, tabletop gaming: even Todd revealed an in-depth knowledge of the Baldur’s Gate and KOTOR series.

Then out to Momochi to the site of one of my first reviews, Zepp!, for the Capsule gig. Back when I was there to review the childsafe, Hard Rock Cafe-sponsored Japan Tour of Motley Crue, the gig began promptly at the advertised hour and ended in time for the coiffed, pointy-booted crowd to catch the train home, like the least rock n’ roll thing since Brideshead Revisited. This time, however, it turned out that there was a huge grab-bag of anodyne, wall-of-sound DJs and Vjs on first, and the main event weren’t even on till one AM. Our pathetically lazy pre-drinking looked like superb planning, especially since the venue’s standing only.

Our opinion was unanimous: the singer from Capsule is ludicrously hot, though we couldn’t work out exactly why, any more than we could decide whether or not it was a wig.


Maybe it’s just that she was obviously having a great time on stage: maybe it was her teeny frou-frou skirt or her bike lock gold chain, or the fact that she couldn’t really dance but really wanted to. All we knew was: Yes

Home at about six, then up in the morning to clear my email and then get to an entrepreneurship seminar at the Nishinippon Shimbun building, run by the City council and The Indus Entrepreneurs, which turned out to be the largest nonprofit entrepreneurs’ association in the world, started in the nineties to collect the India/Pakistani Silicon Valley heads together.

I had dressed like how I imagined Venture Capitalists dressed in an attempt to blend in, new-gonzo style: I was infiltrating the world of the high-flyer through my publication, even though I have little to no understanding of how markets work! Though, as my friend Emiko later pointed out, I immediately identified myself as one of The Enemy by my habit of playing ominously with a biro then absently inserting the pen behind my ear, and wearing it for the rest of the day. The pen like a gun, in the words of Seamus Heaney: careful what you say, he might make it public!

It all proved pretty pointless in any case: I was lucky enough to have ten minutes On Record with an Indian American self-made millionaire entrepreneur, web pioneer and philanthropist who looked exactly like your Dad: velcro shoes, tweed jacket, classic ’93 Casio calculator watch, ring of fans and meishi-holders hoping to catch a droplet of wisdom. In the late eighties his company developed and popularised TCP/IP, and hence he had a pretty pivotal part in the invention of the internet, but as a millionaire dork he still dressed pretty much like he would if he was just a regular dork. Sharp as a whip, and didn’t pull any punches on Japan’s failing to incentivise and mentorially stroke its potential entrepreneurs.


Networked helplessly for a while: even if, with my suit as disguise, I was going to pass for a potential investor or other no-name confidant, I would invariably bring up the publication eventually in a vain attempt to make conversation or see a flicker of recognition in my opposite number.

Plus, let’s face it, everyone has heard of the magazine round here, and to those who haven’t it’s possible to make it sound more important than it is. And these days I can say with a straight face that I’m responsible for a large part of it. The Gay feature about The Gays (which had taken A LOT of work) headed the latest issue, and I had a text from K saying that he was surprised and pleased by it. I was already proud, if apprehensive, about how it turned out, but his endorsement was all the positive feed I needed. Hard to believe that I first interviewed him for the article, which turned into a two-hour office-closer, which turned into a drink, was probably only December. I’d have to look it up.

Then back to the office to start stallingly writing up the interview (tomorrow). My boss had talked me into coming, and left the questions and the byline largely to me, which I’m immensely grateful for. I’ve become very fond him, as I do of any of the few people who I’ve spent long periods of time trying to convince of something. I’ve taken to calling the poor man “chief”, in personal homage to Superman comics. Our Social Networking developments are taking off: next stop, podcast. “Can we pay you in laptops?” “I don’t see why not.”

Then a pint in the Half Penny, reading Zola, and dinner with Emiko to talk American literature and Japanese Cinema. I promised Emiko I’d go home and sleep: I have a lot to do tomorrow even before I meet her for a comics convention or soemthing.

Instead I started in on the beer and Wikipedia, and now I’m reading about the Irish diaspora and Shane McGowan’s dental problems, and watching the legendary 1987 Bones Brigade skate video The Search for Animal Chin (feat. haunted, anaemic 17-year-old vert ramp beanpole Tony Hawk), and listening to Flogging Molly, the latter two of which I think would mix up really well.

I have an idea for an experiment with Wikipedia, where you get five strangers and put them each in a room with a computer tuned to some innocuous control Wikipedia page with a lot of links, like say Photography or Superman, and you leave them alone for fifteen minutes and see where each one gets to within Wikipedia’s halls of madness. And how many of them are rapidly closing windows or looking faintly shamed when you walk  back in without knocking.

I don’t see why not

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Via 4th Estate and The New Shelton Wet/Dry

thumbnail-ae1I’ve been thinking a lot lately about cult, and whether it can unduly privilege or emphasise creators because they seem isolated from a main cultural canon. Of course, their obscurity has a rich heritage all its own, though the connections may not be so obvious. I wonder if this specific form of cult inevitably leads to vanity projects of the kind satirised by Garth Merenghi’s Darkplace, or where creators become indulged like George Lucas or Frank Miller.


Even in these early days of working on a script with a fairly narrow central appeal (hence my ill-humoured complaints of the advantages of apostate  “issue-driven” work in the medium) I’m thinking about ways to find and target an imagined audience. I’m having to mentally make good on all my talk to K and others that being ‘famous’ in the traditional definition only really applies these days to people who get into the wicked circle: people who are famous for being famous for being famous. They may have second jobs, of course, but that does not appear from the outside to be their reason for being. Instead, I’ve said many times, creators gets to be internet famous, famous to a few people whose opinion they might respect if you actually met them.

Who are these people?

I see all your fan showed up

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