A couple of magazine campaigns were brought to my attention this week. And they ain’t pretty.
First up we had the ‘Victim of Beauty’ fashion spread from Bulgarian magazine 12 featuring beautiful models with violent and sickening injuries. These include a black eye, broken nose, acid burnt skin and a slit throat.
Then Durex very kindly featured the following ad on their Facebook page with the caption ‘Poor woman (or maybe lucky one?)’
What the hell is going on? How the f**k did these ads ever get made? What creative team is coming up with this kind of stuff? And what client is signing it off?
Creative: So we thought it would be cool to have a woman’s mouth ripped in half because – wait for it – the guy’s c**k is, like, totally huge.
Client: Oh my God, that’s hilarious. Lucky girl.
This is not a recent development either.
This letter (written by moi) appeared in The Face magazine back in 2001 following a succession of brutal and degrading fashion spreads featuring women.
I am becoming increasingly disturbed at the so called fashion pages in THE FACE. In the past few months we’ve been treated to women as rape victims…murdered women…women about to be murdered…and women as whores or porn stars. And then in FACE 49 we have ‘take me I’m yours because dreams are made of this’. In whose (wet) dreams so these women appear exactly? Certainly not mine. Enough tit shots please, you’re alienating half your readership. Or is that the idea?
And remember this ad from Dolce and Gabbana a few years ago? ‘Hey girls, buy a pair of our $300 shoes and you too can get yourself gang raped’.
Or this one from suit company, Duncan Quinn. ‘You’ll look so great in our suits, women will let you humiliate them.’
Or ‘misbehave and you’ll be killed and buried in the middle of the desert. But hey, you’ll still look good because you’ll be wearing your Jimmy Choos.’
What’s happening here? Are we getting so desensitized by torture films like Saw and Hostel, that we think portraying violence towards women is acceptable? Funny? Sexy even?
It’s not. It’s really not. On average two women in England and Wales are killed every WEEK by a current or former partner. Sexual and physical violence at the hands of a man affect a staggering 45% of women in the UK sometime in their lives.
Images like this do not help. How can we teach young boys (and girls) compassion, respect, love and kindness when there are so-called uber cool, creatives peddling this kind of crap?
Enough’s enough. If you work at an agency or in-house, come up with better ideas. If you’re asked to do the artwork or photography on these sorts of ads or articles, refuse. If you work at a magazine, don’t accept these ads.
Somebody needs to stand up and say these are not acceptable. Why not you?
And in his presentation he said something that really struck a chord.
“Marketing is every phone call, every text, every conversation you have. It’s more powerful and more important than any company website or corporate brochure or ad campaign. The people answering your phones or your emails – if it’s not you – are your strongest marketers and engagers. And, unfortunately, they’re often the ones we pay the least and appreciate the least.”
Now, if you’re a freelancer (like me) chances are you answer your own phone. (And pay your own bills. And buy your own milk and teabags.) But if you’re running a company, even a small company, are you certain everyone who works for you is representing your brand the way you’d like them too?
Take my recent experience with Virgin Active. I was walking back to the office from a breakfast meeting and on the spur of the moment I decided to check out my local Virgin Active gym. I’m already a member of another chain of gyms near where I live. But Virgin is closer to the office and would be handy for the odd lunchtime run. So I bounced up to the desk and had this conversation:
Me: Hey there, do you have a leaflet about the club and the facilities?
VA: No, we don’t have a leaflet
Me: Oh, ok can you just give me some information about the prices please?
VA: No, they vary each month. Someone can come and talk to you. You’ll have to wait about 15 minutes.
Me: I haven’t got time to wait I’m afraid. Can I just take a quick look round?
VA: No you can’t. Can you ring later?
At which point he scribbled a phone number on a Post-It note and handed it to me. Hmmmm. More pain, less pleasure as they (don’t) say in the Virgin Active ads.
I get that they may not have a brochure. So why not direct me to the website? And if you don’t want to give the prices out, why not say something like ‘we have special deals all the time. So to make sure you get the best rate I’ll get the sales manager to call you and she can run through them with you.’ Or why not give me the sales manager’s business card? Or, better still, take my card and say that the sales manager will call me? But nope. None of these happened. And I got three no’s instead.
So anyway, I get back to the office and I call the sales manager and leave a message. And an hour or so later she calls me back and was very nice. I shared the above experience with her and she was very apologetic and said ‘it’s frustrating when we work so hard in the sales office and it all comes undone at reception.’
That’s really the crux isn’t it? And it’s something Scott Stratten talks about a lot. It doesn’t matter how good your advertising is or how super cool your website is or how funny your viral is or how hard you’re grafting in the marketing department – if your customers or potential customers have a crap experience when they interact with your brand at the coal face, then in their mind your brand is crap. It’s a simple as that.
On Saturday I was shopping in Kingston and dropped into one of the more upmarket retailers on the high street. Cool advertising. Check. Slick website. Check. Nice clothes. Check. Sales assistants who are total bitches. Check. Three of them. All standing around chatting and laughing. They didn’t acknowledge me. Didn’t say hello. Didn’t say anything. I even had to say ‘excuse me’ to two of them who were blocking my route to a rail of dresses I wanted to look at. And still nothing. Seriously, I felt like Julia Roberts in Pretty Woman. Did they get my money that day? Nope. I spent it elsewhere. And yet that company’s marketing bods are probably cooking up their next marketing campaign as we speak. But I don’t care how enticing their ads are, they’ll never get my business again. Like, ev-ah. (Not unless they have a 95% off sale anyway.)
So what’s to be done? What would happen if companies halved their advertising spend and doubled their training budget? Oooh that’s an idea. And how about calling anyone in a customer-facing position a marketing manager or a marketing officer? Because, really, that’s what they are.
In tough economic times when people are spending their cash more carefully, where are they going to go? To the company that has awful staff but are ‘really good’ with social media? Or to the business that’s friendly, approachable and consistently helpful? I know where I’m going. Where are your customers going?
Standing in a queue at the Nationwide Building Society this week, I picked up this little leaflet. (Note to Nationwide: 9.30am, 7 people in the line and only one teller and a trainee serving. Please address this before my next visit. Ta.) Anyway, because I had nothing better to do, I started reading about Nationwide’s latest TV ad campaign which uses the characters from TV’s Little Britain, such as Vicky Pollard and Lou and Andy.
Now, I love these ads. And I like the fact that Nationwide has been brave enough to use controversial TV characters in their advertising. So when I picked up this leaflet I was hoping to read some quirky, fun, off the wall copy. Wrong.
First of all, this leaflet isn’t aimed at Joe Public: it’s actually aimed at Nationwide staff because it talks about the ‘intranet’ and ‘customer questions’, which makes the style of this leaflet even more inappropriate. (And why was it in the banking hall for me to pick up?)
Take the opening line: “Our TV ads have been designed to cut through the noise of the media.” What? Yawnsville. With all due respect to the staff at Nationwide, how many of them will know what “cut through the noise of the media” even means? I’m not sure I know.
The best bit is under customer questions. In other words, the questions customers may come in and ask.
Question: The ads talk about “Proud to be different”. How can you justify that?
Answer: Our mutual model, combined with great service, and a commitment to long-tern value for our members all make us very different to other financial service.
Ewwww. “Our mutual model”? Can you imagine any building society cashier actually saying this. Nope.
Or how about:
Question: How much has the advertising cost?
Answer: We’ve benchmarked our production costs and we’re in line with the market.
So if I went into a branch this afternoon and asked how much the ad campaign cost do you think I would get the answer above?
Was this written by the ad agency and then butchered in-house by some corporate bod who had been on a marketing course? Or was it knocked together by an intern in the marketing department? ’After all, it’s only for the staff.’ It’s a shame. Because this was an opportunity for Nationwide to get their teams a-buzzin’ about the new campaign. This misses the mark by miles.
On this blog, the other week, I was going on about old school communication, having received a handwritten letter (sort of) from my MP and a postcard from Jerry Marshall, who I’d met networking.
So, I had a few of my own postcards printed up and I’ve been sending them to people I’ve met out and about at networking events and conferences. I’ve even used them as thank you cards.
They were pretty cheap too. About £60, I think, for two hundred and something. Four colour one side and black on reverse.
I even fished out my old Waterman fountain pen to use and bought some new green ink. The downside, of course, is that my handwriting is a bit of a scrawl. And I’ve now got an inky middle finger. Sigh. Just like the old days.
So far they’ve been really well received. And they’re a nice alternative to email.
What do you think? Do you send handwritten notes at all?
I get loads of direct mail. I give most of it a cursory glance – more out of professional interest than anything else – before tossing it in the bin. And you probably do the same.
It seems that Amnesty knows this. Because their latest direct mail piece has on its front cover:
This flyer will ask you to make six choices. Here’s the first: Read it or bin it.
Now there’s no way I’m going to bin it now. The least I’m going to do is open it. Inside follow more choices:
Speak out or stay silent? Object or accept? Make a stand or walk away? Act or do nothing?
And then finally Join or not join?
The copy includes the line ‘for these and many, many more the fact you chose to read this leaflet rather than bin it, is a source of unimaginable help.’ Powerful stuff.
As a direct mail piece this is superb. Eye catching, emotional, appealing and with a strong call to action.
Find our more about Amnesty.
If you’re in the UK, you’ve probably been inundated with marketing bumph from your parliamentary candidates in the last few weeks. They’re often garish, glossy flyers stuffed full of daft images of various political bods grinning gormlessly as they plant a tree. And they tend to go from my letter box to my recycling box with hardly a glance.
But yesterday, this arrived from my Lib Dem MP Edward Davey: a personal letter. Well, not quite. It’s one of those handwritten-but-printed letters but it still felt more personal than all the other stuff I’d received.
And do you know what? I read the whole thing from beginning to end.
A few weeks ago, at a networking event, I met Jerry Marshall from Tozer Marshall Design in Kingston. We chatted. We swapped business cards. The usual. And then a few days later I received a handwritten postcard from him saying thanks for the chat and hopefully we can work together at some point in the future. How cool? I actually called him up to say thank you, and the postcard is now pinned to my wall.
Is this old style personal correspondence making a bit of a comeback in these days of impersonal emails, tweets and texts?
James over at Freelance Switch thinks so. In a blog post this week James has some great old school ideas:
Write a handwritten thank-you note to your clients, then tuck in an extra business card – and a request that the client pass on that card to a colleague who could use your services.
So I’m digging out my fountain pen and I’m getting writing. Which only leaves the question: Should I vote for Ed Davy or Monkey the Drummer from the Monster Raving Loony Party? (And yes, he really is standing in Kingston.)
Let’s be frank. Writing a blog post every day, every other day, or even once a week can be a right pain in the neck. Unless of course your actual job is writing for a blog.
But if you’re a freelancer or you run your own company, it’s easy to put your own blog on the back burner while you get your real work done. Especially if you’ve run out of ideas about what to write.
But stick with it. Because your blog is one of the easiest, quickest and cheapest ways of getting freshly baked content on to your site – and Google loves fresh content; it’s a great way of getting traffic to your site; and it’s the perfect way to build relationships with your customers and attract new clients.
But what to write about? Try some of these ideas for inspiration.
- Interview someone in your industry or someone you’re inspired by
- Ask a question
- Review a product and show how you use it in your business
- Tell a personal story and let people know the real you
- Review a book
- Write about something that affects your industry
- Read the Sunday papers for inspiration (I especially like the Sunday Times magazine)
- Write a response to something someone else has posted, giving your point of view (and link to the original post)
- Review a piece of software and show how it’s helped your business
- Take photos on your camera phone, whilst you’re out and about, and use in a post
- Write a post on something that’s in the news today (look at the BBC website first thing or see what’s trending on Twitter)
- Use a band or a movie as inspiration. The Sex and the City post over at Copyblogger was one of my favourites, like, ev-ah.
- Do a survey – and then publish the results
- Write about how you screwed up or how you learned a lesson
- Write a How to blog post…
And if you have a flash of inspiration for a post, leave yourself a voice memo on your iPhone or write a note in Evernote.
Any more ideas? Share in the comments.
Yuppies. Who can forget them? As synonymous with the 80s as mobile phones the size of bricks; gloopy hair gel; and Gordon ‘lunch is for wimps’ Gekko.
Yuppies was an acronym (sort of) for Young Urban Professional. Those upper-middle class, upwardly mobile twenty-to thirty-somethings that barked into their phones, carried a Filofax and wore red braces. And that was the girls.
But using acronyms to describe social groups has been around since the 1950s, when the term WASP was coined by Andrew Hacker in American Political Science Review. WASP or white Anglo Saxon Protestant was used to describe affluent white North Americans of north European descent (who were often neither Anglo Saxon nor Protestant. But, hey).
So, what other acronyms do marking bods use? October’s The Marketer explains.
SINBAD: Single Income No Boyfriend Absolutely Desperate. Ouch. An acronym for all the Bridget Joneses of the world.
SKIPPY: School Kids With Purchasing Power. Those annoying kids who want a 3G iPhone, a Nintendo DSi, the new shape PS3 and Wii Sports Resort. And they’ve got the cash to buy them. Grrr.
DINKY: Double Income No Kids. High earning couple without the financial drain of sprogs. Marketers love these people. We hate them.
SITCOM: Single Income Two Children Oppressive Mortgage. Yeah, not a great place to be right now.
YEPPIES: Young Experimenting Perfection Seekers. These peeps shop around looking for the perfect plasma screen, the perfect relationship, the perfect career, home and lifestyle. But will they recognise it when they get it?
So what acronym would you be?
I’d be ACNEE. Amazing copywriter never earns enough. Oh dear.
Is there anything more tedious than waiting for your baggage at the airport? It’s enough to make your holiday joie de vivre go right out the window.
So there I was at London’s Gatwick Airport at the weekend, waiting with breathless anticipation for my case to arrive, when I spied this ad for Gatwick Express, the fast train service into central London.
It’s not the ad so much that bemused me as the strapline: ‘anything else is a risk’.
What? Risks are normally associated with going on holiday and not having medical insurance. Or missing your mortgage repayments and getting your home repossessed. Or driving around without motor insurance and hoping you don’t crash into anything.
But using another mode of transport, other than Gatwick Express, seems like a perfectly safe and risk-free option.
Sure, the other trains may take a little longer. The Express takes only 30 minutes after all. But it does cost a whopping £16.50. (At least.)
The local train services, on the other hand, cost between £7.90 and £10.90 and take 35 to 45 minutes. And they’ll get you there in perfect comfort – even if they do take a few minutes longer.
You can even take a coach. Only £7.30. Or a bus for two quid. What a bargain!
So as far as I can tell, all the other options seem unrisky.
What is Gatwick Express going on about then? Are they saying that because they offer a fast, direct service, there’s less likely to be hold-ups, delays or traffic jams? And if you really have to be in central London super-fast-quick, for a very important meeting, than this is the way to go?
Why not say that then? How about:
The fastest way to central London
Your first class journey continues
Next stop: central London
Gatwick to London non-stop
They took me all of five minutes to think of, and all seem infinitely better than ‘anything else is a risk’.
Got a good strapline for Gatwick Express? Leave it in the comments.