Tuesday, October 31, 2006

Happy Halloween

We couldn’t let the holiday pass without giving it at least a quick mention, could we?

Halloween has come under fire in recent years for what is seen as its increasing commercialisation and Americanisation. More and more marketing is being dedicated to the event, particularly by retailers flogging novelty gifts, costumes and confectionery. Halloween themed goods can be found almost everywhere, from supermarkets to the high street. And each year we are spending more and more on this All Hallows Eve.

In 2001, the UK spent around twelve million pounds on the "holiday". This year, the expected total for the same holiday is £120 million. The seven days leading up to Halloween are expected to be the second busiest shopping week of the year and, for retailers, it has now become the third most profitable event of the year. Christmas is the most profitable holiday, of course (big surprise there considering it is now at least a 3-month event), then comes Easter, then Halloween. Guy Fawkes and Valentines Day hardly get a look in compared to the big three.

So, does everyone love Halloween much more than they did five years ago? Or is it just that our addiction to shopping has now extended to yet another holiday? Either way, we can be consoled that we are still quite a long way from America’s Halloween. According to the National Retail Foundation, Americans will spend $4.95bn, yes billion, on Halloween this year. Now, I know the population is around 300 million, but that figure is scary (pardon the pun). Considering that spending on US political campaigns for the mid-term elections stands at just $1bn, it's nice to see that they have their priorities right over there!


Friday, October 27, 2006

Painting the town red, blue, yellow

Following on from Dove's latest advertising campaign, another campaign caught our eye here at AME Marketing this week - at first for its amazing visual imagery and later for the controversy which now surrounds it.

After the last advertisement in which thousands of different coloured bouncing balls were sent down a hilly street in San Francisco, Sony Bravia have released another colourful, striking advert. Yet it appears that the ad is striking for all the wrong reasons.

Set against the backdrop of a Glasgow housing estate, the commercial shows the estate being covered in paint from a series of firework-like explosions.

So, what's the problem? Well, the advert shows a clown running away in one shot, insinuating he orchestrated all of this commotion. As a result, some viewers have apparently felt quite disturbed. Marketing Week reported on 25th October that the industry regulator, the Advertising Standards Authority (ASA) had received complaints from TV viewers that the advert was too reminiscent of the attacks on the World Trade Centre in 2001. It seems high-rise buildings + explosions = inappropriate "in today's climate of terror".

Sony and the advertising agency responsible for the advert, Fallon, have insisted that the estate used was completely empty and due for demolition. The paint that was used was also non-toxic and a team of sixty people spent five days cleaning up after the shoot. However, complaints have still been made and the ASA is now considering whether to launch an investigation.

In my opinion, the ad looks more like a fireworks display than a bombing and the agency that devised the campaign probably used a clown since they are known to be mischievous pranksters. The message I took from the commercial is that Sony Bravia celebrates colour, evident from this paint firework display, and fun, highlighted by their use of a clown. The idea that there were any connotations of terrorism did not even cross my mind. Yet I am surprised that this was never considered by those who created the ad, because if a message can be taken the wrong way, chances are it will be by someone.

There is no doubting the visual impact of the advert, and perhaps, without the use of a "perpetrator" there would not have been such a reaction. But what do you think? Is this just a lot of fuss over nothing or is the advert a bit close to the bone only five years after such a devastating attack?


Wednesday, October 25, 2006

Beauty in the eye of the beholder?

An advert caught our attention here this week, which has been released by Unilever’s Dove in Canada. Showing a normal girl, the advert, called Evolution, shows her being made-up, her hair being done by professionals, the lighting being made just right before a picture of her is taken. Her image is then manipulated and re-touched. The tagline is "No wonder our perception of beauty is distorted. Take part in the Dove Beauty Workshop for Girls."

Thought-provoking stuff, but how successful has this campaign really been, not only for Dove, for changing the public’s perceptions of what is beautiful?

When Dove launched its ‘real beauty’ campaign, it appeared to strike a chord with many women and sales went up 700%. A few years down the line, Unilever has moved on from simply TV and print advertising and has launched initiatives in a number of countries. It has introduced a self-esteem fund that supports specific educational programs throughout the world designed to increase self-confidence and promote a positive body image in young people. In addition, it has also conducted a survey of women in ten countries aged from 15 to 64 to explore self-esteem and the impact of beauty ideals on women throughout the world. This research found that 90% of women questioned wanted to change at least one aspect of their appearance and 67% withdrew from ‘life-engaging’ activities due to feeling badly about their looks.

It has to be wondered whether it is the images that women are exposed to in the media that are causing such negative perceptions of our body image. This certainly seems to be the case in Fiji. In 1995,TV was first brought into Fiji and at this time there were no body-image eating problems in the country. Three years later there were. It appears that visual culture is actually that powerful.

But the question is, have Dove done enough to change perceptions? Or rather, will they ever be able to? The world of cosmetics is essentially a fantasy world. Research shows that women usually say they would like to see larger models, but are more likely to buy the products advertised by the ‘perfect’ models.

At the end of the day, the images used by Dove are energising and inspiring to many women, but they won’t provide a cure for eating disorders or issues of self-esteem. To think they could resolve concerns that have been with women for centuries is naive. But perhaps they have at least taken a step in the right direction. What do you think?


Monday, October 02, 2006

Just Try It Out #1: Press Releases

The 'Just Try It Out!' column in our quarterly marketing bulletin On Target has been so well received we thought we'd publish them on our blog!

In the spirit of "you never know until you try", each article will try to inspire you to take up a little marketing DIY.

This time, we give you some pointers when writing a press release to get some free publicity!

1. Research suitable press and find contact details of the appropriate editor from web sites and directories. Always mark your press release for his or her attention.

2. Get writing! Be creative (inventive but honest!) and remember that your story must be newsworthy and of genuine human, local or trade interest.

3. It's always better to keep your release short but sweet. One side of A4 or approximately 200-300 words is about right.

4. Think of a short, catchy headline for your press release. This should get your news story noticed by the editor.

5. Tell your story in an initial short paragraph and then use the rest of the article to elaborate.

6. Get personal! Include personal quotes and add your own contact details. Have a few photographs ready for inclusion.

7. Remember to give details of when you want the story to go public.

There you have it! Have fun telling the world what's going on in your business and enjoy the free exposure that your efforts might generate. If your story isn't printed first time, don't get too downhearted and, most importantly, keep trying!

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