Monday, May 28, 2007

Tears in Heaven

For some reason when I read on the Daily Swarm that Saatchi & Saatchi had been fired by the creators of Dr. Martens, Airwair for controversial ads – my brain immediately triggered off memory impulses of the time when its China agency got in trouble with Lego, but it turns out the two incidents couldn’t be more different from one another.

The Lego controversy, if you guys can remember, had two Saatchi creatives create and post fake ads for NON-client Lego, referencing of all things, the World Trade Centre and the devastation of the Boxing Day Tsunami. The two offenders subsequently got the sack for “illegally using the agency’s name as well as its senior director’s name behind the ads without consent” BUT the intense blogospheric and online pressure for heads to roll must have had a say in the decision as well. Anyways, hopefully they have moved on, everyone makes mistakes – if anyone knows what happened to them, do let us know and post a comment.

So back to the Dr. Martens controversy – if you hadn’t already heard by now, Saatchi & Saatchi London produced ads showing deceased rocker icons such as Kurt Cobain, Sid Vicious, Joey Ramone and Joe Strummer, in heaven wearing Dr. Martens footwear. Apparently the ads were approved to run as a one-off in a selected publication but an individual who Saatchi says they are “considering the ongoing employment” off, went on to post the ads on a US advertising website.

Yes they guy was wrong for doing that but I am going to let go with an opinion and say that I liked the ads and prior to this controversy, I had heard of at least one of the rockers did in fact like to wear Dr. Martens.

So what now?

Dr. Martens fired Saatchi & Saatchi and has since released a statement claiming they had not approved the ads etc, so I guess some more head will roll which is further proof (as if we needed any) that the online community or the community using digital means of communication, can and will be heard…


Friday, May 25, 2007

The Corporate Blogging conversation

Last night’s Blogout event organised by a bunch of young people known as The Digital Movement was quite a hit, with a room packed full of blogging enthusiasts doing what they do best – sharing their thoughts.

You can imagine how noisy the room was, with five tables with about 10 chairs each, crowded around by different bloggers at times, each straining to hear what others were saying while trying to squeeze in some comments of their own.

I found myself at the table discussing corporate blogging, and what started out as a ‘look and see’ thing for me turned into a full-on participative and learning experience.

Some of those at the table with me were Melvin Yuan of Burson-Marsteller and, Ming Shen Cheo of, Benjamin Koe of Hill & Knowlton, Bernard of, Darius (I didn’t get his name card), Clarice Chiam, Priscilla Teo of Fulford PR, Angeline Yeo of Marketing’s sister publication Procurement magazine, Huang Renzhi of The Digital Movement, and others.

We spoke about almost the whole spectrum of corporate blogging, covering why companies should start a blog (should it just start one then set a direction or vice versa?), should the CEO alone blog or should everyone in the company be encouraged to blog and if so, won’t it be confusing to have 200 different voices all talking at once in one blog…

We basically agreed:

  1. you have to have some idea of what you want to achieve when you start a blog related to you company / business
  2. you have to know who your target audience is
  3. you have to have something interesting to say, or else why say it
  4. and most importantly, you have to be honest.

I think that last point was the most important thing I took away from the event. You see, the worry that marketers in Singapore have, and I’m sure in most parts of the world too, is they cannot deal with negative comments and criticism from readers of the blogs. Either that, or they don’t want to have to deal with these things.

That may possibly be the reason why companies like Apple made a rule that does not allow employees to blog on anything related to the company. But I am assuming this is the reason.

Anyway, I asked Melvin Yuan this and his answer made me almost kick myself. He said if your company is an honest one that does not have anything to hide, and you happen to get some nasty comments from people, you will have no problems countering those attacks with fair responses. In fact, you may not even have to bother making any counter arguments because other bloggers will speak up for you.

So the blogosphere ‘self-governs’ and self corrects, which is exactly what the internet is all about. Eureka! No excuse for marketers now. If you’re not blogging soon, I’ll assume it’s because you have nothing interesting to say – don’t pretend it’s otherwise.

Just another thing before I sign off: I’m glad I learnt what is Twittering! Another social networking thing which basically keeps your friends in the loop on what you are doing at any particular point in time. Simple smsed to the page or by logging into the site on your laptop, you can type up to 140 words on what you’re doing and see what your friends are up to as well.

Anyway, kudos to The Digital Movement for pulling off an interesting event.

Photos from Nic of Microsoft

Monday, May 21, 2007

Plastic bags: more than meets the eye

The IKEA ‘No more free plastic bags’ campaign has certainly help market the company as an environmentally concerned organisation, and the results show that this CSR initiative has also generated some extra dollars as well.

The campaign launched on 22 April 2007 April, and results up to the 16 May show that in the same period, IKEA would have given out an estimated 288,000 plastic bags, but only 45,686 were purchased, resulting in an 84% in reduction. In response to IKEA now charging for its previously free plastic bags, 14,595 have subsequently been sold in that period which IKEA says is equivalent to over a 2000% increase in sales (something tells me that I was the only person who actually bought a bag before 22 April).

Hats off to the IKEA brand though for managing to cut costs, help out the environment, and further strengthen ties with existing customers despite charging them for something they initially got for free.

Interestingly enough, on the topic of the evils of plastic bags, creative director for Leo Burnett, Alex Lim dropped us an email containing a little known plastic bag fact from Japan. As to be expected from Japan, it’s a little quirky if not hilarious!

Over to you Alex:

“Plastic bags certainly contribute to a degree of environmental chaos, but ask most people and they will say it’s 'handy', 'practical' and 'hygenic'. The carrier bag goes back at least to ancient Egypt when cotton was first spun. After 3,400 years, this simple invention is still part of our lives,”

“During a recent trip to Japan, I was amused to find in my hotel room a nicely packed 36”x 25” clear plastic bag. Looking at the pictograms, I realized this simple lightweight plastic bag, besides being a handy carrier – can also save my life in the event of fire,”

“If I inflate it and tie it around my head, it should protect me from smoke and carbon monoxide inhalation. Well…that’s if I don’t suffocate myself to death first”.

Well there you have it, plastic bags can save your lives in a fire – lets just hope the heat from the fire doesn’t melt the plastic to your face…ouch.

Tuesday, May 15, 2007

The truth can be fiction

We are less than three months away from the launch of the seventh and final Harry Potter book and hype has already started to bubble into a standoff between hardcore fans and so called ‘spoilers’ – publicity stunt perhaps?

The problem started late April when a leading Harry Potter fan site,, started receiving ‘spoiler’ mail from sources claiming to have the inside track on the contents and ultimately the outcome of the final storyline. This upset the leaky cauldron people and angered them enough to post this message on their site.

“If Harry dies, we don't want to know about it until J.K. Rowling decides to tell us. And if you decide to tell us before that, you'll incur the wrath of a staff of almost 200, most of whom have been waiting almost 10 years for these final revelations and can NEVER get back the moment you rob by spoiling them.”

It’s the nature of the online space for users to share information (whether it is true or false) instantaneously with one another and sometimes in the process create commercial success for others like the Blair Witch Project for example.

So this could simply be a cleverly planned publicity stunt designed to ruffle the right sorts of feathers in a bid to generate pre-launch hype and excitement, reminding everyone that the countdown to the final Harry Potter book is coming to an end.

Harry Potter author, J.K. Rowling has already told fans that she will kill off two major characters in this final installation, titled Deathly Hallows, so could this be the next step in team Potter’s marketing scheme to guarantee themselves a fitting finale to what has been an amazing success story. Reports suggest that has already received over one million pre-orders for the book – expect that figure to rise in the coming months.

Rowling, herself felt compelled to respond to the comments posted on the leaky cauldron fan site by writing on her site, “…the first distant rumblings of the weirdness that usually precedes a Harry Potter publication can be heard on the horizon”.

“I want the readers who have, in many instances, grown up with Harry, to embark on the last adventure they will share with him without knowing where they are they going. Some, perhaps, will read this and take the view that all publicity is good publicity, that spoilers are part of hype, and that I am trying to protect sales rather than my readership. However, spoilers won't stop people buying the book, they never have - all it will do is diminish their pleasure in the book”.

Whatever it is, the book is going to sell well but I just wonder about all these free publicity news stories sometimes – are they really genuine or just the result of another marketing gimmick?

Wednesday, May 09, 2007

Sorry seems to be the hardest word

In case you haven’t heard, the Ribena apology ads are out. Haven’t been able to find the actual video online yet, but from all reports, the TVC shows MD for GSK Consumer Healthcare in Australia, John Sayers addressing the audience in an apologetic manner.

He apologises for Ribena giving the impression that its ready-to-drink range of juices contains four times level of Vitamin C compared to orange juice.

“The testing method we used to determine the level of vitamin C in the ready-to-drink Ribena products were unreliable but we were unaware of it at the time. We know we’ve got a lot of work to do if we hope to rebuild consumer trust in the brand. But we’re totally committed to doing the right thing about fixing this issue.”

The ‘I am sorry’ campaign runs in print as well with a half-page apology published in Australia’s four main Saturday newspapers twice over a month. The court order for the apology ads only applies to the Australia and New Zealand region as it was two NZ school girls who uncovered the blackcurrant truths in their science experiment.

A NZ court then ordered GSK to run corrective advertising and that’s where we stand today. Have any of you guys managed to see the ads? Is it believable or does it look forced? Apparently sales of all Ribena products have dropped so they probably need to run some more ads stressing that it was just the ready-to-drink marketing which were all lies – would you trust them now though? It sort of reminds me of the McDonald TVC I saw in Australia, shortly after the Super Size Me 'scientific' findings came about. I did actually like those ads.

Note: The Ribena pictures shown here are screen shots taken from the Ribena UK site.

Wednesday, May 02, 2007

Sex sells, but does it harm?

Justin Timberlake may have brought sexy back, but in Singapore it seems, too much sexy can be dangerous – especially when it comes to advertisements!

A Straits Times video report by Imelda Saad featured a 43 year old Singaporean mother of four, airing her beliefs that sexy ads can lead people to commit sex crimes.

Why is she saying this and why is she being interviewed by the press? It started last week, when the woman, who was obviously aware of the recent ‘high profile’ spate of sex crimes reported by the Singapore media, was so appalled by a particular outdoor ad at the Tampines bus interchange, she felt compelled to write in to the Straits Times hinting at a link between such sexy ads and sex crimes.

She wrote, “One example is a gigantic poster of a scantily clad girl in a compromising pose, strategically placed to catch the eye of disembarking passengers, at the Tampines bus interchange. Some of these ads are in poor taste and some people may find them offensive. It is time the authorities came up with stricter regulations on the display of such provocative ads in public places, as well as in magazines and newspapers.
As the Chinese proverb goes, 'Sow a thought, reap an act. Sow an act, reap a habit. Sow a habit, reap a character. Sow a character, reap a destiny.' Let us not underestimate the influence of such images on the minds of our youth”.

She went on to say, in her video interview, that “too much of these images may culminate in them committing sexual crimes…I am certain of that”.

My first instincts are to start thrashing and bagging on her comments, because I always feel Singapore is way too conservative as it is, and as an adult, it is insulting to watch a movie already filtered through the rating systems but yet is still censored (it’s like saying you have to be at least 21 to see this movie but your mind is less capable of handling it than other 21 year olds watching in Australia so we’ll still censor it for you).

This moves us on to some of the interesting reasons on why she is upset – sexed up movie content unlike the outdoor ad, can have a controlled targeted audience, whereas, anyone walking through the crowded bus interchange is bound to see the ‘offending’ ad, young and old alike. So can or should there be stricter content restrictions for OOH mediums around Singapore? Would that make Singapore a bit of a joke to the rest of the Ad World? Do a majority of Singaporeans share the same negative vibe from seeing a pair of oversize mammary glands on a billboard?

Judging from the brief VOX pop in the video report, there are clearly those (young males included) who feel such provocative ads are a cause for concern on impressionable youths.

A point the woman stressed to Imelda Saad saying, “My son is 13 years old, I mean he is so innocent and so pure, and yes someday he may have to see, I mean I am not trying to fence him in but I don’t need him too, well he’s 13 years old and he’s gonna be excited about things and he will not understand what this is but he’s gonna feel excited and it may get him curious about pornography and it just is something that I feel is very objectionable,”.

I think despite this woman’s sincere concerns, there’s nothing wrong with sexy ads but of course a ‘fine line’ needs to be clearly defined between that and blatant pornography. Graphic media can have an effect on influencing maniacs to commit sex crimes, I agree with that, but it’s not the root cause. Imagine how boring the world would be if not just ads, but all forms of media were filtered and censored on the premise that a psychopath could maybe react to it.