Tag Archives: advertising

Indecent Proposals

A report was released by the National Substance Misuse Strategy Steering Group this week containing a number of recommendations to the Government concerning the sale, advertisement and legislation of alcohol in this country.

As would be expected from such an exhaustively researched and ludicrously expensive report, most of its recommendations are of a mind-numbingly stupid, naive and ill-informed nature. Many of these proposals will no doubt go on to be adopted by the Government in their laudable and ever-continuing struggle to prove that  reactionary and unnecessary legislation can actually have a positive impact on society. I suppose there’s a first time for everything.

There is plenty to say on the shortcomings of this particular report, which I will get to presently, but firstly I think it is important to point out that the National Substance Misuse Strategy Steering Group has itself been the subject of some bad press recently. The organisation was chastised in a report released just last week by the Committee for the Regulation of Clumsily Titled Governmental Bodies. It was also included in a list of the worst offenders in last month’s damning report by the Investigative Coalition into Giant Wastes of Taxpayers’ Money. Lastly, and perhaps most gravely, the group was criticised this week by the British Association of NGOs Against Non-Acronyms (or BANANA for short) for adopting such an unwieldy set of initials.

As for the report itself, it concerns itself largely with the issues of advertising and sponsorship practised by alcohol companies, and contains some elucidating statistics on the subject. Apparently 40% of 16-21 year olds own an item of clothing with an alcohol brand on it, with 26% owning a sporting jersey with an alcohol brand logo. In other obvious and irrelevant news, 97% of people have seen a pint of beer at some stage, 78% admitted to preferring drinks with tiny umbrellas in them, and a whopping eleven million per cent of Irish teenagers admitted, while in floods of shame-induced tears, that they ritually drink ten litres of vodka every night before going out, as well as sacrificing a live goat and bathing in its entrails in order to absorb its wisdom.

Forgive my facetiousness, but misplaced hysteria is becoming all too common in our society, and this ludicrous report has just dumped a veritable mountain of it on the Government’s doorstep and expects them to react accordingly. One of its suggestions is to ban alcohol sponsorship of ‘all sporting and large outdoor events’. Obviously they took a good look around the emergency rooms of our country’s hospitals, watching the deluge of young men and women staggering in, getting their stomachs pumped, and assaulting doctors and nurses, and thought to themselves, “That Heineken Cup really has a lot to answer for.” This is a group of people who don’t even understand the basic principles of cause and effect, to say nothing of possessing any knowledge of the cultural or societal or sociological reasons for our multitude of substance abuse problems. The sheer stupidity of commissioning such a group to write a very costly report on the subject is breathtaking.

Another proposal is one that has been talked about recently and looks set to be passed into law in the near future: the introduction of a minimum price for alcohol. This is presumably set to work in tandem with the existing law that forces off-licenses to close at ten o’clock every night, since everyone knows that teenagers usually wait until about eleven to stock up on booze. The ignorance and myopia inherent in these kinds of laws is staggering. Attack the symptoms, not the problem itself; make it slightly more inconvenient for people to drink themselves to death, but whatever you do, don’t ask them why they do it. Then you might actually have to confront an issue head-on for once instead of just being seen to be doing something about it.

The reality is that the publicans wield a massive amount of power in the Dáil. This is why it is consistently being made more difficult and more expensive to buy alcohol outside of a licensed premises. These laws aren’t being passed so that less 16-year-olds end up in A&E on a Friday night. They aren’t being passed because Guinness advertisements are so insidious that they subconsciously instil in you a need to go out and get hammered. And they certainly aren’t being passed to act as the catalyst for a monumental change in our attitude to drink as a country. They are being passed because our politicians are weak, lazy, and completely in thrall to the publicans.

The groups tirelessly searching for a solution to our drinking problem will not find it in prohibition or restriction. A fundamental shift in the outlook and practises of an entire society is not something that can be accomplished in the short-term. One thing is definite: that it is impossible to attack a problem before first understanding it. And the understanding of a complex issue such as this certainly does not lie in how many T-shirts you own that contain the logo of a beer company. When faced with such idiotic reasoning, is it any wonder so many of us are driven to drink?

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Fitch of a Situation

It has emerged this week that the US fashion chain Abercrombie & Fitch has offered a ‘substantial’ amount of money to perma-tanned fist-pumper Michael ‘The Situation’ Sorrentino, of reality show Jersey Shore fame, on the condition that he immediately stop wearing their clothes. The show’s producers and other cast members have also reportedly been offered payment to ensure that the brand no longer features on the hit MTV show.

Anyone even vaguely familiar with this menagerie of obscenely tasteless individuals that passes for an entertainment programme will know that the self-styled guidos and guidettes that feature are rarely fully clothed anyway. You would have to be pretty quick to catch a logo on one of Situation’s T-shirts given that he spends most of his time pulling them up to reveal his day-glo abs, hence blinding the surrounding young ladies for long enough to confuse them into sleeping with him. When their sight returns hours later, they just assume that they somehow travelled back in time and had sex with a young, less articulate Sylvester Stallone.

The bigwigs at A&F, however, are concerned that even the most fleeting association of their wholesome brand with the show’s cast is bad for their image. Which in turn is bad for business. It’s funny, because I would have thought that a better example of bad business would be adopting discriminatory hiring practises and aiming advertisements at an extremely narrow demographic so that every single one of your staff and clientele looks like an extra from an American high school football movie. That is, a high school football movie set in the deep South before the schools integrated. Denzel can shop in Gap down the street, he doesn’t really suit our image.

The reality is that the company, having emblazoned all of their very ordinary and over-priced clothing with massive slogans, are now unhappy with any free advertisement that comes their way from the wrong kind of people. They don’t want little Lorenzo saving up his pennies so he can come in and buy that T-shirt that The Situation had on during that situation on last week’s show. That’s not a good situation. They’d prefer little Tyler to drag in his Botoxed mother from her Range Rover long enough to blow the best part of a grand in the place so that Tyler doesn’t look out of place at the beach party, where everyone meets up to whisper about surfing and unrequited love, like on The O.C.

Lorenzo and Tyler, apart from being wholly fictional, are also disgracefully simplistic stereotypes that I’ve created to make my point, but the fact is that A&F, like many other companies, have built an exclusivity into their branding. This strategy not only exploits existing societal and racial differences, but exacerbates them. Prohibitively expensive clothes aimed at rich idiots who pay extra for a brand name are not rare, but the difference here is the singular approach taken in the marketing of the products, which is deliberately and unapologetically aimed at young, affluent white people.

The fact that these brazen Abercrombie & Fitches are bold enough to publicly offer money to some cheap riff-raff that dared to sample some of its wares in front of an audience of millions of potential customers, shows just how comfortable they are with their own exclusionist policies. The Situation is a lucky man. To get paid to appear on a TV show documenting your alcohol-fuelled sexual exploits is fortuitous enough. But it is an exceptional piece of luck to then get offered a cash bonus to not look like a dickhead who has to pay a hundred quid for a shirt because he wants to look like a cast member from American Pie: The Mom’s Credit Card Years.

I do hope, however, that the show refuses to take the cash and censor the fashion choices of its stars. The best thing to do in response to such an arrogant request would be to deck out the entire cast from head to toe in their products from this point on. Mike could even get the logo tattooed on his six-pack so that it’s always visible.

Maybe after a while the company would come to realise that exposure outside of their niche is a good thing, and they might even get the secretary to take down that calendar from the 1950’s that they have hung up in the office. Either that or their image would become so tainted with their preferred customers that they would be forced out of business. And I have to admit, these are both very acceptable situations. Fist pump, brah.


Google Nonplussed

It is only a few years since the world collectively abandoned the sinking ship that was Bebo and flocked like a swarm of slightly bored rats into the arms of Mark Zuckerberg and his slightly bluer, slightly better social networking site, Facebook. After the launch in the past few weeks of Google+, it appears another power shift may be taking place. Not content with shifting the ratio of advertisements to music on their newly acquired YouTube to something in the region of ten million to one, Google have decided they don’t quite own enough of the internet yet and are moving into social networking.

So what improvements have been made that make this new site so much better than Facebook? Well for one thing the geometry is completely different. You can now have your friends in circles instead of those boring linear patterns – I think they call them lists or something – the concept is so outdated now I can’t even remember the name for it. It’s a bold new world out there and all sorts of shit is going to be made out of shapes. Need to send a private message? Just enter your Messaging Cuboid and type away. Want to find someone you met yesterday and said six words to so you can add them as a friend? Just add their name to the Search Hexagon and let it work its magic. Updating your personal data? The Information Dodecahedron will make it a cinch.

The other difference is the +1 button, which is sure to spell the end of Facebook’s ‘Like’ button. Who needs to use a word to express their sentiments when a vague mathematical term will do? You’ve been using the internet for so long you’ve forgotten how to spell anyway. I think it’s a great idea, I really +1 where they’re coming from with that one.

Of course social networking isn’t about communication, it’s about advertising money. Facebook is so attractive to advertisers because it gathers data on its 500 million users and enables companies to target individuals with very specific ads. The way Facebook do this, however, is dependent entirely on user-provided information. You tell Facebook your age, gender, location, likes, dislikes and anything else that defines you as a potential customer, and Marky Mark passes the info onto companies who can then use a simple algorithm to fill your page with personalised ads.

The trouble with Google+ is that it will attempt to gather information on you based on the cookies from your browsing history. And unless you’re one of the three people left who still use Yahoo as a search engine, there’s probably an awful lot of sensitive information contained in your search history. While Facebook is very much a self-contained system where you can choose exactly how much of your privacy to give up, Google is so powerful and has such a massive presence on the internet that it is next to impossible to keep certain information from them.

Since its experimental launch three weeks ago, Google+ has already amassed some 20 million members, so obviously there is a huge market for another social network. It remains to be seen whether Facebook users will leave entirely or just use the new site as an auxiliary form of communication like Twitter. You would think that one outlet to share your not very interesting thoughts with people would be enough, but apparently not. Next thing we know everyone will be writing blogs about any bit of news that they have an opinion on. I wouldn’t +1 that at all.


Follow That Colour Scheme

Our fleet of taxis may soon be following the lead of those in New York, London and many other cities around the world in adopting a common design. The National Transport Authority recently proposed a “distinctive external branding” for the nation’s taxis, “such as a single colour.” This has led to some speculation over which colour we should choose, with The Irish Times seeking suggestions this week as part of a competition. Some of the replies are quite inventive, particularly the one that calls for them to be “painted a weak shade of yellow, to reflect the typical taxi driver’s jaundiced view of the world.”

Picking a colour will be difficult, however; we can’t just copy the iconic yellow of New York, or Britain’s classic black cab design. We need to come up with something original that has some sort of significance for us. Green would appear to be the most appropriate choice, and a post-box green taxi would certainly be very patriotic, as well as being easily recognisable. Though perhaps, seeing as our country is in the red for the foreseeable future, a nice hue of scarlet would be more suitable, symbolising our embarrassment at the excesses of the Celtic Tiger days. Or a deep shade of blue to reflect the mood of the country.

Maybe instead of forcing taxi drivers to accept a uniform colour, we should allow each one to decorate his own cab. No doubt this would lead to a lot of crudely painted Dublin flags and some truly atrocious spelling mistakes, but it could also yield some interesting designs. Given the nationalistic tendencies of many of our taxi drivers, there would inevitably be an awful lot of Irish flags and murals of dead Irish heroes adorning the streets. Imagine being driven home in a massive Bobby Sands memorial on wheels, it would certainly be an edifying experience. Get a history lesson and a ride home for the price of one. But whatever you do, don’t bring any food in with you. And don’t even get me started on the soiling charge.

The chance to design your own taxi would bring some healthy competition to the industry. We all know how much taxi drivers love that. There’d be a scramble at the rank every Friday night to get the Batmobile taxi, or the Ghostbusters taxi, complete with theme music. Getting a lift home would be something to look forward to as opposed to something that has to be endured. Who would mind listening to the driver waffle on about the government if you were being chauffeured home in Doc’s DeLorean? You might even get a few cars designed as giant soap boxes, for any taxi men with a keen sense of irony and self-deprecation. Probably very few on second thought.

There would also be an opportunity to earn the country some much-needed revenue in the form of advertising. Individual taxis could be sponsored by businesses – “If you’re getting the ride tonight, home that is, be safe. Get a Durex cab. We’ll get you there 98% of the time.” Or how about the Guinness taxi, which brings you three quarters of the way, then takes a break for a few minutes before dropping you home. The foreigners will never get the hang of that one though.

It’s doubtful that any of the above ideas will come to fruition, and if a common design is implemented, it probably won’t be very interesting. It is a shame because for such a creative country, most of our streets are rather drab and lifeless, and a splash of colour and imagination would be a welcome change. If the taxis do have to be altered in any way, one thing is for certain: you’ll be paying extra for it. If there is a chance, however, for the driver to add his own little personal touch, there is one very simple message that, if painted on the side of a cab, would ensure that it is always in high demand: “Silence guaranteed.” You couldn’t put a price on that.


The Pursuit of Appyness

I recently read an article about an app for iPhone and iPod Touch users called Epic Win. With an impressive name like that you might imagine it to be some snazzy new game set in ancient times or perhaps a catalogue of literary epics from down through the ages. I’m afraid the truth is far less glamorous. Epic Win is a to-do list. Now here was me thinking that to create a to-do list for myself, all I have to do is somehow source a pen and a piece of paper. Are you joking? What is this, the Stone Age? Who needs pens and paper when you’ve got 600 bills worth of Steve Jobs awesomeness going on in your back pocket? You idiot.

Of course it is no ordinary to-do list. For starters, at €2.39 it’s a lot more expensive, but there are other, more ridiculous differences. The app’s tagline is ‘Level up your life’ and the user is awarded XP points for each chore, or ‘challenge’ that is completed. When you reach a certain amount you level up. Ah, so it’s just like my favourite video game, Call of Duty, you ask? Why yes, it’s exactly like it, except instead of killing terrorists, saving the world, or indeed doing anything that constitutes gameplay of any sort, you just clean the dishes and your phone gives you a gold star and tells you you’re special.

This is just one example of the thousands of ludicrous apps being marketed at, and indeed bought by, people who cannot live without their iPhone and need to conduct their whole lives through it. It makes you wonder what they’ll think of next. How about CrApp, a handy little schedule in which you can chart your week’s bowel movements, then post it online to compare with your friends? Or App-etite, which tells you whether you’re hungry or not? Or perhaps App-earance, the app that tells you how you look in the morning, now featuring the voice of Samuel L.Jackson? “You look like shit. Use our new and improved FaceApp to download a new face, motherfucker.”

Of course not all apps are unnecessary and useless. There are some genuinely innovative ones that make life a lot easier, whether it’s translating a menu in a foreign country in seconds or Skyping your mate to tell him that they’re serving camel’s balls in the foreign restaurant you’re in. The key word here, though, is ‘easier’. These apps are not revolutionary, they simply enable you to get things done quicker and with minimal fuss, whether it’s translation, communication, information, or whatever. Pretty much all technology these days is aimed at facilitating our day-to-day lives, making them a little bit easier all the time.

This is a good thing, for the most part, but if we continue down this road it won’t be long until our self-sufficiency all but disappears, and we rely on our phones for literally everything. We will become those fat, lazy, impatient people from the film Wall-E, unable to even stand up unassisted. Only instead of witty dialogue written by Pixar, we’ll just grunt acronyms at each other that our phones have recommended for us.

The main drawback to this over-dependence on technology is that our natural skills are being eroded. Our ability to store and recall information will certainly begin to suffer; who needs a great memory when your smartphone will give you the answer to any question in seconds? This occurs not just academically, but socially. Can’t think of the name of a song or film? There’s an app for that. Table quizzes, in particular, have been ruined by smartphone users.

The problem with relying more and more on your phone is that if the technology becomes unavailable, you have none of the necessary skills to fall back on. It will get to the stage, and I’m sure it’s not too far away in America, particularly, where people who forget their phones or whose batteries die will simply curl up in the foetal position in the middle of the street, shaking violently and shouting something like, “An app, an app! My kingdom for an app!” Only they won’t shout that because they’d need their History App to understand the reference.

Unfortunately there is no way to halt the progress of the app at the expense of our survival skills. As the technology gets ever smarter, we become less and less intelligent and innovative because those traits are less and less important. Of course this is only true for those who are overly dependent on their phones, but that is a steadily growing number. Apple’s latest slogan is “If you don’t have an iPhone, you don’t have an iPhone.” Nothing sells products like tautological statements, that’s for sure. Anyone dull-witted enough to be taken in by that is clearly already a lost cause and probably should rely on their apps for everything.

Now if you don’t mind, I’d like to wrap up this article. I’ve promised myself 200 XP for its completion and I’m about to level up to Legendary Arsehole. I can’t wait.