Thursday, May 7, 2015

What's the LAST thing a professional sports team should make light of? (TW: Domestic Violence)

(The "Trigger Warning" in the headline was a spoiler, but I really don't want to re-victimize anyone who has been brutalized by a partner.)

Salon reports that the Cleveland Cavaliers, a National Basketball Association team, decided to run a parody ad on their in-game digital scoreboard that made fun of rival Chicago Bulls.

First, here's the United Healthcare ad they were parodying:

Here's their version:

Salon's Joanna Rothkopf writes, "the spot, coupled with the recent hire of sexual harasser Isiah Thomas to run the W.N.B.A.’s Liberty franchise as president, indicates that the NBA is completely unaware and unable to address the epidemic of violence towards women plaguing professional sports."

I have to admit, when I first watched the video, for a second I thought the criticism was misplaced because it could have been intended to show that he simply (but cruelly) failed to catch her. But then, when the camera lingered on the wounded woman on the floor, there was no doubt in my mind that it was intended to show him hurting her. For laughs. Because... "go, team, go"?

The video was deleted from Vimeo, where it purportedly once had an official online home, but was captured and reposted on YouTube by basketball writer Steve McPherson, with the comment "Domestic violence is super hilarious. Right, guys? Right? Hello?"

I have no doubt that the makers of the video didn't think they were doing anything wrong. But this kind of cluelessness is inexcusable, and not just because of the many pro athletes who have been charged with partner abuse. The fans can be a problem as well.

A few years ago, The Globe and Mail's Marina Adshade wrote about research into how watching football is a trigger for domestic violence in some men:
Using twelve years of U.S. data from police reports of violent domestic incidents on Sundays during the professional football season and point spreads made by Las Vegas bookmakers for football games (as a way of measuring if fans expected the game to be a victory or loss), the authors of this paper found that when a home team was predicted to win by four or more points and instead lost the game the level of violence perpetuated by men against their wives and girlfriends increases by a remarkable 10 per cent. This violence was isolated in a narrow window immediately following the end of the game and the number of acts of family violence increases as games became more important. 
On the other hand, if the team was expected to lose, and did in fact lose, there was no increase in domestic violence; likewise for when the team was expected to lose and won instead.
So, to even lightheartedly correlate super-fandom with domestic violence (and, in the end, control) is simply appalling. And stupid for the brand.

Wednesday, May 6, 2015

Who owns "Adland"?

If there's one thing that advertising people actually value, it's a brand. Especially if it's one of our own.

So it's no surprise that Åsk Wäppling, the Swedish owner of the advertising blog, doesn't want other people using the term "Adland."

Adland is absolutely ancient in internet terms, having been established in 1996 when most ad people were still trying to figure out if the web was good for anything except free shock porn. A young Ms. Wäppling, under the pseudonym "Dabitch," instead saw the opportunity to create an online global ad archive and professional forum, which in this decade Brand RepublicBusiness Insider, and Fast Company have listed as one of the most influential in the industry. She even trademarked the name, several years ago. And he's been a mentor as I've fumbled my way into the ad blogosphere.

So you'd think it would be pretty clear that "Adland" = Especially among ad industry bloggers.

Apparently not. As you can see from the Google screencap above, venerable industry magazine Ad Age uses the term "adland," in a generic sense, to refer to the industry in several posts. I have no idea if they used it this way in print, years back, but online it definitely infringes on Dabitch's intellectual property. And she's let them know, many times.

Now other people are letting them know. When Ad Age posted "Adland seeks to hire veterans," Dabitch says she started getting resumes. After finding out they didn't mean THAT Adland, one vet let Ad Age know what he thought about the avoidable confusion:

Courtesy Dabitch
( ended up helping the guy get some job leads anyway.)

Dabitch has written directly to Ad Age's legal heads, but after receiving what she characterizes as "nya, we won't" replies, she has taken to the court of social media.

She told me, "Now I tweet at them every time they use the word in a headline and I hope the responses take off."

Here's a recent example:

Cheeky. But will it get Ad Age's attention now? (More importantly, will it get the attention of its readers and advertisers?) We'll see. Because there are a lot of important ad pros watching that little red TV.

Tuesday, April 28, 2015

Bud Light's #UpForWhatever campaign raises Congresswoman's ire

Oh, Bud. What were you thinking?

My friend Lyndsay just drew my attention to the marketing line on a Bud Light label that is accidentally(?) anti-consent.

The campaign, which features young people doing stupid things after drinking away their inhibitions, includes beer labels with throwaway lines like "The perfect beer for singing out loud, even if you don't know the words," and "The perfect beer for going without a ticket and still getting into the show."

Unfortunately, one of these lines was “The perfect beer for removing 'no' from your vocabulary for the night.”

As Chris Morran writes at Consumerist,
"Given the role that alcohol plays in many things that would have been a 'no' without a night a drinking — driving under the influence, sexual assault, vandalism, public urination, random “woot-woot”-ing as you ping-pong down the sidewalk — it’s probably not the best idea for a multinational multibillion-dollar business like Bud Light’s parent company AB InBev to publicly acknowledge that its product can lead users down a path to stupid consequences."

A storm in a beer stein? Hardly. The mistake has motivated US Congresswoman Nita Lowey to publicly admonish the brand on Twitter:

Twitter is lighting up with angry disapproval of the marketing and #nomeansno Tweets.

It's quite possible that this line was simply intended to be about partying without a care, but in today's media environment marketers need to be especially sensitive about miscommunication.

They also have to be responsive to disasters like this. But @budlight has not Tweeted since April 26. Double fail.

UPDATE: BuzzFeed managed to get this statement from  Anheuser-Busch vice president Alexander Lambrecht:
“The Bud Light Up for Whatever campaign, now in its second year, has inspired millions of consumers to engage with our brand in a positive and light-hearted way. In this spirit, we created more than 140 different scroll messages intended to encourage spontaneous fun. It’s clear that this message missed the mark, and we regret it. We would never condone disrespectful or irresponsible behavior.”

Monday, April 27, 2015

This organic tomato sauce may or may not contain severed head

My friend Gord sent me a link from Good that points out a pretty hilarious packaging gaffe. Or is it?

Tropical Traditions, originally a coconut oil importer in the US, has branched out into organic packaged foods. One of them is an Italian pasta sauce line, with labels showing women from Renaissance Italian paintings.

Organic Spicy Tomato & Roasted Garlic, for example, features Botticelli's The Birth of Venus, but without the breasts:

Organic Tomato & Basil uses Raphael's Woman with the Veil:

Organic Tomato and Grilled Eggplant gets one of my favourite portraits, Lady with an Ermine by Leonardo:

OK, the weasel is a little weird for a food label. (Assuming the sauce doesn't have much weasel in it.) 

But let's move on to the final jar, Organic Tomato & Porcini Mushroom:

What is with that woman's face, anyway? She doesn't look too impressed. Perhaps we should have a look at the uncropped painting, which is Caravaggio's... Judith Beheading Holofernes?!?

That's right, it's a decapitation. In the apocryphal Book of Judith, the eponymous heroine is a righteous Hebrew who saves Israel by talking her way into the tent of Assyrian general Holofernes, then hacking off his head after he passes out drunk. Since Christians love them a good grisly death, this scene has been portrayed by several artists over the centuries.

But why choose it for a food label? Especially a food that itself kind of resembles gore?

There is no way the designer was unaware of the painting's context, as she or he would have had to research a public domain version of the whole work from which to crop the label.

In fact, I believe what we are seeing here is a clever little prank. A designer who counted on his or her client to be ignorant of the source material. The Botticelli and Leonardo portraits are well-known enough that they probably sold the idea of using Renaissance Italian paintings of women to give the sauces a note of "old-world authenticity." But a severed head, spouting arterial blood, is probably one of the last things I want to think about when I pour this on my spaghetti.

Friday, April 24, 2015

@ProteinWorld vs. "sympathisers for fatties"

The Drum

Oh, dear. A fitness supplement brand in the UK has taken it upon itself to become the patron saint of body shaming.

The Drum reports that, faced with online criticism over its "are you beach body ready?" ad campaign, Protein World decided not only to be unapologetic, but downright nasty:

That particular exchange was started by blogger Laurence Hebbard, who wrote about their confrontational social media engagement on Social Media London. Here are some of the curated exchanges:

Someone even made a fake Dove response ad:

As of this writing, the protein shake maker is completely unapologetic. They seem quite happy to bask in the negative publicity (as well as the many Tweets of support from fans).

Is this an example of the tired cliché "there's no such thing as bad publicity"? That remains to be seen. While this kind of obnoxious brand behaviour is bound to ingratiate it to a certain segment of the fitness market, they're also trying to sell weight loss products. Is it really such a great idea to shame people who might actually be interested in such things?

Adopting "being an asshole" as a brand strategy is a risky move, but not an unprecedented one. Now it's just a matter of seeing how many assholes are willing to self-identify by buying the stuff.