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Did the mad men of Mad Men deliberately provoke New Yorkers?

3 Mar

I was sorry to read that some families of the victims of 9/11 have been hurt by the latest out-of-home ads promoting Season 5 of Mad Men.

Falling man from controversial Mad Men Season 5 ad

As you can see, the ads depict a man in free-fall down the side of a building. This is a familiar image to fans of the show as it is essentially the narrative thread of the show’s opening sequence.

It is also a familiar image to people all over the world who watched men and women jump to their deaths from the burning towers.

9/11 falling man and falling man from Mad Men ad Season 5I do understand that people who had lost loved ones in that massacre would feel jarred by the sight of this on a building in New York. This is unfortunate for everyone involved, advertisers and audience alike.

The buzz out there is that the Mad Men promotions team was somehow looking to capitalize on New York sensitivity and could not have been unaware of the impact of this particular execution.

There are some ads out there that are deliberately designed to needle. This one for Benetton would fall into that category.

Unhate campaign by Benetton with Obama and Chavez kissing

But would the mad men of Mad Men feel it necessary to skewer the deepest sensitivities of New Yorkers on purpose like this? Or was this just an unfortunate miscalculation?

I’ll let you decide.

(Mad Men photos courtesy AMC)


An outrageous insult to fathers everywhere

1 Mar

Banned image of Piri Weepu bottle feedingThe image on the right, part of an anti-smoking TV ad in New Zealand, has been removed from the commercial after protests by a pro-breastfeeding lobby.

La Leche League pressured the New Zealand government into censoring the image, which they felt would weaken the argument for breast-feeding. Story here.

The dad in the spot is Kiwi rugby player Piri Weepu. He is doing what any dad would do…assisting with the feeding of his baby. It’s entirely possible that he is feeding pre-pumped breast milk, something fathers routinely do to allow mom some sleep time. But this was not material to the position taken by La Leche League.

It’s not mom’s breast, so it’s not acceptable.

I am anxiously waiting to see how this one plays out. A Facebook page has sprung up to bring back the images of Piri feeding his baby. They already have 3,300 Likes.

It’s bad enough that fathers have to sit through innumerable “Moms know best” positionings for children’s products (Vicks for example, which we blogged about here).

But the idea that an image of a loving father bottle-feeding his child should be deemed inappropriate should not go unchallenged.


People for the Ethical Treatment of Advertising

17 Feb

The latest advertising campaign for PETA (People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals) is a classic case of the idea drowning out the message.

In this love-it-or-loathe-it TV spot, a woman in a neck-brace walks gingerly home while a voice over tells us she suffers from a case of BWVAKTBOOM – Boyfriend Went Vegan And Knocked The Bottom Out Of Me. Watch the video and then let’s talk…


If you’re in the mood for more advertising hijinks, there is an associated website with tips on how to manage all this new-found virilty.

Meanwhile, the Internet is rife with opinions, supporters and haters.

Does anyone believe that becoming a vegan turns you into a coke-fuelled porn star in the sack? Of course not, but sexual guffaws is a strategic direction PETA has been steering down of late.

The critics are pounding PETA for a perceived cavalier attitude towards the physical abuse of women, and the proponents want everyone to just freakin’ lighten up.

They both miss the point here. The problem is that the campaign won’t have any impact on peoples’ attitudes towards animals.

It is a tale, told by an idiot, full of sound and fury. Signifying nothing.


A Wikid Awareness Campaign

18 Jan

Just now, as I was deep into writing a strategy document, I googled for an expanded definition of a concept I was working through. As a source I typically value for overarching conceptual ideas, I immediately clicked on Wikipedia. I was abruptly re-directed to the following page:

Wikipedia Blackout

It’s somber, eerie and in complete contrast to the gleaming white, information packed page I was expecting.  So of course, I began to read…

Wikipedia is on a 24 hour blackout to raise awareness of two bills, SOPA and PIPA, said to infringe “free expression while harming the Internet”. Regardless if you are in favour of or opposed to the bills, you have to stand back for one second and applaud the exceptional execution of this awareness campaign.

It’s a textbook implementation of what’s required for an awareness campaign set to go viral.

Strong Visual Impact

The mourning colours and the full page blowout instantly grabbed my attention and set a somber tone. No small banner message here to be easily overlooked.

Personal Relevance

Because of the blackout, I was personally affected by the cause. It’s easy to feel removed from the situation and indifferently change the channel or stop reading when you hear stories on the radio or other news outlets. But, I needed to use Wikipedia, and now I can’t! – better get to the bottom of this…


… easy. One click takes you to the Wikipedia information page (does anyone else find this a little humorous?). 13 short and direct answers later you are caught up on the issue. Have more time and want to read more? Wikipedia makes that easy too with a list of related links.


Very clearly, it’s stated what action Wikipedia would like you to take: “we encouraging you to share your views with your representatives, and with each other on social media”. And then with a handy  representative look-up tool, they make it easy for you to take action.


Wikipedia Blackout on twitter

Arguably one of the most important components of making a campaign go viral, Wikipedia conveniently put hot links on their blackout page that automatically load your favourite social media profile with a supportive message. Within seconds and with very little effort, a consistent message, dictated by Wikipedia, is  spread through your social network.


You’ll notice that the first content on the info page highlights the success of the campaign: 10,000 Wikipedia comments, 7,200 articles, 90 million unique visits to the blackout page, 5 million representative look-ups. It’s not a coincidence that this is the first section. People like to be part of a movement that’s working; it’s empowering. Speak to the heart then to the brain.

On the heals of the much scrutinized occupy movement, (why the occupy movement didn’t work) it’s refreshing to see such a substantial campaign which has a clear message executed to perfection. Today, let the W stand for WOW.

A whopper of an advertising deception

12 Jan

I came across this fascinating photo series today that compares advertised fast food with the real thing.

Burger King Whopper ad versus the real thing

Taco Bell ad versus the real thing

McDonalds Angus burger too big for box

This comes as no surprise to anyone who has ever eaten at one of these fast food joints. To say the food never looks as good as in the carefully and skillfully art directed ads would qualify as the understatement of the year.

I love the series creator’s “slightly fluffed up” comment above the Whopper.

But all fun aside, seriously. Come on. Where is the outrage that these multi-billion dollar food ramps are able to get away with these gross deceptions?

Hungry now?

Are advertisers juicing like pro athletes?

11 Jan

straw in orangeIn order to be competitive, advertisers and athletes often operate on the fringes of what is considered legal practices.

Whereas some athletes dip into performance enhancing drugs on the sly to boost their results (and not to besmirch all sports here as I am thinking primarily of baseball, swimming, tennis, track and field, football, hockey, golf, cycling or any sport that requires endurance, explosive power or super-human recovery), some advertisers turn to over-claim, creative reshaping of the truth and outright lies.

No point denying it: it happens. Regulatory bodies are in place to challenge the ethics of both groups but many fouls go unchallenged.

Often the risk of detection is considered acceptable for the rewards. But being caught out soils the reputation of every other competitor and creates a cynical and distrustful public.

They also share a similar strategy if detected: deny, deny, deny.

Some athletes get caught red-handed and have no choice but to recant or do time. But you will never see an advertiser come clean. They will spin a web of innocence until the public either forgets or votes with their feet.

Marion Jones before and after

Disgraced American sprinter Marion Jones

The most recent advertiser to come under scrutiny is Tropicana orange juice, a subsid of PepsiCo. They are being sued, surprisingly, by a consumer for misrepresenting their product as “100% pure and natural”, when, it’s alleged, they actually add aromas and flavours. Tropicana has even used the recognizable imagery of a straw sticking into an orange to get their all-natural claim to stick in the public mind.

Reading Tropicana’s response to news of the lawsuit will give you a sense of how advertisers might manipulate the truth.

I have no idea if they are being deceitful or not. That’s for the judge – and you – to decide.

She who lashes least laughs last

22 Dec


Big false eyelashes

Ladies, help me out here.

I see these TV ads for mascara products that appear to make your lashes grow by 200% with a simple swipe. Not only do they grow longer, but they fan out like a peacock’s tail in the process.

True or false?

I strongly suspect a bit of advertising tomfoolery here so I did some research. Watch what happens :08 seconds into this video.

Did you see it? Miraculous instant growth, like sea monkeys suddenly appearing in your fish bowl and doing cartwheels for your applause.

I read yesterday that a Taylor Swift ad for Covergirl got pulled because it suggested that you can get lashes like the ones she’s sporting in the ad with a simple swipe of the Covergirl mascara stick. Turns out you would need the Covergirl photoshopper on standby.

Where are the ethics? Where are the advertising standards? Meanwhile Covergirl and their like are laughing all the way to the bank.

Surely some pressure by the new Super Consumer in the right social media places will help put an end to this out and out lying.

Ten lashes to Covergirl.

(Image courtesy of