Advertising can be so Gay

Originally written for and published on BizCommunity.com.
For engagement details, click here

It really is a fine time to be gay. The world’s getting its rainbow on more than ever despite some insistent folks who aren’t that happy about it. But, if you’re part of the Westboro Baptist Church and genuinely believe the gays to be the evil you claim, your problems are a little bigger than myself and my mincing ilk.

From Hurricane Sandy to Oscar Pistorius’ murder story, religious fanatics everywhere are blaming homosexuality for all sorts of malarkey. American Republican Michele Bachmann is having her own flap because of the abolishment of the Defence of Marriage Act; the land of the free is now the home of the gays, and what with what’s happening in Russia and the rest of Africa, we’re in the limelight now more than ever.

Commercially, this is big business and the ever-growing gay market is estimated to be worth $835 billion. Homosexuality in Advertising and Marketing is alive and well. This doesn’t mean that everyone in the agency model is gay (and now that I know this, I have to seriously question my career path), but it means that everyone is okay with it, because to legitimise this audience offers bonus opportunities for brands through an endorsement or a communication storyline.

The position these brands take (if at all) is a bold one. There’s business to be won and lost either way. The Chick-fil-A case in the States is a remarkable one that exploded because of the company’s chairman making clear his vehement opposition to the debate around marriage-equality. The backlash was enormous and business couldn’t have been good. Oh well… You win some, you lose some.

What’s more important to me are the brands willing to stand for a kinder message – and how big of a surprise some of them are: the Royal Dutch Football Association for example. Who would have thought?

There’s always the risk that someone without the chops or the know-how has a bash at it though and goes a little far. This spot for Toronto’s Gay Rugby Team has potential and then loses steam because while talking about challenging stereotypes, falls straight into one.

Still, it’s great to see that the subject matter is being covered with well-produced content. But for the relevance to resonate, I believe it’s more about the articulate subtlety in the story and how powerful this is for an audience who – in my lifetime still – will always and in some way be looking for acceptance.

I’m not here to force the issue. I wouldn’t say we need the gay version of every straight commercial out there. Noeleen going to that fancy schmancy institute to do that research for Ariel has saved us so much time, don’t put us down for a gay version of that one. And anyway, it would just be painful and very, very boring. But I am for more of the good ones. It would corroborate the work being done by shows like Glee, The New Normal and Modern Family. Shows that teach kids about how different we all are – and how cool that really is.

Advertising plays a very powerful part in the choices we make and our attitudes around them. In a country (and world) with so many closeted issues when it comes to tolerance, do you think we could help make them better?

© Dylan Balkind

Racist Advertising

Originally written for and published on BizCommunity.com.
For engagement details, click here

I was too young to remember what advertising was like in South Africa in the dark ages (Apartheid). I can only assume the emerging markets were all but disregarded (why go against what was happening in other socio-economic areas of life?) and were considered a non-event when it came to buying power.

Crazy that us elitist whites chose this route when you think about it, considering they still had to live, eat, wash, clothe themselves and travel around – albeit under much duress. So the world issued sanctions which in turn led to people learning about tolerance before imbibing a little sanctity and finally getting politically correct. Unfortunately, we haven’t been able to stop since – getting politically correct that is. And God is it boring or what?

I saw the Caltrate TVC this week. This is a product that is supposed to help strengthen your bones and joints so that you can shimmy shake with the best of them and never stop, year after year after year. I was stumped at the storyline and wondered if the creative team and/or client had fallen and bumped their heads.

Let me tell you how the brief went (I wasn’t there, but ’ll have a shot at it anyway): “Create communication that attracts the black buying power to calcium supplements.” So they came up with a black lady and her elderly mom kickboxing.

Mmm…

Kickboxing.

Before I gave in to a blinding fury at the ridiculousness of this idea, I asked a few of my black friends how much time the matriarchs in their family allocated to kickboxing in a week. Much to the surprise of the Caltrate marketing team and whatever agency they entrusted with this script, the answer was a deafening ‘none’.

Shockingly-Racist-Vintage-Ads-3

Now I am no doyenne of sport, but I am sure that even a little dipstick research would have come back with a handful of better ideas for a storyline that still worked to highlight the USP of the product for an audience they were hoping to bring into the net. This kind of arrogance in marketing and advertising has long overstayed its welcome in South Africa. People are not idiots and you are not doing your brand any favours at all by patronising one audience in front of another.

This example is simply the ridiculous positing of political-correct casting onto a script a white writer wrote. Market research should have taught them how to make calcium-enriching supplements appealing to black families with sport or activities that are relevant to them. It’s a shame when something has so blatantly been written for a black audience by a white creative team who did no more work than the bare minimum. If they were more committed to their craft, they would create relevant messaging that resonates with the target audience in the right spaces at the right time.

We are the only country who uses LSM profiling – because of the dexterous tapestry of our socio economic landscape – yet so few marketing exercises use this information for their gain. My reaction to ads like this one is not a realisation I have reached because I am racist. This is fury at the racist creatives who worked on the script and who assume that the audience will buy whatever they are selling because they cast black artists.

Wake up. Think more.

Hashtag epic brand fail.

© Dylan Balkind

Creatives critiquing creativity

How many writers does it take to change a lightbulb? One and a chorus of whingers to point out that someone else has – somewhere in the history of the planet – already changed a light bulb, so changing another one would be unoriginal and therefore completely pointless.  

Creatives are an odd bunch. We work inside the silos of the sanatorium called an agency, being a part of the tug of war between our central creative pull and the client’s same when it comes to their brand mandatories.

We know the drill. We know that to get a campaign out involves a dozen meetings where the idea that has been presented, critiqued, reworked, re-presented, reconsidered, re-tweaked and re-presented is then put through some real paces and eventually given the green light. It is (almost) never the case of a good idea sold and preproduction briefed, because a good idea inside my head for example, may make no sense to the others at the table and the same may be true of what comes from them.

So then why are we such a bitchy bunch? I’m no saint when it comes to opinion – I can’t handle bad advertising and my candour when I see it is palpable. But bad advertising is often very clear about how bad it is. Like when two women who obviously travel with their washing machines are seen standing in a kitchen talking about how concerned they are that their husband’s shirts don’t look bright and new. I always travel with my washing machine so that’s not the part I hate. No wait, it is – because that’s just stupid. It sets feminism back a hundred years and has been responsible for more eye rolling than Julius Malema or Marie Straub.

Dunce

There is so much to consider when making a quick, uninformed quip about an ad on a social media forum: a) Are you the target market? If you are not the target market (believe it, not everything is aimed at you), it was not intended to resonate with you anyway; b) Does it successfully speak to the target market? c) How would you rate the production values? Because there are cheap shit ads, and there are cheaply made but very effective ads. The list is long…

I made the senseless mistake of engaging a silly sally on Twitter recently who evidently has no awareness or skills on the above measurables. She is an editor in chief which means that she must have some common sense, somewhere. But on a scale of one to Lindsay Lohan, it’s quite clear that not everyone who has it, uses it. She hates stereotypes but has become one in the process: a tightly wound, self deified strawberry who hears but does not necessarily listen – let alone think.

They say you can’t put people in boxes. Wrong. You can if you want to – even with creatives. There are those that have to have five different colours in their unwashed hair – simply because they are a creative. There are those that take long, dramatic moments to pause, deep in thought before sprouting their pearl – simply because they are a creative; skinny jeans, aloof and emotionally unavailable – or flowing cotton, open shirts and a self-created quirky lilt – simply because they are all, well, creatives.

You can also put people in boxes as to whether they are, for example, a features writer, a copywriter, a script writer, a blog writer, a vapid content creator, or a twitter update writer. Where your talent resonates is what you live to be proud of. Sure, it’s been said that good work shouldn’t need to be defended, but then does that mean you shouldn’t be passionate about what goes on your porti? If so, be sure then that while you sprout this cliché, your own work is at an infallible level for all the world to see and bask in.

I hear there are shock collars for dogs that need testing. I can think of two people who should sign up.

 

© Dylan Balkind

Don’t axe your chances with the ladies

Attraction. An innate quality that inspires what moves and motivates both men and women. It is why we drive what we drive, wear what we wear and smell the way we choose to smell. And whether you aim to drop jaws or find yourself having to remember where yours is, the appeal of the preferred sex is responsible for most of the decisions you make. Seriously.

Playboy Deodorant’s reinvented brand launches this week with a new look, a new vibe and a lot more appeal. A lead TV Commercial flights later this week and I’m giving you the first look.

And because attraction doesn’t work if it isn’t edgy, there are two viral executions that explain just what we mean when we talk about The Power of Attraction – and what it means if you just don’t have it.

Don’t axe your chances with the ladies.

Use Playboy Deodorant.

The Power of Attraction.

Tell me I’m the only one you love…

After the incorrigible persistence of Steve and his banality for FNB, a banking ad that breaks through the clutter and makes us sit up and take note is more refreshing than lemonade. TBWA\Hunt\Lascaris has reinterpreted Standard Bank’s payoff line – Moving Forward – for their latest epic now flighting on TV.

Look again. It’s not just stock footage. The deft Kim Geldenhuys from Egg Pictures along with the help of Kobus Loots’ editing hands at Upstairs Post has brought the spot to life by (almost) seamlessly positing actual characters into historical moments – all singing the ever-catchy Sh Boom Sh Boom (Life Could Be A Dream), originally written by The Chords.

Nice work. We like.

Read more about this work here.

The big business Super Bowl

In 2011, 111 million people tuned in to watch the festivities. That’s a ceremonious gift to advertisers looking for reach and hit-rate – provided their budget doesn’t balk at the cost to air and produce something worth remembering during the game.

Back in the day, this church of American sport was held as the big moment when the winners of the National Football League (NFL) and the American Football League (AFL) went head-to-head. Now, Super Bowl Sunday is second only to Thanksgiving when it comes to the amount of food consumption in the US – and we all know those Americans can eat! This is not young Jack’s little league.

This year, the number of viewers popped slightly up to 111.3 million (and to 114million for the halftime show specifically by marketing powerhouse Madonna). This year’s advertising costs weighed in at $3.5million for a 30 second spot. That’s a lot of money for a lot of attention. And that $3.5m is only for media – never mind production. How people determine where they put their money is obvious in the lineup of spots this year, and – as usual – there is a great divide between the winners and those on the other end.

There’s the impressive.

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=mHkzs4OD7EM&feature=player_embedded

And then there is the lame.

Not a complete dog show – and definitely still worth viewing. Just not as creative and memorable as they could have been. The diversity in the executions across these makes me wonder what American audiences expect from their Advertising and how the effectiveness of it is measured.

Sure, taste is subjective, but you simply can’t compare the Public Mobile’s Roaming to Budweiser’s Grab Some Buds. The choices made for what cost what behind the camera to what you choose to be able to afford to put in front of it shows the expansive difference between the two. And with an average 5.7% increase in media costs per year, you’ve got to start being smarter with how you spend your budget.

Either way, they’ve got my vote. Whether you love or hate the spots you see, the Super Bowl is a gamut of entertainment from brands looking to be remembered most after the final whistle has blown. But regardless and let’s be honest, what was remembered most this year was this:

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ROkhklj0ZGs

© Dylan Balkind

Get Up!

I care if you think this is self-righteous. I care if you don’t get what the big deal is all about. I care if you watch this and feel nothing because I care about being able to feel the same things most other people in the world are allowed to feel. And I care about you.

The mere fact that same sex marriage has been a contested issue for so long puts a very different angle on understanding and connecting with it – even sometimes for the couples who are in these relationships. If you spend almost every waking moment together, even when not in the same room, there should be no hesitation, insecurity or law that prohibits you from making the announcement to each other and the world.

It’s time. Globally.

Created by the Motion Picture Company, Australia.

Screamer

Yes, it is Justin Bieber. And yes, it is corny. But it’s also memorable. Love or hate the odd phenomenon that he has become, this must have made you smile? Come on, admit it… His performance is honest, the ridiculousness of the screaming men is something to see and – at the end of it all – supporting this cause helps the Make A Wish foundation.

If I lived in New York, I’d be there. Would you?

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=u49CFsPWDdQ

Advertising Agency: JWT, New York, USA.

Worth a giggle

Sometimes concepts are odd. And God knows they could afford to be so more often. Talkability is king however and what with Royal weddings, Kardashian weddings (and divorces to pave the way for more weddings… surprise!), this spot still offers some relevant connection with us. Although if produced a little sooner, it would have been more memorable and offered greater impact.

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=UVNINsxQKlA

Still, worth a giggle. Even if it’s just a little one.

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