Thursday, January 29, 2009

Industry reacts to Naked

Here's a great summary of views about the Witchery campaign from within the marketing industry. I think the general view is negative. Note in this second article, relating to the student Naked did on the reaction to the campaign, the CEO of Witchery clearly is of the view that any media is good media. This industry-commentary is interesting and valid, and despite the survey results, I remain of the view that the consumer is being taken for a ride here.

Birds of a feather...

I'm struggling to work out a sensible rationale for the media's fawning coverage of Naked's duplicitous advertising. Were I more cynical, I'd guess that any tactic that boosts advertising is seen in a positive light by old-media struggling in financial circumstances. Equally likely, is the fact that it's just good copy.

The latest angle is reports, by Naked, that their analysis of the feedback confirms it's ok to lie to consumers. Too harsh? I don't think so. I wonder if the media would be so forgiving if an oil company was lying to consumers? A tobacco company? Would the news media be so forgiving if government misled them?

Apologists for this approach rely on the argument that no one cares or is harmed, but I think that's simply not true (and Naked's arguments to the contrary can be easily dismissed as partial) even if it's true in this instance. What of the efficacy of journalism, news media and advertising, are they not harmed (the latter may be beyond repair)? What of the fact that, at least prima facie, a breach of the Fair Trading Act has occurred? Can this be excused simply because YouTube commenters say it's ok? That's a flimsy and convenient argument.

If this deceitful tactic is tolerated, expect more and more faux-news and less and less critical and independent journalism. The incentives are clear; why pay for an advertisement if you can get free news media coverage. Are the media complicit? I'm certainly aware that smaller papers will offer news coverage as part of an advertising package. Small beer though it might be, it is neverthless an insidious erosion of consumer rights and should be opposed as such.

The flippant and dismissive attitude of Naked and its supporters could be either plain naivety or a quite deliberate attempt to obfuscate. Again, I'm not sure which.

Let's see what MediaWatch make of this as I've sent this 'tip-off':

Is the news media's fawning coverage of Naked's deceitful campaign to promote Witchery's clothing a sign that consumer standards are under new threat? Could the media coverage be linked to a favourable advertising deal? As we now know Heidi's lost love is a Disney-inspired fabrication, have Naked and Witchery not breached section 42 (1) of the Fair Trading Act which forbids "misleading or deceptive" practice?

This kind of astro-turfing erodes consumer confidence and undermines the efficacy of consumer protection laws. It appears to be tolerated because it's fun and not intended to harm. I wonder if Country Road feel so ambivalent?

Wednesday, January 28, 2009

GetUp against stupid, populist censorship for the sake of pandering to the ill-informed and/or paranoid

Who knew wheelchair tennis took place at Opens?

I didn't. Had no idea until I saw today's draw of the Australian Open and noticed the first round of wheelchair tennis started today. Wheelchair tennis is in fact played at all four Opens. There's eight players in each of the men's and women's singles for the Australia Open but draws are unavailable for doubles and quads.

More information about the NEC Super Series is available here as is the current men's and women's rankings. Interestingly, no Australian or Kiwi is ranked in either men's or women's top 25.

Co-locating tournaments for people with and without disabilities makes perfect sense. It will surely increase media interest in sports for people with disabilities and therefore, increase participation. The Paralympics have been run at the same time and venue as the Olympics since 1988.

Tuesday, January 27, 2009

Sins of the father

I feel for Jelena Dokic. Redeemed in this year's Australian Open and playing some of the best tennis of her career, she's still forced into responding to her father's ravings. This long-suffering young woman has finally emerged from her father's shadow - a burden perhaps only ever partly understood until recently - now to have him reappear on the eve of her latest match.

Win or lose, Dokic now enjoys fantastic support from her home supporters. I occassionally criticise the supporters of Australian teams, but Open fans have enthusiastically shown their affections for Dokic and forgotten the awkwardness of earlier tournaments.

It's stories like Dockic's that feed sport's great narrative. Dokic's tenacity and candor are moving. Her earlier fractiousness, now clearly understood and forgiven. I'm pleased the Open organisers have said they'll limit Dokic senior's access according to Jelena's wishes - wishes I think she's made clear.

I'll certainly be hoping she wins tonight.

Angry or silly American?

An earlier post showing mash-up photos of Barack Obama has upset an anonymous reader. This US citizen is galled by the photo that combines Obama with Osama. Context is everything though as the Obama/Osama photo is contrasted with and Obama/Terminator mash-up. The point I was trying to make was the contrast; some see Obama as hero, some as villian. I didn't think it was unduly critical of Obama and elsewhere I've made clear my respect and admiration for him.

I've been at pains to explain all this in the accompanying thread however my anonymous critic is unsatisfied. There's a point at which, particularly when the rhetoric escalates out of proportion, any and all criticism ceases to be credible. I think my critic crosses that threshold quite early when he suggested I be hanged (second post) and then in a later tirade against all manner of liberal interests. Correcting my grammar annoyed me too - I don't often closely check blog writing, it's meant to be an immediate media - particularly when my critic's own writing was short on some of the basics.

I wonder if the person's genuinely angry or just silly? Clearly little of what I've said's made it through. Sometimes the best defence really is silence. I can't be bothered to defend myself against ravings, time's too short.

Advertising ethics

I've long been interested in advertising. At its best it can rival traditional arts for innovation and creativity. Sadly, most advertising is complete rubbish. Unoriginal, banal and crude. I suspect clients are as much responsible for this situation as are agencies.

Will more austere economic conditions lead to a more sophisticated approach? Not if the recent Witchery campaign by Naked is anything to go by. In summary, a made-up story of unrequited love is carried by the news media - a pretty girl is looking for a mystery man and has only a jacket from which to trace him... how Disney. Factor in the reach of YouTube and you've got an interesting story... were it not completely false.

All media is good media though right? No harm's done? This is real creative, it shouldn't be constrained by traditional values? This, at least, was the rationale put forward by Naked's Adam Ferrier... that was after Naked first denied they had anything to do with the campaign.

Ferrier argues that there was no deception (so let's for the moment forget their initial denial) because "The word deception implies an element of harm. This campaign hasn’t harmed anyone, not even close". I suspect the good standing of Witchery and Naked will be harmed so on this alone, he's hopefully wrong. But worse than this is his incredibly naive logic. If no harm occurs, no wrong has been done? Clearly ethics wasn't part of his education.

By Ferrier's logic then, a breach of law would be excusable if the breach caused no harm. Speeding through a School zone but you hit no kids: fine. Lying about the children overboard, they were already wet remember: fine. Telling the wife you're watching a band when you're really with your fantasy baseball buddies: fine.

The harmless lie. Famous through time. Forget what Kant said, there's modern restrictions that apply in this situation like, for instance, section 42 (1) of the 1987 Fair Trading Act. It's not only the consequences of an act that makes it harmful, it can be the simple commission. This is why we forbid dummy bids, restrict the use of credentials or insist on full disclosure. Reliance on the veracity of published information is critical to the stability of commerce and government. Partiality, deception and subterfuge are regulated not just because they may cause direct harm, but also because they erode confidence.

Ferrier's a fool. This is clear. Whether his foolishness is exceptional or endemic to the industry is unclear.

Update: Ferrier's got a blog through which he's expanded his published rationalisation. The language is a little opaque but the essential point is that "social media [presumably this means advertising] need to be judged, not on how well they abide by the so called rules of social media, but rather the effectiveness of the communications." I wonder what he means by "the rules"?

Wednesday, January 21, 2009

Didn't know what else to say

I had a draft post on Obama. It wasn't all that different from many others I've already read. Then my cousin gently chastised me for goofing off a little. He listed all the stuff he has to do. He was, usually is, pretty busy at work and home. I get that. Here's my reply...

Mostly, I feel the same. Not today but.

In the last few days I've reviewed and commented on four or five Cabinet minutes, revised about four dozen briefs on various matters (many about issues I previously knew nothing), written a few media releases, developed strategies and projects for increasing our commercial revenue in new markets, avoided doing dozens of crazy things by spending the best part of ten hours having dull conversations with smart people so on and so on and so on and so on....

Today, this morning, I saw the most important leader of our generation, possibly one of the most important leaders in recent modern history, a man who has the potential to do to race relations and international relations what Mandela, King and Gandhi did, a man who might be the personification of an amazing legacy, take office and solemly, thoughtfully and purposefully commit to change the world.

I was amazed, moved and inspired. Still am.

Today then, for a little while at least, I can't tolerate the banality of my work... I know I'll have to refocus again... but for today, for a little while longer, I will oscilate between being inspired and distracted 'cause I don't want to shake the feeling that everything's going to change!

Friday, January 16, 2009

Just so no one thinks it's a Texan thing

Lyle Lovett's a Texan I greatly admire.

Jobs and Bush; eulogising

The reaction to the imminent departure of both Steve Jobs and G W Bush couldn't be more different. Whereas sharemarket analysts fear Apple's future without Jobs, my sense is that political prognosticators see only an upside from a new Leader of the Free World.

Back in May 2006, I posted this countdown clock for the Bush administration. It currently shows only a few days left. At that time, the discussion focused on potential replacement Presidents (it's remarkable to think that none of the commenters, myself included, identified Obama). It seems inevitable that G W Bush will come to be seen as a poor president. The 9-11 attack was not, of course, personal and he shares responsibility for the invasion of Iraq . He couldn't have foreseen Katrina. He probably inherited the financial crisis - like some cruel pass-the-parcel - from former administrations. Still, he sought to be the "decider" and has not once, in my opinion, proven worthy. A point well made by the NY Times columist, Gail Collins:
The White House has promised that in his final address, the president will be
joined by a small group of everyday American heroes, which means that the only
person on stage with a history of failing to perform well in moments of stress
will be the main speaker.

Jobs, on the other hand, appears to have been a man ahead of his times. A man whose experience, knowledge and judgment were suited to his role. Clearly, no meaningful comparison can be made between the requirements of running a company and running a country. Nevertheless, were I asked, I'd rather be succeeding Bush that Jobs.

Yeah right

C'mon, Hayden better than the Little Master? I don't think so.

I didn't much like Haydo, he seemed a bit of a prat to me. I respect his achievements however. I even agree he probably revolutionised the role of openers; he was so dominant so quickly, he forced opposition captains to change fields by punishing their attack bowlers and could turn a game in a session (much like Gilchrist or Warne could) but is he better than the game's leading run scorer?

Wednesday, January 07, 2009


My Christmas break is nearing its end. Sadly.

Family have come and gone. They were frenetically completing odd-jobs around the house as they departed. Jobs I'm grateful they've done, they were not going to be done by me - a lack of skill, not endeavour mind. No escape from Sydney was possible and, despite my predictions, the city remained busy. A obscene queue outside the aquarium, traffic and parking congestion at Ikea, summer sales endured... if it's a really good idea, chances are it's not only your's.

Galavanting friends have called in and delighted. The BBQ's been an essential aide. Last night Mrs backin15 spectacularly cooked two snapper to perfection (dill and lemon stuffed in their cavities). A drink or two has been enjoyed, a cigar too. Books have been read, cricket watched, sleep enjoyed. Three weeks is nice though no length of time is ever long enough, is it?

I've no real complaints, save for the brief duration. I'll bitch and moan about the weather or another 6 weeks I suspect. My first February in Sydney was the worst. I wondered how anyone ever bought a suit - what on earth do you need a jacket for? The last few days have been tolerable, just. I anxiously check the weather every evening hoping for some respite. Still, only last night, when at 2am it was still in the late 20s, was I close to overwhelmed...

2009 will have new challenges. I look forward to an expanded family. I have some misgivings but they're insignificant compared with my hopes.

This blog may not continue. I have previously stopped writing to concentrate on other things, some online, others not. I hope to continue to contribute to others' discussions either way. My respect and enjoyment of their work only grows.

I bought a blue pin-stripped suit last week. It replaces a fashionably brown one, fashionable but uncomfortable. I shopped for more hours than I normally would. I eschewed established brands for edgy ones - what image I think I have I must maintain. Ultimately however, an extremely knowledgable woman at DJs convinced me to go conservative. I consoled myself with some half-remembered insights about fashion returning to traditional themes; well see.

I was thinking of my highlights but I fear they're banal.
  • I love the mademoiselle filou light my wife gave me for Christmas.
  • I was sore for days after, but ultimate frisbee, cricket, volleyball and footy at my sister-in-laws picnic were fantastic. Laneway cricket on Christmas evening was grand too.
  • Sharing a birthday with friends from overseas was a wonderful surprise - when the power went out, I only wished I could find the cigars!
  • Our youngest climbing into our bed and not being rushed out as we raced to catch the train. Her delight at Christmas time, pure and uncritical delight, was magical. It was significantly enhanced by the enthusiasm applied by neighbours to their Christmas lights.
Holidays over; when's the next one?