Wednesday, July 13, 2005

David Foster Wallace - Are you reading this?

In his book The Infinite Jest, David Foster Wallace discusses a future where America's trash problem is so bad, that the gameshow host who becomes president wins on a platform based upon shooting the trash into space. When this is found to be unfeasible, he proposes that all of the trash be catapulted into Canada (or the Great Concavity) and subsequently creates a massive crater from Quebec eastward. This is funded by selling off the years to corporations, making most of this story set in the Year of Glad, and inadvertently fuelling insurgent groups such as the Wheelchair Assassins out of the francophone province to rise up against the American system with a video tape so entertaining it leads to an addiction that results in starvation. And I could go on….

But needless to say, Wallace has pinpointed one of the problems of our time. Waste.

Now, 50,000 tonnes a day are shipped out of New York state alone, into their neighbouring states on trains, as municipalities have taken up the practice of buying waste from cities.

Last year Virginia on its own took in 7.8 million tonnes of 'Yankee' trash.

They are looking into boats to ship the stuff down the East coast.

And the Sierra Club's Town raises this point: “Transporting all of this garbage so far away means that the people that generate it don't have to deal with its consequences. And if that's the case, where is their incentive to create less of it?”

Tuesday, July 12, 2005

Highlights from Cannes Lions -The Best Ads of the Year

The award winners have been up for a while now at, but I haven't taken the time to discuss some of the best ads of the year yet.

'Grr' for Honda took Best in Show with a silly cartoon number with fuzzy rabbits and rainbows about how wonderful the Diesel Hybrid is along to the catchy tune of 'Hate Something? Change Something'. I just liked the whistling myself, the rest was a bit too saccharine.

My favourites are 'Bait' for Toyota by Saatchi, where a tentacled lake monster sets up a cardboard cutout of a car, and awaits curious joggers.

'Magic' for the Peruvian Cancer Foundation is beautiful. The acting is top notch, and the music works really well.

The music in the ad for Adidas' smart shoe ad (the girl from the Yeah Yeah Yeahs) is amazing as well. The concept, however, not so interesting.

My absolute favourites, however, are the Playstation ads shot on the Serengetti, but it took me a few days to realize it. The concept is awesome, the idea is bizarre and interesting and spot on the target market (me, actually) and I'll tell you what I liked best about it:

You could describe the ad to a friend; In the way you can describe something bizarre or surreal that has happened. With a lot of ads you can say, 'did you see that ___ ad?' and if people say 'No. What's it about?' it is difficult to explain, or the idea doesn't come through in the description. These ads are made to be told as a story, and that is what makes them so brilliant. Mano Japonesa has an easily explained concept as well that is really funny, same with the Husky girls. Kitchen is a great ad for talk power as well.

The mini counterfeit ad is hilarious. But a hard one to explain. As are the L'Equipe ads, the Altoid ads, and the ads for the digital cameras (what brand, who?) interesting ideas, but hard to convey.

McCann manages again to relate product benefits to the everyday relatable experience with the Bic ad. And Saatchi always manages to appeal to the hot and sexy.

You have to love the bizarre eye candy of Smirnoff's new ad 'Diamond' and another one that never made it. 'Natasha' has a Russian spy escaping by shedding layers of her Russian doll self.

All of the Adidas ads look great. But they don't have the talk power of Bait, or Kitchen or the playstation ads.

Then there are the Volkswagon print ads, the Lego block building ad, the Aids Awareness cartoon, the bubble wrapped city for Guide Dogs for the Blind, and Oh! There are so many good ones.

Getting people to talk about the ad is as good as getting people to talk about he product - as long as they remember what the ad is for.

What ads you remember?

Monday, July 11, 2005

LOHAS consumers change the way they see food.

The latest LOHAS consumer trends study suggests that a healthy spin may no longer be enough to lure people to new food and beverage products. Marketers may need to take another look at strategies for capturing the attention of this important group, reports Jess Halliday.

LOHAS ('lifestyle of health and sustainability') consumers make up about a quarter of the US population and are classified as those with strong environmental and social values who base many of their purchasing decisions accordingly.

“LOHAS consumers are attractive for a variety of reasons, including brand loyalty, influence over others and price insensitivity,” wrote the authors.

But this year’s study, published by the Natural Marketing Institute, highlights a 6 percent decline in these consumers’ desire to be the first to try new healthy foods and beverages.

And, given their influence, this reluctance may reverberate down through the population, gathering pace as it goes until food companies start to notice a major dent in sales of new products.

Euromonitor statistics show that growth in sales of packaged healthy and better-for-you foods in the US peaked between 2003 and 2004 at 5.8 percent. In 2005, sales were projected to reach $108.5 billion, a 5 percent increase on 2004.

The annual growth rates are predicted to decline steadily over the next four years, from 2.9 percent in 2006, to 3.3 percent in 2007, to 2.9 percent in 2008, to 2.5 percent in 2009. In 2009 sales are expected to reach around 123 billion.

With more and more healthy and better-for-you products hitting the market in the past few years, consumers can afford to be a little picky about those they opt for.

And when they do give products a chance, LOHAS consumers’ standards are very high: “Products needs to feel, taste, and perform as well as (or in many cases better) than their conventional counterparts,” according to the report.

The report also identifies an increase in the role of the brand image in influencing purchasing decisions. As more products become available, consumers have a tendency to stick with brands they recognize, meaning that companies who got in on the act early have a longer legacy of consumer fidelity on which they can base their new launches.

Another possible explanation for the drop-off in interest in new products is that, for this group, health and wellness are not just ‘internal’ considerations, but include planetary concerns too.

Twenty-four percent of survey respondents drawn from the general population said that recyclable packaging was ‘very important’ in their food and beverage purchases (an 18 percent increase over the past two years); 29 percent said no genetically modified ingredients was very important (up 14 percent); and 34 percent said grown without pesticides (up 10 percent).

No trans-fats, low-cholesterol, fortified with vitamins and minerals and low fat also scored highly (32 percent, 32 percent, 30 percent and 30 percent respectively saying they were very important).

These responses indicate that marketers may do well to give equal emphasis to the health and environmental benefits of food products.

More detailed data and analysis of LOHAS trends is available from The Natural Marketing Institute.