Friday, March 03, 2006

If You Play This Ad Backward...

KFC has released an campaign that promises free food to anyone who can play their ad backwards and decipher the hidden message.

KFC ad

Here is the ad. Play it backwards

Thursday, March 02, 2006

Advertising Agency Examines Ethics in Advertising

There are plenty of things out there to buy. There are cars, shovels, shotguns, cigars, cigarettes, bourbon, balloons, bullets and first aid kits. For everything that is sold, there is a sign somewhere advertising that product, and words on mouths spreading the news of that product to someone else. Whenever there is something to be traded, there is talk, and wherever there is talk, there is advertising.

When people think of the evils of advertising, they are often thinking of the cigarette ads that suggest we draw harmful chemicals into our lungs, or the ads encouraging us to eat food containing zero nutrition, or ads that encourage 18 year olds to go to war. While it is generally considered evil, or at least unethical, to play off someone else’s suffering for your own personal gain, it is not the actual selling of the product that is at fault here.

For every human desire, there is an answer. Often this manifests itself in vice, sin or what have you. The presence of these objects in the world is not evil in their own right. There are dangerous things out there, but their availability is not the issue here, at least in this context. It is the manner in which dangerous things are encouraged that needs to be examined.

Advertising can be a positive, beneficial force. It can be a flyer for a circus, an encouragement to vote, a declaration of good will or a call for funds for a good cause.

And speaking of good causes, I am up to $2035 out of my $5500 goal to raise money for leukaemia and lymphoma, if you would like to help out, please click here.

Advertising can be as simple as a signpost, or information as to where something can be found.

A sign that informs the public that cigarettes are available in a certain location is not malevolent. It is hardly unethical, and some would argue it is even a public service.


There is more to advertising than meets the eye. Advertising can be a dark and subversive art. Many times, its goal is to pry into the unconscious mind and tinker with the deepest and darkest fears, insecurities, and anxieties of the weak. By identifying a weakness, advertising drives a wedge into a splinter of insecurity and magnifies it for the world to see. Like poison, it sinks into the consciousness of its victim, and then dangles a remedy to alleviate the pain.

Cigarette advertising is notorious for this. They prey upon young girls, especially. They highlight their lack of cool, their awkwardness, their undesirability and overall lameness, and suggest that even the biggest loser looks cooler while drawing on a cigarette. It is power.

This is where advertising, which is really only a tool, like a hammer, or bullhorn, can turn ugly. When advertisers understand the tactics to exploit weakness, and sin, and are capable of crafting images and impressions that have resonant psychological affects, then we are talking about a force that can have some real impact on society.

The implications of channelling such a force are boundless. It all depends on who is willing to stand behind the funding and distribution of such a development. So far, Phillip Morris and McDonalds and the American Military are reaping the benefits, so why isn’t anyone else?

Wednesday, March 01, 2006

Ads good enough to steal

Most of us spend our entire lives blocking out the noise that is advertising. While it can be argued that ads are a part of our culture (after all, what would Times Square be without its ads?), most often, we can go without them.

However there are exceptions.

Every so often ads come around that add colour, aesthetics, culture and life to a city.

Just this week the Alberta Ballet has been having the problem of seeing it’s indoor transit ads stolen in Edmonton. The ads are artistic, classy, black and white photographs of a naked ballet featuring a woman and two men with the tagline ‘the more you think you dislike the ballet, the closer you should sit.’ But they look good. They look more like art than advertising, and people want them for their own.

It is a testament to a truly good ad if it is not only noticed, but welcomed into your home.

Tuesday, February 28, 2006

Lawsuits As Publicity Stunts

Lawsuits are a great way to make headlines.

It made Anna-Nicole Smith into a star once again,

Apple sued ThinkSecret for publicity value.

Spike TV received enormous attention when Spike Lee sued them over their name.

Eminem sued Apple for unauthorized use of 'Lose Yourself' and there are heaps more.

High profile lawsuits make headlines, create buzz, and sometimes it is beneficial, publicity wise, for both parties involved.

PETA are masters of all things publicity, so it is not surprising that their latest spark in the media has raised eyebrows.

First there's the white house, and now the circus is accused of spying.

I had to read this headline twice to believe my eyes.

Ringling Brothers Accused of Spying on PETA

Another outrageous PETA stunt?
(There have been some great ones)

Boy Changes Name to
Activists lie naked in flower covered coffins to remind people of the link between poultry and bird flu (I'm not so sure about the effectiveness of this one).
The Running of the Nudes in Pamplona
We'd Rather Bear Skin Than Wear Skin

A taste of their own medicine?
(PETA is often accused of spying on factories, laboratories and slaughterhouses themselves)

or is espionage becoming harder these days?

What do you think?

Monday, February 27, 2006

The Results Are In - What Companies are Living Up to Their CSR Mandate?

These results were tallied by the latest Globe and Mail Report on Business feature. I'll try to keep it succinct.

Retail Sector

MEC got top marks for generating close to zero waste in their operations while IKEA shined for providing child care for customers and work-life balance incentives for working mothers.

The Foranzi Group and Rona scored the worst, mainly for their lack of transparency.

In the Shoe and Clothing World, Adidas-Saloman took top honours, mainly due to transparency, and Nike jumped into favour thanks to massive charitable contributions and disclosing all of their suppliers. Polo, on the other had was lombasted for its secrecy.

Fast Food

Starbucks ranked highest due to its extensive CSR reporting, right down to the CO2 emissions. However, most of their coffee is still not fair trade.

Dominos ranked worst, mainly due to how delivering pizzas ranks as one of the top 5 most dangerous jobs in the US (thanks to robbery and carjackings)

Food Production

Unilever wins out, again, for just letting official organizations know what they are up to.

Tyson Foods scores most poorly due to strained labour relations

Food and Drug

Sobey's - discloses its annual corporate charitable donations. This makes the powers that be happy.

Couche-Tard is the opposite.

So what have we learned about this? Basically it all boils down to disclosure and trasparency. The more you tell, the more the watchdog groups are quelled.