Sadly, we have arrived at a place in our culture where there is no longer a place for a pun or a joke. The latest demonstration of this cultural shift is the uproar which arose as a result of a t-shirt JCPenney is selling which reads, "I'm too pretty to do homework so my brother has to do it." Oh sure, buried in that statement is the not too subtle jab that pretty girls are stupid or, conversely, they are so hot they can get away with whatever they choose. But, seriously. what girl hasn't uttered that in jest at one point or another?
The trouble is when a brand says it, the entire world is watching. And while the statement may, on it's own and said one to one, be rather innocuous, when it has the heft of a brand like JCPenney behind it, it's bound to draw fire from the naysayers.
Currently, the brand is putting out fires on Twitter and Facebook. For once, we'd love to see a brand simply stand up and say, "Can't anyone take a joke any more?" Alas, given the current reactionary state of current culture, that would be akin to brand suicide. So sucking it up and apologizing is really the only way to go.
Is it just us or is the match up between Sears and the Kardashians a total non-sequitur? Number one, you have an extremely conservative, run-of-the-mill department store that's the last thing on anyone's mind when the word "fashion" enters the conversation. Number two, you have the Kardashian sisters who, in some circles, are the furthest thing from run-of-the-mill.
When I was a kid, tomboys were just tomboys. They weren't lesbians in training wheels as some kooks would, today, have us believe if we were to give any credence to the "uproar" over Tide's Hoodies & Cargo Shorts commercial.
AdFreak calls attention to the kerfuffle that has terms such as homophobic, lesbian, stereotypes and gender norms being tossed about. It's all really very simple, people. We'll break it down in easy-to-comprehend terms. Ready? It's a fucking detergent commercial! Move on with your lives, people!
In the U.K., where the ever watchful, hawk-eyed Advertising Standards Authority keeps things in check, making a person better looking than they do in real life is now grounds for having your ad banned. L'Oreal has been told to pull a campaign featuring Julia Roberts and Christy Turlington because the images were "overly airbrushed." Not sure anyone literally airbrushes anymore but let's not quibble.
Liberal Democrat MP Jo Swinson made the original complaint to the ASA saying the campaign consisted of "overly perfected and unrealistic images" and that the images were "not representative of the results the product could achieve." The campaign was deemed to have stepped outside the ASA's guidelines for exaggeration.
We're beginning to think this whole Old Spice Fabio thing is just a silly joke from Weiden + Kennedy. Though silly as the joke may be, the agency knows full well we'll all talk about it thereby giving the brand all kinds of free publicity. The problem is, Fabio just doesn't cut it as a man your man wants to be. Does any man really want to be Fabio? He's a romance novel caricature who's a caricature of a caricature.
In his latest video, he can barely get his lines out without stumbling all over them. The man should stick to doing what he does best; posing and keeping his mouth shut.
Definitely a really, really bad joke.
But what do we know? The videos are getting all kinds of views and, really, that's all anyone cares about these days.
For years people have been complaining about feminine hygiene product advertising calling it unrealistic with the category's portrayal of women frolicking in white pants through flower-filled fields. Well, thanks to The Richards Group, we now have a more realistic portrayal (nay we say celebration?) of feminine hygiene products.
So how do people react? We give you one guess. They complain. Yup. They complain. A new series of ads featuring a vertical hand vagina voiced by African American, Latina and Caucasian women are being called sexist and racist.
On sites from AdWeek to The Consumerist to MoxieBird to the Daily News the reaction to the campaign is discussed. And it's not very positive.
Oh it's a dangerous road to travel when marketers decide to poke fun at, well, just about anything these days. As you have certainly heard, Goodby, Silverstein & Partners created a Got Milk campaign called Everything I Do Is Wrong which highlighted the plight of men faced women women experiencing symptoms of PMS. The campaign payoff was the reference to research that found milk could mitigate the effects of PMS.
But even scientific fact couldn't save this campaign which has since been pulled by the California Milk Processor Board. Many people felt the campaign portrayed women in an unfavorable light leading many to believe they become raging lunatics every 28 days or so.
Any man who has lived with any woman for any period of time understand there's a modicum of truth to that portrayal. Of course that doesn't mean all women lose complete control and turn their men into losers who can't do anything right.
Unlike many, we have no problem with this campaign. Why? Because if we can't poke fun at ourselves, what's left? If we can't inject a bit of humor into our lives, we might as well all become monks. Oh wait, even they know how to have fun. If we can't take a moment and just chuckle, we're going to turn into a world filled with cause groups that will dumb us down to the point where we all turn into emotionless robotic automatons.
When we first joined Facebook like the day after it opened publicly, it was a wasteland of crickets. Well, not exactly. There were millions of college students but no one we'd ever have an interest in interacting with aside from the random ogling of some hot college chick mirror pic'ing herself or the annual onslaught of Halloween Lingerie Party pics. About a year later, the friend requests started piling in from marketing folks who were just discovering Facebook's existence. And then it was your brother and your mother and your aunt and your ex-girlfriend and that annoying kid from high school who'd plaster your Wall with inanities about the "good 'ol days."
Now, the reverse is happening with Google+. All the marketing people and social media geeks have pounced on Google+ first and the hot young college chicks (and your relatives) don't give a shit. Maybe they - and the rest of the world - will someday but for now it's just a geek fest full of geeks talking about geeky shit about which the rest of the world could care less. We say walk away for a year and come back when it's actually useful. And the hot chicks have discovered it.
As you may have heard, DirecTV has pulled its latest ad featuring a fictional character Tommy, "The Truth" Thompson, from YouTube because the comments became a bit harsh. Central to the debate was the notion the spot contained racial overtones and glorified violence. You can view the spot below and decide for yourself.
We're not going to debate the finer points of racism, the hypersensitivities of today's culture nor the annoying inability of, it seems, anyone, to understand humor. Rather, we're going to ponder the mindset of a brand that pulls content just because things get ugly.
DirecTV said the spot was pulled from YouTube because "the content of the associated posts was devolving into an R-rated dialogue." The spot will continue to air as planned on national television.
Creatives young and old have had a love/hate relationship with Bob Garfield, who for the last 25 years has produced his "Ad Review" segment on Advertising Age. (His position on this? On a scale of one to five, few ads are total zeros and few ads are prize fives. Over his whole career the average ad has received about a 3.4, significantly higher than the average true quality of industry television advertising output at large.)
Ad bloggers, whether or not they agree with his arguments, arguably see him as the person who began what they continue today. He's also the author of The Chaos Scenario and co-hosts National Public Radio's "On the Media."
I ran into Bob at the Carlton this weekend, then later Monday in front of the Palais, sporting a decidedly cannois summer hat. (I didn't know at the time, but it was also his birthday.) He thoughtfully agreed to sit and talk at a nearby beachside restaurant -- which we only later discovered is probably the loudest atmospheres in all the land.
So forgive the sound on this bad-boy. Click below to see the video, and read the rest of this piece over at Yahoo! Scene.