Tagged: this is why noone trusts marketers

Big questions for Westpac

I literally stood speechless in front of my TV as this advertisement played.

What was that, Westpac?  You think it’s “easy” for us to ask “big questions” like “should women have basic human rights” and “should same sex couples have basic human rights” and “should we participate in imperialist wars overseas”?

The fact one of your hijacked film clips shows women protesting for the right to vote might have provided an important clue on that one.

You think those questions are comparable to getting a fucking tattoo?  You think it’s funny to play on the significance of women’s suffrage by equating it with (to you) the silliness of women’s bodily insecurities?

You think people whose loved ones are in serious conditions in hospital are going to be relieved that at least you’re there to exploit their hopes … oh, and totally offer them great interest rates on their term deposits!

Are we really meant to be impressed that you think you have any kind of right to co-opt important moments in our history to make a trite little joke about “asking the little questions” about our money?

The biggest questions, of course, are rhetorical:  How did Westpac manage to trump even BNZ’s bullshit moralising?  When did banks who have been caught red-handed ripping off New Zealanders decide it was a great idea to market themselves as high-minded deep-thinking philosophers?

Why aren’t they marketing themselves on integrity, good customer service and decent rates and fees instead?  I guess that one answers itself.

Plain packaging insults my intelligence, and yours, too

This is something of a response to Zetetic’s post, which in some part I agree with – BAT’s ads are just stupid.  And too long, especially since half your audience already know if they agree or disagree with it five seconds in.

(And I think the “slippery slope” warning is too little too late, because if we don’t see the same arguments being put forward for junk food in the next few years I’ll eat fat-free cheese.)

But I’m clearly on the “wrong” side when it comes to plain packaging – based on the people I see defending it, with whom I normally agree, and the people I see attacking it, at whom I normally want to throw half-bricks.

I just want to share two quotes from that modern-day source of all knowledge, Wikipedia, and its article on plain packaging:

 Direct, concrete evidence of plain packaging’s effectiveness is unavailable as it has not yet been rolled out in any country.


However evidence from quantitative studies, qualitative research and the internal documents of the tobacco industry consistently identify packaging as an important part of tobacco promotion.

To give Wiki its due, this does seem to sum up the basic arguments for plain packaging.  But am I seriously the only person who can see how those two statements are not actually logically connected?

Am I the only person who sits here saying, “ZOMG!  Packaging is an important part of tobacco promotion?  Truly, this is a stunning revelation!”?

Is there something magical about cigarette packaging and branding which sets it apart from all other packaging and branding?  I’ve had long-term relationships with smokers, people.  I can assure you, the glint of light off a pack of Marlboro Lights is not significantly more enticing than a screechy Harvey Norman TV spot.

Check out this study, which contained earth-shattering conclusions like:

 tobacco packaging communicated powerful brand identities to young adult smokers and non-smokers, and respondents could identify clear brand personalities for both familiar and unfamiliar cigarette brands

This clearly doesn’t apply to any other products.  I, myself, simply could not make any kind of guess as to the intended audiences nor brand identities of these gaming devices or this laptop or this global brand.

Let’s remember, we’re already at a stage where supermarkets and dairies no longer have gigantic displays of cigarettes at every counter.  The argument then was, “the magical packaging magically entice people to smoke against their will, so we will deprive the magical packaging of its power!”

Strangely, people kept smoking.  It’s almost like cigarettes contain an addictive stimulant which also forms a significant part of a lot of some people’s social interactions.

So now … we’re seriously acting like “oh, well the brief moment when someone takes out their pack of cigarettes is enough to brainwash you into smoking!  That’s how powerful the psychic paper they make the packs out of is!”

Smoking’s bad for you.  We’ve known this for decades.  Let’s please give our fellow human beings the credit to assume they’re not just going “cancer?  But it comes in a pretty box!  YAY!”

(And please, don’t “but think of the children” at me.  Kids smoke because their parents smoke, their older siblings smoke, because they’re rebellious teens doing rebellious teen things.  Putting Mummy and Daddy’s fun-sticks in boring white boxes ain’t going to change their learned experiences of/associations with smoking.)

I wonder who earned their Christmas bonus for coining the term “Breastapo”?

There’s been a flurry of articles recently about the extreme or bullying lengths some health professionals are apparently going to in order to make parents breastfeed rather than formula feed.

I am absolutely sure that some people are dickheads about this – every “health” cause has its unwavering zealots who refuse to understand that not everyone can be crowbarred into their worldview.

But as someone noted on Twitter some days ago, whenever an issue like breast vs formula suddenly becomes THE HUGE ISSUE OF THE DAY you may find yourself wondering where these stories are suddenly coming from.  And what clever person at which PR firm coined the term “Breastapo“.

It’s definitely not okay for anyone to feel bullied – and especially triply not okay for infants to go hungry – over this issue.

But it’s definitely interesting how not a single story on the matter has even hinted at why we have placed emphasis and resource into encouraging breastfeeding.

Not a single story has covered the fairly shitty history of the formula industry.  None have mentioned the ongoing Nestle boycott, for example.  None have so much as said, “These policies have come out of the fact that a lot of people who could breastfeed their babies were pressured not to, even to the extent of formula companies giving them free samples which leave them dependent on formula once their milk dries up.”

We do have words for people who get you hooked with free samples of their product, after all.

But no.  Every story, every reporter, has just acted like out of nowhere, the Ministry of Health and nurses and midwives all got together one dark Sabbat night and said “let’s shit on new parents!  Let’s make their lives harder!  Fuck yeah, they’ll do what’s good for them and they’ll like it!”

Like I’ve said, I have absolutely no doubt that there are bullies and zealots and people who are fucked-up enough to harass new parents.

All I want to know is why this just now became the big issue.  And why none of our so-called “journalists” seem to have asked any actual questions about it, or put it in any kind of context, or given their readers and viewers any kind of background.

Besides the obvious “because they just copypasted a PR release from a formula company”.*

Meanwhile, the formula industry’s stellar ethics are on display (not that anyone held a gun to our PM’s head and made him sign a can of formula and pose with it for the cameras).

More reading at Hoyden About Town:  Nestle moves from obfuscation to outright lies; Gone too far? and all posts on infant formula.  I thank the Hoydens for my own knowledge of the Nestle boycott, etc.


*After all, that privilege only gets extended to Bendon.

PRINZ responds: cynicism confirmed

Courtesy of Russell Brown on Twitter, PRINZ has responded on the Monckton issue in glorious marketers’ Technicolor:

PRINZ was offered Viscount Christopher Monckton as a speaker and our intention is to have him talk about the communications issues around climate change – given that this is a hotly debated topic that many laypeople are confused about.

Viscount Monckton is unquestionably an unusual character whose hereditary title and occasional extreme statements attract attention and criticism. But he does represent a point of view and, as an opinion-leading climate change skeptic, communicators should be interested in what he has to say.

Geoff Austin’s point of view on climate change communication is: “My concern about the present situation is not that we may or may not reasonably expect catastrophic global warming. It is that anyone who has the temerity to try to discuss the issue will be the recipient of ad hominem attacks designed to shut down the debate.”

Fuckin’ brilliant, that is.

People are confused about climate change so we want to just have the discussion about how to communicate it!

That confusion totally has nothing to do with the lying and manipulation and basic falsification of any kind of “lack of consensus” about climate change.  It’s not caused at all by the very people PRINZ is hosting.

He’s just there to talk about “communications issues”, like the “ad hominem attacks” which dominate the debate!

Because the people who lie about being members of the House of Lords, who lie about being Nobel Prize winners, are definitely the people to talk about the ad hominem attacks in the debate … like when they accuse climate scientists of being liars and part of a global conspiracy to destroy capitalism and democracy and stuff.

Seriously, PRINZ.  I’d be right there with you on a seminar about “the difficulties of communication complex scientific ideas to the public” or “the dangers of getting involved in arguments with completely dishonest opponents who will say and do anything to “win””.

But basically, like I said: this is why no one likes PR people.  Because this “event” has every hallmark of Absolute Power-esque amoral spin doctoring which puts no limits on what can be done to protect the reputations of the rich and powerful: lying, deception, covering up even the most obvious, ridiculous buffoonery (can I mention lying about being a member of the House of Lords again?) by any means necessary.

And nothing establishes this more that the second paragraph up there:  “he does represent a point of view”.  So does [insert favourite villain here].  It’s basically the grown-up version of a commenter screaming “freedom of speech!!!” on a blog – as though all speech were equally valid and important, and made relevant and worthy of people’s time and attention by nothing more than the fact that it is speech, ergo you have to listen to it.

Great PR move, PRINZ.  You’ve done your industry proud.


The rumour mill has it that Four Winds Communications, the actual sponsors of this event, represent clients including Gas NZ and the Petroleum Exploration and Production Association.  Any links to establish this would be most shiny.

Why no one trusts PR people: now in Monckton flavour

Oh dear. “Lord” Christopher Monckton is in New Zealand to convince us all that climate change is a communist plot, or something (if no one makes a crack about Wellington’s coldest day on record “proving” “global warming” is a myth I will be amazed).

Annnnnnnd one of his “lectures” is being organised by the Public Relations Institute of New Zealand, and, according to an email sent to PRINZ members,* sponsored by Four Winds Communications, whose celebrated two-day workshop for junior PR practitioners must be fascinating.

The email states,

PRINZ Central Region has arranged for leading climate change skeptic, Lord Christopher Monckton, to address members at a special lunch-time event.

Don’t miss this thought-provoking presentation!!

One can only hope PRINZ actually mean for attendees to extract important PR lessons about not lying about being a member of the House of Lords/Nobel Prize winner for credence, and knowing what the heck you’re talking about before opening your gob, with a strong object lesson in how to make oneself look like a twit and the power of Google and blogs to expose one’s bullshit.


*Ew, I’m feeling a tad Cameron Slater-y.

Quickhit: 1day.co.nz are transphobic asshats

1day.co.nz does what it says on the packet.

They also run hilariously edgy (where “edgy” is defined as “white male 50-year-old talkback radio listeners would say you deserved a DB”)* ads.

They send apologies like this:

At 1-day we are all about having fun. We even find it hard to take ourselves seriously most of the time. So we take it to heart when we get complaints from our customers about our promotions.

We thank you for your comments in regard…s to the current 1-day bag of crap promotion we are currently running on our 1-day website.

The use of images of a selection of local New Zealand politicians was our attempt to poke some light-hearted fun at the ‘politically correct’ world we live in, and was in no way an attempt to appear bigoted or trivialise the individuals pictured, their gender, political beliefs, race or sexual orientation.

Our intention was not for this promotion to cause offence to anyone and sincerely apologise if this has been the case.

We have since removed the images and replaced them with something that we hope is less controversial.

Again we apologise for any bad feeling this promotion may have caused.

Kind regards

The 1-day team

(Source: WYFC FB post)

And while Tangerina has knocked the actual WHAT THE FUCK aspect out of the park, I’m feeling a little drained and out of spoons and my brain is just demanding I say this.

I just want marketers to stop lying.

Stop saying you didn’t mean to offend anyone. Of course you did. Making a “poking fun at PC people” justification is about offending people – just people you don’t respect, so I guess that means … it’s Schroedinger’s Offensiveness, or something.

I want 1day to just have the fucking guts to admit they ran this promotion to get interest – probably shitting themselves now that Trademe has started up a competing service, TreatMe. Just be honest, 1day.

Just acknowledge that you wanted to rark people up and it’s backfired because whoops, the dudebros in your comms team didn’t realise that actually, Georgina Beyer is a cultural freaking icon whose fucking rough life story is well-known. She was mayor of fucking Carterton, people. Not Ponsonby, not Cuba Street, fucking Carterton. That should serve as a wee bit of a clue that even members of the me-Tarzan-me-drink-beer sector of NZ society respect her and might find it a bit off for you to call her “random”.

But then I guess putting more than five minutes’ thought into it might’ve cut into your liquid lunch break. And we should probably just be thankful you deigned to assign Helen Clark to the “chicks” category.

Stop lying, marketers. Because there’s nothing more fucking damaging to a Lol We Are So Irreverent Lol reputation than having to send out a pathetic little “we’re sowwy you was offendeds, pwease stay” email to your subscribers because you completely screwed the pooch.


*i.e. not in any way actually edgy.