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New moon links 8/28/11

2011 August 28

Nearly done with August, except for a short partial-week stub. Well, well. Let’s have one last look around before we set forth on our journey from August to September.

The big news of the past week, I believe, was the retirement of Steve Jobs. This has been followed by an outpouring of tributes, analyses, retrospectives, etc. Perhaps the most novel item I’ve seen, however, is this examination of a photo apparently showing The Steve looking very ill and frail, even compared with the gaunt appearance we’ve grown accustomed to in recent years. I think the photo is probably doctored, but if so it seems like a relatively unambitious hoax; Jobs is in ill health, does look frail and is stepping down as CEO due to, in effect, disability. Not much daylight between reality and illusion, here, even if that photo is the latter.

Meanwhile the Clone Chronicles web site posits a rather more interesting hoax story, in the recent introduction and prompt withdrawl of a redesigned Cy-Hawk trophy. A little more than a week ago, some sort of corn industry consortium unveiled a new trophy which, in spite of the awfulness of the old trophy, was instantly and widely derided. Appropriately, I believe. Within days, the consortium surrendered and promised a new, better effort. All of which seems rather familiar, somehow. At this point, frankly, I have a feeling that we will continue to see more such bad-design media-judo guerilla marketing campaigns as their efficacy now seems entirely reliable; until or unless one backfires in a big way, why shouldn’t organizations keep pulling our legs like this?

Finally, one last item which may offer a cautionary reminder that even “serious” marketing often treads very close to the boundary of “are you kidding me” farce. Apparently The Independent asked a number of ad agencies “how to bring tourists back to Britain” in the wake of internationally-reported rioting. Since this was then, in effect, a pretend campaign, it’s difficult to know what to make of it. There was no client involved, so the ad agencies were free to just have a bit of fun; presumably they would have taken this seriously as an opportunity to show off, but they may all the same have weighted “attention-getting and memorable” a bit more than in a “real” project.

I think the campaign concepts are mostly rubbish, for whatever my opinion as a designer, and/or as an Anglophile with a bit of tourist money to spend, is worth. And I find the remark of adman Dave Trott, that “Chaos and volatility may look disturbing on television, but it is also a social movement that is edgy and interesting,” rather horrifying in its naivete and plain-idiocy.

On the other hand, while as a real marketing campaign it seems the least-plausible of any of the offerings, I have to admit that “Dreadfully sorry about all this” is very very charming. As The Independent’s own critic remarks, “This is British understatement, as in ‘a little local difficulty.’ The conceit that the hoodie looters are actually the most English of people is delicious but difficult to communicate except to those who know and love us best.” I suppose that’s me, then; I find this concept just delightful.

Ad concept for post-riots British tourism

So very British.

Though, cuteness and cleverness aside, if anyone wanted my genuine opinion on how to lure foreign tourists back to Blighty again? You might try lowering your prices a bit, mate.

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