Archive for June, 2008

The day we came over That Heinz Ad

The otherwise generally OK Heinz Ad With Those Blokes Kissing (which was watched chez Houghton with a chuckle by the kiddies) raises an interesting issue. The furore over the apparently Gay Kiss has led to calls for the now-removed ad to be reinstated.
Now think about this. If we all want it to be reinstated, will it be because it is Right And Proper (i.e. shouldn’t have been removed in the first place and we want Heinz to show some balls, er no, I mean spunk, no, I mean backbone), or because we just want to piss of those numpty Daily Mail readers and Jon Gaunt?
I’m all for winding up Daily Mail readers and Jon Gaunt, but it’s hardly the basis of a good advertising campaign, is it?

(Fake but plausible Daily Mail front page courtesy of Daily Mail Headlineinator)


Shades of Titanic

This is peculiar. The following ad for the Halifax bank was apparently launched in 2003 and is being re-hashed and re-aired. I’m not entirely convinced that retail banks should be trying to project an image of overbearing chumminess, even if they’ve been running a cheerful campaign consistently for years.
We’re in a period of unprecedented consumer cynicism and the banks are right at the top of our shit list (at least according to last week’s Moodier Britain report from McCann Erickson), having been happily throwing cheap credit at us for years. It may be unfair to tar them all with the same brush, but ostentatious advertising like this isn’t going to inspire confidence in their ability to handle our money carefully.
And it doesn’t help that the imagery employed here is ripped straight from Monty Python’s Meaning of Life, with a splash of Titanic. Not the best subliminal message to be projecting when just a few short months ago, we were wondering which high street banks were going to hit the wall.
As I said… peculiar.

Agency: DLKW

The answers are in the stars

I enjoyed Northern Planner’s plea to himself to start reading more fiction. There is a need amongst those of us who are cognonauts in serious headspace to let go and bounce around in hi-calorie, low nutrition brain jelly. Hooray to that.
Earlier this month, there was an amusing case made for the need to read science fiction by Michael Steckler, MD of AOL UK (a speaker at the Social Media Influence conference).
Imagining what the future is going to be like is a risky but important exercise if you’re a trend watcher, but good sci-fi that attempts to put new technology in a social context really does give you food for thought.
I read British sci-fi authors Iain M Banks and Alastair Reynolds when I can, but my favourite by far is Peter F Hamilton. He writes huge brick-sized volumes that are both pulpy and intriguing. The volume thumbnailed here is part of a trilogy that includes, amongst its other smart ideas, the thought that you can network with the world, have access to the sum of human knowledge and manipulate technology – all via neural implants.
This story was written 12 years ago – long before we witnessed the rise of social networks, Wikipedia, and the mega-miniaturisation of digital memory. I mean… 1 gig of storage in a tiny flash stick? Who’d have thunk it back then?
My one gripe about this rising dependency on mass digital storage is that it does seem to be making our brains turn to mush, or at least, our capacity to memorise facts. Maybe that’s why we’re so impatient nowadays. But if the digital miracle can be fused into our heads, maybe that won’t matter any more.

Smelling blood?

I’ve been greatly enjoying DDB’s work for Harvey Nichols, and think this latest idea is a cracker. Appearing in virtually every newspaper (often at the foot of stories relating to falling house prices, stabbings and general doom and gloom) I wonder if it’s a deliberately ironic comment on the state of the nation, or simply a delicious visual pun.

The best of Engl- …er, British

There’s nobody quite like the Brits for hankering after the past and, as is well established during hard economic times, there’s a special status granted to nostalgia. Looking upon our traditions with rose-tinted specs gives us extra comfort because they remind us how we’ve overcome past threats while indulging in those special treats that are unique to Britain.
It’s a pity that this twee Anglo-centric list generated by Holiday Inn research (scanned from today’s Daily Express) doesn’t identify something truly modern or forward-looking. The only institutions here under 40 years old are Ant and Dec, a place where people get muddy while listening to music, and the works of some lady who writes about wizards.

Find the fluff, kill it, then rip it apart

Something interesting’s happening to our ethical compass. There was a time (not very long ago) when any criticism of the woolly concept of “Green” would have been met with howls of derision and contempt.
I venture that the Green Ethic had, for a while, the trappings of a fundamentalist religion: dogma supported by dubious factual claims and backed by a strong-armed army of the self-righteous.
It seems to me that this cloud of green fluff is now being ripped apart. There’s now a willingness to focus on the individual issues that populate the Green agenda. Some stand up to scrutiny, some don’t.
This is surely a good thing, because our well-meaning actions will only be of benefit if we act on evidence rather than fear.
The current economic situation is the main driver, although there are some other influences. There are several recent examples of counter-arguments challenging the old assumptions such as GM crops coming back on the agenda, consumer behaviour changing as the credit crunch bites, organics losing their virtuous aura, scepticism growing over climate change causes, and the arguments for nuclear energy getting stronger.
OK, these stories are very selective, but there’s definitely more debate.

The loudest website in the world?

I love the fact that the volume control on the BBC News video player can be cranked up to 11.

Self-important bit

I’m Victor Houghton, a, er... something or other in one of the UK’s largest advertising agencies. My job title has a comma in it, which is embarrassing. I’m the chief finder-things-outer with a splash of trends who is lucky to work with all the major functions of the agency, even though I am most closely associated with strategic planning. Everything in this blog has most probably been stolen from other, infinitely more talented people, although the opinions are most definitely my own and not those of the agency.



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