What do you see when you look at this poster? The visual language of cigarette packaging is so distinctive that even a non-smoker who has barely seen a fag packet up close in years knows what this is. But look again, and you see it’s not about tobacco. It’s about obesity. Genius, or confusing?

It’s universally accepted now that smoking increases cancer risk. Cancer charities want us to think of obesity in the same way. Read More

Comment | August 2019

Taking aim at women who didn’t feel confident with financial matters got NatWest into hot water. Meanwhile Santander’s new “Antandec” bank ads are just aimless. Apparently they were inspired by the similarity between the two names. Inspired might be a bit strong actually. Beyond the joy of seeing Ant and Dec together on the telly, there’s nothing much in these ads. Whatever Santander is trying to say about its own offer is lost. Read More

Comment | June 2019

NatWest is taking a beating for its “tone-deaf” attempt to target women. The campaign launched with a tongue-in-cheek letter from an old-style bowler-hatted banker apologising for ignoring or patronising women in the past. The bank’s intentions were good. A spokesperson for NatWest said, “While many women feel confident when it comes to finances and investing, research has shown that a huge number of women don’t feel the same way.” All the same, this is a clear case of Oops, Read More

Comment | June 2019

The old saw “All publicity is good publicity” is being sorely tested. In the first month of 2019 we’ve had at least three major incidents. First there was vegan-sausage-roll-gate, in which Greggs caused grave offence to meat eaters. Well, Piers Morgan. Then men worldwide were outraged by Gillette telling them to show their feelings more, but not the mean ones. Today’s hurt is brought to you by a “digital banking alternative” called Revolut. Read More

Comment, Thought leadership | February 2019

People are getting in a lather about Gillette. Here’s why they’re doing the right thing, but going about it the wrong way.

The first question to answer is: Is it right for a shaving brand to take a stand on how men behave?

Second: If they do, how should the brand act on that belief?

Third: is a two-minute film the right way to tell the world what they think? Read More

Comment | January 2019

The build-up to the Oscars seems to start earlier and get bigger every year, now featuring the Golden Globes and the BAFTAs en route. It’s assumed everyone cares about the Oscars. We’ve been told the Golden Globes are an early indicator of Oscar success. The British Academy has jumped on the bandwagon. TV news will now break off in the middle of a story to go live to the announcement of the BAFTA nominations. The nominations. Read More

Comment | January 2019

Tesco’s launch of Jack’s last week is a long way from the old Tesco mantra, which went something like: if in doubt err on the side of the customer. Tesco could claim it is to meet a consumer need, a grocery store with a much tighter range and consequently lower prices. But this doesn’t stack up, because Tesco’s buying power is much greater than Jack’s could have alone, so it could operate those stores without calling them something different. Read More

Comment | October 2018

If all publicity is good publicity, then Nike’s recent ad featuring Colin Kaepernick is a triumph. Widespread reports of outraged Americans burning Nikes is just free media coverage – reportedly $43m worth in 24 hours. Or, you may believe most people aren’t much interested in what brands do, the shoe-burners aren’t valuable customers, and anyway our memories for controversy are short. So, like the VW emissions scandal, or British Airways misleading Virgin Atlantic passengers, Read More

Comment | September 2018

Airbnb’s “We accept” spot during the Superbowl and Lyft’s $1m donation to the American Civil Liberties Union were among several pro-immigration responses from brands after President Trump’s travel ban was announced. UK fashion retailer Jigsaw launched its Autumn Winter 17 range with ads saying “Jigsaw loves immigration”. Mainstream brands like Aviva, Target and Verizon are big on supporting Pride and LGBTQ rights. Others talk about mental health at work. The Marketing Society promotes these agendas as if they are the only marketing strategy you need. Read More

Comment | August 2018

Heinz Salad Cream is reportedly changing its name to Heinz Sandwich Cream. This is, we’re told, because people use it more in sandwiches than on salad. But if people have already figured out they can use salad cream in a sandwich, there’s no need to change the name.

Marketers seem to forget that most people think more about whether to pay for one hour or two in the car park, where there’s 50p at stake, Read More

Comment | July 2018