Advertising, scepticism and zombies

Wednesday, 30 December 2009

The powerlessness of pink

This is a page from a Toys 'R Us catalog, illustrating some science toys, and note the odd distinctions being made. Both the telescope and the microscope come in special pink versions, just for the girl who is apparently more interested in getting an instrument that matches her nail polish than being functional, and note also (you may have to click through to see the larger image) that in every case the pink model is less powerful than the black and gray model

Posted via web from vichoon's posterous

Swamp monster snuggie

Posted via web from vichoon's posterous

Thursday, 24 December 2009

Your Inner Fish

In Your Inner Fish, Neil Shubin tells the story of evolution by tracing the organs of the human body back millions of years, long before the first creatures walked the earth. By examining fossils and DNA, Shubin shows us that our hands actually resemble fish fins, our head is organized like that of a long-extinct jawless fish, and major parts of our genome look and function like those of worms and bacteria. We have compiled the figures from the book into a deck of PowerPoint slides for use in the classroom.

I don't know when I'd be inclined to use these, but they are wonderful Powerpoint slides illustrating evolutionary evidence.

Posted via web from vichoon's posterous

Wednesday, 23 December 2009

Disney Zombies

Alice with the severed rabbit's head... lovely touch.

Posted via web from vichoon's posterous

Gillette announces identities of new brand spokesthings

Although the one on the back row, second left, looks decidedly dodgy.

Posted via web from vichoon's posterous

Tuesday, 22 December 2009

Sure looks like a good deal....

One day last week I was struggling with the dilemma of Jeremy Kyle's TV show clashing with Matthew Wright's when, simultaneously, both shows went to an ad break. While the dark magic from these media giants was sucking my soul out of my ears, I noticed this extraordinarily ordinary ad offering easy loans. I'm not showing the whole video because that's 30 valuable seconds of your life that you'll never get back. It was the highly informative text across the bottom of the screen that nearly made me choke on my tea.

Obama vs Zombies

Posted via web from vichoon's posterous

Give a fuck

Posted via web from vichoon's posterous

Wednesday, 11 November 2009

Another by-the-numbers lingerie ad? Not quite

Yeah yeah, another sexy lingerie ad, but I didn't expect this ending.

via brandchannel

Thursday, 5 November 2009

Zombie Jebus

Loverly lickle venn via Blag Hag. A more detailed version might include aversion to sharp objects aimed at head / hands / heart, or something.

I'll get me coat.

Respect where it's due

A day in the life of one of the adworld's laconic word masters.

Tuesday, 3 November 2009

Jenny McCarthy revisited

This new video nicely summarises the argument against USA’s anti-vaccination movement, specifically its primary cheerleader Jenny McCarthy.

The issue is a good example of the modern celebrity phenomenon. One would think that trusting medical professionals would be easier than trusting unqualified porn actresses on issues relating to public health. But such is the nature of media that celebrity has greater currency than science, and truth is in the eye of the beholder.

Via the excellent Crispian Jago

Monday, 2 November 2009

Lozenge offer prequels hot MILF action

This super-weird ad for Halls Refresh is oh-so wrong on so many levels. The double-entendres between the two unlikely protagonists are so in-your-face that the only reaction is laughable outrage.

Wednesday, 28 October 2009

A recession story in 1 graph

Tip from Jonathan, author of one of Britain's best foodie blogs.

Tuesday, 27 October 2009

The pernicious appeal of misinformation

Counterknowledge is defined as “misinformation packaged to look like fact” in Damian Thompson’s excellent (and short) book. People’s propensity for swallowing any dozy nonsense has been a pet subject of mine for some time; it is also an important consideration in much of the trends analysis I undertake.
Ah, you might think, here’s a bloke who works in advertising and knows all about misinformation because, hur hur, these marketing machines churn out fibs and deceit all day long. Well, no actually.
For a start, what this industry generates is constantly scrutinised and, unlike the press, takes criticisms from its watchdog very seriously. Any batterings delivered by the ASA reflect poorly on our clients. Not good for business.
Secondly, I believe that ad agencies with a strong strategic planning presence have a better understanding of what makes people tick than most other consumer-facing businesses.
This makes a cosy reason for monitoring all the nonsensical stuff that people believe in.
Here’s the fit.
Modern history (a good summary of which can be found in Andrew Marr’s sweet tome) informs us that over the last half-century, Britain’s traditional authority figures – parents, teachers, doctors, the police etc. – have seen that authority wane. It’s partly true that our fate is no longer determined by birth, but by choice. I say “partly” because it looks like social mobility has declined over the last decade for those unfortunates at the bottom of society’s pile.
The increase in media choice – firstly by more TV and radio channels and then by that internet thingy – combined with social change means that we have new authority figures: brands and celebrities. My book of the year – Professor Geoffrey Miller’s “Spent” – suggests to me that the mass of choices available to us provide a cornucopia of options for building our identities. We choose brands according to the image we are trying to project.
Why this can be a force for good is the subject of another post. It’s the bad stuff I’m interested in.
The counterknowledge problems arise when members of the great British public ignore the traditional authority figures and nail their colours to the masts of celebrities and charlatans. The public is exposed to powerful and seductive influences now more than ever. Attention spans are shorter (more stimulus from the media, most of it innaccurate if you read certain grey-top tabloids).
Remember the Millennium Bug? That was bullshit dreamt up by the media and “new experts” who over-reacted to a minor article published inside a Canadian newspaper in the early 1990s. More recently, the MMR vaccine, a scare over which was manufactured by a dodgy doctor who falsified (poorly executed) research based upon a tiny sample of children. Parents who refused to vaccinate their children are now faced with outbreaks of those once-banished illnesses that the injections were designed to counter.
Being a parent, I was naturally concerned about the MMR issue. Now my kids are no longer toddlers, I’m more concerned about bullshit being peddled in schools. Fortunately I have seen little evidence of misinformation in lessons, except where it belongs – in RE – but there is a need for vigilance if Britain is to avoid a rather pernicious influence that originated in the USA: the undermining of science.
The British Council instigated a survey that suggested over half of Britons want creationism taught in science lessons.
The polled statement was "Evolutionary theories should be taught in science lessons in schools together with other possible perspectives, such as intelligent design and creationism."
I’m having to hold back on releasing a sweary rant at this point. It’s difficult when faced with such ignorance.
“Intelligent design” is creationism. Same wine, different bottles. The idea is that the evidence-based theory of evolution is given equal parity to fairy stories about magical beings creating creatures and people. And you can’t restrict creationist teachings to Judaeo-Christian myths because then you’d have to explain why these are more valid than every single creation myth from the Stone Age onwards.
You see the problem?
Science was once one of the old authorities. Because we are now used to the opinions of self-appointed whack-jobs being given equal weight to those of people trained for years in the scientific method, it’s becoming harder to tell the difference.
It’s not that people are more stupid. This issue is that they’re not taught to think.

Bible dino pic from b3ta

We've got some work to do

Words cannot express the joyful geekgasm that this gleeful mashup of zombies + Scooby Doo inflicts. Some exquisite touches here, such as the heart-shaped tribute to the lost members of Mystery, Inc. and the chainsaw-compatible slot in the renamed Misery Machine.

Next on my wish list: Penelope Pitstop.

Sunday, 25 October 2009

This is why they shaved the monkey's bum

Check out this ad currently on British telly. Note the soundtrack and the tagline.

Just sayin'.

Wednesday, 21 October 2009

T-Mobile snares escaped loon

All conversation stops at Houghton Hall when this otherwise unremarkable ad for T-Mobile appears.
It begins with a man, off-camera, asking “What would you do with 350 minutes?” to which the person on the right answers “I’d call my nan and I’d thank her for all the Christmas presents that I haven’t ever thanked her for.”
Not the world’s most inspiring answer, but relevant, I suppose.
The ad would be one of the thousands each year to sink into the pit of oblivion that’s filled with the broken dreams of ambitious Creatives.
At least, it would be, but for one tiny factor.
The weird girlfriend.
Next time you see this ad, don’t watch the chap who looks like a Scandinavian lumberjack with the personality of a tree.
Instead, keep an eye on Davina McCall’s insane sister.
There is something going on in her head that has nothing to do with Mr Dull.

Tuesday, 20 October 2009

World ends 21st October

The world is ending once again, according to the Rapture nuts who pencilled in the Apocalypse for this time last month. Unbelievers will find their souls riven to pieces tomorrow, apparently.

Wednesday, 14 October 2009

The greatest PR campaign that'll never be

I'm sure many people have considered the contrast between the earthly wealth of one of the world's richest institutions and the deathly poverty of many of its followers. Comedian Sarah Silverman has hit on the perfect means of resolving the ethical conundrum.

From Pharyngula

Tuesday, 13 October 2009

How England conquered the world

A lovely animation from Auntie.

Monday, 5 October 2009

Wuff thoughts

Too good an opportunity to miss: this pic from Ffffound appearing in my reader soon after Tweeting the quote from my 11 year-old, who was chuckling at one of these little mutts trotting by.

Friday, 2 October 2009


Why? My pet bird appears to be doing just fine.

Finnair’s faster; fool falters for fail

Finnair’s current TV campaign is simple, daft and ephemeral and a cheerful contrast to the brash ads generated by the big carriers. I can’t even find the agency responsible in the ALF agency bible, which could point towards this being an in-house job. The dancing numpty could pass off as Tony Blair’s runt nephew.

Tuesday, 29 September 2009

Ch ch ch changes

We’ve just had a brainstorm about how times change and touched upon the nature of feminism; how in its heyday the cause was all about equality, whereas now it is more about the freedom of choice, and to express oneself. This doesn’t deny the continued existence of barriers, especially in the workplace (and the media – witness the furore over the Strictly Come Dancing dumping of Arlene Phillips). The parameters behind the most emotionally-charged causes can change over time.

I've had better

From ffffound, presentation ammo for that slide that says "a bad day at the office".

Monday, 28 September 2009

The last word on THAT Derren Brown trick

Read the rest of the comic strip on Crispian Jago's blog.

Why I'll never understand fashion advertising #3

Is this man waiting for his mum to knot his tie?

Welcome to our new neighbours

At least the last lot have departed with their crapulating cats.

(Actually a pic from ffffound)

Sunday, 27 September 2009

Friday, 25 September 2009

Why I'll never understand fashion advertising #2

Why have the Gestapo invaded this boxing club?

Why is there a bloke wearing Henry the Eighth's pyjamas?

Just who is interfering with the chap in the foreground?

What not to wear at the prom

Eeek! Women wishing to send that well-documented signal, known in social psychology as Keep Away Buster Or My Vagina Will Rip Off Your Penis, should rush to Top Shop and splash out £60 on this dress, because £60 is about the only thing that will splash out on this dress, apart from Steve Irwin’s ghost munk. How peculiar that sizes 10-16 are out of stock.

Nothing soft gets in

This example of brilliant Toyota advertising from Australia makes me envious. It ticks too many un-PC boxes to pass for UK viewing, for the win.

from Something Changed via Tom Callard Tweet

Thursday, 24 September 2009

Why I'll never understand fashion advertising #1

Why is Catweasel holding a plate of sandwiches?

A surge in green shoots

These snaps from Factiva’s handy search trends graph (Number of articles containing “green shoots” combined with Recession, Economy or Downturn, from last 2 years) suggest a sudden rise in optimism over the UK and world economy throughout Spring and Summer. The end of Summer decline is not what I expected though. Why would journalists, not just in the UK nationals but in the foreign and trade press be writing fewer articles mentioning “green shoots”?
This is far from scientific, I admit, but the trend is curious considering that the economies of France, Germany and Japan are emerging from the downturn.
The scribblings of the press don’t necessarily augur our arrival at the mid-point of a W-shaped recession. More likely, recovery is now assumed to be happening, and we’re now emerging from the “green shoots” phase into something more lively.

Wednesday, 23 September 2009

There's soft, and there's too soft

Bravo to O&M Thailand for wittily highlighting this fabric softener's primary benefit. I wonder whether this would work in a hard water area.

Tuesday, 22 September 2009

Geekgasm: Star Wars v Zombies

True Blood is a fun distraction, but unoriginal. Vampires are now a romantic teen cliché, far removed from the fun Hammer horrors of my youth. They’re a poor trend subject too, now that they’re all about sex. Since Anne Rice’s novels, vampires have lost their strong association with death. Stand aside, fanged ones, you’ve wimped out.
Shuffle forward the horror creature that appeals to all ages: the zombie.
This chart cheekily suggested a correlation with the deservedly frightening undead and social unrest. Since George Romero introduced the flesh-eating walking dead four decades ago, zombies have become synonymous with unstoppable plagues.
It’s not hard to see how wide-ranging societal threats like plunging economies and flu pandemics can, in terms of entertainment, be represented by a world-threatening zombie outbreak, which is why I chuckle with delight at this marriage between the escapism of Star Wars and the nihilism of the undead: Death Troopers.
Even better, this is likely to be part of an MMO, or massively multiplayer online game, where there could potentially be a galaxy-wide outbreak. I want!

Monday, 21 September 2009

Atheists: you're probably too late

I'm writing this on Sunday evening, and timing it to upload first thing Monday morning. Why? Because, if you're reading this then you are most probably damned to hell. Upon hearing the news that the Rapture is happening on Monday 21st September, I renounced my atheism, gave up my soul to Jesus and confessed all my sins.
I wish I had enough warning to save my pet fish (who don't have souls anyway), but at least my American brothers and sisters won't have to worry because, as the Telegraph reports, atheists are offering a post-Rapture service guaranteeing the earthly care of Christian pets for $110.
One thing I'll miss on my holy cloud, spending eternity singing hosannahs to God, is a decent bit of entertainment, including the atheists' favourite Christmas movie, Coincidence On 34th Street.

Sunday, 20 September 2009

Shock on Strictly Come Dancing

Escaped Yorkshire Ripper spotted in audience.

Tuesday, 15 September 2009

A slutty guide to the recession

I thought this was going to be yet another Recession = Behaviour correlation like "skirt hemlines drop as stock markets fall". Clearly taking their cue from these indices, Puma announce the launch of something a bit sluttier. It looks like if stocks fall, they’ll make their models take their clothes off. Whatever you call it, it ain’t science.

If you like your slutty recession indicators, here’s a small collection.
So you know you are in a recession when women spend more on makeup, cut their own hair and dye it blonde; not that they’re responding to the shallow world of advertising, oh no they wouldn’t do that would they? But women are ditching metrosexuals for the Donald Draper type.
Men, on the other hand, want their women to have real curves and are noticing that waitresses are getting hotter. But some poor guys are keeping their skanky underwear for longer especially those comforting old kecks Dad used to wear.
But does all this peripheral stuff lead anywhere? Apparently, lingerie sales are up and being strapped for cash means more time for sex, sex, Japanese sex, sex, kinky sex and sex.
On the other hand, this is probably all just PR filler with only a fleeting relationship with the truth.

Holy fart!

by Ad Impact, Australia, via Ads of the World

Monday, 14 September 2009


A nicely made point about prejudice from the Emerald Isle, one of those countries where the warmth of its people is offset by the medieval attitudes of its legislature.

Friday, 11 September 2009

Thursday, 10 September 2009

Young men today...

Much pleasure is derived from this non-scientific but amusing rendering of the emotional rollercoaster that is the life of young men. You'd need to rearrange some of the peaks and troughs to reflect the differences in these rights of passage as experienced by American compared to British youth. In fact, some of these spikes would be sharper if drawn by a Daily Mail journalist e.g. First shag, 8 years old; First stabbing of a pensioner, 10 years old; First joyride... er... probably 4 years old if my neighbours are anything to go by.

Clickage for biggage

Tuesday, 8 September 2009

Nice timing, Moscow

Assuming this isn't another spec ad, this Russian newspaper could claim that the product is relevant to the event but then again, they should know full well that 9/11 is not a subject to use in advertising. Did the Moscow News have the nuts to use the Chechen terrorist school massacres in its marketing? Probably not. After all, 9/11 happened to foreigners, not Russians.

Middle England's fear whipped up, in numbers

Dr Ben Goldacre has made a lot of noise about the Daily Mail’s propensity for over-reporting cancer’s causes and cures. Is he picking on this great British institution unfairly?
Here’s a simple chart based on a very quick search using Dow Jones Factiva. The number of articles where the headline contains “cancer”, including truncations, from the Daily Mail and the Mail on Sunday published in the last 12 months: 207. The same search applied to all 18 UK national newspapers (including the Sunday editions and the Mail): 2,148, which averages out at 119.

“Cancer” headlines in the Daily Mail vs average national paper, 12 months (source: Factiva)

And it was a relatively simple thing to apply the same scrutiny at another butt of TV comics: the Daily Express and its concern with the waves of immigrants to Britain’s holy shores.
The number of articles where the headline contains “immigrant”, including variations and truncations (e.g. migration), from the Daily Express and the Express on Sunday published in the last 12 months: 236. The same search applied to all 18 UK national newspapers (including the Sunday editions and the Express): 1,289, which averages out at 72.

“Immigration” headlines in the Daily Express vs average national paper, 12 months (source: Factiva)

I’m still waiting for the killer headline in the grey-top tabloids: Immigrants spread cancer. That’ll be a laugh.

Monday, 7 September 2009

How do you cure pain in the iBollocks?

This lunchtime I developed an app for my 2 year-old HP monitor. It was carefully designed as a warning system to be employed during my walks through the brambled pathways of my RSS forest. All you need is a homeopathic particle empathy detector (a glass of water where at least one of the molecules retains the memory of passing within 5,000 miles of Stephen Hawking’s bladder) that’s psychically connected to a piece of Blu-Tac stuck to your monitor.
Whatever website you visit, you may or may not detect an odour according to the veracity of the site. The chances of success are higher on a Tuesday with one of your feet facing south.
High veracity = no smell.
For example, one tab of my Firefox browser is currently on the Pocket Pain Doctor site and boy, can I tell you that the bovine atmosphere is ripe.
The latest Skeptics’ Guide To The Universe podcast blasted an iPhone app that sounds like something you’d see advertised in the back pages of the Daily Mail alongside the Big Slipper and Sonic Meerkat Gnomes.
The Pocket Pain Doctor claims to have some minor health benefits. The podcast piece was based on an Engadget review with the revealing title “Pocket Pain Doctor is the worst iPhone app. Ever.” When you visit the app’s website there are a couple of bleating comments about Engadget being unfair for not really trying it properly and, almost convincingly, a space where you can view some supposed clinical data. The problem with this data is that nowhere does it relate to the feeble iPhone emanations that are associated with this app. Sure, NASA may have experimented with red rays, but how do the emanations from a big piece of fuck-off megabucks fly-me-to-Mars kit match those of your own £400 Apple gadget? And get this: one of the so-called supporting clinical studies cites work with lasers. If your iPhone emits laser beams, please tell me because I might finally be tempted to buy one.
Although there’s nothing obviously wrong with the third party data, I can see no connection with Pocket Pain Doctor’s own research, because there isn’t any. And, by the way, the company’s own research should not generate the same sort of PR-bullshit that we see in the tabloids, but be unbiased research where neither the examiners nor the subjects know who is using the real product that shows the app beats placebo.
The Pocket Pain Doctor might work, but their proof is unconvincing (an old sceptical canard says that the plural of anecdote is not data).
How about this: it would be easy for some company to build an app that makes your iPhone vibrate and come up with the same level of support claiming that your gadget will increase your brainwave frequency.
Or some other bollocks.
Christ, my head hurts. Pass me your iPhone.

Build your own bovine atmospheric detection system


via Keri Smith

Friday, 4 September 2009

“Size matters not. Look at me. Judge me by size, do you?”

It surprises me how few people find Yoda annoying. Maybe it’s because he was trumped by that monstrosity Jar Jar Binks. I couldn’t stand the little green gnome because he was such an obvious vehicle for nerd wisdom. I realise now that, if there were a measurable scale for such a thing, I was as annoyed at Yoda fans 20 years ago as I am about iPhone owners today. As comedian Marcus Brigstocke said "To the people who've got iPhones: you just bought one, you didn't invent it!".
Bloody hell, that was a tenuous link, but in a way, Yoda was a bit like the iPhone (this is turning into one of those Anglican sermons “and seeing those boys on their skateboards reminded me of Jesus”). Small. Annoying. Loaded with apps. Telekenisis app. Spiral-like-a-dervish app. Make funny noises app. And my favourite – disappear-before-your-eyes-and-die app. He even upgraded between films, but backwards.
They were just magic powers, that’s all. Without them, the Jedi would have been killed within a week and Hogwarts pupils would have achieved decent exam results rather than gain house points for fucking around with cauldrons.
Face it, what new technology would have thrived without apps? Apps are the annoying ginger stepchild who was being ignored or beaten up and yet grew up to save the village and become a great wizard king.
Teenagers took up texting and the mass market mobile was born. Twitter’s just an app. Facebook? Don’t talk to me about Facebook. Other people’s requests for me to connect with their dinosaur hunting app or which mongoose do you most resemble app is driving me mad (there’s an app for that too).
With half a million views, you’ve probably already seen this spoof ad for ex-girlfriend-stalking iPhone apps but it does touch on a simple truth: it’s the seemingly pointless things made for instant gratification that drives the app market, even if you buy into the technology for more meaningful reasons.

DDB crash & burn

THAT unauthorised ad by DDB Brasil... there was a video as well?

via Coloribus

Thursday, 3 September 2009

Before the worship begins

"Pareidolia (pronounced /pærɪˈdoʊliə/) is a psychological phenomenon involving a vague and random stimulus (often an image or sound) being perceived as significant. Common examples include seeing images of animals or faces in clouds, the man in the moon, and hearing hidden messages on records played in reverse. The word comes from the Greek para- ("beside", "with", or "alongside"—meaning, in this context, something faulty or wrong (as in paraphasia, disordered speech)) and eidolon ("image"; the diminutive of eidos ("image", "form", "shape"))." – Wikipedia

via Daily Mail

Thunk click: zzzzzzz

Fact; Pic

Wednesday, 2 September 2009


via what consumes me

Big Father is watching you

Christopher Hitchens regularly compares Christianity to living in North Korea, where your every action is under scrutiny and even your thoughts can damn you. I don’t know whether this is a genuine church poster but it seems a plausible rail against everything that’s fun in life.
As a commenter on The World’s Best Ever says, it’s creepy how the “incest” kids are the same as the ones guilty of “hating parents”.

Trivialising terror in the name of Green

This is a pretty foul ad spotted on Coloribus. What is it about environmental groups that predisposes them toward offensiveness? PETA put animals before people and Greenpeace try and paint their targets as idiots. Now, the once sedate WWF trivialise 9/11, an event that had nothing to do with nature and everything to do with god-inspired evil.
The answer is simple: Green is, to some people, a religion that thrives on dogma. Criticism and reasonable argument are not in the province of these people.
A pity.

Thanks to RachelC for the correction. WWF deny any involvement with this press release.
Coloribus attributes this work to DDB Brasil, which, if it's true, means that DDB are responsible for an enormous fuck up.
Watch this space for another correction.