There are some things that seem so clearly offensive, at least to me, that I can’t understand why manufacturers need diversity, cultural-awareness and sensitivity committees and training to prevent them from producing distasteful products. They do need something: Common sense and a team of educated, aware marketers, design employees and independent contractors.
Photo: Crate & Barrel
Take the H&M hoodie with the words “Coolest Monkey in the Jungle” modeled by an African American child. In South African stores customers knocked over manikins and clothing racks where it was sold. You don’t need to be South African to find fault with hat hoodie. The same with Zara’s tee shirt: you don’t need to be Jewish to question the yellow star and its placement on the shirt, reminiscent of what Jews were forced to wear during the Holocaust. I wrote about a similar embellishment faux pas on a top in a post, “Service of What Were They Thinking?” in April, 2012.
Tiffany Hsu, in her New York Times article, “How to Prevent a Racist Hoodie,” listed these and more items such as shirts in which women were compared to dogs and other tops decorated with words like slut and slave.
With corporations selling to countries worldwide, I can see the necessity of knowledgeable people weeding out images and words that are benign in some places but not in others. But often the bad taste is glaring and obvious.
The major excuse manufacturers give for the blunders is lack of time to approve designs because so many are introduced at once and so quickly these days. One website introduces 4,500 a week wrote Hsu. An industry supply chain expert observed that it’s easy to overlook mistakes when you have two hours, not two months to approve a line. The hoodie and star, slut and slave should have been flagged in two seconds. Zara is using an algorithm to scan designs for offensive motifs. Good luck with that.
Another simple solution: stop introducing so many products that you don’t have time to vet them. H&M isn’t finding the model works that well for them. According to Hsu, it is currently “sitting on $4.3 billion in unsold goods…”
Let’s admit it: We can be too SENSITIVE these days. Some things are bound to slip by regardless of well-meaning measures. One example Hsu shared would have flown right over my head. She wrote: “Heineken pulled a series of commercials for light beer with the tagline ‘sometimes lighter is better,’ after an ad sparked criticism for being racist.” Before I finished reading to the end of the sentence I guessed the injured parties might have been people trying to lose weight. Wrong.
There was an image of a frog on a skirt that reminded some of a “cartoon character called Pepe, which was designated a hate symbol of the alt-right by the Anti-Defamation League,” wrote Hsu. I have seen neither cartoon but why would a Spanish artist who lives in London and is responsible for the frog in question design such a reptile for a skirt with hate and violence in mind? Wouldn’t he look for a more prominent object?
Waiting to pay at Trader Joe’s the other month someone left behind on a table just before checkout a carton of “Arrogant Bastard Ale.” I took a picture [below] because I thought it was such a stupid name for a drink, the result of a bad case of “aren’t we hip?” at the brewery. The marketers no doubt hoped the carton filled with cold ones would stand out from the well known brands and appeal to would-be cool customers. I’ll take the Coors, Brooklyn Larger, Blue Moon or Rolling Rock.
How would you suggest companies determine the funny and hip from the nasty, offensive and cruel for their product designs and advertising campaigns? Have any offended you? Do you think some consumers can be too thin-skinned?
I’ve nibbled around the edges of this topic—the impact of the loss of local news delivered by newspapers—and the obvious major reasons for it: decreasing readership and advertising as well as advertising dollars moving elsewhere. A segment of “CBS This Morning” on Saturday covered the daring move by the Denver Post’s editorial page editor, Chuck Plunkett.
“In the defiant and desperate editorial, Plunkett and a host of other writers criticized the paper’s hedge fund owners, Alden Global Capital, for slashing staff, and they warned Denver it may lose its century-and-a-half-old newspaper,” according to CBS’ Barry Peterson.
Barry Peterson. Photo: cbsnews.com
Said Plunkett: “We call out other people who we feel like [sic] aren’t doing their job or living up to their obligations. We should be able to call out our own owners, and that’s why I did it.” The impetus: another giant layoff at the paper, this time of 30 reporters. Photojournalist John Leyba was one: He’d worked at the paper for 30 years, since his first job in the photo lab at 19.
Aside: I’ve written here before that I’m alarmed by the few if any people to approach at major regional papers with news pitches. Syndicated stories are often the norm and the fact it’s harder for PR people to get out a client’s information is unimportant—we find ways. The resulting paucity of oversight of local businesses, government or organizations and the people who work for them is critical. Plunkett called it a paper’s watchdog role. Plus, it’s nice to know what’s going on where you live.
Back to Peterson: “The striking editorial includes a photo filled with silhouettes of the journalists who were laid off or have left since the paper won a Pulitzer Prize in 2013. The various articles said the paper’s ranks have shriveled to around 60, placing blame squarely on what one writer called the ‘vulture capitalists’ at the hedge fund.”
Plunkett is looking to the Denver community and its civic leaders to “step in to save the flagship local newspaper.”
The CBS report continued: “Alden Global Capital is the primary equity holder in Digital First Media, which owns 97 newspapers. According to the NewsGuild union, some papers have lost more than 70 percent their workforce. A recent lawsuit alleges Alden mismanaged hundreds of millions of dollars from the news chain.”
The dynamic at this paper does not seem to match what’s happening at many others where the wolf is at the door. “Media experts nationally and locally have reported that Alden is making a profit of around 20 percent.”
Do you feel that newspapers are so “last year” that they serve little purpose in today’s world? What, if anything, has taken their place—is drive time radio making a comeback or are online news resources and websites filling the gap? Where do you get local news? Do you think communities will suffer without the fourth estate’s role as a watchdog?
Ultimate Air Dogs competition @ Super Pet Expo
A college student in a PR class asked me “How can you represent something that’s boring?” My answer was “the more you know about a product or organization, the more interesting it becomes.” I’ve advised countless students and others to at least consider jobs that didn’t appeal at first. Why? You might surprise yourself.
Photo: Pig Placement Network
I knew it would be fun to publicize Super Pet Expo, coming up tomorrow at 3 pm and running through the weekend at the New Jersey Convention Center in Edison, because I love animals. I’ve owned and loved a few and have been a neighbor or relative to many. I didn’t realize how much I’d learn when I interviewed some of the people exhibiting or producing special events–a happy bonus.
For example, Did You Know……
- How many wolves there are in the wild of New Jersey? Answer: None. They live mostly in Idaho, Montana, Wyoming and Colorado.
- The difference between a pot belly pig and a farm hog? Answer: As much as 920 lbs. Pot belly pigs grow from between 80-150 lbs.; farm hogs as much as 1,000 lbs.
- What you can teach a pig to do? Answer: Sit, give a hoof, go through a tunnel and teeter-totter, just to name a few tricks. There are therapy pigs who visit schools and assisted living homes too.
- What lure coursing is? Answer: It’s the sport for dogs that are born to chase.
- How long cats remember? Answer: Cats learn quickly and have a long short-term environmental memory—16 hours—vs. 10 minutes for dogs.
- Which reptiles make a good first pet? Answer: Several species of snakes’ feeding requirements are not demanding, requiring a meal once a week, and the upkeep of their habitats is fairly easy.
- The Ultimate Air Dogs jumping record? Answer: A whippet jumped 30 feet 7 inches.
What do Ultimate Air Dogs do? Vic Sparano the trainer and judge said that visitors will see four-legged athletes soar through the air into a four-foot deep pool vying to win at four games: jumping the farthest; knocking down a “Fetch-It” bumper; “Catch It,” and being fastest in the “Chase-It” swimming contest to win a coveted ribbon at the finals on Sunday.
The answers to the other questions came from Super Pet Expo founder/producer Eric Udler; Sheryl Rotondi, special events coordinator at the Pig Placement Network; Roeann Fulkerson, Director of Marketing and Business Development, The International Cat Association; Vinnie Reo, owner of Wolf Visions and Billy Healy, Repticon’s COO. The latter is a showcase of hundreds of reptiles and amphibians from around the world such as boas, pythons, bearded dragons, monitor lizards, skinks, turtles, tortoises and dart frogs, to name a few. Experts are on hand to tell prospective reptile owners about care and feeding.
At the show you’ll also see a pig who can paint. You can buy one of her “Pig-Cassos.” Friends Ruth, Jim and Ken lived for years with George, a smart marmalade colored cat who, on command, shook your hand. Have you known pets that did extraordinary things? Did you know most of the answers about pets in Q and A above? Have you had a job or client that you hesitated working for or representing but when you did, surprised you in a good way?
New pet bought at Super Pet Expo
We made silly phone calls and tossed paper bags filled with water out the window into a courtyard to make a crashing sound to scare the neighbors. One Christmas Eve, kids–I assume it was kids–broke windows on the sidewalk side of every car parked outside the Brooklyn Museum. Ours was one. Kids who have no financial constraints steal candy and small items from stores for sport.
Jennifer Levitz, in “Where’s Your Teen Sleeping?” wrote about what some kids are up to these days. According to the sub-head of her Wall Street Journal story, they are “Adventure seekers hiding overnight in stores for ‘24-hour challenge’—and are really, really bored.” They hide in fast-food restaurants and big-box stores that close at night or hang out for 24 hours or more in those that stay open.
She wrote about the adventures of a few teens at a McDonald’s: “After the initial thrill of escaping detection, they passed the time by going down the small slide, flipping water bottles and filming themselves whispering in the dark.” Sleeping was hard. One tried to do so in a toy car.
“Young people boast of holding the overnight challenges in trampoline parks, bowling alleys, home improvement stores and supermarkets, too. Companies mostly seem perplexed,” Levitz reported.
What nutty things did you do when you were a kid and what wacky things do your children, nieces, nephews, and grandchildren do today?
Speed provides many benefits along with some casualties.
I’m grateful for advancements in medicine starting with glaucoma tests. I was very young when I had the first one when my father was diagnosed with glaucoma. It took forever, was uncomfortable and horrifying. Today’s test [photo right] is over in a flash. Thank goodness for dentists’ high speed drills. In another field, I’m grateful to see links to articles shortly after they’ve been posted, as a result of pitches I’ve made on behalf of my clients. Thank you Google Alerts.
In “Service of Cooking Under Pressure” I wrote about the Instant Pot that works for many but blows up and intimidates others.
I heard about another casualty of our zoom-zoom expectations on the Len Berman and Michael Riedel morning show when they interviewed legendary golfer Jack Nicklaus earlier this week. Golf is losing players and followers among the young because it takes so long to play or watch on TV: 4 hours vs. 3 hours-and-change for most other sports. Nicklaus admitted that the golf pundits must figure out ways to speed things up.
Speaking of speed, do people still speed read today? It used to be a big thing that never caught on with me.
What do you appreciate that takes less time today than before? Are there some things that should be slow or shouldn’t–or simply can’t–be revved up?
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