The Death of the Mac Guy

Here’s some good news for the Mac users. Microsoft has decided that it should emulate the Mac, even in advertising!

After the success of Apple’s “I’m a Mac – I’m a PC” ad campaign, Microsoft came up with a few spots that featured Bill Gates and Jerry Seinfeld. Apparently, these ads “ran its course” according to Microsoft, while the critics claim the ads were a flop. Now, Microsoft is trying a new tactic by launching a campaign that takes pride in being a PC user (“I’m a PC”) and will try to subvert Apple’s famous PC/Mac series. They’ve even hired a guy who looks like the “PC Guy” in the Apple ads – and the irony is in him claiming that “a PC is not a stereotype” while looking like a carbon copy of the original PC Guy..!

Starting with an official website that reminds us of Apple (again!), Microsoft plans to lead the campaign in to more traditional mediums and of course with a touch of “Microsoft-like innovation” by getting PC users involved in the campaign. PC users can “hit the big screen in Times Square, appear in online advertising, and join the PC Gallery on the site,” according to Microsoft. Just imagine PC users standing in Times Square and seeing their pictures appear on a billboard right in front of them... WOW, how genius is that..!

(Mini ran a campaign of interactive billboards in San Francisco in 2007 where the drivers were greeted individually by the billboard as they were driving by. Even after two years of experiencing the “Mini phenomenon” couldn’t Microsoft be a bit more clever, I wonder.)

The Apple ads were in fact favourable for Microsoft – even the die-hard Mac users got to know about the capabilities of a PC. Microsoft trying to take on Apple in advertising is, treading on thin ice, and potential suicide for the campaign, in my mind. Where all this would lead is something we’d have to wait and see.

Perhaps there would be an I’m a PC 2.0 released much sooner than we expect...

Sources: Microsoft; Victor Godinez/The Dallas Morning News (Sept 18)


The Ghost Town

September 19th, 2008. Its mid-day and I’m outside. There’s an eerie silence around me, except for the howling wind from time to time. An occasional cellophane bag in the wind disturbs the rhythm. I’m in the ghost-town, walking down a street where life was bubbling last night. Now, there’s no sign of life, except for a crow digging in the garbage. There are cars left in the sun, no sign of their owners. Shops along the street are closed shut, and I feel like the only one alive on this planet.

Would this be me surviving the end of the world? Did you ever wonder how it would feel like to be the last man alive?

Watch the video from my mobile phone, you won’t believe your eyes...


“Ran De-peya” Producers Killed?

I’m in Jeddah, Saudi Arabia till the end of the month and there’s a new controversy brewing here. The Chief Justice has declared that it is “lawful to kill the people who are responsible for producing immoral television soap operas” that corrupt their society. He was referring to some free-to-air programmes that are viewable in the Kingdom via a cheap satellite dish that’s within everyone’s reach.

Among the Egyptian, Lebanese, South American and Turkish productions, there’s one in particular that has irritated the religious leaders. Noor, or Gumus as it is known in original Turkish, imitates the European culture and seems to be the most popular among the Arabs.

On the scales of domestic violence, abuse of women or interchanging sex-partners, Noor fades into oblivion compared to Mahagedara, Praveena and the rest of the rubbish on local television.

If there should be anyone “lawfully killed” for corrupting moral values of human society by means of creating inappropriate, immoral tele-dramas, I’m sure our ones would top the list alongside with their Indian counterparts.

The beauty of living in a “socialist, democratic, liberal” society that enjoys the “media-freedom without any sense of responsibility” is that no one gets killed for the filth they produce here. Besides, who are we to talk of “moral values” when we descend from a king who kicked out his beloved wife and his own kids to marry a “mail-order” bride?


Superbrands Exposed!

What’s the biggest marketing hoax in our country today? Superbrands Sri Lanka.

At the launch of the annual in 2007, one of the press articles read: The description of the cover picture is so apt – “a young Sri Lankan face appears, surprising us from behind a traditional exorcist’s mask… because brands in Sri Lanka are all about the blending and juxtaposing of the contemporary with the traditional; the modern with the ancient; the young, bright, optimistic present day with old customs and beliefs…”

What rubbish! The picture is so apt – because the mask hides the true façade of this biggest marketing scam of the century.

One should not get confused with the original British (and now very much international) version, which is a far cry from Superbrands Sri Lanka. I’m familiar with Superbrands overaseas, since some of the brands under my creative portfolio – such as Panadol, bp, Duracell and Kodak to name a few – were, in fact, true Superbrands in those countries at the time.

Why do I call the local Superbrands Sri Lanka the biggest marketing scam, a shame? Here are 10 good reasons:

  1. In the UK (where Superbrands was born in 1995) and elsewhere in the world, Superbrands are chosen by the general public.
    In Sri Lanka, Superbrands are chosen by a handful of people, without public participation.

  2. In the UK and the rest of the world, brands do not pay or apply to be considered.
    In Sri Lanka, Superbrands would approach prospective clients “with a proposal” and the status is given in exchange for a certain fee. No payment, no status.

  3. Superbrands are identified, scored, shortlisted and chosen from a compilation of brands coming from from the market, sector reports to blogs, by the general public and a voluntary council of experts under the supervision and administration of a professional body.
    In Sri Lanka, Superbrands are directly linked to the organisers, council members, their families, friends and their connections. Its like Ali Baba and the forty thieves, literally.

  4. Council members with any connection to a shortlisted brand are not allowed to evaluate or score for the brand.
    If this rule is applied here, half the Superbrands would be knocked off the list. Would Dilmah still be there without Mr Malik Fernando, Singer Plus without Mr Hemaka Amarasuriya and ODEL without Ms Otara Gunawardena, I wonder.

  5. Superbrands are chosen annually.
    In Sri Lanka, Superbrands is lifetime title (or rather interpreted that way) and its printed on the SKU’s, including biscuit packs. The only thing annual it seems, is the payment.

  6. Superbrands is a recognition, a salutation – not a title.
    In Sri Lanka, its a title; not a salutation.

  7. Being a Superbrand does not give you the right to command a premium.
    The initial advertising campaign to raise awareness conveyed that Superbrands could command a premium.

  8. Only the Superbrands “Membership” (which is by invitation) is charged a fee, and there are perks and benefits such as events and networking in return.
    In Sri Lanka, money talks. No money, no talk.

  9. When considering brands, both the experts and consumers are asked to bear in mind the definition of a Superbrand: “A Superbrand has established the finest reputation in its field. It offers customers significant emotional and tangible advantages over other brands, which (consciously or sub-consciously) customers want and recognise.” And all Superbrands must represent quality, reliability, and distinction.
    The only qualification required in Sri Lanka to be a Superbrand is the money, and willingness to part with it.

  10. One of the best tools for an outsider to peek in to a country’s best brand mix is the Superbrands Annual.
    Superbrands Sri Lanka can only baffle and misguide a reader – the most of the true “super” brands are nowhere near the book.

The initial annual had 33 Superbrands, and they were all local brands. Did you ever wonder why the multinational FMCG’s are reluctant to appear in the list – given the international credibility Superbrands enjoy worldwide? Did you ever question how and why Suntel is a Superbrand and Dialog is not? Heritance is a Superbrand and Hilton is not? Clogard is a Superbrand and Signal is not?

Now we know why some of the real “super” brands in the minds of the consumer such as Anchor, Nokia, Dialog, The Daily News, Hilton, Lipton, S-lon, Milo, Nescafé, Toyota, Cargills, Keells, Signal, SLT etc. are not in this book.

They are not there, perhaps because the marketing managers and the brand managers who nourish and develop these brands are not idiots. They are nobody’s suckers. I do have a huge respect for those brands who are the real “super” brands with a backbone to stay away from scams like this, even though the scams are run by some very influential people in the industry.

The current Superbrands Sri Lanka does more harm than any good to the local advertising and marketing industry. Its biased, deceptive and unreliable – composed with discrimination and alienation in mind; and sadly, there is a panel of well-respected names entangled in this, endorsing this shameful scam. These panel members should either resign from the council or set this scam straight if they ever want to maintain their individual, respectful image.

Superbrands is a wonderful concept. Its painful to watch that being abused, bastardised and sold like a prostitute by the people who are supposed to be the pillars of the ad+mark community. I’m sure a good marketer – I mean a “good” marketer – could find a better way to make a living, than pimping-out a beautiful concept.

The consumer is not a moron, David Ogilvy once said. Its a pity that the educated, well-informed Superbrands Council Members from the ad+mark community seem to think otherwise.

Source of Methodology: Superbrands UK


How Crooks Win Ad Awards

Winning Ad Awards is easier than building brands. Contrary to local belief, just because an agency wins a few awards, it doesn’t become the best. The best agencies make sure their brands soar and roar, while the arrogant ignorant agencies growl themselves.

Leo Burnett – Mumbai India submitted this work for Luxor Highlighters and won Gold at Cannes 2008 in Print (Misc) Category. The best part: Luxor isn’t even their client..! Bloody cheeky, I would say.

So here are the shameful rogues:
Executive Creative Director: Santosh Padhi/KV Sridhar
Creative Director: Santosh Padhi
Copywriter: Russell Barrett
Art Director: Santosh Padhi

I guess the next thing to do is to invite them for a few “Brand Mantra” sessions here, or even hire them – heck, there’s a lot to learn from these guys.


The King of Advertising in a fools’ paradise

The so called no 1 local agency has done a Brand Guidelines Manual for a recently launched motor lubricant and I had the misfortune of flipping through its golden – oh, sorry, yellowish – pages.

The agency must have charged a good fortune for that particular piece of mockery, which was nothing more than a mere collection of basic design templates. I am appalled by the mediocracy and the incompetence of the self-proclaimed “best agency in Sri Lanka” which doesn’t seem to understand the difference between “Brand” and “Design” Guidelines.

They could have done a far better job if they had only tried. Had they surfed the net and downloaded a few examples and imitated them blindly, there could’ve been a better result. Given the chance, I know the design students in Beirut could have done a far better job.

I wonder if this agency knows what a Brand Guidelines Manual looks like – let alone creating one.

In essence, a Brand Guidelines Manual defines the DNA of the brand. It establishes the brand strategy, includes the brand architecture and specifies the brand positioning. The Guidelines Manual defines the personality, tangibles, intangibles and core values inherent to the brand. It explains the look and feel – the visual language – and sets parameters, outlines the do’s and don’ts and establishes a solid communication platform. The book is the result of lot of research, planning and hardwork – and most creatives hate the manual because of its detailed, regimental guidelines.

Its the Bible, its the Black Book, its the secret for success and the future of the brand. An agency is the guardian, the custodian of a brand – they should know the brands in their portfolio like the back of their palm.

If this is the kind of work that comes out of the no. 1 agency in the island, I wonder what would we see from the lesser agencies.

God save the clients who are with an agency that has no clue in advertising or building sustainable brands.


Losing the Cannes Ad Award

Cannes Advertising Festival this year has been somewhat turbulent. Saatchi & Saatchi got in to a scam scandal and Leo Burnett India submitted work for a client they didn’t even have, and won an award too..! To add to that, there was a huge uproar against the Amnesty International’s campaign against human rights violations in China. Created by TBWA Paris, the campaign shows torture taking place inside sporting facilities. The short copy reads: “After the Olympic Games, the fight for Human Rights must go on” and the campaign went on to win a bronze award.

Outraged by the campaign and the award, the Chinese media as well as pro-Chinese bloggers and internet users demanded the award be stripped-off, and the campaign taken off media. They also called for a boycott of all TBWA work, which happens to include one of the major sponsors of the Olympics this year, Visa.

Finally, the Chinese dream came true – at least in part.

TBWA has faltered, technically, and they bronze award was relinquished. Apparently, the campaign ran after the stipulated deadline – and it was disqualified.

At least someone is trying to protect the integrity of the advertising industry. I wonder if we would ever have the guts to recall an ad award here...


The Next Tamil President

Will the next first lady of the United States be a blonde? Most likely not. Barack Obama has a good chance in becoming the first ever “minority” President in a country where the “majority” is less than the collective minority.

The world is changing and its taking its natural course in giving everyone a chance.

If not for the stupidity of so-called-saviors of the Tamil minority – LTTE, there would have been a great chance in having the first ever Tamil President in Sri Lanka immediately after Mahinda Rajapakse – in the great diplomat, lawyer and statesman Lakshman Kadirgamar.

Undoubtedly, he would have been my personal choice, in an island where great leadership is an extreme rarity these days. I’m sure most of the Sri Lankans would have voted for him, even without thinking twice – if he were to contest in the next Presidential Elections – side by side with the likes of Ranil, Wimal and the rest of the clowns.


Taking the Piss...

Stumbled upon the Maharaja website and I couldn’t help burst out laughing when I saw their headline banner which says “The Courage to be Different.”

Be Different? How?
By being different from FOX News: We Report. You Decide...?
By being different from the American Idol?
By being different from Elephant House Ginger Beer and Cream Soda?
By being different in other businesses they are in – in similar fashion?

You get the point.

For us, the consumers, Maharaja Group is no different. They just stole, imitated and copied others without an iota of guilt or shame to build their own business empire... no conscience, no morals. They are no different, they are just like everyone else – wolves in disguise.

I do not know much about the “courage” to be different; but they’ve got some balls to claim that they are different!