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Posts Tagged ‘Marketing’

The Hunger Games and Racism

There has been a good deal of discussion of racist reactions by fans of the Hunger Games when they saw the film and for the first time realized that the characters they loved were Black all along. Here is an example:

K call me racist but when I found out Rue was Black her death wasn't as sad. I hate myself.

K call me racist but when I found out Rue was Black her death wasn't as sad. I hate myself.

I think this commentary is quite interesting and on point, but I want to point out something else that involves troubling race images in relation to the Hunger Games. In my email inbox the other week, I received a note from amazon, welcoming me to explore the world of the hunger games. Although the book has racially diverse characters, it seems that someone in marketing overlooked this fact. All but one of the characters featured in these materials appears to be Caucasian.

Here is a screen capture of the email I received from amazon:

It looks like all white people.

It looks like all white people.

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I am often critical of advertisements on this blog because commercials are so often horrible: they reinforce rigid gender roles; they attempt to instill dissatisfaction in the viewer to urge purchases; they use emotional manipulation to get us to buy products that have little to do with the emotion; and they are increasingly turning up in places disguised as part of the show or the video game one is playing.

Act Mouthwash

Act Mouthwash

But, I believe that it is also important to notice when commercials get something right. I saw a commercial for ACT mouthwash for kids last night (Edit: um, I mean on August 28) that I think does a lot of things right. [Edit: I have actually been sitting on this post since August and periodically searching the internet for the commercial. The commercial has never appeared. Rather than just keep waiting, I have decided to now publish this post. Perhaps whomever is in control of marketing at ACT will have an alert set for posts that mention their product and will then realize the importance of putting your shit out there for comment. Sure, some of the comments will be bad. But others will be good. If they ever get around to posting their commercial–free airtime, ahem–then I will update this post with an embedded video, or at least a link. Until then, I hope the description is enough to allow you to get the gist of why the commercial is good. Since they don’t have this ad on the internet, I suppose it is also an example of advertising done wrong]

First, mom is the authority in this commercial even though she does not appear in the commercial. That is not so unusual for commercials about products to be used within the home. But this mom’s authority is based on the fact that she is “the dentist.” Her authority is based on her education and achievement outside of the home rather than on her role as homemaker. Now, there is nothing wrong with being a homemaker, and I do believe that  one gains a great deal of knowledge and expertise through performing that role. But, while some women are homemakers, other women work outside the home. In most commercials you don’t see this. What you see is mom in the home. I am not arguing that there is something “better” about being a dentist than being a homemaker. The argument is about what commercials represent and fail to represent; this commercial is good in my opinion because it represents women in a way that is rare for commercials. I think broadening representations of groups of people is good, and this commercial achieves that.

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I am writing this simply to boost the signal on another post “Microsoft Conducts a Home Invasion” over at The MassOrnament. I agree with them about the absolute outrageousness of this commercial:

Note that her computer is only FOUR (4!) years old. Having a four year old computer apparently justifies Microsoft in breaking into your house and harassing you into buying a new computer.

Talk about the high-pressure sales techniques:

“Oh look! we did a B & E in your home while you were out! Don’t call the police, buy a new computer instead! It will cost about $1,000 to $2,000 and it will only last FOUR years! We’re working on lowering the number of years it lasts, by the way! We’ll call it ‘technological advances’ and you’ll want to get yourself another!”

So when a poor person does a B & E and takes your stuff, they get arrested and thrown in jail. But when Microsoft does a B & E, and then coerces you to hand over your computer and a few thousand bucks for a new one, that is somehow caring for their customers?

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I often see these commercials for the Cancer Treatment Centers of America, and I find them misleading and unethical. I can’t seem to embed the video, but it can be found at this link. Most of their commercials are all about giving the patient “hope” where there was no hope before. But each commercial also carries a disclaimer: “No case is typical. You should not expect these results.” So the CTCA are suggesting that you should have hope and that they will offer you hope when other MDs fail to do so, but that you should also no have hope that it will work for you (although here “hope” is replaced with “expect”).

You need more than a second opinion. You need a second chance.

You need more than a second opinion. You need a second chance.

1. Legal Reasons for Disclaimers in Medical Advertisements

The reason for the disclaimer results from a lawsuit in the 1990s:

Cancer Treatment Centers of America was the subject of a Federal Trade Commission (FTC) complaint in 1993. The FTC alleged that CTCA made false claims regarding the success rates of certain cancer treatments in their promotional materials. This claim was settled in March 1996, requiring CTCA to discontinue use of any unsubstantiated claims in their advertising. CTCA is also required to have proven, scientific evidence for all statements regarding the safety, success rates, endorsements, and benefits of their cancer treatments. CTCA was also required to follow various steps in order to report compliance to the FTC per the settlement.

Cancer centers and hospitals in general (including Cancer Treatment Centers of America) have been the subjects of some controversy over their advertising. Many doctors and other observers have noted that many cancer organizations’ advertising are sparsely regulated and, therefore, often contain unsupported and misleading claims as to the efficacy of their cancer treatments.

In 2001, the FDA issued CTCA a Warning Letter concerning three clinical trials that were conducted in violation of FDA requirements. (From Wikipedia)

I understand that there are legal reasons for the disclaimer. Nevertheless, I find it creates an odd message overall. It also illustrates some of the problems with advertising in medicine.

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Happy Pills

Give me some happy pills so that I can be a better person.

On Monday the Guardian ran an article about using drugs to improve moral behaviour. Some drugs affect our emotions, increasing our feelings of trust, social bonding, empathy and lowering our anxiety. Scientists are now discussing the possibility that these drugs might be used to improve our moral behaviour.

The assumption seems to be  that we would be morally better people, if only we could better control our emotional responses.

“Science has ignored the question of moral improvement so far, but it is now becoming a big debate,” he [Guy Kahane] said. “There is already a growing body of research you can describe in these terms. Studies show that certain drugs affect the ways people respond to moral dilemmas by increasing their sense of empathy, group affiliation and by reducing aggression.”

I think this assumption is interesting, because it reflects one strain of Western Philosophy that has a long tradition of being apprehensive about our emotions. Philosophers, dating back to the ancient Greeks, were often suspicious of emotions and sometimes considered them to be an irrational influence that distorted our otherwise praiseworthy rationality. For some philosophers, part of the task of philosophy was to control our emotions so that they cannot distort our moral reasoning. The Stoics, for example, recognized that some emotions (love, a sense of justice) might be thought to have positive value within our moral life, but they noted that each of these emotions also has a negative side: love can turn to murderous jealousy and a sense of justice can lead to destructive outrage. The Stoics argued that one cannot keep the good part of our emotional responses without bringing along the bad parts, and so they suggested that we endeavour to purge all emotions from our souls.

The assumptions about emotions made by Kahane are a little different than the discussion of emotions by the Stoic philosophers, because Kahane seems to believe there is a positive role for emotions in our moral lives and through pharmaceutical manipulation we might be able to harness the positive aspects of moral emotions while leaving behind their bad aspects. Nevertheless, Kahane’s discussion reflects the ancient Greek discussion because there is a suspicion of emotions in their natural state. The view seems to be that emotions can positively contribute to our moral behaviour, but in order to do so they must be “tamed” and manipulated by pharmaceuticals.

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Probably many readers have seen this video of Jessica who is in a good mood and is talking about all the things she likes and how great she is.

It is really cute and uplifting. Whoever was filming her captured one of those family moments that make parenthood worth its hardships. This is an emotive piece; I think most people who watch it will feel uplifted by Jessica’s innocent affirmation, just as the person filming her did.

Then Maxwell House Coffee took that clip and turned it into a TV commercial with the theme of taking an “optimism break” (video after the jump).

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Almost nobody likes commercials. Since technologies such as VCRs, DVRs and TiVo are now available, many people prerecord TV shows and skip through the commercials. So marketers and advertisers are trying to come up with commercials that we are willing to watch, or that we cannot get around watching (for example, because they are part of the TV show itself). I am not usually a fan of commercials; I usually only watch prerecorded TV precisely because I can skip the ads.

The Box Art for LittleBigPlanet2

But last night, I was playing LittleBigPlanet2 and I ended up playing a commercial for the Prius (Part 2 of the level is here). The level is published by “LittleBigPartner” and is described as:

Join Sackboy* as he solves puzzles in his treehouse and takes his Prius for a drive in the city. With the objects you collect here, create your own Prius-inspired level for a chance to win a Sony Bravia 3D HDTV and other prizes. Visit http://www.us.playstation.com/psn/events/littlebigprius.html for more details. NOTE: Name your contest levels “Prius_[Your Level Name]” in order to enter.

The contest has been pretty popular, and there are now a number of Priusthemed user-made levels. From a marketing perspective, this is probably a great campaign. It encourages people to spend a lot of time thinking about the Prius and how to use it in a level they are creating. The Prius car, and various other objects (like wind turbines, and so forth) are given away in the level, and users are encouraged to use “as many of the collected objects as possible” (at 0:59) in their own levels. This allows Toyota a degree of control over the kinds of messages that users create in their levels. The objects that are given away are all associated with environmental themes and alternative energy sources.  If a user incorporates these objects, there is a good chance that the level will end up with a theme that associates the Prius and environmentalism.

Since LBP2 includes the user “LittleBigPartner” I am quite sure that there will be many more of these commercial levels in the future. Perhaps this is a good marketing strategy, for the reasons I described above, but I found it really off-putting. First, I was annoyed because I found the level through the “Media Molecule Picks” and in the past Media Molecule had always featured levels made by regular players, rather than advertisement levels. I felt tricked when I played this level, because I expected a user level, but instead got an advertisement. Second, the contest feels more insidious that previous contests. Both LittleBigPlanetCentral and LittleBigLand have held contests in the past, but these contests did not promote a particular product. This contest seems to be piggy-backing on the work done by previous competitions in the LittleBigPlanet game-universe.

*Note the use of the “universal” or “gender-neutral” “he” and “Sackboy,” which I complained about before.

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