Prose and Cons: advertising to children, sports marketing and fashion branding
The Simpsons were at their best in the early days of the cartoon franchise when their satirical barbs and humorous social commentary had an edge, sadly lacking in recent years. In a season two episode, which first aired back in 1990, a campaign led by Marge Simpson against animated cartoon violence ultimately led to a town revolt against the visiting statue of David because of its nudity. Leading the charge to ban the statue was Helen Lovejoy, wife of the local minister. A self-confessed gossip, Mrs Lovejoy went on to develop a recurring catch-phrase throughout following programs, proclaiming often with an air of moralistic indignation, “Will someone please think of the children?”
That phrase is now being directed close to home. In recent times we have seen various people come out to proclaim that advertisers are at least partly to blame for decaying moral standards and that our children are suffering thanks to the onslaught of inappropriate marketing messages. Be it the promotion of obesity, inappropriate fashion, sexual deviance or general consumerism, it appears that our industry is under fire. I saw one media report, which featured the views of the chair of the Victorian Children’s Council, suggest that advertisers targeting eight- to 12-year-olds was inappropriate because it encouraged excessive consumerism and placed additional pressure on family budgets. In the same report the Victorian Child Safety Commissioner is reported to suggest that some advertising could also have the effect of legitimising paedophiliac tendencies.
While I respect the frustrations of parents in the modern world, the notion of blaming advertisers for various societal ills is tenuous at best and absurd at worst. I own a copy of The Waltons on DVD, but even I don’t for a minute believe that such a wholesome family life would return just because advertisers were shackled with bans and caveats. If the do-gooders really want to do good, then I have a much better suggestion. Instead of lobbying governments to toughen advertising laws, lobby the governments to make good on their hollow promises of returning some semblance of normality to family life. As readers will attest, living life on a single wage is virtually impossible in an average Australian household. Perhaps if more mums or dads could afford to stay home with their children the influence of good parenting would greatly outweigh the tiny number of advertisers who do the wrong thing.
Strike a pose
In recent years the world of fashion has undergone rapid change as companies adopt new branding and distribution approaches. The globalisation of market leading brands has been dramatic, but while UK clothing retailer Topshop has spread to 30 countries, Swedish powerhouse H&M to 29 and the Spanish Inditex-owned duo of Zara and Massimo Dutti have reached 70 and 29 countries respectively, Australian consumers, sadly, have so far missed the revolution. The reluctance of these operators to venture to our shores is complex and often mired in unfulfilled local licensing agreements. Eventually (fingers crossed), however, they will arrive and those people not lucky enough to travel overseas regularly will see what all the fuss is about. Rapid production and distribution schemes, a focus on affordable catwalk inspired fashions and contemporary styles for men, women and children will abound. While Australia has witnessed the Stella McCartney Target fashion frenzy, that is not a patch on the way other firms have partnered with designers and celebrities to create wildly popular ranges. H&M has previously worked with McCartney and last year partnered with avant-garde Dutch designers Viktor & Rolf. This year H&M has created a major splash with a much sought after range by Madonna. Meanwhile Topshop has developed a line with Kate Moss and Zara continues its industry-bucking approach of doing absolutely no advertising. This strategy, seemingly hard to fathom in the competitive fashion world, has served the brand well as it continues rapid expansion and positive word of mouth among its core audience.
Be a good sport
Prose & Cons happily admits to sport marketing being a first love and already this year has been intrigued by the poor crowds at the swimming world titles, an escalation of crowd violence at European football matches leading to games being played in empty stadiums and increased calls for Australian Football administrators to counter negative coaching tactics. There is a simple principle I use when it comes to marketing sport. Unless the sport governing bodies wish to forgo all sponsorship, television and merchandising monies (and trust me none of them do) they had better play by the rules of marketing.
Surprisingly, many of them don’t, preferring to hold on to outdated athletic concepts that disappeared the day they inked the multimillion dollar media deal or when they splashed sponsors all over their playing kit. The swimming championships had poor crowds because nobody really promoted them. Sure they were a good product, but (as all marketers should know) that is not enough. Where was the compulsion to be a part of the event? Where was the intrigue? And who came up with the premium pricing approach that killed any hope of families (the target market for the sport) attending?
That some European football is played in front of empty stands as a punishment to misbehaving fans is farcical. Just cancel the event altogether if safety cannot be assured or some ‘punishment’ is being enforced. The media, which have paid big sums to show matches, don’t want sterile matches in empty stadiums being broadcast. Why play games that nobody watches? As for the AFL, the recent calls by some club presidents to innovate or perish are finally and thankfully beginning to gain some traction. For too long the concept of ‘tradition’ has overruled obvious improvements to the game. Good products are forever evolving and forever seeking the right balance of stability and innovation. Sport should be no exception.