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A very Coors cons-beer-acy -- The Lowbrow Lowdown

In the second of her fortnightly columns, Kate Kaye, uncovers an Orwellian nightmare in the bottom of her bottle of beer.

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Suspicious suds -- or -- Coors cons-beer-acy?

To some, it's an Orwellian nightmare come to life. To others, it's a high-tech car toy they keep meaning to figure out how to use. It's Global Positioning System technology and it may be in the next bottle of brew you knock back.

That's because Coors Light is employing the magic of GPS in its latest campaign. As featured in an August 31 AdNews report, guzzlers of three specially-equipped bottles of Coors Light will be sniffed out by GPS and awarded a trip for two to LA. And, as the tracking team does its thing, the hunt will be aired on television.

Can you imagine being the unsuspecting soul who cracks open a winning bottle of this piss water, only to discover that his whereabouts are being monitored by some central station of TV viewers and Coors Light tracking goons? To many people, this could be construed as a violation of privacy. I don't know about you, but if I were a Coors Light drinker, I wouldn't want anyone to find out.

Which leads me to what's most worrisome about this campaign. What's to stop demographic stat-hungry marketers from activating GPS technology in lots of Coors Light bottles? Knowing the home addresses of people who buy a product certainly could make a direct marketing campaign a lot more successful. Hey, I'm not trying to insinuate that the makers of Coors Light or its ad agency are involved in anything as sleazy as tracking people's movements and location without their express knowledge and consent. Only web marketers would do that.

Big screen beautification -- or -- Cosmetically compromised cinema

Beebe Gallini loved lipstick and powder puffs. But what she seemed to love most was getting under Mike Brady's skin. In this episode of The Brady Bunch, Pa Brady was commissioned to design a new factory for Ms Gallini's cosmetics company, and she wanted the structures to be shaped like make-up containers. It's just too bad the producers of The Brady Bunch hadn't considered getting a cosmetics firm to sponsor the show.

The hawkers in Hollywood are doing just that. An August 21 Fashion Wire Daily piece details this cosmetic film push. For one, Clinique teamed up recently with Legally Blonde, a summer box-office offering starring Reese Witherspoon as a "brand-obsessed" sorority chick-turned-law student. In the movie, the "Clinique devotee", named Elle, "brings a client... a behind-bars goody bag" which includes an array of Clinique products.

Deals have also been struck between filmmakers and Three Custom Color Specialists, Perfumier Demeter, as well as nail polish company, Hard Candy.

Surely moviegoers attending mass-market films like Legally Blonde aren't anticipating an unadulterated, commercial-free experience. The herd likes fluff, especially when it's got a recognisable label on it. Still, when a sponsor wields the kind of influence that Clinique seems to have done in the case of Legally Blonde, integrity is sacrificed. I haven't seen the movie, but I'd be willing to bet there are no scenes during which Elle's nail polish chips or her lipstick comically smudges her wine glass.

As a result of most sponsors' strict contracts (brand protection is paramount), not only do film characters lose dimension, they lose their humanity, becoming empty shells glazed with the translucent lacquer of product promotion. With any luck for theatre audiences, that lacquer will chip, but don't count on it.

Cig-arrest -- or -- Party-pooping project

Rules were made to be broken, or at least bent beyond recognition. Consider the strict guidelines applied to tobacco marketing, for instance. As highlighted in an August 27 Advertising Age article, British American Tobacco has been throwing increasingly popular parties for adult smokers in big South African cities like Johannesburg, Pretoria, Durban and Cape Town. The smoke-filled soirees feature performances by top musical acts and, as noted in the piece, "Guests are asked to provide proof that they are over 18. Thumbprints are scanned at the door, and only members are allowed entry." Membership status isn't hard to come by: simply play an online game to discover where free tickets are available.

The fuming functions may be in violation of the Tobacco Products Act which bans advertising and promotion of cigarettes and other tobacco products. And now, South Africa's National Council Against Smoking is on a mission to stop these marketing practices.

The tobacco producer calls the festivals "consumer relations events" and insists that there is no product branding and no free products are distributed. Cigarette vending machines are located on the premises, however.

The irony is that the traditional billboards and magazine ads that were relied upon for years did little to build a rapport with consumers, or establish a branded community. Now that the lawyers and moralists have wielded their anti-tabaccy axes, the only thing these firms have left is the most insidious, indelible forms of marketing imaginable. No longer do people simply see a Camel ad and think of smoking Camel cigarettes; they see their smoking buddies, reminisce about last week's party, and then they light up. Which do you think makes more of an impression? Well, as they say, maybe the anti-smoking brigade shouldn't have wished for what they wanted; it looks like they got it.

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