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Someone  looking?

Mencken: Inner voice?

“Conscience,” opined the late, great American wit, journalist and literary critic H L Mencken, “is the inner voice that warns us someone may be looking.”

Mencken’s dictum struck home among the adveratti a couple of decades back as it finally dawned on the trade that something had to be done about it’s excesses before the politicians and Joe Public finally lost patience.

Since when there has been a procession of half-hearted, limp-wristed attempts to impose a set of workable rules that wouldn’t kill the goose that lays the golden eggs.

A realisation now confronting the adolescent internet advertising industry.

Within the exponentially expanding fish-tank of online marketing and media, there’s growing concern that US lawmakers could soon intervene on issues concerning the collection of personal data, according to US trade journal AdWeek.

It’s certainly an outcome encouraged by the vociferous privacy and public interest lobbies, currently bending ears in and around Washington DC.

Zaneis

Zaneis: Behavioural believer

Blather, balderdash, bosh and bilge, splutters Mike Zaneis, vice-president of public policy at the Interactive Advertising Bureau, who claims that  the real goal of the privacy campaigners is to eradicate behavior-based advertising, one of the most promising areas of innovation.

“They don’t believe in behavioral advertising,” he said. In which, of course, the IAB understandably does believe. Implicitly. According it a status akin to Holy Writ.

On the other side of the battlefield, the call to arms is taken-up by Pam Dixon, executive director of the World Privacy Forum: “We want consumers to be able to take advantage of all of the new technologies without the technologies taking advantage of the consumers. Right now, that balance is not there.”

Jeffrey Chester, executive director of lobbyist, the Center for Digital Democracy, is of like mind. Industry self-regulation, in the form of the IAB’s  Network Advertising Initiative, he avers, has failed.

Chester claims that tracking from all directions besets consumers with opt-out notices buried in legalese on hidden privacy statements. “The one thing that’s crystal clear that’s emerged so far is that, as in almost any industry, self-regulation doesn’t work.”.

And that assertion, italicized above, finally brings MoonWink  to the point of this article. Exactly how effective, if at all, is advertising self-regulation?

It’s a question aptly answered by a famed cartoon (circa 1895) from the long defunct British humorous magazine Punch.

Bishop to new, young curate beset with queasiness at the aged state of his egg:" Your egg is not bad, I hope?" Curate to Bishop: "Oh no, my Lord. It is exceedingly good ikn parts!"

Bishop to new, young curate beset with queasiness at the aged state of his egg: "Your egg is not bad, I trust, Mister Simpkins?" Curate to Bishop: "Oh no, my Lord. I assure you it is exceedingly good in parts!"

Yup, like the curate’s egg, self-regulation is exceedingly good in parts. On occasions. And with a following wind.

But, as with the dollar-generating ambiguities of law, so with adland’s self-imposed rules as to what is – or is not – permissible in advertising. And where. And to whom.

Booze is a good example. In the UK, for instance, a sanctimonious entity known as The Portman Group, funded in its entirety by large multinational pedlars of alcohol, preaches moderation and responsibility in drinking. And on behalf of its paymasters Portman tuts like a proverbial auntie at the frequent nationwide instances of alcohol-fuelled behavioural excess and violence.

Responsible drinking?

Responsible drinking?

Such antisocial goings-on are directly connected to the self-same booze-pushers’ stratagem of  ‘Happy Hours’ and other ongoing promotional events at bars and pubs throughout the country. Events that are, of course, intended to encourage moderation and responsibility in drinking!

Self-regulation in TV advertising is a similar cynical mockery. While medical professionals and dieticians condemn the peddling of high salt/calorie/sugar junk foods to children and and teens, over-exposed millionaire former sporting heroes and TV pundits continue to push these poisonous products to kids via  networked TV.

While the ad industry to its eternal discredit vigorously lobbies government and media regulators to further  ‘liberalize’ the current latitudinary rules.

Meantime, the letter of the law is adhered to – usually by the merest whisker! The spirit, however, is up for grabs.

Moreover, the foregoing examples relate solely to the UK – a nation almost Stalinist in its media controls compared with the USA, much of Latin America and Asia.

Makes you proud to be a marketer, doesn’t it?

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London2012On 6 July 2005, the International Olympic Committee awarded the 2012 Olympic Games to the city of London following a vituperative contest between the two finalists – Paris and London. The latter’s victory  was received with stage-managed euphoria by a hobbledehoy rent-a-crowd assembled in the latter city’s Trafalgar Square.

This statistically representative cast of hundreds, seemingly hand-picked by central casting via a socio-economic, gender and ethnic database, ecstatically emoted euphoria to a battery of TV cameras. But MoonWink has a sneaking suspicion that their ‘high-school musical’ rah-rahing was fanned by folding money.

Whether or not the crowd’s euphoria was bought for a mess of pottage, few doubted the sincerity of the rapturous lip-smacking that greeted the news of London’s victory within the boardrooms of Britain’s corporate conglomerates.

Nor the joy of the planet’s financial ferrets as they consulted the spreadsheets on their laptops. While elsewhere on the multinational globe the champagne flowed in celebration of another quadrennial killing.

Few if any of MoonWink’s readers are naïve enough to believe that the modern Olympics are primarily about sporting endeavour. Or the privilege of competing. No place for those among the Excel numbers!

But it was not always thus.

The Baron

The Baron

In the late 19th century a starry-eyed romantic, Baron Pierre de Coubertin, was inspired by his notion of ancient Greek sporting ideals to resuscitate the Olympic Games which had slumped into cryogenic suspension around AD 500.

Although the Baron’s ideals were somewhat out of kilter with the blood-stained reality of that pre-Christian Hellenic era, honour rather than lucre was the primary driving force of those original sporting contests between the city-states of the Grecian empire.

The contestants, although frequently at each other’s throats, declared a month-long military truce during the Games’ tenure. And although the winners were feted in the glory of victory, their sole reward was the honour of competing.

Something of a contrast with today’s miasmic mix of moolah and marathons. De Coubertin must be spinning in his grave!

Berlin 1936

Bursting the bubble

In 1896 the Baron launched in Athens the first modern Olympic Games and glory remained the event’s main driving force until Nazi politics intervened in the Berlin Olympics of 1936 – the last Olympiad before the horrors of World War II were unleashed.

Twelve years later the first post-WW2 Games were held in an austerity-ridden, bomb-ravaged, London. Although successful, they marked the beginning of the slow but inexorable corruption of de Coubertin’s dream.

Fast forward to 2009 where selflessness and idealism are not conspicuous among the Olympian community. Even less so within the event’s organisational and sponsorship camps. The name of the twenty-first century game is moolah, lucre, gelt … all currencies, cheques and credit cards accepted!DollarBlindfold

Moreover the most bitterly fought contests are unlikely to be held on the running track or in the swimming pools. They will instead take place  between official sponsors and the Barbarians at the Gate – ambush marketers – warns a report by Coventry University’s Centre for the International Business of Sport.

Citing the CIBS, the Financial Times observes: “Corporations are going to great lengths to undermine their rivals’ sponsorships, with every aspect of the 2010 football World Cup and the 2012 Olympics coming under attack.”

The newspaper quotes CIBS’ Nick Burton: “Ambushers are becoming ever more savvy as they seek to ensure that official partners and sponsors don’t have things their own way.”

He claims there have been nearly 400 ambush marketing cases since the technique first emerged at the Los Angeles Olympics in 1984. Such heinous acts include the smuggling of rival products  into venues and corporations and ads carrying brand endorsements by sports stars not contracted to official event partners.

A billion eyeballs!

When Jamaican sprinter Usain Bolt broke the 100-metre world record at last year’s Beijing Olympics, his first act was to remove  his Puma-branded running shoes and thrust them into the lens of TV cameras – an act that positively peeved official Olympic partner Adidas!

There are countless other instances of brands that have saved their shareholders a few million bucks by ducking Olympic sponsorship fees and ‘ambushing’ the Games’ official partners. Among the usurpers are such respected names as Kodak, Fujifilm, Nike, Pepsi and Qantas.

According to the Coventry researchers, consumers are more likely to recognise and recall “ambusher” brands if they are led to believe that they are official sponsors. But it remains to be seen if the bushwhacking brigade is as successful this time around.

Britain’s New Labour government – never averse to lending a sympathetic ear to its party donors – passed legislation in 2006 giving the London Organising Committee for the Olympic Games [LOCOG] legal powers to stop ambush marketing prior to and during the London event.

CIBS director Simon Chadwick claims that during the run-up to this years moolahfest, spectators will be subjected to ambush marketing checks at sports venues.

Says he: “The checks will raise a number of significant issues for fans, notably what they carry, what they consume, where they consume this and how they react when event officials ask them to leave items outside the entrance to an event.”

Bishop Talbot

Bishop Talbot

Ordains the official Olympic Creed, first voiced by  Bishop Ethelbert Talbot at a service for Olympic champions during the 1908 Games: “The most important thing in the Olympic Games is not to win but to take part; just as the most important thing in life is not the triumph but the struggle. The essential thing is not to have conquered but to have fought well.”

It’s uncertain if His Reverence’s final exhortation applies to ambush marketers!

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