Wednesday, May 22, 2013
My old (well, not that old!) friend Rachel, who lives in Spain, sent me this latest cynical commercialization of the Godfather of Punk:
It's sort of a Pulp Fiction-meets-Repo Man-meets-Iggy's own sense of self-deprecation thing. Not exactly epic, like his stunt withn Orcon Broadband, but at least not as embarrassing as his insurance ads.
But who am I to complain? The man needs his retirement fund. He can't go running around with the new Stooges lineup forever...
This strategy has been in play for some time, with McDonald's Canada pushing social media audiences to its "Our Food. Your Questions." campaign site.
This teaser video about the chicken content of McNuggets addresses a nagging perception about the ingredients. I recall reading the nutritional information on McNuggets back in the '80s, and realizing that it was basically congealed chicken soup (including mechanically separated meat and chicken stock). However, Huffington Post was forced to post a correction to a story about the popular fast food back in 2010, with the correction that McDonald's USA has been using only "white meat" since 2003.
What this newest volley in the McDonald's PR campaign is battling, is this popular meme image of questionable origin:
Purportedly a picture of mechanically-separated chicken slurry fated for your 6-piece McNugget meal, it has also erroneously been labelled as the "pink slime" cow-part filler that goes into commercial ground beef.
If you actually go to the McDonald's Canada site, here is their answer to the McNugget question:
They refer the users to third-party "Mom Bloggers" who have been taken on a junket to a Cargill chicken processing plant to observe and report on the process. (My favourite part of this post is the squeamish subtitle "From Alive Chicken to Not-Alive Chicken".)
Here is their description of the making of McNuggets:
The white breast meat, along with chicken stock and a natural proportion of skin from the breast is placed into a huge blender. I didn’t realize that there is skin in the nugget mixture but this helps to hold the shape. The meat is then mixed and chilled using CO2. McNuggets are formed, not ground. There are 4 shapes that are pressed out with a rolling cookie cutter: boot, bow-tie, ball and bell. The reason they are all standard in shape and size is to ensure consistency in all McDonald’s restaurants. This guarantees both food safety (standard cooking times in restaurants) and portion control.
Once the fun shapes pop out, they are coated in batter, dusted with flour and then given a final coat of tempura batter. Who knew? From here they are par-fried and placed directly into the freezer. A thin mist of water is sprayed onto them, as tempura is susceptible to dehydration. They are then inspected and packaged to be sent off to the restaurants.
White Meat Chicken McNuggets®: Chicken breast, water, modified corn starch, salt, seasoning [yeast extract, salt, wheat starch, natural flavour (vegetable source), safflower oil, dextrose, citric acid, and rosemary] natural extractives of rosemary. Breaded with: water, wheat flour, yellow corn flour, modified corn starch, spices, salt, baking powder, dextrose, wheat starch, corn starch, modified hydrogenated soybean oil. Cooked in 100% vegetable oil (Canola oil, corn oil, soybean oil, hydrogenated soybean oil with TBHQ, citric acid and dimethylpolysiloxane). CONTAINS WHEAT
Now, let's see how honest McDonald's is being:
While the strategist in me can admire the theory and complexity of this grand social media strategy for McDonald's Canada, I think it really fails on true transparency.
Can dimethylpolysiloxane and TBHQ (tert-Butylhydroquinone) be considered "seasonings"?
Dimethylpolysiloxane is a type of silicone, "the most widely used silicon-based organic polymer, and is particularly known for its unusual rheological (or flow) properties. PDMS is optically clear, and, in general, inert, non-toxic, and non-flammable. It is also called dimethicone and is one of several types of silicone oil (polymerized siloxane). Its applications range from contact lenses and medical devices to elastomers; it is also present in shampoos (as dimethicone makes hair shiny and slippery), food (antifoaming agent), caulking, lubricating oils, and heat-resistant tiles." (Wikipedia)
TBHQ, added here as a cooking oil preservative, is "used industrially as a stabilizer to inhibit autopolymerization of organic peroxides. It is also used as a corrosion inhibitor in biodiesel. In perfumery, it is used as a fixative to lower the evaporation rate and improve stability. It is also added to varnishes, lacquers, resins, and oil field additives." (Wikipedia) It is, however, considered safe for human consumption in limited quantities.
Plus, there's all that hydrogenated oil.
I don't want to come off as a food alarmist. Industrial chemicals are just like any other substances we consume, even natural ones. They can have positive, negative, or negligible effects on our bodies. In short, I didn't come here to say "OMG, McNuggets use the same chemical as breast implants!!!"
Rather, I'm here to say that McDonald's is, ironically, building a lot of very obvious spin into a campaign that is supposed to be about giving honest answers to consumer questions. As unfair as the pink slime, chicken head and tumour rumours are to McDonald's current products, they could have done so by telling their whole story up front, rather than making people dig for the whole truth.
Tuesday, May 21, 2013
The teaser poster for Lars Von Trier's upcoming film, Nymphomaniac, uses a rather clever minimalism to symbolize female creativity with nothing but parentheses.
There was something very familiar about it, but it didn't hit me until I was clearing out some of our old books in the basement:
Interesting how the same symbol can cover the two sides of female sexuality, from the intimate biology of sex to the occasional biological result.
Friday, May 17, 2013
Fashion designer Aamna Aqeel, who is Pakistani, is currently drawing fire for a fashion shoot titled "Be My Slave," in which an imperious and clearly rich white woman is seen being attended by a dark-skinned young boy.
Here are some reactions:
Sadly, this incident will join the list of racially insensitive situations found throughout the fashion industry--from slave-inspired designs, the unapologetic use of Blackface, the whitewashing of runways and the total disregard of diversity. When will these gross attention-seeking antics and blatant displays of racism end?
- Huffpo Canada Black Voices
In an editorial spread titled “Be My Slave” (literally, we are rage-shaking as we type this), DIVA Magazine showcases Aqeel’s luxuriant garb on a model being served by a dark-skinned child. He holds an umbrella over her. He sleeps on the floor in rags as she idly flips through an issue of Bazaar. He bows his head as she presumably orders him around. How could the designer possibly justify this stinking pile of racist excrement?
Ms. Aqueel defended her decision to do the shoot as a message about child labour, but Pakistani journalist Salima Feerasta wasn't buying it:
Aqeel’s argument is that she wanted to spark a debate on child labour. She says she is involved with a children’s charity and wanted to highlight how ‘society madams’ employ child labour in their homes. She is educating and supporting the child used in the shoot — it seems the least she can do after exploiting him in this fashion
It’s facetious of the designer to claim that she was trying to stimulate a debate on child labour. The model wearing her clothes is clearly comfortable with her dominant position. She is not made up in a way that shows her to be the villain of the piece. The use of a dark skinned child in a shoot entitled “Be My Slave” certainly reeks of racism, however much the designer may deny it. And if anything, the shoot seems to condone child labour.
Here's something, however. I kind of do buy it.
Perhaps I'm attributing far too much goodwill to the fashion industry, but when I look at these pictures I really do think of how wealthy westerners enjoy fashionable lifestyles by exploiting the sweat and blood of south Asian workers. The symbolism actually works for me.
The overwhelmingly negative American interpretation of this is guided more by that country's history. To have a dark-skinned person waiting on a light-skinned person, and the word "slave" involved, immediately raises the spectre of hundreds of years of African enslavement and racism in the United States (and elsewhere in the new world).
But in Pakistan has a different history. It was colonized by the British, and endured years of racist social policy that put the indigenous people at the beck and call of powerful Europeans. In that context, the rich woman looks like a symbol of continuing Western economic and social power — now expressed as part of global trade.
But then you have to ask yourself, if Salima Feerasta, who lives in the Pakistani context, finds it racist, isn't it universally so?
I still have to wonder if this whole concept have been well-intentioned, but fatally flawed in a global communications environment. It was shot for a Pakistani magazine and shared on Aamna Aqeel's Facebook Page (both sets have been removed online). When you actually look at the little boy, and the way he is dressed, it is clear that he is being represented as a pre-independence Indian servant, with no reference whatsoever to the African-American experience.
The shoot may be tasteless and dehumanizing, depending how you look at it. And it certainly doesn't portray Aamna Aqeel's fashion in a positive light. But it is not the same racism as European designers fetishizing Africans or using blackface. Not by a long shot.
The message to me is clear. I just think it makes better art than advertising.
Thursday, May 16, 2013
As Adrants' Steve Hall writes, "You've gotta love these corporate videos that 'leak' their way into the pubic." (I think he meant "public", but Steve writes for Playboy too, so he probably hasn't flagged that typo in his spellchecker.)
Anyway, Microsoft would like you to know that there is an evil behind the über-integration that Google has been steering towards, and that is the fact that their platforms and applications conspire to learn everything about you and use it to sell you stuff.
This is hardly a new tactic, though. Remember this?
From the Associated Press last month:
Microsoft developed its anti-Google ad campaign shortly after hiring former political operative Mark Penn in August as a corporate strategist who reports directly to Ballmer. Penn is best known as a former pollster for President Bill Clinton and a campaign strategist for Hillary Clinton's unsuccessful bid for president in 2008. Penn left his job as CEO of public relations firm Burson-Marsteller to help Microsoft generate more usage of its Bing search engine and other online services.That's a big challenge, right there. (I never touch Bing myself.) But the points about Google's omniscience are valid, even if coming from a company like Microsoft.
I guess it just comes down to what you're willing to put up with to get free stuff. I'm writing this on the free Google blog platform, will be sharing it on G+, and hope that some of you will find me... through Google.
But then again, I'm an adman. We all like to think we're immune to advertising, no matter how targeted.