Categories: Ad Nauseum

3 Jul 2012, Comments (4)

Ad Nauseam: Huggies

Author: Helen


Ad transcript:

(All scenes split screen)
A boy toddler, dressed in bright blue, plays with a red truck. A girl, dressed in pale pink, plays with a baby doll.

Boy, dressed in blue and white striped T shirt, plays with mud and has mud all over his clothes. The girl, clean in pale pink with a peter pan collar, is doing cooking play with dough, or sand.

Voiceover: Boys and girls are different.

Boy is dressed in red and white stripes now. He is dressed as a pirate and waving a toy sword. Girl is in pink (again), dressed as a fairy, or princess? and waving a wand.

Boy is gurning like a pale imitation of Paul Hogan and reading a book about TRUCKS. Girl blandly reads a book called The Princess.

Now they’re in bed. The little boy has his plastic tyrannosaurus and the little girl has a lilac unicorn.

Voiceover: That’s why only Huggies nappies have tailored absorbency surge layer where they need it most… Huggies nappies. Because there is a difference.”

You know who to call when besieged by egregious gender policing of tiny helpless children and in danger of wrecking the TV by throwing some heavy object at it? Cordelia Fine! I searched and searched for my copy of Delusions of Gender, which is temporarily (I hope) lost somewhere in the house, unless it’s been “borrowed”. But no matter, because I found this wonderful review which gives a detailed introduction to the book.

Why do people take such pleasure in biological justifica-
tions of gender stereotypes? And why is their automatic reaction
when you point out the rather large leaps in their “reasoning”
to say: “Oh, you feminists just don’t want to accept facts”?
So it has been a great pleasure, this winter vacation, to read
Cordelia Fine’s Delusions of Gender: How Our Minds, Society,
and Neurosexism Create Difference, which carefully and with
great precision demolishes the nonsense that pervades the
popular and technical literature pretending to be scientific
fact, exposing it as truthiness which is nowhere close to
To set some context, consider the industry—that’s the
only word for it—that has grown up pushing purported sex
differences in public policy. One example, would it were
the only one, is the Gurian Institute…

…and about a million other shoddy “scientific studies”, not to mention “news reports” which consist of little more than credulous regurgitation of press releases.

Read the whole thing, then run, don’t walk, to your bookshop or library, depending on your budget, and get this book if you don’t already have it. Today, when “hardwired” is one of the most popular words in the popular writer’s lexicon, toy departments of chain stores observe a gender apartheid which would make P.W. Botha whistle with admiration, and every attempt to criticise this relentless gender policing is met with cries of “Political Correctness!”, this book is so necessary. It’s also – as the reviewer points out – studded with gems of Fine’s wry deadpan humour.

In 2002, Hines and Alexander studied the play of
vervet monkeys. !ey gave them two boy toys, two girl toys,
and two neutral toys. Male vervets divided their time equally,
but female vervets spent more than a third of their time
with the girl toys. Impressive, yes? But, wait, one of the girl
toys was a pan. To quote Fine, “Although it is true that pri-
matologists regularly uncover hitherto unknown skills in our
nonhuman cousins, the art of heated cuisine is not yet one
of them.”

Parents typically underestimate the power of the cultural signals which bombard their kids literally from the moment they’re out of the womb (see the example of the difference in boy and girl birth announcements and differing treatment of boy and girl babies in general). Suddenly, everyone’s going hooray! for gender essentialism, and the whole infernal machine is given another spin for the next generation. Ads like this simply capitalise on the whole phenomenon and ram the message home with all the subtlety of a full disposable nappy in the face.

Description: The Stainmaster carpet ad from the 1980s. A large living room with large expanse of beautiful, spotless cream-coloured carpet. Pro Hart, a popular Australian artist, uses wine, cream, canned spaghetti, a whole Black Forest cake and other food items to create a giant picture of an insect on the carpet. When he’s finished, he just leaves it. His elderly Italian cleaning lady comes in, exclaims “Oh, Mister Hart, What a mess!” and cleans it all up for him.

As I remember, this ad was on high rotation in the late 80s and early 90s. It was a lot of fun. The idea of action painting with food on your living room carpet was gloriously free and transgressive, especially getting right in there and doing it with your whole body (although Hart is mysteriously clean when the ad comes to an end.)

Here’s The Chaser’s version.

Fast forward to 2010, and Harry Hart – Pro Hart’s grandson – takes the leading role in a recreation of the original (Embed replaced by a link because it was throwing the whole template out)

So in 1988, a man has a great time action painting with food and wine on a pristine carpet, and his dear old cleaning lady cleans it up for him. In 2010, his adorable grandson Harry has a great time recreating the ad, and his (pregnant) mum cleans it up for him. In fact, rather than throwing up her hands in mock horror like the dear old cleaning lady, she beams with unmitigated delight at the spectacle of what she is about to clean. As with the previous ad, there’s a final spoken line: “Too much like his grandfather…”

I see no reason to celebrate the recreation of one depiction of a subservient woman on her knees cleaning up after a superbly creative and kooky and loveable (aren’t they all!) alpha male. I’m not the target market (more of a polished floor with rugs here and there person) but if I was in the market for wall-to-wall carpet, I’d be looking for alternatives.

It would have been too easy to update this ad to show some intergenerational progress and to recognise the humanity of women by just tweaking the ending a bit, leaving the fun part of the ad intact.

Mother enters
Mother smiles with a slightly dangerous glint in eye
Cut to mother watching lovingly as adorable child cleans the goo off the carpet. (Bonus message for client: So easy even a child could do it!)

Since we’ve entered the realm of possibility so far as to create a giant insect with food on the living room carpet, we can help break down the cleaning product ad cliche of women as servants.

But what would the voiceover at the end say in the new version? “Some things have changed since his grandfather’s time”? Other suggestions? Have at it!

Oh excellent! Electronic Frontiers Australia is targeting youngsters for its campaign against Stephen Conroy’s net filter with that old classic that never loses its appeal: Mothers are brainless twits!

OK, uninformed, ignorant, whatever. But certainly clueless. (And any web page concerning us should be wall-to-wall pink.)
As activists with children who have campaigned side by side (or so they thought) with EFA to educate others about why Conroy’s net filter won’t work, the writers at Hoyden are obviously pissed off. As an IT worker, net obsessive and opponent of the “clean feed” with two children, I’m also pissed off, insulted, and hurt. I’m also deeply disappointed with Akmal Saleh, who I dearly love. No, make that loved.


This week’s “let’s explain technology in little words to our mothers award, boys” goes to Electronic Frontiers Australia’s It’s Time to Tell Mum campaign against the ALP’s filtering proposal.
Seriously, is there some kind of bingo card for “getting mothers involved” yet? Here some squares to get you started, thanks to “It’s Time to Tell Mum”: mothers are late technology adopters, mothers are uninterested in technology and toys for their own sake, mothers are solely responsible for the moral welfare of children, (which is lucky because) mothers are pretty much only interested in the moral welfare of children, (which is also lucky because) fathers and co-parents might as well not exist. Any more?


Hello, EFA, we’re RIGHT HERE. Tigtog and I, and other Hoydens and Hoydenizens have been blogging about this proposed filter for over a year now, again and again. Somehow our current events awareness and capacity for political thought didn’t fall out of our vaginas with the baby(ies).
There’s a really strong side serve of “teh wimminz are the ones looking after children” infusing this also, which makes me wince every time.
Try genderflipping the campaign. Would the EFA have released the same campaign as “It’s Time To Tell Dad“? With cracks about dads doing nothing but watch Kerri-Anne Kennerley and Days of Our Lives? “Dads love gossip”?
“Even dads want an internet connection that’s faster, cheaper and more secure”?

See also.

Yeah, you can get on with saving Australia from the Clean Feed without me, young geeky hipsters at EFA. Since I only want to watch Good Morning Australia and gossip with the hairdresser, obviously I can no longer pretend to give a shit about your campaign, as I don’t need the internetz for those activities. I’ll be over here, crocheting a cucumber or something.

Advertising agency Fnuky‘s online pitch says: “looking for an advertising agency? We’re not one.” Fair call. Advertising agencies are supposed to be about making people like their clients. Geordie Guy of EFA tries to salvage the trainwreck by defending the video with arguments which are ineffectual and wrong, but that’s beside the point – if we’re talking about marketing, once you’re using arguments (however specious) to argue your case against angry customers/supporters/target consumers, your marketing campaign has failed.

It would have been so easy, as others have pointed out, to make the campaign “tell your folks”, or “tell your olds”. At least that would have patronised older people equally.

You probably thought this post was going to be about this, but it’s another instance of “what were they thinking?”

I accidentally clicked on this while I was reading something on a site with ads. Do you ever do that? and then bitterly regret it?

Can you imagine walking into your study, or living room, or whatever and being confronted with.. Aaiiieeeee! Yikes!
It's personalised Ernie!

Yes, you are correct, that’s an … urn. For the Disembodied Head’s ashes.

That’d be your boyfriend, newlywed (ex)husband, nephew or grandkid depending on your age group, and still with the deer-in-headlights expression from the moment he turned around and saw the truck, the handbrake of which he’d neglected to secure, rolling toward him. W. T. F. If you’re an introvert and want to send any potential visitor screaming into the night, this product is highly recommended. Still, if I owned one of them, I’d be running screaming into the night myself.

Killer tomatoes eat Masterchef viewers!

Killer tomatoes eat Masterchef viewers!

As I mentioned over here, we have been glued, glued, I tell you, to Masterchef lately.* And the kids and I have been noticing a certain disconnect between the program and the words from its sponsors. While MC obviously is about celebrating cooking and eating delicious food, the ads that interlard the episodes are full of the usual Western fear of food and cooking.

There are a couple of ads which try to express the joy of cooking. The plug for Western Star (possibly because it’s for a whole food, not some packet additive-laden stuff), does it best. The Diary of a Mad Housewife commercial (Tessie the Real Cook for Real Stock) is giving it a go, but I don’t think they quite hit the spot with the cute, lovable madcap family. These ads are in the minority.

The ad for Master Foods just-add-meat cooking bases says: “Why cook when you can create”? Sure, this is just a cooking show, why on earth would we be trying to get the audience interested in (Gasp!) cooking? Cooking is too hard, people! And what does their distinction between cooking and creating even mean?

This is irksome, but the Uncle Toby’s muesli bar ad is downright creepy in its cibophobic imagery. A sports star tells us she has lived up to now with a crew of dieticians, coaches and sports scientists controlling her every move. Now, sadly, she’s out on her own and OMG how is she going to stay in control? Enter the calorie-controlled muesli bar that “helps you stay in control”. Control, control, control. Because some of the twiglets watching Masterchef might completely lose it and eat some pork belly or something gross like that! And balloon to a size 10!!

The connection between anorexia and the need for control is well documented. I have an uncomfortable image of certain people watching Masterchef as food porn while cautiously imbibing some weight loss “shake”. No prizes for guessing the gender of most of those people.

The commercials the kids find most fascinating (and counterintuitive for the program) are the Lite’n’Easy Meals. This is one of those “complete systems” where a guy with a van brings you a week’s worth of frozen dinners, you stick them in the freezer and consume one by one, instead of cooking. Calorie Controlled, of course. We see a young professional say something like, “I’ve never been able to cook, so this is perfect for me!” We’re just intrigued that the company flogging this “system” would choose to market it during Masterchef, which is trying to teach us that cooking is interesting, exciting and accessible to all of us, and celebrating fresh and intense flavour. Again, I get the mental image of viewers watching each episode wistfully, thawed frozen dinner, heated in the microwave, on lap. Because learning to actually, you know, cook, is just too hard.

Oh, and ads for Contours Gymnasium also feature on the website, just to remind you that you are all disgusting people who touch, ugh, food.

Masterchef is pulling the viewers one way, the sponsors are (in the main) pulling them another way, towards our society’s warped and unhealthy relationship with food.
*MC Australia doesn’t allow external links on their forums, so I’m returning the courtesy by not extending them any link love. Of course, there’s a link to the official site on the Wikipedia article.

15 Jun 2008, Comments Off on Ad Nauseam: No man likes a feminine sandwich

Ad Nauseam: No man likes a feminine sandwich

Author: Helen

Shakesville has a series on bad advertising, or badvertising, too, called Assvertising. Here’s a post on the Hungry Man series in the US, picking up on the very real problem of girly food turning big manly men into girly-men!

Just as an aside, it intrigues me that American ads often seem so much hammier and badly written, or produced, than the Australian mini-sagas. As a reader of US blogs I really can’t blame a lack of graphic, film or writing talent, and the population base is so much larger, it’s a mystery. Anyway.

The Hungry Man ad reminded me of the Australian Four ‘n ‘Twenty pies “rabbit food” ad, where two overalled building blokes discard their healthy lunches in favour of hot greasy takeaway. Note they ask each other “what did you get”, so clearly someone else, we assume a wife or girlfriend, has packed these grown mens’ lunches for them.

The message is clear:

Real men eat lots of meat and fat and lard!
Things that pertain to women are inferior and bad! (See also: Girl Cooties).
Women in the twenty-first century still pack mens’ lunches.

The US ad, though, goes a step further and implies that eating food deemed to be girly, e.g. salads, yoghurt and things like that, will actually cause you to assume female secondary sexual characteristics or behaviour. (Speaking of US ads being clumsier, you have to love the tagline “it’s good to be full”. Buuuuurp!) That American tomay-to can not only give you salmonella, but make you all wimminised, too.

Now perceptive readers will be saying, “But what about the line we get from antifeminist polemicists that one of the major indicators that men are really the oppressed class is that they die earlier? Here we’re seeing blokes whose women partners are clearly trying to keep them alive longer, but they deliberately decide that eating food associated with the despised female class is just not on and they must eat red meat and fat and lard in order to preserve their very identity. Or rather, the mainstream food and advertising industries are trying to push this way of thinking, and last time I looked they weren’t exactly a hotbed of matriarchal conspirators. Isn’t there something of a contradiction there?”


The quote about the “feminine sandwich” comes from this, which I discovered while googling to see whether there was any relationship between the ad companies running the “Hungry Man” campaigns in the different countries (it seems there isn’t). Stodge and manliness have had a long history together.

14 Oct 2007, Comments Off on Ad Nauseam: Connex again

Ad Nauseam: Connex again

Author: Helen

Look, folks, it’s not rocket science. If you’re* providing a crappy, substandard service; if you’re struggling to meet targets that the publicly owned system met back in 1951 (and some of your vehicles and equipment are about that old, too); if your stock is owned by a government that’s been reduced to buying rusty old carriages that have been standing in a paddock (leading to who knows what safety issues); if your trains are becoming known as substitutes for sardine tins and your trains and stations are dangerous places to be because you won’t employ staff to keep them safe, or sell tickets…

Then if you spend hundreds of thousands of dollars on advertising and PR, don’t be surprised if people just hate you more. (Note to the Liberal party and other political incumbents: this works for you, too.)
Image from

On top of all the advertising campaigns we’ve had from Connex this year – I’ve counted about four separate poster campaigns on the go – now we’ve got the intensely irritating Martin Merton PhD, a character dreamed up by Connex’s advertising suits. Viral marketing, how adorable! Oh, the lovable, zany madcaps. Martin Merton is supposed to be like the archetypal US motivational guru. Check out the online tutorials with such hilarious titles as “legs wide shut” and “putting mute in commuter”. Hours of entertainment!

Self-help expert Dr Martin Merton is currently in Melbourne to launch his new book. After many months spent studying the habits of Melbourne commuters and many weeks analysing hundreds of commuter comments Dr Merton will finally release his findings in his most recent work, There’s No “I” in Carriage.
Once you adopt his simple psychological principles and clinically tested methodologies you will immediately enter a world of passenger-friendly positivity. From now on that warm fuzzy feeling at the base of your stomach will be commuter pride and not the leaked contents of a Souvlaki.

Oh, my sides are splitting already. This lame attempt to win the hearts and minds of the yoof is just sad. The yoof hate them anyway.

There’s also a glossy version of There’s No I in Carriage given out at stations, which looks as if it was quite expensive to produce.

As well as wasting untold $$$ on this crap, Connex is going to introduce a new kind of electronic ticketing system, which is estimated to cost nearly $500 million – even though the present ticketing system isn’t causing as much trouble as all the other problems the system has. After all this, you can be sure we’ll be waiting a few more decades for trains that can cope with Melbourne’s population, cleaner stations and (yes, I’m a wild, romantic fool), station staff.

*It has to be said, Connex, dreadful as it is, has to share responsibility with the Victorian government, which has just renewed its contract and is supposed to take responsibility for the infrastructure. Their responsible minister has said, straight out, “Do I want to run a train system? I don’t think so.”

7 Aug 2007, Comments Off on Government’s IR ads redux: It appears there is a God*

Government’s IR ads redux: It appears there is a God*

Author: Helen

Oh, how sweet it is.

I couldn’t find the script of the ad I described in the previous post when I wrote it. You can find it now in the ABC item linked above – in the context of this ad being pulled with indecent haste. Much cackling on the Balcony over breakfast this morning.

VOICEOVER (from advertisement): The workplace relations system – know where you stand.

TONY EASTLEY: Part of the ad there.

Well, as it’s turned out, the actor playing the father had a painting business in real life and he’s been accused of ripping off one of his young employees.

Twenty-year-old Erin Gebert claims the actor, Damien Richardson, owes him about $2,000 in wages.

Erin Gebert’s father, Peter, is speaking here with our reporter, Brendan Trembath.

PETER GERBERT: Two weeks ago, on a Sunday morning, my wife and I were sitting in our kitchen having a cup of coffee and Erin was in his bedroom sleeping and watching TV and he came running out to us saying, “Have a look at this ad on TV”. And I said, “What do you mean?” And he said, “It’s Damien Richardson, my old boss”.

And we had a look at the ad and it kept coming on the TV that morning, and he explained that this was the bloke that he’d worked for for just under 12 months and over that period of time Erin got to the point where he had to resign effectively from an apprenticeship that this bloke had signed up for him, because he just continually wasn’t getting paid.

… and it just gets worse from there.

You can imagine the Liberal staff and PR hacks, head in hands, moaning softly and assuming the foetal position. As Mark Bahnisch on Larvyprod says, just gold.

*Updated title courtesy of the brilliant cheese-fryin’ Shula.

Update 2: It just gets better and better

Mr Richardson’s estranged son, Mr Moore, yesterday backed the complaints of other young workers, saying he had worked for about 11 weeks in his father’s theatre restaurant, Theatre Royale, in Mitcham in 1999. His total pay was just $100.
…In 1979, Mr Richardson split with Mr Moore’s mother, who was then 16, shortly after she had his baby, and there was little or no contact between them after that.
But in 1997 Mr Moore contacted Mr Richardson after seeing him in a television advertisement, and in 1999 he came to Melbourne and began working for him…

4 Aug 2007, Comments Off on Ad Nauseam: Federal Government’s IR ads

Ad Nauseam: Federal Government’s IR ads

Author: Helen

Govt’s IR ad blitz backfiring.” Excellent!

The Howard government’s latest advertising blitz is reportedly reinforcing fears surrounding its Work Choices reforms rather than dispelling them.
…”(It is) educating the public as to the negative realities of the new IR laws rather than myth-busting,” Essential Research has told The Weekend Australian newspaper.

I could have told them that. Actually, I’ve only noticed the one covering young peoples’ working conditions; maybe my TV habits aren’t as disastrous as I thought, or I just take notice because Girlchild is due to hit the part-time workforce at any second now.

This one goes something like (paraphrasing) You think an employer can hire your teenager for a miserable wage, but it’s not true, because the parent is required to co-sign his contract! …or witness it, or something– sorry, can’t find the text or a YouTube, and the Government’s website is unhelpful as well. It doesn’t mention parents other than in relation to their children being in training schemes.

Even the most politically apathetic parent could see the gap there and drive their truck through it. Sure, you can refuse to co-sign your kid’s contract unless the employer offers a higher rate, or better conditions, or whatever. Then the employer will say “Kthxbye: NEXT!”

Let’s not get too gleeful: we’re paying for the campaign, after all. Tim Dunlop and others have more on why this ad campaign should be pulled.
Crossposted at Road to Surfdom

11 Dec 2006, Comments Off on Ad Nauseam: All Connex ads

Ad Nauseam: All Connex ads

Author: Helen

Ads which actually put you off buying the product

This post has been delayed and delayed while I searched the web fruitlessly for images from the last few Connex advertising campaigns. Wouldn’t you know, they’re not to be found. Presumably the expensive advertising company knows having these available anywhere would only encourage blog snark. Well, too bad. Here’s an excerpt from the latest campaign, Don’t Hold Others Back. And here is a picture of the grim reality. (This is actually quite good, compared to some of the peak hour trains I’ve taken.)

Image from the old Public Transport Users Assocn site

When Melbourne’s public transport system was privatised, what did the new owners do to make it more efficient, lean and mean than the old Government service? Besides sacking most of the station staff, that is? Why, they went out and found the slickest, most smartarse advertising company they could. (With a partner who was also the Connex Melbourne chairman). Ah, that’s private efficiency for you. Jobs for the private mates, none of your Government or Union mates. Totally different.

The Sheena Easton “My baby takes the Morning Train” ad was simply tasteless and irritating in the way most ads are, but other Connex ads infuriate all the more because they highlight the very gaps in service on which they should be spending money, instead of on all this spin. There’s one series with gorgeous young things reclining in bed, etcetera, with “we know where you’d rather wait”. For non-melburnians, this means that Connex provides a SMS service so that if your train’s cancelled, you can theoretically spend another ten minutes in bed instead of on the platform in the cold wind with someone who’s forgotten their medication.

This, of course, assumes (wrongly) that Connex can provide SMSs in an accurate and timely fashion- rather like, you know, trains. It also highlights the fact that they cancel trains all the time. What about fixing the actual transport system instead of giving SMS addicts another excuse to obsess over their phones?

Then there’s the series of poster ads, in 70s bulbous typescript, aimed at fare evaders. You know the ones: “Fare evaders! Please thank the person next to you! He has paid for your journey. Maybe you should offer to mow his lawn!…Maybe you should cook them a nice meal!” …

To which the only response when one is straphanging, sardined, bloodshot eyed and ripe for murder on the 8:12: “Get f***ed!” or “Please thank us for putting up with your bloody system. Maybe you should provide a system worth paying for!” (Unfortunately, I’m a wimp, and pay for my ticket.)

But the crowning glory appeared earlier this year, an advertising campaign so expensive, so high in production values, so out there and full of creative juice that noone on the balcony could understand it at all. Even Girlchild and Boychild, usually so good at explaining the modern world to us, could only shake their heads pensively. It was vaguely apparent that it was about Connex, but apart from that the message was far from clear.

Wretched souls, washed in a blue-grey arthouse ambience and dreadfully expensive lighting, struggled through streets and over pavements, literally carrying others, to hysterically tragic music, like some modern day Victor Hugo ripoff. I was bemused. The role of advertising is to portray the product or service in a flattering light, but this seemed like a realistic portrayal of the hellish journey through Footscray “premium” (hah!) station to the fourth circle of Hell City Loop, complete with the wails of the damned. In my abortive attempt to find a jay-peg for this post I came across this description of the soundtrack: “The music for the advertisement, an evocative Stalinist mood-piece entitled No(t) Home, was written especially for the video by Russian born, Tasmanian based singer Zulya Kamalova, a leading proponent of Tatar music in Australia.”

Imagine the fulminations from Bolt and co. if a public company had come out with an ad containing a Stalinist mood-piece. Oh, the irony.

The ads were linked to a website, which probably cost Connex another bucket of our money, but it was impossible to load it until the other day – one of those dratted Flash sites which just kind of sit there and never load. Nevertheless, we eventuallly worked it out: the Don’t Hold Others Back campaign is to inform us that we, the passengers, are the cause of all the trouble. Yes, forget about the cancellation of the 5.11 and the Faulty Train at Flinders Street which the crackling PA is ranting about. It’s YOU, you wretch, you’re thirty seconds late and you’ll make the train wait for you! Which makes us all suffer!

Except, of course that most of it’s bollocks because trains don’t wait, do they? If you’re slow, you just have to catch the next one. If it comes, of course. The primary offender in holding us all back is Connex itself, and this kind of conspicuous consumption just rubs our noses in it.

If Connex could just shut up with the advertising and spin for a year or two and spend the money on improving the system instead, we’d all cheer.