Is it possible to invent a meaningful food culture for a place that doesn’t have one? Radio presenter and food consultant Simon Preston has based his BBC Radio 4 series “The Town is the Menu” on this very question. In the five-episode run, Preston travels to small markets across the UK, where generations have abandoned eel, renounced mutton, given up kippers in favour of egg and chips, beef burgers, even sushi.
In Barnard Castle, a town in Teesdale, in England’s north, Preston interviewed local historians, antiquiers and chefs about the area’s natural assets – the biggest juniper forest in England, for instance. Then they collaborated on a meal that the most famous native, Richard III, might have dined on: venison and pheasant with juniper berries; potato mash with wild garlic; and wild boar sausage with local honey (though the boar was impossible to source, so they substituted pork).
Will it stick, this idea of eating not just locally but patriotically? Or are we all doomed to be taken over by Big Food?
In Canada, the “regional cuisine” trend has come and gone – and come again. In the 1980s, proper dining rooms in genteel communities touted Atlantic salmon, Alberta beef, Ontario lamb and quixotic sides like fiddleheads and, yes, juniper berries. Those rooms did not age especially well and some faded away, leaving Tex Mex, Japanese and Ethiopian to serve the yuppies.
With the newly branded “hipsters” ruling the restaurant scene, peameal-bacon sliders and elk steaks have suddenly risen to the top of the menu. A year ago, Mark Pupo, food editor of Toronto Life magazine, heralded a “new Canadian” cuisine imagined by a cohort of chefs “devoted to Canadian ingredients like spruce tips, red fife wheat, lake trout, small-batch birch syrup and wild leeks”. Their hero, he claims, is the Danish chef René Redzepi of the renowned Copenhagen restaurant Noma, itself famous for reviving northern European cuisine.
“The story behind our dinner plate,” says Pupo, “is loaded with philosophical import.”
But whose benefit is this for? Is it for us, or the tourists?
In the book City Branding, Richard Tellström warns that tourists, often armed with dubious research, seek out food experiences that match their romanticised perception of the region. And restaurants deliver, regardless of the truth behind the ideal. “A restaurant in Sweden which is located in a traditional northern farming district is often visited by guests who consider this part of Sweden to be arctic and alpine, and therefore accept reindeer as local meat, which historically it has not been,” Tellström writes. “However the restaurant does not argue… and instead offers a variety of reindeer dishes on the menu.”
But what of authenticity? It is noble in theory and gratifying in practice, but it can also be wildly impractical. In the US, where farm-to-table, organic markets and the “locavore” movement have all taken hold, it is increasingly controversial to eat foreign. And yet, as much as eating regional decreases dependence on imported produce and oil, reduces threat of contamination, et cetera, research suggests that food shipped between continents by sea have less effect on the environment than food transported between cities by van. Furthermore, write Pamela Goyan Kittler and Kathryn Sucher in the book Food and Culture, “Goods shipped in very large trucks produce less damage to the environment than those brought to market by dozens of smaller trucks.”
Not to mention the damage to your purse. Would the folks of Barnard Castle be able to afford venison and pheasant with juniper berries as a rule, when the game is sold by a local farmer at several times the price of their imported lamb mince?
If you had to create a defining dish for the town you live in, what would it look like? Could it catch on? And would it make sense to anyone besides an elite few?]]>
One woman’s personal exploration into global perceptions of beauty was doing the rounds on social media last week. Ester Honig, a freelance American journalist, sent an image of herself to graphic designers in 25 different countries, with a simple brief: “make me beautiful”. The outcome of the creative translation experiment is an intriguing series of before and after photographs, documenting the designers’ digital permutations. Localisations of beauty differed vastly, with some even altering eye colour and skin tone.
Behind the News:
The cosmopolitan images highlight that beauty is indeed in the eye of the beholder, although local market and cultural influences are undeniable – an important reality for any multimarket brand that chooses to translate its advertising. A Philippines entry dressed Honig in smart clothes and added a colourful background, but made minimal changes to her face and hair. Bulgaria gave her blue eyes; India took away her collarbones and gave her a darker complexion and thicker eyebrows. The Moroccan adaptation put Honig in a hijab and gave her smoky eye make-up.
The media tends to represent an aspirational ideal of beauty; a kind of perfection that is elusive, and something to strive for. Honig’s project highlights that there is no universal standard for the beauty ideal, suggesting that advertising agencies developing international beauty campaigns will be more successful to consider not only transcreation of copy to local tastes but also the cultural relevance of visuals. In an interview with InStyle Magazine, Honig says: “when we compare unobtainable standards on a global scale, achieving the ideal remains all that more elusive. It almost neutralizes the belief in a universal beauty.”
The iconic Dove’s Campaign for Real Beauty was built around this very notion: the campaign features ordinary women of all shapes, sizes and ethnic backgrounds, representing beauty in all its forms. Truly innovative when it was launched, the campaign challenged beauty stereotypes and is today still one of the only cosmetics brands questioning the definition of female beauty. Instead of espousing an unattainable ideal, the Campaign for Real Beauty reflects reality – a beauty which is personal, subjective and diverse.
Like the Dove campaign, the “make me beautiful” project is an artful reminder that there is no one-size-fits-all: what’s desirable to some could be off-putting to others. It all depends on who you talk to, where they come from and what core brand values you want to convey to local customers.]]>
The film adaptation of Reif Larson’s 2009 novel, The Selected Works of TS Spivet, was released in cinemas on Friday, 13 June. This is somewhat remarkable, considering that the book was initially deemed “unfilmable”. In a recent interview in the Guardian, Larson explains that, despite a flurry of initial interest from Hollywood agents, the book was too challenging to adapt for cinema. So when he unexpectedly received an e-mail from the filmmaker Jean-Pierre Jeunet (of Amélie fame), he was astonished. Jeunet wrote that he was “smitten” with the novel and wanted to make the film. Thus began the intricate process of translating the novel; by rearranging sequences, adapting characters and re-ordering scenes, Jeunet deconstructed the book piece-by-piece to re-create the story.
Behind the news
Adapting a novel to film is a bit like transcreating an advertisement into a foreign language: it needs to be re-crafted with a different mindset. For a film, it is not enough to simply lift dialogue from the novel and drop it into a script – such literal translation merely results in a dramatisation of the book. In a novel, narrative is used to convey characters’ thoughts and feelings; in a film, the challenge is to translate the interior of a novel into scenes using visual tools and cinematic techniques – acting, lighting, photography, soundtrack, etc. – this is the language of film. Books can tell, but films have to show.
Beyond translating the book into the language of film, there needs to be artistic synergy between the book author and film director. In the interview, Larson speaks of his admiration for Jeunet and “having the distinct sensation that somehow this director had crawled inside [his] head”. He later says that “Jeunet’s way of seeing was embedded into the DNA of Spivet”. Thus, it is no coincidence that Jeunet approached Larson: the two were able to relate to each other artistically, drawn together by a sense of familiarity “bound not by blood but by aesthetic sensibility”.
In order for a film to retain the original meaning of the book, it must capture the essence and spirit of the story. This is echoed in Larson’s sentiment that he wanted Jeunet to “look beyond the bounds of the text to get at the ‘essential spirit’ of [his] book”. Recognising that books and films are two distinct forms of storytelling, Larson wanted the director to be faithful to his work, but ultimately to create a new story, not just reproduce the original in a different medium.
Whether Jeunet achieved this is up to the readers and viewers to decide. From Larson’s part, he felt “a sense of familiarity” but also some detachment while watching the film, realising that the story was no longer his alone.]]>
For the next month, football fans around the world will be united in World Cup fervour, a collective frenzy ranging from pure elation to inconsolable rage and quiet disappointment. International events such as the World Cup present the perfect opportunity for global brands to appeal to customers in their local market based around one global concept. Which is exactly what Coca-Cola has done with its anthem “the World is Ours”.
The song is the anchor for Coca-Cola’s World Cup campaign – the brand’s largest campaign ever, covering 85% of its markets (175 out of 207 local markets). The brand chose David Correy, a Brazilian-American X-Factor contestant, to perform the main song. Coca-Cola has adapted the song for local markets, working with local artists and translators to create 32 country-specific versions.
Behind the News
In today’s globalised world, culture, brand and identity are becoming increasingly homogenous: from Maputo to New York iconic brands such as Coca-Cola are instantly recognisable; football fans are equally as excited about the World Cup in Lima as they are in Amsterdam. It’s everybody’s drink, everybody’s game. Everybody’s world. This is the lynchpin of Coca-Cola’s World Cup campaign – the idea of a shared global culture.
At the same time, there is a counter-trend towards localisation. National identity still counts, local customs are important and language matters. Localised campaigns encourage greater brand interaction and engagement, as they are given relevance and meaning. Customers can better relate to a campaign if the theme song is in their own language, the humour resonates with theirs and local nuances are accounted for. A localisation campaign is successful when customers feel a true connection with the brand.
Through its World Cup campaign, Coca-Cola is attempting to do exactly that. The “World is Ours” is hinged on an overarching idea of a shared global identity, embodied by the World Cup: thirty two teams gather together from everywhere to play one game, and follow one set of rules. Yet each of those teams is unique and different. It’s a global strategy focusing on local identity.
Coca-cola has not just directly transplanted the campaign to local markets; by using local artists, trans-creation and interpretation, the brand has lent authenticity to the campaign through cultural adaptation.]]>
We believe global advertising has the power not only to drive a brand’s results, but also to do some good. That’s why for the 6th consecutive year the Textappeal team is proud to support ACT Responsible at the Cannes Lions International Festival of Creativity.
On Wednesday 18th June at the Palais des Festivals in Cannes, ACT Responsible will launch its annual exhibition of the best creative work for sustainable causes. It’s an amazing, inspiring and sometimes shocking experience! Come and visit Hall Riviera - beachside entrance.
All the translations of creative work were provided by Textappeal.
* ACT Responsible is a Swiss-based not-for-profit organisation created in 2001. ACT stands for Advertising Community Together. Their mission is to federate the international advertising communications industry around social responsibility and sustainable development and share good practices. Contact ACT Responsible]]>
The news was only one rivulet in a stream of concerned rumour winding out of the isolationist Communist state, where reports of disappearances, poverty, summary executions and starvation form a complimentary backdrop to the Kim dynasty’s cult of personality.
For the outside world, most of these atrocities are symbolised by an overwhelming wave of moss-green nylon, gold medals and red stars, the uniform of the North Korea People’s Army and the epitome of the iron fastness that the country’s rulers lock around their own subjects.
However, Elle Magazine has seen something of worth in the iconic attire, featuring it in a recent online piece as ‘North Korea Chic’. The magazine informed its readers that “some iteration of the military trend stomps the runways every few seasons. This time, it’s edgier, even dangerous, with sharp buckles and clasps and take-no-prisoners tailoring.” The piece included the image of a single gold stiletto poised next to a North Korean soldier at attention.
The piece has prompted outcry from journalists and human-rights groups, who believe that the pieces trivialise the current abuses of the North Korean military complex, as well as having little respect for the people suffering under such a regime. The magazine apologised quickly and replaced the spread with a ‘Naval’ shoot, retaining the majuscule ‘N’, though not before drawing attention to the long, concomitant relationship between the military and the fashion world.
Elle is not incorrect in their point; tropes of military uniform such as gold buttons, braiding, epaulettes and camouflage continually resurface in the industry’s undulating tastes, and the importance of aesthetic impression to commanding respect and power has never been lost on the canniest designers; for instance Valentin Yudashkin designed new kit for the Russian Army only a few years ago.
However, the issue here seems to be the perceived lack of cross-cultural awareness that the magazine is exhibiting, and an absence of empathy for the ordinary people of North Korea, especially in light of recent revelations about the extent of the regime’s crimes, including the imprisonment of children in torture camps, and the execution of twelve high-profile performers for a variety of offences, including the possession of a bible.
More than most types of Advertising in Fashion, have long employed imagery that has been considered insensitive or controversial; Vogue magazine was once criticised for a shoot involving extremely expensive pieces of jewellery and clothing modelled on some of the poorest people in India, prompting accusations that the magazine was treating this demographic as little more than objects.
These publications exist at a fascinating cross-section of art and commerce, one in which a strong aesthetic ideal, perhaps considered very beautiful and thought-provoking, is paired with a strong sense of commercialism and a competitive need to sell seasonal styles.
The immediate withdrawal and apology by Elle showed a willingness to accept that a mistake had been made, and that the crossed line is now clearly marked.]]>
It is impossible to do justice to her radical views here. A rapid-fire array of topics included:
- the uselessness of innovation without active, disruptive redesign of global business or… “blowing up sh*t”
- “mad men and maths men” working as one, combining big data technology with age-old irrational human impulses
- the battle for talent in advertising
- the “commoditising” of creativity
- the consequences of global porn viewership, starting on average at age 6 to 8 and acting as default sex education
- the dominance of women in consumer purchasing decisions, and dangerous lack of influence in business decisions
- the future of money, from traditional banks to bitcoin and google… and how this may be on the verge of radically transforming all current business models and marketing.
To watch Cindy in action in the public arena, see http://www.theguardian.com/media-network/video/2012/nov/02/advertising-business-cindy-gallop]]>
An Elephant in the Room
Could it be that even Sir Martin Sorrell was a little shocked by the deca-billion consolidation of the ad industry? As Adage reported, August 27th at WPP’s half-year earnings conference he displayed a chart that naughtily painted the result of the future Publicis-Omnicom Group in a “sludgy brown colour” (his words).
He explained this is what you get when you mix the purple and orange corporate tints of the new Franco-American couple. He name-called it “POG”, and wished Maurice and John’s marriage trouble with regulatory approval.
Like a Che Guevara battling murky monopolies, comrade Sorrell defended the so-called collaborative “agency team” unite dogma for all. An anomaly designed years ago to help HSBC bank bring global order to the marketing of a disparate multi-local financial services group built by acquisition, now generalised into a single client-catch-all. Like a Richard Branson rebelliously standing up for customer rights and delights, he astonishingly dismissed scale in global creative services as a bad thing!
WPP is nothing if not a consolidated top-down empire. The performance was a smart, funny, cynical piece of propaganda to differentiate what in effect are monopolies jointly cornering over 70% of world client spend.
Jaded perhaps but not blind (clients have gone through their own ruthless series of consolidation and restructuring), the industry knows the next round, if it happens, could push the needle into the 90s.
The elephant in the room Mr. Sorrell deliberately ignored is the only one of real significance to brand owners and that is ‘the death of choice’.
The same day, the usually behind-closed-doors World Federation of Advertisers (WFA) publicly expressed “concern”. Its Managing Director Stephen Lorke shared the fear of the world’s largest brand owners that: “consolidation in the advertising market can (…) lead to a reduction in competition and transparency for our members.”
On the announcement of the deal the previous month, the share price of all holding groups had risen simultaneously (in different proportions due to the expectation of some shifting of accounts). As financial analysts know, with less choice, it is unlikely clients will get more bang for their buck.
Or to put it graphically: if you’re the nth client of a group that towers higher than the 209 levels of the Burj Kalifa in Dubai, lost on one of its service lifts somewhere between 29th and 30th floor, what do you do? You may be tempted to look for another, slightly less towering alternative, a little more fine-tuned to your unique multi-market brand challenges and opportunities. If there is one left.
The good news is exaggerated consolidation creates a void and corresponding appetite for choice, which can lead to great competitive innovation.
By 1959, the rise of standardised mass production ice-cream factories had decimated the traditional business. A resourceful Brooklyn maker by the name of Ruben Mattus saw the opportunity to delight customers with a radically premium choice, and marketed 3 flavours of Häagen-Dazs (inventing modern “foreign branding” in the same go!). Today, together with Ben & Jerry’s, it is the leading international brand in its category. Ruben Mattus made a small fortune, and the world of desserts is a better place.
Facing a seemingly immovable global carbonated beverages duopoly, the Austrian and Thai founders of Red Bull pulled off a hat trick at least as remarkable. In 29 years, despite all their financial and manufacturing might, the historic giants seem unable to crack…and the list goes on.
As a self-made entrepreneur in global marketing, I am not interested in considering mass consolidation of the ad industry as a good or bad thing.
I see it as a once in a lifetime opportunity for the most ambitious, solutions driven independent partners.
While Mr. Sorrell, Mr. Levy (CEO Publicis) and Mr. Wren (CEO Omnicom), not to mention faceless Business Process Outsourcing groups such as William Lea (owned by a utility, the German Post Office) are busy cajoling investors, locking clients into “creative services advertising production factories”, feeding the beast while cannibalising themselves, brand owners are seriously questioning how to shop different.
Unease is spreading at the perceived devil’s trade-off between “one-size-fits-all-averaged-out-good-enough” global marketing, in return for handing over the lion’s share of one’s business on the sole premises of cost, control and size.
Some may realise at their expense that mass manufacturing “efficiencies” can turn out to be illusory once the contract is signed: the price war is over, and an array of extra specialist services and amendment charges rack up alarming bills.
Others might sense their challenges are forced to fit pre-manufactured solutions, or that beyond the honeymoon, being a client is not so different from being a number on a spreadsheet.
The growing suspicion that one’s local market activity could produce better return, if solutions were specially designed to fit very specific differing strategic and organisational challenges, may be a legitimate one.
After all, if you are a Marketing Director (or agency), it is unlikely you’ll get a bonus for how much you cut the budget or exercise cost control (the case may be different for a Procurement Officer).
But it’s not impossible you will get a promotion / raise / performance bonus for helping to increase overall profit, thanks to more effective international messaging and greater local market impact. At the very least, you’ll look good.
That is why I believe privately-owned groups which deliver a global effectiveness premium will win. The winners will not be everything to everybody, but the best at what they do. The most attentive and agile players will thrive, using technology as a leveller and talent as a differentiator. They will be sought after by brands and agencies that demand more effectiveness, transparency and choice.
With one caveat. Winners will need to demonstrate the prerequisite global track record, efficiencies and scale that allow substantial multi-market clients make a secure, trustworthy choice. Nobody wants to lose their job.
The writing is on the wall. Unless they find a way to grow significantly, small lifestyle cottage industry type suppliers will be marginalised or die, condemned to scavenge the dwindling scraps of globalised business.
Like it or not, in the end the bold deal Mr. Levy and Mr. Wren have done is inspiring. By putting aside their rivalry and not going it alone, for better or worse (only time will tell), they will game change the business.
There is no rational reason for game changing joining of forces not to happen at the independent level. It’s simple market logic. Combine the best, most effective global creative services with enough scale to allow the most demanding global brand owner to choose. Set a strategic direction and throw in a “nothing is impossible, we try harder” attitude. It might not dislodge the factories, but could give them a run for their money, spark some great innovation, open choice – and let an exclusive club of first class clients experience a little love.
My independent company Textappeal has made such a step by joining with an outstanding, underestimated privately-owned firm ten times larger, called Loveurope.
We did it to give our international clients more premium international services under one roof. We did it because we felt the time and fit was right. We did it because we recognised that very ambition in our new colleagues. We did it because we see this as once in a blue moon white space, and intend to fill it.
Perhaps, if the stars align, our butterfly flap of the wings will trigger a tempest of future iteration in our industry’s saga. We’ll see. In the meantime, relax and enjoy the show.
By Elliot Polak, founder and chief executive, Textappeal
Click here for M&M Global blog post]]>
Achtung! Of the 5,000 new words that feature in the latest edition of the German equivalent of the OED – the Duden – one has raised a few more eyebrows than the rest. It’s an Anglicism, or a loan word from the English language, that has gained intriguing popularity in the German-speaking world, even appearing on the lips of Chancellor Angela Merkel. The word is Shitstorm, and means in German roughly what it means in English.
This last point is one worth making, because the German language has a longstanding tradition of borrowing words from English and distorting their meaning ever so slightly, giving them a new life of their own in English. Pseudo-anglicisms have become engrained, the unwitting German speakers largely unaware that the words have not travelled well: that in English a Streetworker is not an outreach worker, and that asking for a Handy is likely to get you a slap rather than a mobile phone.
France is traditionally much more protective over its language, with the much-vaunted Académie française dictating what should and should not be said. Or at least attempting to dictate… In this technological age it has made some admirable attempts to resist the (new) lingua franca by introducing such terms as courriel – a clever way of combining “courrier” (mail) and “électronique” – and mèl as substitutes for the English “email”. But few of their attempts to safeguard their linguistic shores against English invasion have been successful, and some of them have invited ridicule, as with this recent #hashtagdebacle. And reading virtually any French popular culture or fashion publication is enough to show that the prescriptivists are increasingly fighting a losing battle.
Japanese is a language from further afield that is a big borrower, not just from English but from other tongues too: sarariman – a salaried office/white collar worker – from “salary” + “man”; sekuhara, from “sex(ual) hara(ssment)”; abekku – or “romantic couple” – deriving from avec (“with”) in French; or igirisu, meaning England, from “ingles” in Portuguese, one of the many Japanese words that evidence the countries’ shared history.
It’s no secret that the English language is prone to pinching words at will, now more than ever deserving of its reputation as the “bastard tongue”. There is not enough space even to make a start in this blog, but suffice to say that our vocabulary reflects our rich and varied history in terms of trade, colonisation, cuisine, immigration and much more besides.
Any bastard favourites that you can think of from home or abroad? Let us know in the comments section or via Twitter or Facebook!]]>