Monday, August 07, 2006

Unfortunate Illustrations

Not really anything to do with matters 're' or even's adventures, but I have to post this from today's Guardian - Cartoon competition.

As a not bad cartoonist, I was already sharpening my HB pencil when I noticed: 'entrants must be under 30 on January 1 2007'.

Ooooo, so close. But then I noticed a significant percentage of the posters below had asked 'why 30?', to which I can only add my voice. It's not like it's a kids' competition. I'm even pretty sure it is ageist and as such possibly now (or at least soon) illegal.

No excuses. This may prove interesting to monitor.

ADDENDUM: Paranoia is knowing they are out to ignore you

I decided to pop back to see what's what a few days later, and as there was no reply or, oddly, further posts (read on) decided to have another go. As this letter to the original poster (and attached screenshot) shows, there seems to have been a glitch preventing futher discussion. I wonder why?

Dear Mr. King

As I have an interest in this issue, I returned to the site today to still find no answer to the postings regarding the age limit, and hence composed the following. Sadly it was not possible to upload (see attached). I'm sure there is a perfectly good reason for this, though the phrase 'Comments not allowed on this entry' is less than enlightening, and does in itself raise a few additional questions.
So I remain interested. Maybe I'll have more luck sending this to you directly:

"A few days have passed, yet I still see no answer to the majority of posters' legitimate questions regarding the age limit.
It may be ageist. It may be legal. It may be demographics. It may be marketing. It may be ethi... well, maybe not. But having asked politely, I'd just like to know the reasoning behind one not being able to enter a non-gender specific creative competition for post-student, working-age UK adults (I can understand the need for kids' versions to have an upper limit) by virtue of being over 30. Is it hoped by staying mute long enough we can all be relied upon to have Alzheimers? Or maybe you too have simply forgotten... to reply? You could of course let such senior citizens enter, and then make sure they don't win if they don't suit the profile. Like every other media competition."

The Plot thickens... well, a reply:

On 9 Aug 2006, at 09:17, wrote:

I dont have any email in my inbox from your email address so I couldnt have
responded. I am forwarding your query and complaint to Ian Mayes the
Guardian reader's editor. I work for Guardian Unlimited - the website and
not the newspaper. I was asked to publicise the competition by colleagues
on the paper which I did. I didnt draw up the rules to the competition and
do not even know who did so Ian is the best person to contact neither drew
up the rules Please contact Ian Mayes the readers editor with your
Oliver King.

And so I stay hopeful, though with eyebrow twitching...

Dear Oliver,

Thank you for your prompt reply.

I do appreciate and sympathise with your position, and apologise if my wording made my comments seem personally directed at 'you'. This was not my intention as I fully appreciated the fact that you were just the guy writing the post to advertise the competition.

I was simply interested in answers. And the blog seemed the best place for these to be forthcoming from those who initiated it (I was not aware of the level of distinction between the paper and website); not necessarily to me personally but to address all with similar questions on the blog.

Hence it was frustrating to find that further comment had seemingly been stopped and there remained no organiser's reply after two days. It is surely only to be expected that following such postings there is monitoring of responses?

Still, we are getting places. I will await feedback from Mr. Mayes.

Yours sincerely,

Peter Martin

You can be too mature, apparently

A follow up and, I guess, an answer at last:

"Ian Katz who drew up the competition said he was looking for undiscovered
cartoonists the paper didn't know about. He also said the age limit is
similar to the student journalism competitions the Guardian regularly runs
which offer short-term work as a prize. It was determined to follow similar
rules in this case."

Whether it is a satisfactory one is another matter, along with my having the righteous energy to pursue further. I could still wonder why undiscovered cartoonists the paper didn't know about 'must' be under 30. Do you become known, especially to them, when you're over that age? And 29 year-old students are a new one to me, too.

Funny how 'ist' the supposed organs of liberty and equality can be when it suits.

Meanwhile, at a supermarket near you...

Just read an interesting story about Wal-Mart (which may translate into ASDA here?) 'going green' in Fortune.

Overall it's encouraging, but again, contradictions abound. I just loved the bit about conservationists pitching to the bosses whilst scuba diving here and hiking there around the world. Nice work if you can get it, but I guess a small price to pay to swing the monolith in tangible green ways. And the CEO has traded his Beetle (!) in for a hybrid... er... SUV. Not sure if that was a step in the right direction or not.

But I think I am most focused on this claim: '[The] argument was simple: Wal-Mart could improve its image, motivate employees, and save money by going green.' Reads like our pitch to ASDA about 3 years ago. This has translated into tangibles: 'On Kid Connection, its private-label line of toys, for instance, Wal-Mart found that by eliminating excessive packaging, it could save $2.4 million a year in shipping costs, 3,800 trees, and one million barrels of oil.'

A lot of the inspirations to have hit these multi-million salaried execs seem a bit 'Well, D'uh', when they are reported as so excitedly coming up with initiatives, but at least they are not (always - there is that bottom line) saying no.

And maybe I have some guys to write to about Can't hurt.

If you have something worth saying, say it!

As I start to look towards ad-land again as a way of keeping the family alive while the machine secures its foothold, I find my Creative Director juices flow when I see certain ads, and view them critically for strategy and message.

And I am starting to feel that the conveying of anything 'green', despite moves in the right direction, is still tending to draw the short straw when it comes to communicating in the same way and to the same effect as other brands.

Take this Lexus execution. It's a 4x4. But it's a hybrid. So it's evil (official). But also gets off the congestion charge (have to check - maybe not, as I'd have to presume they'd mention that for the Chelsea Tractor brigade's benefit). In fact it is a series of contradictions. But at the end of the day it's a dirty great big greenish SUV for those who still want to be up in the sky, lug half a dozen kids, look spiffy and deflect Greenpeace stickers

I'm not sure I get that from the headline. The subhead tells me it's a hybrid. The first line of copy waffles and then goes off into some very vague areas of fact.

As I dust off the porty, I am encouraged. However, much as I'd like to get such guys' ads on, helping shape them still rather requires me to reach them. And that is still proving... tricky.

If you have nothing worth saying...

... issue a leaflet and/or press release anyway (it may be so bad it gets coverage)!

An interesting snippet from the 'Prufrock' business gossip section of the Sunday Times, which is usually more concerned with which 'richer than god' mandarin is outsquandering another, and hence needs to invite the reporter along on their private plane/yacht/country estate to ensure it hits the presses. This one was more modest:

Eco rules for the jet set

I'm presuming that opting not to travel at all is another option they advocated (but I guess if your business is travel, then you may decide that is a step too far. At least sustainable is better than nothing).

But I have to say it does highlight how a lot of organisations are struggling to make the whole eco-thing interesting. While an undoubted good thing, switching the lights off in your resort room is, as pointed out, not exactly cutting edge. Some newsletters we're getting are looking decidedly tired. The non-commercial re-brigade are really scraping the barrel. There really is only so much you can re-hash. Guys like Grist still seem to be keeping things fresh, but the global warming debate is tending to circle now, too. What more can you do? I do still revel in Treehugger's news of innovations, but again there is now a plethora of folk selling eco-stuff.

As we try and get towards our next, second (ouch!) and hopefully vanguard of more regular newsletters, we really must weigh the best regularity (I'm thinking monthly to start, down to a maximum of weekly, perhaps with options of full text or summaries) and content balance. I'm hoping that between ideas, features and of course the odd blog I've penned, we will have enough to stay fresh maintain the interest of our audience.