What I’ve been up to, week ending 2010-08-15

  • Good: fun stag (buck/whatever pre-venison term you like) party. Bad: more than a week of no @chrissiem. She's officially addictive. #
  • Actually, I'm not that up for partying. Maybe a cup of tea and a book? #thingsAndrewWKwouldneversay #
  • Note to self: #mlf is the Melbourne Literary Festival and has no affiliation with #milf #
  • Just passed the world's longest (former) rail platform; now travelling on the world's oldest proper railway. #whereami? #
  • Idiot driver. But more importantly, 'D'Marion'? RT @msgracefh RT @MENnewsdesk: Breastfeeding mum is ordered off bus. http://ow.ly/18wlDj #
  • I'm using 'proper' to mean 'passengers & freight between towns' – pit lines don't count… #
  • Now at the site of the first recorded fatal passenger train accident… #
  • Twitteratifail! Manchester to Liverpool, via Newton le Willows, where the first train on the line in 1830 ran over the local MP… #
  • Longest platform is the one that ran between Man Victoria and Man Exchange stns. Insert 'man exchange' joke here. #
  • RT @minifig: RT @mattuk: How many SEO specialists does it take to change a lightbulb light bulb light-bulb? #
  • Now on the Isle of Man ferry. It's grey and the sea's rough. This could be the best 3 hours of my life. #not #
  • My boat's called the Mananan. This may be because there are only 3 letters in the Man alphabet… #
  • Chap opposite me is from the Falklands. Clearly he has some kind of weird affinity toward cold, remote, British-ish islands… #
  • RT @TheFagCasanova: Apparently at his time of death, Jean-Paul Sartre was working on a children's book called 'Why's Wally?' #
  • Ferry leaving the Mersey now, leading to an unwanted remembering of Gerry & Pacemakers… #
  • Purser is very Scouse. The fillim today is "wharr the wailed things arrrr", apparently. #
  • I was wrong; we're *now* leaving the Mersey. #bouncybouncy #
  • Assuming T-NoSignal will fail shortly. At sea, hurrah! Doesn't seem as rough as feared; there are even signs of sunshine… #
  • RT @duckorange: Rupert Murdoch to sue Murdock from the A-Team over a crime he didn't commit #
  • RT @WiredUK: EMI reveals (yet again) why numbskull-run music labels really do deserve to be left to their slow, unlame… http://is.gd/ecSzP #
  • On the isle of man. Oddly, foot passengers forced to wait on boat and listen to bad r&b for ages while cars disembark – outrage! #
  • On a steam train. Hurrah! I didn't even choose or know about this one… #
  • RT @thejimsmith: I just ate a venison sandwich. Can only top with with a swan omelette. #
  • RT @each1teach1: Building a mosque at Ground Zero isn't insensitive to victims of 9/11 … but threatening to bomb it *is*. Do you see? #
  • On BE163 to the glorious holiday paradise of Luton. Hurrah! #
  • Trekking from NW London to SW London is taking even longer than normal, thanks to #tubefail. Currently on a bus c.nowhere (Cricklewood Ln) #
  • Approaching office where I used to work several jobs ago. It's still above a strip club. Whole building appears to be empty & to let. #
  • Evening timing FAIL. No matter how much you love all the ppl involved, never schedule more than 2 events for the same night. #
  • What a beautiful wedding. #mustnotmakePanicAtTheDiscoreferences #
  • My girlfriend and I are not entirely the same: RT @chrissiem Morning already. Who switched the sun on? As usual, I don't have a hangover. #

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What I’ve been up to, week ending 2010-08-08

  • Slept for 12 hours. Now feel very nearly human. Who wants to come to the pub tonight? #
  • Odd that Gillard is ahead by 15pts on 'preferred PM', but Libs/Lab neck & neck on voting intentions. Scope for Lab to pull back? #ausvotes #
  • This Daily Mash anti-BBC piece might work if a) Rover 200s were awesome b) all other cars available anywhere were shit: http://bit.ly/9BWMSB #
  • Fucking hell, I've only been gone 2 days and #AustraliaWantsJBback is already trending :-) #
  • Don't worry, #AustraliaWantsJBback types – back on Aug 20. You can meet me at the airport if you like. Especially if you give me a lift home #
  • Did Tony Abbott *really* just quote Eminem? #ausvotes #boggle #
  • Walking down Albert Embankment. Is pretty. Anyone know of a Twitpic or similar uploader for Symbian/Nokia? #
  • RT @qwghlm: RT @edent: you know how to find your Estate Agent name, don't you? Take your full name, then add "is a cunt" #
  • Quite impressed. Friend's 3yo just picked up a copy of Universal Soldier in the library and said "this is a bad film". CORRECT. #
  • At the Carpenters Arms on Whitfield St W1. Why not join me? #
  • None Of It's Coming Back To Me Ever #oppositesongs #
  • I miss @chrissiem :-( #
  • Days In Black Sackcloth #oppositesongs #
  • There Are Many Possible Ways Of Life, But None Of Them Are Unique To You #oppositesongs #
  • Finally am on a real computer and not a mobile – have dealt with a week's worth of backed-up half-read unsorted email, yay! #
  • A fine piece from @angryyoungalex on the 'harm' done by illegal immigration: http://bit.ly/b1FH3Q (spoiler: 'none, you stupid bigot') #
  • Better to bribe Catholics w/stupid baubles vs abortion bans, but still LAME RT @abcnews Gillard pledges $1.5m for M MacKillop's canonisation #
  • Phil Collins: No Ahmedinejad Required #dictatorsongs #welldictatoralbumsreally #
  • Alabama 3 – Mao Tse Tung Said #dictatorsongs #missingthepoint #
  • Struggling to work out why it matters at all whether LFC is owned by some Americans rather than a Chinese investment fund – anyone? #
  • There's a case for 'all football clubs should be fan-owned mutuals', but if you accept private ownership, why worry about the nationality? #
  • Amin the Mahmoud for Dancing, surely? #dictatorsongs @duncanstott #
  • "Papa Doc's got a brand new Bagaza", surely? @dontgetfooled #dictatorsongs #
  • Wow, the East London Line is awesome. Like a train from the future or some crazy Asian city. Then you end up in Dalston, which isn't. #
  • Dalston escaped, in another magical future train. Quite impressed all the tracks for Highbury ELL extension seem to be in place… #
  • Made me think of #ausvotes RT @quotestanhope: Everybody's angry. They've got nothing to be angry at, so they're angry about nothing. #

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What I’ve been up to, week ending 2010-08-01

  • RT @madeupstats: 2 out of 3 fugitive Serbian warlords is now a social media consultant. #
  • Good morning Melbourne. In posh hotel with lovely @chrissiem: yay. She has to spend day at conference and I have to spend day writing: boo! #
  • Although both parties are a bit lacking on the humane-to-refugees front, not having another debate is a humane-to-Australians win #ausvotes #
  • Crowdsourcing: should I subscribe to Crikey, now my trial's almost over? It's awesome, but it's also $150. And I disapprove of paywalls…. #
  • Down to only 4 'action required' messages in my inbox. Efficiency WOO! And yes, of course I'm putting off real work, how did you guess? #
  • Went up a tower. It was tall. #Vodafail and #Virginfail prevented me from tweeting about it at the time… #
  • Missing @stephenfry right now, but Avalon "airport"'s "bar" almost makes up for it… @chrissiem's presence definitely helps. #
  • Grolsch for $10 per 6-pack at BWS (with Woolworth's card) is a good deal. Shame I don't live anywhere near a BWS… #
  • MP for Penrith (UK) fails hard : http://bit.ly/cao0nS – is there something about place name that makes politicians even worse than normal? #
  • Unsurprisingly, I was right about the Brandweek piece on Old Spice being cobblers: month-on-month sales are up 100% http://bit.ly/bvtXPI #
  • Pleased to see @roooney83 in the Crikey mailout for busting a racist Lib candidate. Good work fella. In other news, yes I'm gonna subscribe. #
  • Dear Heinz. Tins of chicken with chicken legs, dancing to the Birdie Song, is very creepy, and not at all likely to make me want chicken. #
  • Making details of everywhere you go available in realtime to anyone who wants to look you up might not be good: http://bit.ly/bUMYXR #shock #
  • Why you should never rely on proprietary externally hosted software to store things you care about: http://bit.ly/bNnnG #obvious #
  • Correct link for "not relying on proprietary software" tweet. Yes, I relish the irony: http://bit.ly/cAE1J9 (cheers @preachypreach) #
  • Fact for day: the average BP employee gets paid US$120,000 a year. That makes Tony Hayward's salary seem quite moderate, really… #
  • When I worked as an attendant for Shell, I was employed by Shell directly on a permanent contract – wld be amazed if either occurred now #
  • Things the UK does well: TV, movies. Things the UK government wants to abolish: the BBC, the UK Film Council #rightwing=stupid #
  • RT @wolfcat: randomrant: So you’re not going to vote Labor because of #nocleanfeed… http://bit.ly/aoahch #ausvotes #
  • No fan of UK govt, but seeing a western leader both slating Israel for Gaza policy and backing India over Pakistan is distinctly welcome. #
  • Twee but amusant: RT @mpesce: The best of #wookieleakshttp://tinyurl.com/26tk43z #
  • I has subscribed to Crikey. First online content I've ever paid (my own money) for. It was the @firstdogonmoon playing cards that sealed it! #
  • A letter from a real estate agent to "the owner" explaining how much property prices have risen in my district #thingsmylandlordwillneversee #
  • The Facebook 'breach' is an epic non-story: http://bit.ly/c0edU1 – publicly available information made, erm, available to the public. #
  • I'm now checked into CX162 to Hong Kong. The trip's finally starting to feel real. In other news, I'm now officially an Australian business! #
  • The only thing that can kill an IKEA glass is another IKEA glass. Proven by experiment. #terrifyingScandewegianvoodoo #
  • Dianetics. Just, fucking dianetics. #selfhelpfail #
  • I actually love this pic too – RT @ChrissieM: Myself and @johnb78 outside the MCG on the weekend. http://bit.ly/dn1UDf *squee!* #
  • I genuinely rate the UK's film-making talent and would suggest that only the US has a better movie record #filmconfessions #
  • I like this article. The whole point about the UK is *we're not Catholic*, so why're we feting that sick cult's leader? http://bit.ly/9F8CKO #
  • The, erm, 20th-ish plane out of Sydney's almost gone, and in only 10 hours I'll be landing in Hong Kong #barneseylied #
  • Hooray, am in the UK, *and* Twitter's working now. Mild #branefale from flight; not so much jetlag as '42 hours without bed'… #

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Arrest this vile pervert now!

I’m sure you remember Canadian freak-show queen Celine Dion, and her domination of the 1990s power ballad world. And you most likely remember her utterly ridiculous, pomp-musical-rock-tastic career pinnacle, It’s All Coming Back To Me Now:

It’s only just occurred to me, however, that a couple of lines from this song suggest deeply disturbing things about Ms Dion’s past [*]:

There were nights of endless pleasure
It was more than any laws allow

At the time the song came out, heterosexual anal sex had only just been legalised in the UK, so there was much ‘fnarr’-ing among the teenage boy community at this information.

On reflection, our speculations were altogether too tame. Ms Dion isn’t simply claiming that there were nights of endless pleasure that were banned by the laws of any specific jurisdiction – she’s claiming that whatever activities she engaged in were considered illegal by every single code of laws in force in the world at the time she first performed the song.

Anything that was legal in Germany at the time is ruled out, meaning that the activities referred to can’t solely concern consenting adults (unless they involved bodily injury leading to a concrete danger of death). Since bestiality was legal in the state of Washington at the time, that’s out too.

The only laws regulating sexual conduct that exist universally across all societies with codes of laws (much as they may not be applied consistently) are those prohibiting non-consensual sexual activity [**], sex with minors [**], and the consensual infliction of death or severe life-threatening injury.

So therefore, Ms Dion is admitting that the sexual ecstasy she found with her departed-and-possibly-returning partner was either rapey, paedophilic or murderous. Is this really the sort of behaviour we want celebrated in song?

[*] the song, of course, is written by Jim Steinman. I’m assuming in the absence of evidence to the contrary that it’s ghost-written for Ms Dion. Even if not, Ms Dion clearly identifies with and makes no attempt to criticise or distance herself from the character Mr Steinman has created.

[**] at least outside of marriage and subject to certain definitions.

What I’ve been up to, week ending 2010-07-25

  • "the one genuine example of 'political correctness' is the one that stops us from saying 'racist' to describe racism" http://bit.ly/dnL8mD #
  • Yet another entry in the LONG 'reasons to loathe and despise #Singapore' file: http://bit.ly/aORW6Z #
  • Metrics on Times paywall experiment: http://bit.ly/blw5gi – in short, web paywall FAIL, iPad paid app WIN. Or "the Guardian was right" #
  • Crystal-ball-extrapolating: written news articles & blog content to remain free; ever-swishier paid apps to be created… #
  • Great piece from Gary Younge on #torycuts. Irrespective of your ideology, it's simply correct: http://bit.ly/a0GrvG #
  • You can legitimately say "I want less redistribution of wealth and a smaller state", but not "we have to shrink the state", cos it's a lie #
  • Oh, and that one was via @chickyog (bloody 140 limits, etc) #
  • #EDL are the racist ones and #EDF are the nucular ones #mentalnotes #
  • Motorola gives up: http://bit.ly/97e19R #
  • It's weird, normally it's British co's that invent a thing, don't do anything with it, and then other people win at it… #
  • OK, tweeters – anyone (even People With Very Real Concerns About Migration) want to make the case for this? http://dlvr.it/2nRqc #
  • A good Lord these days is hard to find: http://bit.ly/9xUkVv (via @copyrightgirl) #
  • Insane Europhobic myths' Tom Lehrer moment: http://bit.ly/a34ju1 @nosemonkey @jonworth #
  • RT @simontkey: A man is looking for the word that's in between contemporary & context in the dictionary. I have nothing but contempt for him #
  • When my brane isn't busted w/financial advisor and health food data (freelance grr), I'll write a real article on online media economics #
  • I'm #proudofthebbc because, really, FFS – it's aces, and anyone who's ever spent time outside of the UK couldn't fail to notice this #
  • Odd article: http://bit.ly/cHhTBU – apparently BP should compensate people for loss of earnings *whilst also paying their wages* – eh? #
  • I wish people wouldn't eat parmesan-based foodstuffs in the office #smellslikepuke #
  • American tech writers still really don't have a clue about cellular wireless communications, do they? – http://bit.ly/c5Nyu9 #
  • phil_q I reckon 15 smaller than AU, rest bigger (haven't looked it up, but only ones I'm not sure are CA and NL – *think* they're smaller) #
  • A whale of fhale? Is there something noteworthy occurring? Surely everyone in the populated, Anglophone world's still in bed…? #
  • I absolutely 100% salute @cardiffairport's decision to ban sproglets under 10 from their lounge, much as it upset Mrs @alandavies1 #
  • If there was an airline that banned young kids, I'd fly with them every bloody time. Constant screaming = not something of which I'm a fan. #
  • It ought to be illegal *not* to point out that #Scientology is an evil, sinister, stupid, fraudulent cult: http://bit.ly/cLJbK5 #disgrace #
  • One day, we'll all fall over midgets. http://twitpic.com/26y0eg #
  • Advert on my bus says "you can beat alcohol". This is lies: you can't beat alcohol… #
  • On the bus. Not at the trivia. This makes me a grumpy John. #
  • OK, so irony just won: a license to print money isn't, in fact, a license to print money: http://bit.ly/bDvebZ #
  • Dear Mark Thompson: can you fix it so that for only gbp146 a year, foreign residents can get all BBC channels on t'Internet? #proudofthebbc #
  • As a leftie but also an economist: Ireland's debt's been downgraded because rating agencies are concerned about the breakup of the euro #
  • …due to previously not (as) expected Spanish and Greek fails. Not due to the Irish budget cuts. #
  • The UK budget cuts are stoopid, but anyone who cites bond ratings or yields as a reason for or against them is an eejit. #
  • IKEA just won the "wine glass propelled off 1m high desk to floor without smashing" game. IKEA is better than any expensive suppliers… #
  • Bed. Enjoy everything, everyone. Don't say I didn't tell you so. #
  • Good piece from @felixsalmon on wine-snobbery vs wine fun: http://www.reuters.com/article/idUSTRE66J12X20100720 #
  • His aside on the way US culture means kids grow up without ever tasting wine, & implications for later life, is particularly interesting. #
  • Goldman Sachs reporting EBITDAF, where 'F' is fines – http://bit.ly/aid6y6 – maybe BP should do the same… #
  • RT @squeakaz HAHAHAHAHA my neighbour has locked himself out. silly old man! This has made me lol for first time is 3 days! #
  • RT @mpesce Have locked myself out of my flat. This is what happens when I rush. :( #
  • Coincidence, or something a little more sinister? #
  • I wonder who's lying here, and why? http://bit.ly/aWhApQ – this sort of thing literally does not happen, at least not in the way described #
  • My best guess is that the posh walkers got some verbal abuse from the chavs and rather daftly had a go back at them, but ICBW. #
  • OK, she's clever & they're a young company, but I don't think Facebook were wise to hire an 8-year-old as their lawyer: http://bit.ly/99H9og #
  • This is bloody good -> RT @TheFirmOnline Editor's blog. The art of distraction over the Pan Am 103 fiasco- http://tinyurl.com/37e8l7m #
  • Wow, babybarista's dad is officially excellent RT @babybarista: Lovely letter in Indy from my Dad Rob the Rubbish! http://bit.ly/dCa5aa #
  • Grad tax advocates: why should a rich lawyer who went to uni pay more tax forever (once fees paid off) than a rich salesman? I don't get it. #
  • Note to Americans: the Megrahi decision was entirely down to the Scotch, and the Dutch courage (gag ruthlessly stolen from elsewhere) #
  • Alternative to grad tax: send fliers to all 6th forms saying "student loan isn't debt, as you don't have to pay it back unless you're rich" #
  • Teenage kicks right through the knight: http://bit.ly/9lulcm #obvious #shouldabeenpeel #
  • Fuck, apparently Peter Andre is British (UK born and passport, just grew up in Aus). Yet another thing we can't shift the blame for… #
  • Good piece; can be shortened to "no, of course not, duh" RT @Heresy_Corner Was it wrong to release Megrahi? http://bit.ly/cy59W3 #
  • Cillit Bang and French's buy Durex: http://bit.ly/9scCbg (via @annieauerbach @DrPetra, but the French's connection has been neglected) #
  • Thank fuck for that: http://bit.ly/bNYTYG #reallystupidideas #
  • You just haven't earned it yet, baby #weddingdisco #
  • I Write Sins Not Tragedies #weddingdisco http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=vc6vs-l5dkc #
  • I've mentioned Nurofen twice on Twitter in the last 30 mins, despite not having a headache. Well, 3x now. Take that, text analysis bots! #
  • I keep reading refs to this http://yhoo.it/a4qill as "cancelled lesbian pr0n" #shouldprobablyseekhelp @greygirlbeast @adamfishpoet #
  • "[relative I've never met] is on vaginal speculum countdown" – yes, thank you Mr Zuckerberg for bringing that to my life. #fb #fml #
  • Depressing thing: although this is awful and wrong – http://bit.ly/c9n9rV the UK does it already. #yestryingtobecomecitizenofsomewherebetter #
  • Australians: on citizenship revocation, any idea re "it would be contrary to the public interest for you to remain an Australian citizen"? #
  • Not personal deportation concerns, just wondering whether it's a stupid catch-all as in the UK, or whether people's rights are protected… #
  • Been ignoring this one all day because *triggers*, but surely nobody who isn't mad can support the court here? http://tinyurl.com/3xay2zg #
  • I like @CheerfulSheep. At this point, @chrissiem may make jokes about my heritage. That's OK, I've got a new white sweater for her to wear. #
  • Interesting: unless specific politicians or hashtags are mentioned, there's no way to tell between #ukpolitics and #auspolitics in my feed #
  • #deficit #infrastructure #cuts #railfail #refugees "there's no such thing as an 'unelected PM' you ignorant tit" "the Coalition are wankers" #
  • You can see why I struggle, right? #alsothenextPMwillbebornintheUKwhoevertheyare #
  • To the tune of Laid by James, please -> RT @emessen220: The club is alive with the sound of alcohol induced vomiting and bar fights. #
  • OMFG geeklives converge. Everything today features geeklife convergence. #
  • Haha, Mother Ted win: http://twitpic.com/4nsh1 (via @cheerfulsheep) #
  • Peter Hartcher has missed the third element in population growth: deaths. Logically, JG must be planning to kill us all http://bit.ly/alDzdl #
  • Either you believe in open borders, or you're a racist dickhead #harshfacts #
  • Drinking pale ale. Almost wish it was off so I could tweet #palealefale #
  • Amanda Fucking Palmer for the win (musically speaking): http://music.amandapalmer.net #
  • On a Western Line city train. Nothing boganic has occurred so far. Sleeping Indian man behind me remains unbeaten. What gives, people? #
  • RT @ArmyofDave: RT @davegentle: @ArmyofDave how much do cockneys pay for shampoo? pantenne #
  • Still not in fucking Parramatta #stillnotinfuckingparramatta #
  • Best "man goes to a Victorian brothel" sketch ever, from @realdmitchell: http://bit.ly/aopDct #
  • In Melbourne with @chrissiem. Woo! Well, strictly speaking in a bus surrounded by fields somewhere not especially near Geelong. Yay Jetstar! #
  • RT @missellabell: I absolutely just saw one black sheep on its own in a field of white ones. THE OUTCAST. #
  • Rainfuckw #replacebowithfuck #
  • Have utterly failed to see @stephenfry, despite ticket offers for Syd & Mel – sadly we're in the opposite cities from him at all times. :( #
  • RT @5ChinCrack: This winter, I'm going snowfuckarding #replaceBowithfuck #
  • Google image search (safe mode) for 'surprise buttsecks'. Is teh funny. #
  • RT @thetearooms: Saying 'duff' for 'dough' and 'row' for 'rough.' Making Saturday exciting. #

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Shorter this post: don’t BACAI

1) no act that is committed without malicious intent can ever be morally wrong, no matter what its consequences are.

2) if you are harmed by something that wasn’t malicious, you have an absolute moral duty to forgive whoever did it.

3) people who fail to forgive people who’ve non-maliciously harmed them are the worst of all people, and the only people I truly loathe and despise.

Maxtone-Graham-Simpson-Win also OMFG

Sometimes, people judge on outcomes. For example, the excitable Twitter idiot johnb78:

For example: anyone who thinks that Paul Foot is a bad man because James Hanratty turned out guilty is a worthless idiot – because although JH was guilty, he shouldn’t have been hanged on the falisfied evidence that was presented in his case. See also: OJ. I’m not mournful for the rapist and murderer Hanratty, but Paul Foot is absolutely right that he shouldn’t have been convicted.

On the other hand, people sometimes judge on excellence:

When a knight won his spurs, in the stories of old,
He was gentle and brave, he was gallant and bold;
With a shield on his arm and a lance in his hand
For God and for valour he rode through the land.

No charger have I, and no sword by my side,
Yet still to adventure and battle I ride,
Though back into storyland giants have fled,
And the knights are no more and the dragons are dead.

Let faith be my shield and let joy be my steed
‘Gainst the dragons of anger, the ogres of greed;
And let me set free, with the sword of my youth,
From the castle of darkness the power of the truth.

Update: this post makes no sense. For those struggling to connect it with reality, When A Knight Won His Spurs was written by Joyce Maxtone-Graham, whose nephew wrote many of the best Simpsons episodes.

Why isn’t there a new Bond movie?

Yes, I know MGM (or, more accurately, the latest in a long bunch of shysters to own the rights to the MGM name and to make James Bond movies) are in serious financial trouble.

But if I was in serious financial trouble, and I owned a money tree, but I couldn’t afford to harvest the money tree due to my serious financial trouble, then I’d sell someone the rights to the next harvest of my money tree. Then, I might be able to do the following money tree harvest myself. At a worst case, the money tree’s money crop hasn’t just rotted on the branches.

So I’m genuinely perplexed about the weird machinations that mean we’re not going to get another Bond movie until forever. What incentive have MGM’s management got to not sell the rights to make a new Bond (which will make copious quantities of money, unequivocally) to someone with dollars, rather than sitting around making nothing until they go painfully bust?

I suspect it’s an accounting / US law / principal-agent problem, but would appreciate guidance from anyone who either knows, or can come up with a vaguely sensible reason for MGM’s management to do what they’re currently doing…

Unilever isn’t being racist – but you are

Aussie blogger Melinda Tankard Reist has a rather misguided post on Hindustan Unilever’s controversial face-whitening Facebook app:

Playing on certain racial insecurities by telling dark skinned people that they can never really be beautiful – that’s what Unilever is doing… These products promote ethnocentric stereotypes about the superiority of white people.

Hmm. So in two sentences accusing Unilever of racism, she’s managed two rather irritating, patronising – and indeed, accidentally racist – mistakes.

The first is ‘non-white-European people don’t have opinions or make decisions’. So if Hindustan Unilever comes up with a marketing campaign, it must be because a white man in London told them to.

Great… except for the fact that Unilever’s Asian marketing operation is run by an Indian man in Mumbai, is locally devised and locally executed, and London doesn’t pre-approve campaigns.

The second is ‘the US-derived model of white-European versus everyone else is the only way to view prejudices and stereotypes based on skin colour’. So obviously if people in India are being told that lighter skin is better, that’s so they can be more like Europeans and less like Indians.

Great… except for the fact that the Indian preference for paler skin has absolutely cock-all to do with wanting to be European, and a great deal more to do with the fact that within India, long before the British invasion, the ruling castes have been paler-skinned than the workers (partly because they’re more likely to be of Persian descent, and partly because they don’t spend their time working in the hot sun).

Once you stop viewing non-European cultures through the prism of European race relations, playing on people’s desire to appear lighter is no worse than playing on their desire to appear less spotty or wrinkly. So if people from European cultures object to this campaign any more strongly than they’d object to a campaign for an anti-wrinkle cream, they’re basically telling Indians that they have to follow European values. Which is distinctly Not Cool.

No, the Old Spice campaign hasn’t failed

There seems to be a meme floating around the social marketing world at the moment that the super-notorious Old Spice mass media and viral ad campaign has failed to drive sales, despite grabbing mindshare and winning awards. This seems to be based on a Brandweek article that isn’t available on their website (w00t new media marketing excellence, not), but that has been excerpted here. It says:

[S]ales of the featured product—Red Zone After Hours Body Wash—aren’t necessarily tracking with that consumer appeal: In the 52 weeks ended June 13, sales of the brand have dropped 7 percent according to SymphonyIRI. (That amount excludes those rung up at Walmart.) P&G execs were not available to comment.

SymphonyIRI get their sales data direct from the tills in all major US supermarkets except Walmart (who figure they’re big enough that they’ve got more to lose than to gain from sharing their data with competitors), so it’s pretty reliable. I wish I had access myself – I have done for projects in the past, and damn it’s good, but a subscription costs millions of dollars…

However, even without access to the data, we can easily show that the Brandweek piece is absolutely irrelevant. First, a quote from Forbes last Thursday:

Total sales for Old Spice body wash at supermarkets, drugstores and mass market retailers excluding Wal-Mart were up 16.7% in the 52-week period ending June 13, according to SymphonyIRI Group, a Chicago-based market research firm.

In other words, assuming both articles are accurate, a specific sub-brand of Old Spice has fallen in sales, but the overall brand has risen in sales. Since the campaign primarily promotes Old Spice as a master brand (I didn’t even know it was plugging Red Zone After Hours Body Wash, and nor did you), the Brandweek article is somewhere between misled and misleading in its selective data usage.

Even if Forbes has somehow got its numbers wrong, and the Brandweek data is representative of the brand’s overall performance, this still wouldn’t show the campaign had failed. The IRI data covers a 52 week period – it’s comparing Jul 2009-Jun 2010 to Jul 2008-Jun 2009. The interesting comparisons for a breaking campaign (the ads started in February, and the social campaign’s been building since) are week-on-week (wk20 2010 vs wk20 2009) and month-on-month (Jun 2010 vs Jun 2009), not averages for the whole year. If sales fell in the second half of 2009 and were gradually revived this year by the campaign, the 52 week data wouldn’t show this at all.

The most awesome thing about IRI data if you’re a marketing-stats-data-geek (guilty) is that it’s updated daily. So Procter & Gamble and its agency, Wieden & Kennedy, will know exactly, day on day how sales have reacted. They (well, they plus SymphonyIRI, Unilever, Colgate, and their respective marketing agencies) are the only ones currently in a position to say whether the campaign has worked. Until and unless they, or SymphonyIRI, or a naughty leaker working for a company with access to IRI’s database, tell us what the week-on-week comparisons are, we’ve got little idea whether or not the campaign has succeeded.

Well, except that Old Spice had been in decline as a brand for a very long time – so if there has been a 17% rise in 52-week sales as the Forbes piece suggests, then that’s a good indication that the rise in sales since the campaign launched in February is larger still.

Lesson: while everyone wants smug marketers to fail (yes, of course you do), a campaign that captures the public imagination to the degree that Old Spice has is bloody unlikely to fail to drive sales, at the very least in the short term. Relatedly, most people don’t understand data.

The idle musings of John B