Friday, November 20, 2009

In MX today - My Daily Commute Safari

But if you're not reading MX on delayed public transport in the 35 degree heat (Summer has arrived in Sydney, and it's taking no prisoners) here it is. Watching the wildlife on public transport - are you a Koala, a Pole-Dancer or an EcoLeech?

Based off a CityRail customer courtesy campaign to name and shame the Beasts who make catching public transport a pain (the Hogger, the Rubbisher, the Yeller et al), I had to re-work to make it understandable to the other cities.

Summer is here and the temperature is high. That would be great if I was at the beach, but stuck in a crowded carriage with no air-conditioning and all the seats taken, I’m wishing I was somewhere – anywhere! – else.

To keep my mind off the heat, I’ve turned my daily commute into a safari trip. It’s the cheapskate version of going wildlife spotting by jeep; it’s hot, you're stuck in a vehicle and you don’t know what you might encounter but you hope it will be cute and not try to bite you.

Watching the wildlife is hard to do subtly. It’s embarrassing when you get caught looking, especially if you are trying to take a happy snap. But with just a little practise you can become quite an expert. Here’s a spotters’ guide to some of the exotic creatures you can find on your daily commute.

The Puller –You’ll find him checking Here's Looking At You, sitting on the bottom of double-decker carriages so he can look up the skirts of women getting on. He’s smiling and winking and ready to chat, even though it’s 6am and you have your headphones in. This isn’t a commute, it’s a pick-up joint. Wanna share a seat?

The Koala – “Can’t … keep… eyes … open…” Sleepy and out of it, particularly plentiful in the early morning, this creature nods off as soon as it sits down, but always wakes up just in time to stumble off at its stop. Its cousin, the Drunk Koala, can’t even do that, and travels in an endless loop, snorting and sleeping the whole trip away. If it could just keep it’s eyes open… Swaying and nodding, drooling and blinking, this koala doesn’t do mornings. Or afternoons. Or anything.

The Pole Dancer – Like soccer moms at their first stripping class, all they know is they have to hang on to that pole. They gyrate and swing round it, blocking the doors with their moves. And if someone manages to peel them off, they go straight to the next best place to practice a dance routine on a packed train - the stairs. You’ll need to do a bump and grind to get past them, but don’t worry; you don’t need to tip.

The Poser – It might be dull and cloudy, but he’s wearing huge Paris style sunnies. Indoors. On a train. In a tunnel. He can’t see you, but he knows you can see him. Most likely to be seen cruising the city centre loop in souped-up shades and waxed-up hair, he’s not reading, he’s not speaking, he’s just here to be seen. This beast can even be a hybrid; his immobile pose and huge shades can mean he’s posing on the outside, but behind those shades he's all sleepy eyed Koala.

The Invisible Boyfriend – Wonder why that lady glares so much when you ask “is this seat taken”? That’s not an empty seat, or even a bag rest. That’s their Invisible boyfriend. It might look empty but there’s a whole heap of nothing sitting there, with just her grimacing and glaring to warn people off. And if you take that spot, where will he sit?

The EcoLeech – The bus is near empty, but they want the seat next to you and when they take it, they squish right in and on you. Rude? No, they’re being green and sharing your body heat, it uses less energy to stay warm if everyone just snuggles up. Cutting into carbon emissions, and your personal space, it’s not impolite, it’s environmentally friendly.

So next time you’re travelling in the morning, take a good look at the locals. You might spot a whole new Beast. Provided you can just keep your eyes open and turn not into a Koala…

Sadhbh Warren is an MX reader who deliberately sits on peoples’ invisible friends.

Friday, November 13, 2009

On VB and Marketing – the selling thing.

Contains strong language. Which is ironic, as the beer is pretty weak.

My beer mat informs me that Victoria Bitter has a new slogan.

Victoria Bitter - VB to its friends of which it has very few publicly - is a beer. An iconic Australian beer, if by you iconic you mean “yeah mate, it’s Aussie as, but I don’t drink it coz it’s shit”.

Except they do. It’s cheap and cheerful and accounts for a third of the pre-packaged beers sales in Australia. Note that pre-packaged bit. You’d bring a VB home to quench your thirst, but you wouldn’t order it in the pub. Drinking VB is a bit like sleeping with your ex. It’s not really classy, but everyone has done it when there was nothing else available. Especially if they were already drunk and it was just hanging about at a party. It’s okay to drink, provided no one knows.

Their long standing slogan, which said VB was “for a hard-earned thirst” was at least evocative in that it reflected the product. VB is for a hard-earned thirst, because dying of semi-dehydration is one of things that makes its bland yet acidic taste semi-palatable. It’s a slogan that has served VB well, with its phenomenal sales despite being universally derided as a shit beer that isn’t even actually a bitter.

But they’re dropping it. From now on VB shall be known as – the drinking beer.

I’m sorry, what? Honestly, what genius came up with this slogan? How much did they pay some marketeer to take five seconds off complaining that on Twitter that their iPhone won’t work to come up with this particular gem? Can I have their job? I’ve always loved stating the obvious in a condescending fashion and I can come up with all sorts of things right now. Nescafe – the drinking coffee. Oxygen – the breathing gas. Myers – the shopping shop.

Quickly, someone get me a medal, because that’s three award-winning campaigns right there.

Of course it’s the drinking beer. ALL beers are the drinking beer. What the hell else do you do with them? You don’t market a brand by saying it can do thing it’s meant to, unless you can claim other products don’t do it as well. What, the other beers are dehydrated? Made of sawdust and glass chips? Contain acid and dead flies? Are currently on fucking fire? What?

Every beer is the drinking beer. Unless you are the premium luxury brand in your niche, you can’t claim ownership of the need without looking like a total twat. (And even then, you look a tad twatty, but hey, label bunnies just love that posh twat look.) All beers are for drinking. How does this differentiate your product from all the others? What the hell are they for?

You can split hairs and suggest while YOUR beer is for drinking, the other beers still have space to pick a niche – they could be the quaffing beer, or the sipping beer, or the peeing like a racehorse beer, or the beer that comes back up easy, but you are just being full of crap. It’s not “modern”, it’s not “pared-down” or “simplistic” or “a return to base values”; it’s lazy, it’s stupid and it shows your product has nothing to offer.

And the annoying thing is, with a little modification it could have been a slogan that captured the essence of Victoria Bitter and what it means to Australia. VB - the drinking when there is nothing else to drink beer. VB - the “it was free at the party” beer. The “It’s only 10am, and I’m already at a happy hour” beer, the “I drink tinnies on my lunchbreak” beer, the “this is my child support I am drinking” beer.

But no. Instead we get a slogan as bland as the beer itself. Which – despite and to spite the slogan - I won’t be drinking.

Unless, you know, there’s nothing else. Or it’s free at a party. Or I’m too drunk to notice.

Tuesday, November 3, 2009


KR, he says.

Right there at the end of the email he sent looking to introduce his PR firm. Just before his name. KR.

I have no idea what it means.

Keith Richards? Keep Right? Keep Rocking?

And then it dawns on me. “KR” is short for Kind Regards. This man, this abomination of a PR man who is looking to make a good first impression on me and my firm, not ONLY uses the most fatuous and over-gentrified closing since “Yours most humbly affectionate” bit the dust in the sixteenth century but he can’t even be arsed to write it all.

Kind regards is foul enough. Victorian and stilted in its vagueness and yet capable of starting an arms race of affection. Someone signs “Kind regards”, and then someone has to beat them with “KindEST regards” and the whole thing gets totally out of control with “My most kind regards” and “Yours with the kindest of regards” and “Prostrating my most humble self on your bidet to offer the very kindest of my kind regards”.

Or the person who tries to play the strong silent type and writes merely “Regards” with no indication of how kind they are.

And exactly how kind are the regards? I mean, would you donate your house to me, or just a few bucks for a coffee? Do they have no monetary element redeemable? Are we talking pouring your cup of tea on me if I was on fire, or saying “I hope the burns get better soon” as I am carted screaming in agony into the ambulance?

Kind regards. Could you vague that up for me a bit?

For added Victorian style – because nothing says polite like a group of people who used to encase their privates in metal to prevent “self abuse” – you can for no apparent reason capitalise everything. “Kind Regards.” It’s especially good if you wrongly put a capital R on regards but forget to put a capital on your own damned name.

Or just dispense with the piddling matters of letter altogether and go with “KR”. How informal! How, well, how little like you even care slightly about the opinion of your reader. Nothing says “can’t be arsed” like not bothering to finish your words.

In fact, why not just close your email with “Yeah, whatever”? I’m sorry, we’re being modern now - that mean disregarding the most basic of niceties and ease of reading – let’s use “YW”.

Or not. Look, I have had it up to here with clever buggers from PR and marketing telling the world that correct grammar and capitalisation are “dated”, that we should be mixing it up with txtspk outside of texts. The first purpose of writing something is not to be funky, but to be readable. You are writing so other people can understand what you have said.

Ignore PR twatboy in the corner desperately trying to justify his consultancy fee by spewing turdery and write correctly. Have the courage to make it look like your company is smart enough to master basic communication. Capitalise correctly. Use punctuation. Go fecking crazy; care about your customers’ reading experience. Or prepare to have people take one look at your garbage and conclude you are morons who can’t be trusted with a keyboard, let alone a PR budget.

My response?


*Too Long; Didn’t Read