Political correctness is a curse

Nokia has a new billboard that ain't right. See if you can spot the fatal flaw....

Nokia has a new billboard that ain’t right. See if you can spot the fatal flaw.

It is selling – as shown by the small words in the corner – LONG BATTERY LIFE. And to do so, its stopper headline is "HEY, IT’S GRANDPA. GOT A SECOND?"

Class, what is wrong with this picture? Correct. The billboard is using the wrong gender. (Years ago, we would have said "the wrong sex", but that is, of course, a dirty word.)

The implication of the ad is that you will need a powerful battery because Grandpa is going to talk your ear off. However, this is not true. Grandpa does not talk your ear off. Grandpa sits quietly over there watching Bowling for Dollars. It is GrandMA who talks your ear off.

I will bet most of my carefully accumulated fortune that the Nokia board came out of the Creative Department saying "Grandma". And I will further bet that 42 seconds later, somebody wagged a finger at it and said, "No no no nononono. Talkative elderly women is a stereotype. Lest we get a nasty letter from the League of Loquacious Ladies, make it Grandpa. He won’t bitch."

God damn, political correctness is a curse. It either creates excess timidity, or it runs over to the other side and creates Howard Sterns, who flaunt their lack of political correctness along with their lack of wit, taste, and verbal "off" switch.

As in so many areas, there ought to be a middle ground. I may get myself in trouble here, but I submit that stereotypes abut human groups get to be stereotypes because they start with an element of truth. (Ask my liver if my friends named Thomas Rooney and Brian O’Leary like to drink.) But you’d better be very, very careful if you want to find humour in one.

Years back, there was a truly breakthrough campaign in the U.S. beer business. It was lusty, it was irreverent, it was macho, it was funny. It centred around retired jocks in bar scenes, arguing about whether they drank Miller Lite because "it tastes great" or because "it’s less filling."

The campaign worked because it captured the way guys talk in bars – with no censor listening. And then it fell upon political correctness.

They produced a commercial featuring ex-hockey player Pete Stankowski. The set-up was, Pete was going to tell a Polish joke. And the whole bar – and the whole TV audience – did that very human approach-avoidance thing, where on the one hand you’re afraid it’s going to be tasteless, and on the other, you can’t wait to hear it. So Stankowski proceeded to tell a joke. In Polish. It was a surprise, and the stunned, let-down reaction of the crowd made it very funny.

Within two weeks, the spot was off the air. Yes, there had been complaints, from the Polish Don’t-Do-That Society, or some such. Never mind that the commercial made the Polish guy the hero, nor that it got us to maybe-for-a-moment examine our attitudes about Polish jokes. Nope. Bad commercial. Bad, bad commercial. Go to your room.

The Miller Lite campaign sort of shriveled up and died a while after that. Maybe its time had come, but maybe also it got too careful. It had always been on the edge, at least for its era, and when it started to overthink itself, it lost its vitality.

That would be the end of the story, and it would be unhappy enough, if it weren’t for this unfortunate fact. The Miller Lite campaign is back.

It is back in the same setting – the bar scene – and it has the same creative strategy, taste versus fillingness. However, it has been carefully updated for our modern era.

Instead of testosterous old jocks, it has wise-ass wannabes like Norm MacDonald, playing against supermodels. Immediately, all surprise is gone. Because once you set up the situation that way, there is only one politically correct way you can play it. The woman has to win.

So we sit through a few tired putdowns, then the gorgeous supermodel displays greater sports knowledge than the horny hapless couch potato, then, well, I’m not sure I’ve ever got to the end, I’ve had to check another channel.

Somebody has said, political correctness is fascism masquerading as liberalism. I like that…and it’s boring besides. Anybody want to argue with me? Call me a sexist pig? Send me some nice p.c. examples? I think I’ll stay with this subject awhile.

John Burghardt’s checkered resumé includes the presidency of a national agency, several films for the Shah’s government in Iran, collaboration with Jim Henson to create the Cookie Monster, and a Cannes Gold Lion. The letterhead of his thriving business now reads "STRATEGIC PLANNING • CREATIVE THINKING". He can be reached by phone at (416) 693-5072, by fax at (416) 693-5100 or by e-mail at burgwarp@aol.com

Meat and plant-based sales are both strong at Maple Leaf

Both priority areas performed well in the company's full-year results, helped by a boost in marketing for new products.
Maples Leaf All Natural 4

Maple Leaf Foods reported higher Q4 and full-year 2020 sales, driven by its sustainable meats and plant-based proteins. 

The CPG co. reported quarterly sales of $1.13 billion, up from $1.02 billion for Q4 2019, as well as net earnings of $25.4 million, compared to $17.5 million for the same period the year prior (an increase of 45.2%).

For full fiscal 2020, the company reported a total increase of 9.2% in sales, driven by what it says is “strong growth in both the meat and plant protein groups.”

“We have repositioned our portfolio towards two high-growth categories now representing 20% of our annual sales generating a compounded growth rate in excess of 25% over the last three years,” says Michael McCain, the company’s president and CEO.

Meat protein group sales  comprised of prepared meats, ready-to-cook and ready-to-serve meals, snack kits, value-added fresh pork and poultry products that are sold to retail, foodservice and industrial channels, and agricultural operations  grew 11.3% for the quarter. 

Meanwhile, sales of plant protein products  refrigerated plant protein brands such as Lightlife and Field Roast, premium grain-based protein, and vegan cheese products sold to retail, foodservice and industrial channels  was up 5.5% over the same period. 

Sales growth for its meat portfolio was driven by “a favourable mix-shift towards sustainable meats and branded products,” but also growth in exports to Asian markets, and pricing actions implemented to mitigate inflation and other structural cost increases, according to the company. Strong demand in the retail channel was offset by lower volume in foodservice as a result of COVID-19.

For its plant-based offerings, sales for 2020 were $210.8 million compared to $176.4 million last year, representing a growth of 19.5%, or 18.1% after excluding the impacts of foreign exchange. The segment was driven by expanded distribution of new products, continued volume increases in its existing portfolio, and pricing actions implemented to mitigate inflation and other structural cost increases.

SG&A expenses totalled $144 million for the plant group alone in 2020, with investments focused on advertising, promotion and marketing to build awareness, as well as supporting brand renovation and new product innovation. SG&A for meat proteins were $346.6 million for the full year, and the company says it expects SG&A levels and marketing investment in 2021 to be largely in line with where they were in 2020.

The company, which in 2019 announced it had gone carbon neutral, says it’s amplifying this commitment while “focusing on eliminating waste in any resources it consumes, including food, energy, water, packaging, and time.”