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

In Brief: The Garden picks CDs to take on daily creative leadership

Plus, Naked names two new leaders of its own and Digital Ethos comes to Canada.

The Garden promotes two creative directors

ACDs Lindsay Eady and Francheska Galloway-Davis have taken over responsibility for day-to-day creative leadership at The Garden after being promoted to creative director roles.

The pair will also help develop the agency’s creative talent, formalizing mentorship and leadership activities they have been doing since joining the agency four and three years ago, respectively. In addition to creating the agency’s internship program, the pair have worked on campaigns for Coinsquare, FitTrack and “The Coke Challenge” campaign for DanceSafe.

Eady and Galloway-Davis will continue to report to The Garden’s co-founder and chief creative officer Shane Ogilvie, who is stepping back from daily creative duties to a more high-level strategic role, allowing him to focus on client relationships and business growth.

Naked Creative Consultancy names new creative and strategy leadership

Toronto’s Naked Creative Consultancy has hired Yasmin Sahni as its new creative director. She is taking over creative leadership from David Kenyon, who has been in the role for 10 years and is moving into a new role as director of strategy, leading the discipline at the agency.

Sahni is coming off of three years as VP and ECD at GTB’s Toronto office, where she managed all the retail, social and service creative for Ford Canada. She previously managed both Vice Media and Vice’s in-house ad agency Virtue.

Peter Shier, president of Naked, says Sahni’s hiring adds to its creative bench and capabilities, as well as a track record of mentorship, a priority for the company. Meanwhile, Kenyon’s move to the strategy side, he says, makes sense because of his deep knowledge of its clients, which have included Ancestry and The Globe and Mail.

Digital Ethos opens a Toronto office

U.K. digital agency Digital Ethos is pursuing new growth opportunities in North America by opening a new office in Toronto.

Though it didn’t disclose them, the agency has begun serving a number of North American clients, and CEO/founder Luke Tobin says the “time was right to invest in a more formal and actual presence in the area.” whose services include design, SEO, pay-per-click, social media, influencer and PR,

This year, the agency’s growth has also allowed it to open an office in Hamburg, Germany, though it also has remote staff working in countries around the world.

Moray Hickes was the company’s first North American hire as VP of sales, tasked with business development in the region.