Commbank says ‘A Man Is Not a Financial Plan’, but…

Blog.Commbank is a company blog by the Commonwealth Bank. And good on them for trying to make finance a bit more palatable.

While looking around, I was a bit surprised to see a post titled A man is not a financial plan…

Sharing

But I was a bit more surprised than when I clicked back to their homepage and saw who writes all their blogs…

All men…

Wo, man.

This is on the blog’s homepage. So, they’re not trying to hide it.

Getting a woman on staff could be a good plan

Also to the CommBank’s credit, they respond to comments left on their blog posts. Like the response to the woman complaining the above post about relying on men was patronising to women. Their response says, “This is actually a true story, based on the real life experience of a woman who should have known better…”

For a blog that seems to be targeting women (other posts include High tea With Maggie Beer, and Know an Incredible Business Woman? [sic]) they should probably know better.

Addendum

When you click ‘See all‘ just below the pictures of seven male authors, it reveals two women are in the full list of 13 employees asked to write blogs. So there’ s that.

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Obama’s campaign – no longer a font of wisdom

A quick typographical look at Barack Obama’s second presidential campaign, so far.

When Barack Obama’s first campaign appeared it was all strength and clarity. The HOPE poster made him and his message iconic. For some, the arrival of Barack Obama in American politics was nothing short of messianic. Now, with Obama facing a second-term showdown with Republican Mitt Romney, comes this…

Your President is now embracing into shabby-chic and oil burners. He wants you to feel warm in your own home – but not with strong leadership, diplomacy and economic stability but with Ugg boots and personalised Snuggies. This looks like something pinned by a pastel-wearing scrapbooker on Pinterest. Surely a message can target women without using mint green?

But it’s not just the feminised approach Obama is taking that is bothersome. His messages are clouded by so many different typefaces that any thread is lost amongst all the marketing tactics they are throwing up.

This poster is obviously not too big to fail. I can’t read it without concentrating closely. The multiple fonts are a mess and it feels like an optometrist’s test.

This is about as far from ‘presidential’ as it gets.Feels like an online t-shirt shop. (So I guess it got that right.)

Slick cases with the chunky block serifs evoking competitive NFL and NHL teams. So, it’s a youthful brand but still a bit combative. I like it. Click pic to see more in the store.

This one doesn’t even mention Obama by name. Reminds me of the woven badges I used to collect as a kid.

Standard Obama typeface in three different versions. And presented like bunting usually seen at a convention or a sporting event. George looks like he needs a Nespresso.

Oooo, that’s clever. And no doubt enough to convince some young voters that Obama is in fact Irish.

This is the most surprising use of frilly fonts to me. The titling of the event looks to be lifted from a cheesy royal wedding mug or the movie poster for a romantic comedy. I realise they are friends but this is taking it pretty far, even for a campaign clearly looking to target women

This underlining and alternating fonts – serif to sans-serif – is a familiar tool the Obama team uses and is brought over from the Obama HOPE campaign. You can scan it and immediately get the big points. What’s new is the rain, which tells us he is steadfast, embattled and he likes Kevin Costner films.

Next week: Romney employs bubble fonts.

Searching for Australia in Koaland

Shopping for souvenirs in Cairns – a world away  from the nearest koala, emu or sheep.

I enjoyed reading a piece by Nick Bryant on Australia’s national identity and how it has been misshapen through our self-reflective cliches. The way we call ourselves ‘Down Under’ to Americans is cited as one example of how we tend to belittle ourselves. (I would add that our failure to put Americans in their place when they use the term also shows a tendency to ignore our success and pride.)

Nick’s article included this paragraph to help explain our fond attachment to phrases most of us don’t even like or use …

…as the database at the Australian National Dictionary Centre in Canberra reveals, “She’ll be right” gets at least two outings a week in Australian newspapers, while “Tall Poppy Syndrome” has been a weekly fixture for years. As the Centre’s director, Sarah Ogilvie, notes: “People are still using phrases which to an outsider seem anachronistic.”

Nick is a talented journalist whose biography shows he has moved regularly during his time as a foreign correspondent.  Nick’s decision to stay in Australia since 2006 shows, I believe, his admiration for our country, plus some sense of hope in our future. If you thought our best years were behind us, you wouldn’t move here. You would just visit, grab some souvenirs, then head home to where you belong, right?

I have just returned from a week in Cairns, in Far North Queensland, where the souvenirs tend to define a city having its own identity crisis. Stifling nostalgia is passed off as a historical discovery tour. Surreal caricatures of our fauna trivialise any natural beauty that lies outside our cities.  If you subscribe to my Facebook Feed, you would have seen my gallery of the region’s eclectic architecture and other oddities but neither of those begin to explain the schizophrenia  Cairns suffers trying to balance as a home for locals and as an international tourist destination.

As Cairns tries to position itself as the first stop for Asian visitors to our shores – something record airport arrivals would suggest it is doing very well – what greets visitors is a parade of tackiness and a clichéd approach to our emblems, wildlife and culture that presents an Australia unchanged since the 1960s.

Here is what confronted me on my first wander through the town centre; Opals, Ugg boots, koala backpacks and, for when you feel peckish… emu jerky.

Which of these resonates the most with your knowledge or concept of Australia?

Opal shop owners are doing us all a disservice. The romanticised depiction of a man down a mine grabbing a precious stone has kept Sydney’s The Rocks alive for much too long. It’s a tragedy that Cairns is going the same dusty, irrelevant way. Few Australians will ever head to Coober Pedy, and just because even fewer tourists will, doesn’t mean we should shovel such a flawed idea of mining down their bejeweled throats. Yes, we are the world’s largest producer of opal – being responsible for 95% of production – but most of it comes to us not by a rugged man in King Gees and a torch-helmet but like this…

…especially the opals coming out of Queensland.

Ugg boots are a peculiar fashion statement, at best. Wearing Ugg boots in Cairns – as I am told people do when the temperature drops below 20 degrees Celcius – is truly gormless. Trotting out Uggs and sheepskin rugs is also a quaint throwback to an age before polarfleece and cotton blends, when we were all wrapped in wool because there was a shearing shed down the road. But the fantasy must stop that put Australia forward as a sheepish, agricultural economy built on grazing animals for which the export market is rapidly dwindling just as the our ownership of the word ‘Ugg’ is under threat.

No Australian would think of skinning a koala, let alone wearing one on our back. The myth of the ‘Koala Bear’ should really have died off along with Matilda, the winking kangaroo inexplicably wheeled out at the Brisbane Commonwealth Games in 1982. Let’s be honest with our tourists – most people who manage to see a koala find it snoring and if they choose to hug one of the heavily clawed, disinterested beasts, they had better not be in NSW or Victoria where it is illegal in Victoria for anyone other than a Koala’s handler to hold them.

As for emu jerky…

There could be no more superficial Americanisation of Australian wildlife as this. Jerky is a US fascination and employing our national emblems to enjoy a salted chewy treat makes me sick for all number of untreatable reasons.

Cairns used to see most of its tourists arrive from Japan, however China and Germany are now the biggest contributors to the local tourism industry, no doubt due to the relative strength of those two nations. I was surprised to hear German used as the second language after English to give instructions on the Scenic Kuranda Railway.  Likewise, many signs in the town centre are also displayed in Chinese. The local paper, the Cairns Post, reports peak tourism bodies are striving to bring Chinese flights direct into Cairns which would send arrivals from our biggest export market into the tens of thousands per year.

So far, the nation we feel safest putting forward is still tied to the outback and way out-of-touch.

Will we present the world with a decades-old view of our nation’s brightest points; one of a dusty rural paradise where so few drovers actually roam and precious few miners dig for opals by hand, or will it be one that shows off our colours, talent and enthusiasm for life, exhibited in our stunning capital cities and across countless regional centres each with their own appeal? Let’s promote the brands and outfits we stand by, the artists and home-grown designers we know by name. Let’s leave The Kens behind. Ken Duncan and Ken Done, your time has past. Our tourism has become entrenched in a dated value system that elevates our strange marsupials and landscapes above our achievements as a wealthy, warm people who have accepted millions of migrants, built glorious cities, a diverse society and a robust national economy and we will happily share our glorious nature with anyone who visits.  We will even let some of them stay.

That awkward moment when Social Media appears on TV

If the addition of social media to a broadcast is not intended as a distraction to the main game, why is that so often the outcome?

This is something I have wondered as I look at Australia’s attempts and those by networks around the world.

I thought it was self-evident that viewer opinions, when integrated into a television programme, are there to enhance the primary content. But perhaps the pendulum has already swung too far.

Why is it that many shows that have tried out social media on-air are not using innovative techniques, not conjuring up their own clever use adaption of this new community, but instead throw up some clunky graphics or even use the frustrating ‘stop/read a tweet/continue with show’ method.

Exactly who benefits from that?

Poor implementation risks offending both sides. It shows those on social networks that you don’t understand how the stream flows relentlessly on, while those who’ve never signed up for Facebook or Twitter are peeved that their show has new awkward, trendy interruptions.

Good implementation can keep viewers hooked and boost ratings – The Voice in the US is seeing a great response from their use hosts and judges live-tweeting and responding personally to viewers.

One reason TV shows should and are trying to bring social media into the foreground is fear. It’s the fear of any switched on executive producer that the social media stream will become more entertaining than the show itself. People will watch their second screen (mobile devices) more than their first (TV).

Certainly, there’s no better influence for you to switch channels than if all your friends and those you follow are tweeting about #TheVoice.

Hence, broadcasters all over the world are battling with how to bring the social stream into the live TV event. They need to show viewers they are listening to their views, but some integrations of Twitter, especially, are wearing very thin.

I like the UFC‘s approach – use social media to build up hype for the event a week out. Have your main talent interacting with viewers on various platforms throughout the day and then following the event. They understand that owning the conversation is more about taking people in behind the wall of the TV screen than it is the chance to display a highlight reel of the sharpest or fastest tweeters.

Sadly, I think Australia’s one-time leader in this area is now dragging the chain.

QandA is making a mockery of what has become known as Social TV. The show, which can still command large audiences, has long held the torch for social media integration in our country.

Several programs still limit their social network integration to a back-announce of their hashtag as the show ends. (Bit late guys!)

(Lateline is the main offender there, but, I should say, I like the show’s latest idea to give a political or topical personality the reigns as ‘Guest Tweeter’. If you’re going to tell people to “join the conversation”, it makes sense to lead it. This limits carping and provides a loose thread people can join if they wish. If not, your hashtag is just an invitation for everyone to ‘Shout! Now!’)

But back to our beloved QandA.

Each week, an increasingly silly list of tweets are flipped up on the screen.

These days, it’s hard to spot any comment that adds to the discussion. Intelligent questions? Fact-checking? It’s more a procession of punch-lines that would never be appropriate to be read out loud on the show.

It’s more a ticker of sniping, witty retorts and clever word plays that often denigrate a guest. Cardinal Pell was a good example. As was John Howard…

It’s a technique that’s not showing the best side of Twitter, nor is it helping boost engagement for the audience watching at home.

Viewers, as a result, must now tolerate these tweets interrupting the actual debate, on top of Tony Jones’s regular interruptions of panelists (something he’s long been known for). Who benefits? No one but the wise guys who – no doubt – congratulate each other on their televised tweets the next day over the ad agency water cooler.

Imagine the real-life equivalent; You’re in a pub trying to enjoy the footy but you can’t hear the commentary because all the biggest smart-arses in the room have lined up to whisper their witty interjections in your ear.

Tweets that flash up and then disappear only adds to the distraction. (It’s very hard not to look at them. I tried hard and only skipped two. Tell me how you go.)

How about a ticker that continues scrolling in the bottom third – that way I can dip-in if I wish?

But how about some more creative uses of social media?

Get your hosts to tweet LIVE on air and ask for responses.

Give characters in a drama series real-life accounts, updated mid-week, to add to the storyline – and intrigue. (Packed to the Rafters recently started a character blogging – an interesting move.)

Contests can be easily managed via social media. Tweet your trivia answer to this hashtag… Find and LIKE our hidden Facebook page for the next clue… Start a Pinterest and name a Board after our show (Microsoft and Harrods have each tried something similar)

Philosopher Alain de Botton said that the main challenge of smartphones is for us to be more interesting than they are – to stop people’s eyes drifting back to their tiny screen.

The same goes for TV.

There are many ways we can take this Australia. Let’s not leave it as it is. Please?

Pretty soon, my second screen will be much more interesting than my first.

Zero-sum game: Why Coke wants you to switch

If you are like me you only drink Coke every once in a while. But recent television ad showing a cinema attendant who switches drinks on patrons still has me annoyed.

It could be the teenager’s smarmy style or it could be the fact that he’s failing at the one task he has now that the collection of movie tickets is largely automated. But the real problem lives in Coke’s attempt to change people’s habits because of rising commodity prices. It’s no surprise they want to save money and, as this graph shows, sugar prices have risen threefold in the last four years.

I actually think Coke Zero tastes fine and nobody needs the six teaspoons of sugar. So my question is why have we been dealt at an unhealthy alternative for years?

You can be sure that sales if Zero are set to climb in line with Coca-Cola’s ad spend, as the popularity of the regular drink starts it’s gradual decline into obsolescence.

(Surely, the sugar-free version will eventually become the standard version and, in a flurry of good PR, people will applaud what is really a cost-saving move cloaked as a health-conscious rebranding exercise.)

But, there’s a sting in the tail.

If the anti-sugar advocates are correct and sugar is an addictive ‘poison’, should we now expect to see a slump in sales without this lethal ingredient to hook in weak-willed soft-drink consumers?

me tweeting

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