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Live By The Sword, Die By The Sword

Stuart White

The World in Black-N-White

100 years ago, just after the end of World War I, the only advertisements people were exposed to would have been black and white newspaper ads and some hand-painted promotions on building walls, those being the only media options available. 

However, little did anyone, not least the advertising industry, know that a promotional revolution was just around the corner, with the looming advent of the radio.  Unsurprisingly, it was in the United States, the future Mecca of all-out advertising, where the potential of this new option was first realised and thus it was that the ‘soap opera’ was born, quite literally a means whereby soap powder and similarly suitable domestic cleaning product manufacturers , began to sponsor radio serials which aired during the working day, clearly aimed at the woman of the house, at home attending to domestic duties while her husband was out earning the family crust.

By the close of the 20th century the advertising industry had moved on apace.  Post World War II, television came into its own, magazines were almost universally printed in full colour, billboards were commonplace and ads were aired in every conceivable place – on the sides of buses, written in the sky, flashed up in neon and as the New Millenium dawned, the advent of the worldwide web threw up dozens of new media opportunities hitherto undreamed of.

Today, make no mistake, advertising is big business.  Major corporations such as Coca Cola and Lever Brothers, set aside mind-boggling budget amounts to promote their products by every possible means.  We are all bombarded daily with a plethora of ads from the moment we wake up and check our smartphones through streamed news and entertainment, to social media, not to mention the mainstream media and static and moving promotional platforms.  All day and every day we are exhorted to buy this and try that – is it any wonder so many people are drowning in credit card debt?

And the history of advertising has thrown up some hugely successful client campaigns.  The aforementioned cola company is renowned for its catchy phrases and memorable ad campaigns which have successfully kept the brand at the top of its soda tree for decades.  Similarly De Beers, through successive campaigns of clever advertising, turned the diamond, essentially just a useless piece of pretty carbonaceous rock, into a highly desirable, highly prized thing of beauty, effectively pushing up the price of the gems to a cost completely out of synch with its total lack of functionality.

There have also been spectacular ad fails too   World-famous Budweiser beer appeared to be encouraging date rape with a campaign for Bud Light for which the slogans read ‘The perfect beer for removing ‘no’ from your vocabulary for the night’ &   ‘The perfect beer for whatever happens’, suggesting that it is for a ‘certain type’ of a woman who is carefree, gets drunk and doesn’t care what happens to her.  The product was backed up by a Twitter marketing campaign entitled #UpforWhatever. Surely someone at Budweiser should have realised this campaign was going to be doomed from the beginning?

Then there was the gaffe by Walkers crisps.  It was a good idea on paper. Tweet a selfie using the hashtag #WalkersWave for a chance to win a ticket to the UEFA Champions League final. The company then turned the selfies into a video featuring football player Gary Lineker holding the submitted picture. So far, so good. And then…Apparently, there was no monitoring the selfies that came in and pictures of mass murderers, sex offenders, dictators and others went through which were later published by Walkers Facebook account. Ouch!

Even the biggest brands are not immune to such spectacular fails.  In 2016 McDonalds thought it would be a good idea to adopt the moral high ground with a campaign bringing up an issue their customers really didn’t want to deal with when ordering their burgers – terrorism.  The fast-food giant launched a series of billboards with a message about incidents including 9/11 and the Boston Marathon bombing, all under those famous golden arches. McDonald’s was quickly accused of capitalising on the tragedy and the campaign was consigned to history.

You’d have thought other brands might had taken heed with that last bomb – pun fully intended – but apparently not.  Only just over 2 weeks into the year but many have already condemned Gillette's latest online ad as the worst ad of 2019 with one pundit labelling it "vindictive” and “accusatory”.

Tapping into the #MeToo movement, the shaving company's new advertising campaign plays on its 30-year tagline “The best a man can get”, replacing it with “The best men can be”.  It features news clips of reporting on the #MeToo movement, as well as images showing sexism in films, in boardrooms, and of violence between boys, with a voice over saying: “Bullying, the MeToo movement against sexual harassment, toxic masculinity, is this the best a man can get?”  It goes on to encourage men to hold one another accountable for their behaviour.

Uploaded onto YouTube, the ad attracted 400,000 ‘dislikes’ versus about 100,000 ‘likes, or only 1 in 4 viewers.  Television personality and journalist Piers Morgan said on Twitter: "If Gillette made a commercial predicated on women being bad & this is how they can all be better… the same radical feminists loving this ad would go nuts.’  He has hinted he will no longer be buying any Gillette products.  Others also have vowed to now only use rival Schick, posting videos on Twitter throwing their Gillette razors in the rubbish.  


On its website Gillette, which also owns Wilkinson Sword blades and is part of the global Proctor & Gamble brand, said it was time brands acknowledged the role they played in influencing culture.  "As a company that encourages men to be their best, we have a responsibility to make sure we are promoting positive, attainable, inclusive and healthy versions of what it means to be a man,"

Hmm.  As one critic opined, it’s lucky women also buy razor blades’, implying that it may be driving away its core sales base – men!    Another tweet complained that it portrayed most men as ‘would-be sexual abusers & creeps’, which would  certainly appear to be a good way of trashing most of your core customer base. If Gillette survives this campaign in terms of sales it will be a minor miracle.    Or to put it another way, it’ll be a very close shave!

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Export Processing Zones: How to Get SEZA to Sizzle

23rd September 2020
Export Processing Zone (EPZ) factory in Kenya

In 2005, the Business & Economic Advisory Council (BEAC) pitched the idea of the establishment of Special Economic Zones (SEZs) to the Mogae Administration.

It took five years before the SEZ policy was formulated, another five years before the relevant law was enacted, and a full three years before the Special Economic Zones Authority (SEZA) became operational.

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Egypt Bagged Again

23rd September 2020
Samson

… courtesy of infiltration stratagem by Jehovah-Enlil’s clan

With the passing of Joshua’s generation, General Atiku, the promised peace and prosperity of a land flowing with milk and honey disappeared, giving way to chaos and confusion.

Maybe Joshua himself was to blame for this shambolic state of affairs. He had failed to mentor a successor in the manner Moses had mentored him. He had left the nation without a central government or a human head of state but as a confederacy of twelve independent tribes without any unifying force except their Anunnaki gods.

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‘RO, ‘RO ‘RO YOUR ‘BOT

23rd September 2020

If I say the word ‘robot’ to you,  I can guess what would immediately spring to mind –  a cute little Android or animal-like creature with human or pet animal characteristics and a ‘heart’, that is to say to say a battery, of gold, the sort we’ve all seen in various movies and  tv shows.  Think R2D2 or 3CPO in Star Wars, Wall-E in the movie of the same name,  Sonny in I Robot, loveable rogue Bender in Futurama,  Johnny 5 in Short Circuit…

Of course there are the evil ones too, the sort that want to rise up and eliminate us  inferior humans – Roy Batty in Blade Runner, Schwarzenegger’s T-800 in The Terminator,  Box in Logan’s Run,  Police robots in Elysium and  Otomo in Robocop.

And that’s to name but a few.  As a general rule of thumb, the closer the robot is to human form, the more dangerous it is and of course the ultimate threat in any Sci-Fi movie is that the robots will turn the tables and become the masters, not the mechanical slaves.  And whilst we are in reality a long way from robotic domination, there are an increasing number of examples of  robotics in the workplace.

ROBOT BLOODHOUNDS Sometimes by the time that one of us smells something the damage has already begun – the smell of burning rubber or even worse, the smell of deadly gas. Thank goodness for a robot capable of quickly detecting and analyzing a smell from our very own footprint.

A*Library Bot The A*Star (Singapore) developed library bot which when books are equipped with RFID location chips, can scan shelves quickly seeking out-of-place titles.  It manoeuvres with ease around corners, enhances the sorting and searching of books, and can self-navigate the library facility during non-open hours.

DRUG-COMPOUNDING ROBOT Automated medicine distribution system, connected to the hospital prescription system. It’s goal? To manipulate a large variety of objects (i.e.: drug vials, syringes, and IV bags) normally used in the manual process of drugs compounding to facilitate stronger standardisation, create higher levels of patient safety, and lower the risk of hospital staff exposed to toxic substances.

AUTOMOTIVE INDUSTRY ROBOTS Applications include screw-driving, assembling, painting, trimming/cutting, pouring hazardous substances, labelling, welding, handling, quality control applications as well as tasks that require extreme precision,

AGRICULTURAL ROBOTS Ecrobotix, a Swiss technology firm has a solar-controlled ‘bot that not only can identify weeds but thereafter can treat them. Naio Technologies based in southwestern France has developed a robot with the ability to weed, hoe, and assist during harvesting. Energid Technologies has developed a citrus picking system that retrieves one piece of fruit every 2-3 seconds and Spain-based Agrobot has taken the treachery out of strawberry picking. Meanwhile, Blue River Technology has developed the LettuceBot2 that attaches itself to a tractor to thin out lettuce fields as well as prevent herbicide-resistant weeds. And that’s only scratching the finely-tilled soil.

INDUSTRIAL FLOOR SCRUBBERS The Global Automatic Floor Scrubber Machine boasts a 1.6HP motor that offers 113″ water lift, 180 RPM and a coverage rate of 17,000 sq. ft. per hour

These examples all come from the aptly-named site www.willrobotstakemyjob.com    because while these functions are labour-saving and ripe for automation, the increasing use of artificial intelligence in the workplace will undoubtedly lead to increasing reliance on machines and a resulting swathe of human redundancies in a broad spectrum of industries and services.

This process has been greatly boosted by the global pandemic due to a combination of a workforce on furlough, whether by decree or by choice, and the obvious advantages of using virus-free machines – I don’t think computer viruses count!  For example, it was suggested recently that their use might have a beneficial effect in care homes for the elderly, solving short staffing issues and cheering up the old folks with the novelty of having their tea, coffee and medicines delivered by glorified model cars.  It’s a theory, at any rate.

Already, customers at the South-Korean  fast-food chain No Brand Burger can avoid any interaction with a human server during the pandemic.  The chain is using robots to take orders, prepare food and bring meals out to diners.  Customers order and pay via touchscreen, then their request is sent to the kitchen where a cooking machine heats up the buns and patties. When it’s ready, a robot ‘waiter’ brings out their takeout bag.   

‘This is the first time I’ve actually seen such robots, so they are really amazing and fun,’ Shin Hyun Soo, an office worker at No Brand in Seoul for the first time, told the AP. 

Human workers add toppings to the burgers and wrap them up in takeout bags before passing them over to yellow-and-black serving robots, which have been compared to Minions. 

Also in Korea, the Italian restaurant chain Mad for Garlic is using serving robots even for sit-down customers. Using 3D space mapping and other technology, the electronic ‘waiter,’ known as Aglio Kim, navigates between tables with up to five orders.  Mad for Garlic manager Lee Young-ho said kids especially like the robots, which can carry up to 66lbs in their trays.

These catering robots look nothing like their human counterparts – in fact they are nothing more than glorified food trolleys so using our thumb rule from the movies, mankind is safe from imminent takeover but clearly  Korean hospitality sector workers’ jobs are not.

And right there is the dichotomy – replacement by stealth.  Remote-controlled robotic waiters and waitresses don’t need to be paid, they don’t go on strike and they don’t spread disease so it’s a sure bet their army is already on the march.

But there may be more redundancies on the way as well.  Have you noticed how AI designers have an inability to use words of more than one syllable?  So ‘robot’ has become ‘bot’ and ‘android’ simply ‘droid?  Well, guys, if you continue to build machines ultimately smarter than yourselves you ‘rons  may find yourself surplus to requirements too – that’s ‘moron’ to us polysyllabic humans”!

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