Futurism, QR codes, ethical knickers and iFood – it’s a changing world out there.

On Feb 20th it’s the 100th anniversary of the launch of Futurism (founded by the Italian Filippo Tommaso Marinetti) a movement that looked to the future and embraced new ideas, technology and challenged the old ‘museum’ way of thinking. Look forward not back was the gist of it.

Don’t be afraid of the future and accept change. Ok, they did a have a few negative thoughts – war is good. However, their ideals are something we could well all benefit from in the ad industry at the moment. Instead of moaning about recession, living in the past and defending change, lets embrace it. It’s maybe ironic that a new model agency is launching on Feb 20th with a very new way of working. I’m sure Campaign will be covering it in a week’s time – there’s bugger all positive or exciting news about. at the moment


So what’s a QR code? If you don’t know (and don’t worry most Brits or sales assistants in phone shops don’t) ask any Japanese kid with a mobile. Simply put, it’s a sort of bar code (a matrix code) that a mobile phone can read. It’s square in appearance and looks like lots of pixels. So what? you may say but in Japan there are everywhere and have become the new love of all marketing directors.

QR stands for ‘quick response’, when a phone scans the graphic it can decode it as text or take you direct to a web page. Forget phone numbers or urls, this is modern technology at work.

The downside is there look worse than telephone numbers on ads (art directors will hate them as much as packaging designers hate bar codes). They really will change the face of ads – mutilate may be a better word as they will sit on ads in a very nasty way. But as an additional marketing technique they’ll add to effectiveness.

What is surprising is that something so linear in thinking has been picked up by creatives and played with. Several artists have used them, Sergio Kano has made a series of images up from over 500 of them, each QR code represents a well known brand slogan. The French street artist ‘Space Invader’ has been placing tiles around the world for years, each one based on the space invaders game. Now he’s converted his mosaic style to QR codes. If you spot one of his tiles then scan it into your phone and it’ll give a message like ‘have a nice day’.


More than pretty knickers have made an impressive commercial to highlight their new range of ethical pants. This is one step on from Pants for Poverty who got several hundred people to parade around St Pancras station in knickers only (one of which was a female creative director of an ad agency – I’ll mention no names to save embarrassment). The ethical knickers campaign uses a sexy catwalk commercial (directed by Verity White, ex BBC) to highlight the unethical aspects of most underwear. The commercial is excellent – take a look. Did you know that the cotton industry spends $2bn on pesticides – and uses more than any other industry? Or that sweat shop workers get less than a penny per kicker? Or that for every kg of cotton produced they use 20,000 litres of water? Makes you think.


I recently suggested to one publication to set a brief to see if 3 agencies could turn a piece or marketing around to get people to pay for it. Lets be honest, if you put a price tag on most advertising would anyone (besides the client) pay for it? This opens up a new idea – what if we aimed to create marketing communications that people did pay for? Stuff they really wanted? Like the Gorilla or Sony balls ads. Like that 24 mailer or that NIKE brochure that sold on ebay for a $60. Well it seems some smart chaps at Kraft foods in the States have achieved just that. They are getting Americans to pay to get ads with food planning tools. It’s become a big hit on the iPhone and now other brands are looking to smart phone applications as the next generation of technology driven marketing.


This Valentines Day you’ll have a dilemma, should you buy nice red rose from Holland or ethical ones? Which is more ethical, low carbon footprint ones or Fairtrade ones? Maybe you should just opt for chocolates. Again, should you pick the organic or Fairtrade? How about a gift instead – well you’ll have lots of ethical dilemma choices there too. The eco-ethical movement have started to hi-jack Valentines Day as an ethical expression of love – if you love someone then you’ll only buy an ethical gift. It’s a fair point but if you are finding it all too much you can always take the left wing green anti-capitalism view – Valentines Day is a capitalist attempt to generate extra consumerism – so buy nothing.


If my regular readers are wondering why I’ve been off blog for a while it’s because I’ve been finishing off my book for the publisher’s Wileys. Ethical Marketing & the New Consumer, which can be found on Amazon (you can pre-order at half price). When it launches it’ll be one of the first multi-platform launches of a book with a website and smart phone applications. Watch this space for more updates.

  • http://www.thefonecast.com Mark Bridge

    I love the idea of guerilla QR codes – but Microsoft’s new ‘Tag’ might have just sounded the death knell for the monochrome mobile barcode. It’s quite a pretty pattern, too…

  • Max Harrington

    When I was in Japan recently they were bonkers about QR codes. Smart response device. Gucci even have pictorial ones with a handbag image within the code.I’m sure there are others but many Japanese brands have embraced them. A VHS vs Betamax situation maybe?