Posts By: Chris Arnold

Sweat shops, am I bovvered?

I wonder how young girls would feel about shopping at Primark, GAP, Matalan and H&Mif they did a job exchange and worked in an Asian sweat shop for 9 hours a day for just 1.13?

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Can rock ‘n’ roll save the planet?

I’m all for pop stars turning up the temperature on governments and raising money but I do feel that they are more interested in raising their personal profile than the plight of the planet.

Just when I thought all was lost – China and India building more power stations, America ignoring the Kyoto treaty, the Stern Review sitting on my desk – I am reassured that pop will save the planet.

Despite Bob Geldoff slamming Al Gore’s Live Earth event as “just an enormous pop concert without any real goal”, lots of image conscious musicians like Madonna and socially aware bands such as Coldplay and Keane, still signed up.

In fact, a lot of the press coverage, especially in the UK, was openly critical of artists and their commitment to the event. The amount of carbon created from running the concert and produced by pop stars flying in (each with full entourage in tow) also received disparaging comments.

Interesting research carried out before and after the event by ethical consumer experts the Fraser Consultancy ( is very revealing. Initially, about half the British public (53%) thought that climate change was the real concern of the pop stars attending. After the event, this fell to just 39%. It appears that the UK is the most cynical of nations, with Australia being the most supportive (72% before, 60% after) and the US falling in between (58% before, 50% after).

Nowadays, it seems as though every pop star needs a cause and of course, the column inches to go with it. Though this isn't an entirely new concept. Since the 60s, pop stars have used songs to challenge social injustice but it was Geldoff who recognised that ‘pop could make a point’, as a force that can be used for good.

Live Aid (1985) still remains one of the most successful fundraising events in history, raising over 150m. Its message reached over 1.5bn viewers and challenged governments to change the world. (Sadly much of the funds for Ethiopia were siphoned off by Mengistu Haile Mariam and his army or used by the Derg military junta).

More recently, Coldplay's Chris Martin has voiced his passionate views on social issues and is a big supporter of Oxfam’s ‘Make Trade Fair’ campaign. There is little doubt that a good pop star on your side can be an effective weapon, especially if you are trying to win over a younger audience, which many charities are desperately trying to do.

The temptation now is for stars to go solo and create their own campaign. Bono’s Red campaign to help fights AIDs in Africa only raised $18m against a $100m expenditure, despite being signed up to by big brands like Amex, Motorola, Apple and GAP. But to give him credit, the campaign was well planned and thought through, unlike the knee jerk reactions to world crisis some pop stars come up with.

After the Asian Tsunami old rockers Cliff Richard and Boy George announced they were recording a fund raising song called ‘Grief Never Grows Old’ and expected to raise 2m, but probably ended up raising more eyebrows.

When Michael Jackson announced he wanted to record a charity track to save kids dying in Africa the press took him apart. Despite the fact he seemed to know very little about his cause, it was suggested that instead of donating his talent he donated his cash instead and save us from what would only have been three and half minutes of self-righteousness.

Pop stars, like any celebrity, can be an effective tool in marketing terms when well used. But the danger is, left to their own devices, they can end up trivializing a cause or worse still, reducing it to the equivalent of a mere passing fashion fad; here today, forgotten tomorrow. Make Poverty History (2005) has itself become history. Critics at the time commented on the wristbands being more a fashion accessory than a social statement.

Of course, the danger of working with pop stars is the nature of their lifestyles and attitudes. Our national papers have highlighted the hypocrisy of rich pop stars that squander their money on indulgent parties and fancy holidays, stashing their wealth in off-shore accounts while preaching ethics and asking the poorer public to donate. Whilst driving a Prius, many celebs would do well to be honest and have a sticker in the back window, ‘MY OTHER VEHICLE IS A PRIVATE JET’.

I’m all for pop stars turning up the temperature on governments and raising money but I do feel that they are more interested in raising their personal profile than the plight of the planet.

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This week advertising comes under attack again for selling to children. This time it’s for using cartoon characters to flog unhealthy breakfast cereals, biscuits and sweets. Which? have condemned the use of these loveable and highly influential cartoon folk for encouraging our kids to eat more fat, sugar and salt.


Red, Amber, Green

Going green can be sexy and fun.With all the current floods – July 07 has been the wettest year to date and by contrast, July 06 was the hottest on record – people are starting to wake up to the fact that all this talk of environmental disaster may be true.

Whereas Al ‘the bore’ Gore (as some cynics call him) got us all talking about the inconvenient truth of environmentalism over our gin and tonics, they say that experience is far more effective a persuader than talk alone. Well that certainly seems to be the case. I’m sure event and field marketers will be chuffed.

This has led to a massive panic to go green. Immediate action or the planet gets it. The fact that current environmental issues are anything but just current seems to have missed some people but makes for good media headlines. It was over a decade ago that we had the hole in the Ozone Layer panic. Credit where credit’s due, politicians actually managed to act and ban most CFCs. The only downside was that hairspray sales went down, while hair gel went up and spiky hair made a come back.

Some groups are running around like headless chickens, the danger of which is to create green fatigue. Or worse still, to have politicians creating new laws and regulations to grab media column inches. Every politician needs to be ‘seen to be green’. Like boy racers at the traffic lights, their foot is flat down on the change accelerator, when they should actually be trying some gentle eco breaking instead.

But then the smart people don’t go into politics; they have other ways to influence society. ‘Change the World for a Fiver’ and ‘Change the World 9-5’ (by the group We are what we do – takes a more realistic approach. If we all make a series of changes – just a few small steps – we will end up making one big leap. A similar approach has been adopted by a new website I’ve came across recently called The Nag ( Each month you commit yourself to one small act. That’s just 12 a year. It’s almost perfect for those armchair ecos who really want conscience with convenience.

Where so many eco sites can be a bit too worthy, banging the drum of guilt and demanding we should all be ‘consumers of conscience’, The Nag takes a lighter look at ethics. They even offer a ‘crap prize draw’ competition. This is ethics with fun, which is how it should be. After all, we in advertising all know that Ogilvy was very wrong when he said; “no one buys from a clown.” Sorry David but humour wins hearts and minds and sales every time. Why? Because it engages you and gets under the radar. The first thing we do when we meet people is use a smile and humour. So if it works there, why not for ethics?

Another site I like is Tree Huggers ( who have a friendly magazine like approach: intelligent, witty and very factual without eco emotionalism. But hidden in the site is the oddest section I’ve come across on any green site – how to green your sex life. Here you can learn the process of greening your ecological footprint in the bedroom and a guide to buying greener sex toys. As I’ve said, fun sells but so does sex.

Tim Smit, founder and Chief Executive of the Eden Project, believes future leaders should be “big, bold, dangerous, compelling, sexy, aggressive and rock and roll”.

So green is fun, green is sexy, green is the new rock ‘n’ roll. So what are you waiting for?

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Are ads polluting our cities?


Sao Paulo in Brazil has taken down all its outdoor poster ads, neon signs, ads at bus stops, flyers, hand lettered signs and ads on transport. People there felt that the city had become polluted by “worthless advertising” and had turned the city into one giant billboard. Since they have removed all ads the public have said the city has been “cleaned” and reclaimed from the hands of commercial brands. Everyone agrees it looks much better. Not surprisingly the Brazilian ad community and many large brands are unhappy. Though some more creative ad agencies are seeing it as an opportunity to be more innovative.

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