Tracy's blog

I’m Tracy Au and I have graduated from the Professional Writing program from university. I am an aspiring screenwriter, so this blog is used to promote my writing and attract people who will hire me to write for your TV show or movie. I write a lot about writing, TV, movies, jokes, and my daily life and opinions. I have another blog promoting my TV project at

Friday, March 18, 2016

"Tongue- in chic- marketing for a cause"/ "No personal calls or email? No job, thanks"

Dec. 17, 2015 "Tongue- in chic- marketing for a cause": This article is by Libby Copeland in the Edmonton Journal on Feb. 18, 2007.  I was going through my old Professional Writing papers and this was a handout:

Diesel, the fashion brand, now offers a fresh take on the specter of a globally warmed planet:
More beaches!

In print ads promoting its spring/summer collection, the Italian-based clothing company depicts landscapes that have been transformed by environmental disaster. The proud buildings of Manhattan and the presidential faces of Mount Rushmore are half-submerged in water from melted glaciers. Paris is a steamy jungle. Life looks pretty awesome, though. Diesel's models are dressed fashionably if barely (to accommodate the weather) and they lounge amid this hip dystopia in glamorous unconcern, fanning themselves or applying suntan lotion to one another's tawny backs.
The images are stamped: "Global Warming Ready."

These ads are tongue in cheek, but that may not be apparent to anyone but Diesel customers, who've come to expect this sort of thing. In the past, Diesel has run ads advocating the smoking of 145 cigarettes a day (for that "sexy cough") and the drinking of urine to stay young. The company has also attempted to "sponsor" happiness. The irony is of the dark, European sort, best consumed in the company of Gauloises and knowing laughter.

That global warming is being spoofed by a retailer in the pages of Vogue and Esquire suggests that the issue is sufficiently widespread and accepted to have reached the irony tipping-point. It also speaks to the saturation of cause marketing, now part of the advertising ploys of everything from rubber gloves to skis to Hummel figurines. It was perhaps only a matter of time before a company like Diesel upended this with a perspective that is either humorous or insulting, depending on how you take it.

We are a nation that shops to save the world. Companies sell not just products but clean consciences. Leaving aside the questions an ethicist might ask ( Is it still charity when one only gives to get?), consider the pervasiveness of cause marketing in the pages of magazines and the windows of shops. The slogans are so numerous and so specific they verge on the farcical. Post-its: "Stick Up for the Cause." SunChips: "Crunch for the Cure." The pink ribbons of the breast cancer cause have become so commonplace on retail packaging that newspapers have begun to write of a so-called "pinklash."

Which brings us to global warming, an issue that has lately been everywhere, with Al Gore's movie, "An Inconvenient Truth," and the recent dire report released by the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change. Ben & Jerry's ice cream has been pushing a campaign to "Lick Global Warming." (Blech! That sounds gross.)

Amid all these warnings, Diesel wanted to present global warming in a "positive context," says Wilbert Das, the company's creative director. People have become used to learning about global warming in a serious and science-heavy fashion, he says. Spoofing the issue provides a "bigger shock," he says, possibly provoking consumers to think more.

Possibly. The funny thing about the "Global Warming Ready" campaign is that Diesel gets to have it both ways. Its arch attitude represents the triumph of cleverness over meaning, of sarcasm over what's sacred. It speaks to a culture of parody, in which the meta-news is invoked before the actual news is digested. (Or, as in the recent death of Anna Nicole Smith, the jokes begin before the body grows cold.) The photographic landscapes of Diesel's print campaign are surreal, but certain conventions of the fashion world are secure: The models are still svelte, and stylishness still triumphs over all. You can't be too well-dressed for the apocalypse.

At the same time, Diesel gets to barnacle itself to the underside of one of the advertising world's biggest trends. The company gets to have a cause, at least for the spring/summer campaign. People who visit are encouraged to purchase a DVD of Gore's movie and are directed to the Web site of an organization dedicated to increasing awareness of global warming. A Q&A on Diesel's site addresses a query about how to treat the environment better "without changing my glamorous lifestyle." (Again, that flip humor. The suggestions include having sex to stay warm instead of turning up the heat.)

'Cause marketing's greatest cause is making the sale. With the declining influence of television's 30-second spot and the fragmentation of an audience that now gets its information from three screens (TV, computer and cellphone) instead of one, marketers have to figure out "how to drive a response that's emotional," says Samantha Skey, the executive vice president of strategic marketing at Alloy Media + Marketing.

Skey says her research indicates that young people care about brands doing good, that they look for fairly visible and superficial signs of this goodness (like packaging and advertising) and that they respond to different issues depending on their age. Kids tend to like animal rights because they have pets, Skey says, but they don't get interested in environmental causes till they're in college. Smart marketers pay attention to this stuff when they're choosing what to champion. Skey says she has witnessed cause marketing become more frenetic in the last two years, as companies launch shorter campaigns aimed at capitalizing on whatever disease or tragedy is hot at the moment.

Maybe guilt is the new black. We want to believe we are not just buying a garment; we are helping find a cure for AIDS. We especially want others to know of our valiant efforts to cure AIDS. A garment that communicates this, such as a Product Red T-shirt purchased at the Gap, fulfills both missions. The proclamation of one's own goodness is viewed by young people as "an extension of the personal brand," says Valerie Seckler, who covers advertising and marketing for Women's Wear Daily.

Once upon a time, Seckler points out, the sort of people "who attached themselves to causes . . . really drew a line between that kind of activity and going out and greasing the capitalist wheels."
These days, we are Caring(TM).

Is there a tension here? You betcha. Cause marketing soothes the compunctions of a mass-consumption culture at the same time that it contributes to that excess. It allows us to be giving at the same time that we are selfish. In a recent television ad, actor Ron Livingston tells viewers that if they buy the Red Motorazr cellphone from Sprint, a portion of the proceeds will go toward the problem of AIDS in Africa.

Inline image
Inline image
"You also get this very sleek red phone," Livingston says. "Just in case, you know, the saving lives part wasn't enough."

So a campaign that encourages the consumer to do something good, so long as that thing doesn't require changes in a glamorous lifestyle -- such a campaign makes a lot of sense. That's what cause marketing has been pushing all along. The fashion comes first. Diesel may bill its campaign as arch, but there's an underlying honesty.
"We are a fashion brand," Das says by phone from Italy. "We want to sell product. We don't do anything more or less."
How crass. Or refreshing. Depending on how you take it.

Dec. 26, 2015 "No personal calls or email?  No job, thanks": I cut out this article by Lauren Weber in the Globe and Mail on May 11, 2012:

Even in a tough job market, 23% of recent college graduates wouldn't take a post where they couldn't make or take personal phone calls, and 20% would reject a place that didn't let them check personal email, according to a new study from staffing firm Adecco Group North America.

The study, which surveyed more than 500 22- to 26-year-old graduates of four-year degree programs, also found that newly minted graduates are short on patience: Only 3% said they expect to stay at any one job for more than five years, and 33% said they would probably stay three years or less.

And forget about paying dues in a less-than-fulfilling post in order to move up eventually: 91% said they would leave within a year if they don't like their jobs.

"With social media, this generation can see everything their peers are doing. So they feel like they have to move more often to keep up with where their friends and classmates are," said Janette Marx, senior vice president of Adecco Group North America.

So what are young employees looking for? Topping the list were good health benefits (74%), job security (73%), opportunities for growth and development (68%), work/life flexibility (66%), and high salary (61%).
—Lauren Weber

My opinion: You should stay at a job as long as possible.  You don't want to look like a job hopper.  If the job is really bad as in: you're not getting enough hours, you really hate it, you're not good at it, then look for another one.

"Want negotiating success?  Stay calm- and threaten to walk": I cut out this article by Rachel Emma Silverman and Melissa Korn in the Globe and Mail on May 11, 2012.  This article was on the same webpage as the one above.  (They're Wall Street Journal staff.)

Some tips for your next negotiation: stay calm, threaten to walk away and beware when bargaining with men.

That's according to a pair of new studies on negotiation strategies and ethical behavior.

While anger and heated words may turn off partners in a negotiation, calm threats—especially those delivered late in the game—proved successful in convincing people to capitulate, according to results of a study recently published in the Journal of Applied Psychology.

The study, based on three experiments with more than 300 subjects, by researchers at Insead, Stanford University, Northwestern University and other institutions, had partners bargain with a computer that made either angry statements ("I am very angry with your offer. This begins to seriously get on my nerves") or neutrally phrased threats and ultimatums ("take it or leave it"). The computers issued the statements at various stages in a six-round negotiation.

Researchers found that participants were consistently more likely to concede when faced with a coolly delivered threat than with anger.

"Sometimes when people are angry—when they are having a 'hissy fit'—they say things they don't mean," says study co-author Margaret Neale, a professor at Stanford's Graduate School of Business. "Those who issued threats were seen as more poised."

Meanwhile, men appear more willing than women to win at all costs—even if it means putting aside ethical standards in the process, according to a new paper accepted for publication in the Journal of Experimental Social Psychology.

Men are more pragmatic in their ethical reasoning than women, more lenient in applying ethical standards and more prone to "moral hypocrisy," found authors Laura Kray of University of California, Berkeley and Michael Haselhuhn from University of Wisconsin-Milwaukee.

Men tend to assume that their masculinity is at stake during the interaction, according to the authors. That perceived threat can make them more aggressive in negotiations.

Men "tend to view ethics almost as a tool," Mr. Haselhuhn said, adding that they judge "ethicality" on the basis of practical consequences, and are more willing than women to justify moral wrongdoing by minimizing their actions' potential consequences.

In a series of four experiments, undergraduate and graduate students were asked to respond to situations in which questionable ethics were displayed. For example, one scenario involved a person selling a stereo and lying to a potential buyer about having another offer. When men were in the seller's position, they were more supportive of the lie; when they were told a classmate was the seller, they disapproved. Women saw the action as more unethical, no matter which character they were.


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