Archive for May, 2007

What does ‘Save the Children’ do?

Sunday, May 27th, 2007

The British design group Johnson Banks have been working on an interesting project for Save the Children.

The basic problem faced by the client was that, despite the name, no one really knows what they do. Added to that, their corporate identity is a little, er, dull, and their corporate guidelines are quite strict about the use of Gill Sans as their typeface. (Guidelines do that – that’s the whole point – but the problem here is that they maybe take ‘corporate’ too far, and make the charity appear less than friendly).

The idea they came up with was to give outlines of the font, in several weights, to children to get them to fill them in. Then the best were chosen, digitised, and are now being used in Save the Children publicity – the guidelines are adhered to, but with a little creativity they also manage to make Save the Children a little bit more childlike without being childish.

Here are some images from the project. You can see the whole story at Johnson Banks’s blog (which is worth subscribing to). Of note is the fact that they had to get permission from Monotype, who ‘own’ Gill Sans, to treat the typeface in this way.

Chewing Gum Wars

Sunday, May 27th, 2007

From the BBC’s Money Programme site comes this article about the chewing gum market, and the recent entry in to the UK of Cadbury’s new ‘Trident’ Brand.

NB The programme on which this article is based was broadcast on BBC2 on Friday 25 May 2007.

See also ‘Big Gum Battle’ and ‘Gum campaign branded racist’.

Chewing gum is at the centre of a retail battle between Wrigley, the dominant player in Britain for decades, and Cadbury, the world’s biggest confectionary company. At stake is the £250m a year the British spend on gum.

Cadbury launched four Trident products in Britain in February. They appeared on newsagents shelves alongside the 32 gum products sold by Wrigley.

Cadbury’s campaign hit the headlines two months later when the Advertising Standards Authority (ASA) banned its TV advertisement for Trident featuring a “dub poet” enthusing about Trident on stage in a nightclub.

The ASA received more than 500 complaints that the ad was racist in its stereotyping of the over-excited, Jamaican-style character.

Now Cadbury Trebor Bassett’s managing director, Simon Baldry, tells the Money Programme that he wants to apologise for the advert.

“It was never our intention to offend anyone,” he says.

“If we have offended people then clearly we would like to apologise for that.”

But he denies the campaign was intended to stir up controversy.

“Let me be very clear, controversy was never part of launching this brand. Many consumers love this ad and it’s been a great vehicle for us to communicate to the nation about a great new gum experience.”

Fun race

Five years ago, Cadbury bought into gum with its purchase of Adams, an American gum company, which, like Wrigley, has its roots in the 19th Century.

Adams products, such as Trident, Dentyne and Certs, were big sellers in the US and elsewhere, but were not sold in Britain.

The attraction of Adams for Cadbury was that gum sales are growing at three times the rate of chocolate, a Cadbury staple.

Changing tastes key to gum war

But the UK was a market out of step with global growth.

“Britain had been chewing below its weight,” says Cadbury’s Director of Global Gum, Jim Cali. Here, gum sales had actually fallen by 4% in the past two years.

Wrigley says it anticipated Cadbury’s move into its territory. “We’ve been expecting it for a number of years, since they’ve been buying gum companies around the world,” says Gharry Eccles, managing director of Wrigley UK.

And Mr Eccles says he would relish the prospect of increased competition.

“If you’re running a race, running it on your own is actually no fun,” he says.

“When you’re running against someone it becomes a whole new ball game, and a lot more fun.”

Pleasure and indulgence

Cadbury does not appear to have been harmed by its controversial campaign.

According to the latest market figures from AC Neilsen, Trident is taking a 12.5% share of the market, leaving Wrigley with a still-dominant 86.3%.

The good news for both companies is that the £12m total gum market is up almost 20% on this time last year and Wrigley itself has grown its sales by 5%, with new products such as Orbit Complete.

Both companies have been seeking to differentiate themselves.

Cadbury wants to stress how it is bringing its confectionary experience to the chewing gum business.

“Pleasure and indulgence is what we know best,” declares Mr Baldry.

“It’s our expertise in our total confectionary field, and we’re bringing that to the gum category too.”

Agrees Mr Cali: “Gum is fun.”

Health benefits?

Wrigley is anxious not to be painted as the functional alternative to the indulgence of Cadbury, but nevertheless has set up a research programme under the title The Wrigley Science Institute.

Based in Chicago, its head, Gilbert Leveille, sponsors research at universities around the world, looking for health benefits of chewing gum.

So far, they have established that gum can help reduce tooth decay, but have yet to confirm some of the newer claims, such as that chewing during learning can improve memory.

Mr Leveille is hopeful, explaining that “chewing gum increases blood flow to the brain very significantly, and that could be a plausible explanation for why some of these mental benefits seem to be associated with chewing gum”.

The irony is that Trident, whose name in Britain today reminds people of missiles rather than mastication, was originally named in the 1960’s because it contained three ingredients that were supposed to be good for your teeth – hence “tri-dent”.

Fighting litter

For all the competition between the two companies, on the question of chewing gum litter, Wrigley and Cadbury are united.

Both companies want to keep regulation at bay and are cooperating with a government initiative to control litter.

Under the auspices of Defra (The Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs), the companies are represented on the so-called Chewing Gum Action Group.

The Group, with a budget of £600,000 provided by the manufacturers, helps local authorities publicise anti-gum litter messages.

Defra minister Ben Bradshaw is responsible for dealing with the litter problem, and says his department has been “working very closely with the chewing gum manufacturers”.

Mr Bradshaw accepts the manufacturers’ argument that the problem lies with consumers, rather than being the direct responsibility of chewing gum makers.

“We don’t want to penalise a legal product that the public enjoy, but we want to try and change people’s behaviour when they use that product,” he says.

But anti-gum campaigners such as Westminster Councillor Alan Bradley, are unimpressed, describing the Defra group as “dancing to the manufacturers’ tune”.

He points to a similar group in Ireland that has a higher budget per capita, and will be active in all local authorities, rather than in just the 15 a year in the UK that the Defra group is targeting.

There is no sign of a limit to the global consumption of gum. Indeed, Wrigley’s sales worldwide are up by almost 30% in its latest figures.

When William Wrigley settled on gum as the way to make his fortune in Chicago at the end of the 19th Century, he had no idea that the brands he created – Juicy Fruit, Spearmint and Doublemint – would still be growing, more than a century later.

Worst idea ever: UK school does away with playgrounds

Sunday, May 6th, 2007

It doesn’t take much to get me in rant mode these days—not sure why that is, I’m normally all sweetness and light.
But here’s a story that has really got me seething. It turns out that a new school, Thomas Deacon Academy in the UK has been built… without a playground.

That’s right. There is nowhere for kids to run around, socialise, have their first snog, and illicit cigarette, practice their football skills, bully or be bullied. (Well the last two don’t make my case but anyway).

The head of the school says “This is a massive investment of public money and I think what the public want is maximum learning. They recognise that youngsters can play in their own time, play in their local communities. What I want from my teachers is maximum teaching and I want maximum learning from the youngsters.”

You don’t get that from stopping them playing and socialising. The school calls it ‘university style’ teaching and learning. Well, I don’t think I’ve ever come across anything like that in my experience of universities. Visit the school’s website and read the list of ‘facilities’. It sounds like the Panopticon, with no privacy for anyone, students or teachers. I bet you the first thing that happens is the wonderful glass walls will get covered up with work to let people get on with learning without being stared at by passers by (although come to think of it, when would anyone be passing by to look at classes taking place? Won’t they all be in class at the same time?)

This is a stupid idea and whoever dreamt it up should be strung up, along with whoever allowed them to get away with it.
There are two main reasons why I think this is idiotic:

Firstly, there is a clear link between play and creativity, and creativity is key to good, deep learning. You might be able to learn how to manipulate numbers in a maths lesson, but you need to be really creative to get them to do amazing things like predicting what will happen when a rocket takes off at a certain time, velocity and direction—will it reach Saturn or will it burn up in the Sun? Well who cares with that, so long as you pass your exams and make the school look good.

Secondly, has no one told these people about childhood obesity? When are these kids going to get any exercise? What are they going to do between classes? When are they going to burn off excess energy? How are teachers going to cope with kids who have been made to sit with their heads in books or in front of computer screens all day?

I can think of lots more reasons too. I bet you no great artists, musicians or designers will come out of this school, and I’d be surprised if there were any great engineers, writers, politicians, teachers, aid workers, or medics either. And that’s despite the wonderful-looking photos on the website. You can have all the ‘interactive plasma screens’ in the world, but they don’t guarantee anyone’s going to learn anything.

Stupid, stupid, stupid.

Here’s the story. Worth reading and spitting your cornflakes all over the floor.

Incidentally, the school’s website has a wonderful artist’s impression with loads of kids sitting outside on the grass… next to a motorway by the looks of things. Looks like even the illustrated fake kids don’t want to go in to a school without a playground.