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  • Painting the town Celebration Red

    April 22, 2011 @ 12:55 pm | by Laura Slattery

    The Let's Colour Project reaches St Mary's Pre School, Pearse St, Dublin. Photo: Dulux.

    As someone who tends to have at least one skirting board in the house permanently lined with masking tape, the Easter bank holiday offers an exciting four-day opportunity for DIY-related procrastination, of which writing this post is just one small part. It’s a good thing I don’t live in Main Street, Moneygall, Co Offaly, where Dulux is providing free paint to houses and businesses ahead of President Obama’s visit, but is not actually doing the painting. Dulux could drop off as many tins of Pacific Breeze or Intense Truffle as it liked – if it was my doorstep, poor Barack would still end up averting his eyes from the faded, peeling remnants of whichever vomitous shade I had thought was a good idea five years earlier.

    That’s not to say that I think Dulux’s global Let’s Colour Project, launched across Ireland this week, is anything less than a genius idea. As a marketing campaign, it comes in a shade of pure brilliance.

    Here’s a summary: A Dulux-commissioned Ipsos MRBI poll finds that 72 per cent of Irish people believe the mood of the nation to be low, or very low, while 80 per cent agree that Irish communities are badly in need of an uplift. Step forward Dulux with colour charts, free paint and the endorsements of Volunteer Ireland and psychologist/broadcaster David Coleman. A “Dulux paint reservoir” has been formed to cater for the rejuvenation needs of up to 200 community projects – schools, sports clubs, parish halls, etc – who apply via The successful applications will be “transformed by colour”, with “neglected” public spaces brought “back to life”. It’s community spirit, with a bottle of white spirit on standby. 

    Cue quotes from Coleman about post-Tiger social involvement, the soothing potential of pale blue and the energizing power of yellow. Here’s where the on-the-page gloss of the campaign may be dulled by the real-life negotiations of taste though, as yellow, of course, is not just yellow. It’s Sunflower Symphony, it’s Tuscan Treasure, it’s, er, Banana Dream. One man’s modish “gallery” grey is another man’s drab prison; one woman’s joyous orange is another’s tangerine outrage. Remember Sarah Beeny’s Channel 4 show Streets Ahead? It was paintpads at dawn.

    Regardless of how genuinely transformative a few days of roller action are for the community projects who take up the offer, it seems pretty clear that the campaign will work out very nicely for Dulux itself. It’s an easy, eye-catching reminder of what its products do – other paints are available, apparently. As for my own desire for wall metamorphosis, there’s a tin of Pale Peacock in my hallway ready to be prised open. I’m still hoping to find an saviour for my latest patchy ceiling quandary and resurrect the spare room in time for Easter.

  • The Flip has flipped. Shame I just bought one

    April 15, 2011 @ 12:25 pm | by Laura Slattery

    It only seems like yesterday that an infinitely more tech-savvy colleague showed me the sleekly designed delight and built-in USB-port convenience of the Flip video camera. It was actually about two-and-a-half years ago, but sadly it was only a couple of months ago that I purchased one. This week, Flip’s owner Cisco Systems announced it was shutting down Flip.

    Boo. It used to seem like being an early adopter was the risky strategy – you shelled out a high price for a glitch-laden technology that was far from certain from becoming the standard platform. Now the tech world’s metabolism is so fast, the risks of not being an early adopter seem almost as great.

    Flip has gone from being glowing new kid to extremely popular camcorder vendor – in the US, more than here – to old-school irrelevance in just four years. But while tech analysts did largely blame high-speed innovation for Flip’s demise, it wasn’t just the cannibalistic powers of the smartphone that killed it. Its shutdown was also the result of a poor commercial decision by Cisco to acquire Flip’s maker, Pure Digital Technologies, in 2009. Cisco specialises in business networks rather than consumer technologies and couldn’t make Flip fit.

    So Flip’s fate is not exactly that of the Sony Minidisc (another gadget loved and lost) all over again. For those who own the cameras, they still have the advantage of great battery life. No one’s going to convince me that the great age of technological convergence has arrived until smartphones boast something as basic as a battery that lasts longer than the parental supply of alcohol at a kids’ birthday party.

    Still, whatever advantages it retains over its apparently more evolved replacements, few people like committing to a technology just when it’s about to become a collector’s item – something consumers might like to keep in mind next time they’re considering buying a PC. According to research firm Gartner, PC sales in the first quarter of 2011 fell 1.1 per cent worldwide and 6.1 per cent in the US.

    (I also bought a cute little mini tripod for my Flip, although so far I’ve only used this as an office desk toy, splaying the cables of its three legs and twisting them into a spiral as the fancy takes me. Procrastination is never going to be an Apple/Google duopoly.)

    The Flip RIP (with a USB port that pops in and out)

     P.S. My television set is 11 years old. It’s older than most of my friendships. I’m not replacing it until it explodes.

  • Punky, a cartoon heroine for the Saorview age

    April 13, 2011 @ 12:58 pm | by Laura Slattery
    Meet Punky. She has Down syndrome, and she’s the eponymous star of a new animated series that will be broadcast weekdays on RTÉjr from May 3rd. The producers, Monster Animation & Design, say Punky - on the verge of becoming the latest success story for Irish animation – is the first ever animated TV series where the lead character has Down syndrome.

    The character of Punky, created by the writer Lindsay Jane Sedgwick, is voiced by Aimee Richardson, who herself has Down syndrome and Down Syndrome Ireland reviewed material during production of the series. “It’s basically a look at everyday life from Punky’s perspective. It’s her daily routine,” says Monster’s Gerard O’Rourke. “She lives in the moment.”

    Punky, a new series produced by Irish animation company Monster

    Monster, which has a track record in animated kids’ TV shows through Ballybraddan and Fluffy Gardens, was approached to produce the series by the Irish Film Board, which had granted development money to Sedgwick. RTÉ was keen on the project and commissioned it, while Monster also secured licence fee funding from the Broadcasting Authority of Ireland’s Sound & Vision Fund.

    After several phases of development, it was decided that Punky would be aimed at the discerning preschool audience. The 20 episodes, each seven minutes long, will be broadcast twice a day on the RTÉjr programming block of RTÉ 2, before finding another home later in the summer on the dedicated RTÉjr channel on Saorview, RTÉ’s free-to-air digital terrestrial television (DTT) service. 

    “To have a dedicated children’s channel is an amazing thing,” says O’Rourke, as RTÉ 2 pushes RTÉjr off the air whenever the Olympics or the European Championships or the World Cup is on – “anything that is more important than children’s programmes basically and the children’s programmes get bumped.” 

    RTÉ 2 also attempts the tricky task of catering for kids ranging in age from two to 15, which means that during school holidays, the preschool programmes often give way. The RTÉjr Saorview channel will mean there is a home purely for younger kids’ programming, while the older kids’ shows (styled TRTÉ) remain on RTÉ 2. 

    “By having these long schedules, RTÉ is obviously going to need more content. They can acquire programming, but the onus will be on them to support more home-produced content,” says O’Rourke. “So [DTT] is for us very much something that will drive our business over the next few years.” 

    Much of this optimism depends, however, on the frequency with which RTÉjr chooses to repeat programming blocks. Early reports about the channel suggested it would run the kids’ shows on a tight loop rather than making a major extension to its schedule of new programming. But if the broadcaster does find the resources to avoid a parent-torturing level of repeats, it will find a home animation industry with the talent to produce low-cost original content – content that can become cultural exports via industry sales events like Mipcom Junior at Cannes and New York’s Kidscreen Summit. 

    Monster has already had export success with Fluffy Gardens, which it presold to UK and Australian broadcasters. It then brought in a distribution partner, Target Entertainment, which put up the finance for sales into other territories. “Fluffy Gardens has reached 100 countries now,” says O’Rourke. Monster is close to securing international presales for Punky, talking to broadcasters in Australia and Germany, while the series is currently being market-tested in the UK by CBeebies. The initial feedback has been “very positive”, he says. 

    Punky is described as a happy girl who loves music, dancing, playing with her big brother, Con, and jumping around with her dog, Rufus. She enjoys helping around the house and trying to make Cranky, her grandmother, a little less cranky. 

    “We don’t overly emphasise that she has Down syndrome. She tells you at the start of each episode that she has it and as she’s voiced by Aimee, she sounds like she has Down syndrome,” O’Rourke says. Her family sometimes has to stop everything and pull together to help her cope with unanticipated disruptions to her daily routine. “But she gets things done as well,” he explains. 

    Though the series deals with themes of difference, diversity and the problem-solving issues specific to people with Down syndrome, O’Rourke says he hopes Punky doesn’t “get pigeonholed” as an educational programme. “We hope that it will be as mainstream as Peppa Pig or Dora.”

  • That calls for a new advertising slogan…probably

    April 6, 2011 @ 7:30 am | by Laura Slattery

    Carlsberg has ditched its “probably the best lager in the world” slogan after it proved insufficiently definitive to pull in brand-wandering drinkers. It was probably time. The line was originally voiced in 1975 by the actor and alcoholic Orson Welles, whose subsequent death makes it hard to assess his views on this blow to his legacy. In any case, the new slogan – “that calls for a Carlsberg” – sounds to me like tacit acknowledgement of alcohol’s potential misuse as an emotional crutch. Funnily enough, Carlsberg has aimed instead for the subtly different “reward after a hard day’s work” vibe.

    YouTube Preview Image

    The purveyors of beer boldly predicted yesterday that as a result of the new branding, the company will double its profits by 2015. If it achieves that, it will call for champagne. Meanwhile, in the interest of commercial nostalgia, here are five more advertising slogans that are no longer with us, but continue to scar our memories like cultural chicken pox:

    1. Someone you love would love some, Mum: Jacob’s “Kimberley, Mikado and Coconut Cream” slogan has not entirely gone away, but it has mutated into “someone you love would love some fun”. The “fun” in question is on display in Jacob’s loathsome new television ad, which dedicates itself to finding the hitherto undiscovered links between biscuits and corsetry. It’s a feast of audiovisual grimness made in the style of a Gwen Stefani music video from hell. Maybe that’s the point.

    2. A Mars a day helps you work, rest and play: This jingle, used between 1959 and 1995, fails the pesky “nutritional claims” section of modern advertising rules on the basis that a Mars a day doesn’t literally help you work, rest and play. Mars did revive it a few years ago, but omitted the awkwardly untrue “a Mars a day helps you” bit. Its more recent slogans include the 2002 effort “pleasure you can’t measure” – which acts as a kind of corporate riposte to those confectionery customers who get upset about the bars’ shrinking size.

    3. The future’s bright, the future’s Orange: UK telecoms company Orange “retired” this irksome (in other words, massively successful) slogan four years ago, presumably on the basis that the future is now. Lately, Orange’s sponsorship of the Baftas has been accompanied by numerous expensive cinema ads featuring all manner of Hollywood talent, plus Jack Black. Its television spots have also curiously tapped into smartphone trends while simultaneously feeding paranoia that people who use social media are socially inept.

    4. Campaign for Real Beauty: Dove is shimmying away from its “Real Beauty” line, according to Marketing Week, which makes me feel warm inside, as I always found its soap-sponsored image politics to be ever so slightly patronising. It was okay to have hips or freckles, Dove informed us - as long as you just so happened to be amazingly photogenic. Anyhow, the “real” women have reportedly been abandoned in favour of a campaign dubbed “Body Language”, which I fear has probably nothing to do with the Kylie Minogue album of the same name.

    5. Only the crumbliest, flakiest chocolate / Tastes like chocolate never tasted before: And indeed never would be tasted, should your Flake live up to this slogan and disintegrate into the bubble bath before it could actually reach your mouth. Cadbury periodically kills off the suggestive “Flake girl” and tries something more pretentioussophisticated, but this is one of those lines that’s liable to come and go for the sake of the easy publicity. This time, they’ll probably just wait until everyone has forgotten about the whole Joss Stone thing.

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