Samui Wining & Dining
Ad Attack

No matter where you look, someone’s trying to sell you something.


10Our world is almost saturated by advertisements. They’re everywhere, even on little specks of land in the middle of the ocean. And even in space, where it’s said no one can hear you scream. And that’s just as well, because in the near future one of the first things virgin space tourists will see will be a 30-foot advert for Pizza Hut on the side of an unmanned rocket that’s destined to orbit our planet forever. It will probably become a tourist attraction!


Advertising has a long history and made its first big leap forward with the invention of the printing press in the 16th century. Early advertisements for food and drink, which were presented alongside those for books, medicines, cures, and remedies, tended to be aimed at the upper classes. English weeklies first reported coffee in 1652, chocolate in 1657, and tea in 1658. Jump forward to the late 19th century and large food manufacturers were leading the way. Heinz had the largest commercial exhibit at the 1893 Chicago World Fair. And in 1900 they erected the first electric sign in New York – a 40-foot pickle! One hundred years after that and food and beverages formed the most highly advertised type of product on American television commercials. Almost 50% of the total market, with most of it being for what we consider to be junk-food. There aren’t a lot of salads advertised on American television. Mmm, no wonder they’re concerned about obesity!


Virtually any medium can be used for advertising. Commercial advertising media can include wall paintings, billboards, street furniture components, printed flyers and rack cards. Then there’re radios, cinemas, web banners, mobile telephone screens, shopping carts, web-pop-ups, skywriting, bus stop benches, human billboards, magazines, newspapers, sides of buses, banners attached to the sides of airplanes (logo jets) and in-flight advertisements on seatback tray tables or overhead storage bins. And what about taxicab doors, roof mounts and passenger screens, musical stage shows, subway platforms and trains, elastic bands on disposable diapers, doors of bathroom stalls, shopping cart handles (grabvertising), the opening section of streaming of audio and video, posters, and the backs of event tickets and supermarket receipts – to name but many.


It’s generally considered nowadays that television commercials are the most effective in making us part with our cash. But it doesn’t come cheap; a thirty second spot in the middle of this year’s American Super Bowl cost around US$3 million. Trillions of dollars are spent every year on advertising, and product placement (or guerrilla advertising) is a prime focus. It’s when a main character in, say, a movie uses an identifiable brand even though it rarely adds anything to the storyline. And it’s not a new phenomenon; the famous silent movie ‘Wings’ (1927) won the Oscar for Best Picture and it contained a blatant plug for Hershey’s chocolate. James Cagney played the lead role in the 1961 movie ‘One, Two, Three’, in which his character was a Coca-Cola executive and the twist at the end of the film came when he removed a bottle of Pepsi from a vending machine.


‘Blade Runner’ (1982) has some of the most obvious product placement; in one scene the whole film stops to show a Coca-Cola billboard. And a more recent example is HBO’s ‘Sex and the City’ (1998–2004), where the plot revolved around, amongst other things, Absolut Vodka; a campaign upon which one of the protagonists was working. Its inclusion increased sales dramatically in the real world. Keen fans of the hit show ‘American Idol’ will no doubt have noticed that Coca-Cola cups are always seen on the judges’ table, and that’s not by accident. Reverse placement has also taken place. In 2007, 7-Eleven re-branded a dozen of its stores as ‘Kwik-E-Marts’, selling some real-life versions of products seen in episodes of the ‘Simpsons’ such as ‘Buzz Cola’ and ‘Krusty-O’s’ cereal.


Celebrities are also often used to promote major brands but that can be risky. Following his eight gold medals haul at the 2008 Olympic Games in Beijing, China, swimmer Michael Phelps' contract with Kellogg’s was terminated after he was photographed smoking marijuana. And English footballer, Wayne Rooney, lost his £600,000 ad deal with Coca-Cola in April of this year. Just days after he received a two-match ban for screaming obscenities into the live television camera after scoring a hat-trick, Coca-Cola revealed that it was parting ways with the footballer.


And there’re always the ‘lost in translation’ advertisements that slip through now and again. When KFC (Kentucky Fried Chicken) first translated its advertising slogan ‘finger lickin’ good’ into Chinese, it came out as ‘eat your fingers off. Pepsi also got it wrong in China. They spent a fortune with the slogan, ‘Pepsi gives you life’. The only problem was that the translation into Chinese came out as, ‘Pepsi brings your ancestors back from the grave’. But that’s not quite as bad as the gaff committed by Gerber Baby Foods. When companies first started marketing in Africa, it was common practice to have a picture on the label of what was inside since many people couldn’t read English. Gerber wasn’t aware of that and ran head-first into a PR disaster. The photo on their label was of a cute Caucasian baby!


Samui, as you may have noticed, is awash with billboards. And bars and restaurants have branded T-shirts and beer coolers, famous coffee chains put their logos on take-away cups and there’re countless flyers handed out. Not to mention the much-hated loudspeaker vans and, even more despised, the loudspeaker long-tail boats slowly drifting around the beaches disturbing everyone’s slumber. But then I can’t really moan too much as my salary comes directly from the advertising in this publication!


Johnny Paterson


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