Friday, 21 May 2010

Subliminal Advertising

A few weeks ago a bit of a storm blew up around what appeared to be subliminal cigarette advertising on Ferrari's F1 car. It has been quite a few years now since cigarette advertising was common in mainstream sport. At one time almost every Formula 1 team had a sponsor from the tobacco industry; Williams were sponsored by Rothmans, McLaren by West, Jordan by Benson and Hedges and Ferrari by Marlboro to name just a few. In 2005 the Tobacco Advertising Directive took effect which banned, within the EU, almost all forms of tobacco advertising including that in F1. So using the Ferrari F1 team, and specifically the livery of the F1 car, to advertise cigarettes is clearly illegal so what is all the fuss about?
Well it turns out that while Ferrari can't legal advertise cigarettes they are still being paid a large amount in sponsorship by Phillip Morris the makers of Marlboro cigarettes -- the full name of the team is in fact Scuderia Ferrari Marlboro. What has got some people up in arms is a barcode like logo displayed prominently on both the F1 car as well as the drivers overalls and helmets and large amounts of team merchandise. Some people claim that the barcode logo looks a lot like a packet of Marlboro cigarettes. I'll let you judge for yourself if you think this is true or not.

Given that for a number of years the barcode has been displayed in the same place on the car as the Marlboro logo used to be then I think that almost anyone with an interest in F1 could assume that it was related to the old tobacco advertising, but I doubt that anyone who saw the logo for the first time would suddenly have an overwhelming urge to smoke a cigarette. The fuss would probably have blown over if it hadn't been for a statement put out by Ferrari in which they apparently claimed that the barcode was part of the livery of the car and not part of any Phillip Morris advertising campaign. Given how much advertising space on an F1 car sells for, I find it hard to believe that the barcode isn't being paid for by a sponsor. Also if the barcode really was part of the Ferrari livery then I would assume that they would vigorously protect their copyright in the logo and so it would be highly unlikely to appear anywhere else. This clearly isn't the case as the same barcode also appears on Ducatti MotoGP bikes, which just happen to also be sponsored by Phillip Morris.

So regardless of what Ferrari may claim I think it is pretty clear that even if they didn't think the barcode was subliminal tobacco advertising Phillip Morris certainly knew what they were doing and when it came to the crunch Ferrari bowed to pressure and removed the barcode logo from their cars; although it still appears on the drivers uniforms and helmets. Now while I think it is an interesting story of a large multi-national company trying to skirt advertising regulations I don't think I'd have researched and written this post if it wasn't for the nine hours I spent queuing in Munich airport last week.

The queue I was in at Munich airport moved very very slowly and so for about two hours I was stood outside the duty free shop. Airport duty free shops are now the only place I regularly glimpse cigarette adverts and I don't usually pay them much attention but on this occasion one of them stood out as being more than a little interesting. Here was a clear tobacco advert that incorporated a barcode design which, while not the same as the one on seen recently on Ferrari F1 cars, was similar enough to catch my eye. I instantly assumed that Dunhill cigarettes were made by Phillip Morris based on nothing other than the barcode imagery so their "advertising" would seem to work, at least on me. Here was a story. No longer was the Ferrari barcode subliminal it was part of a tobacco advert! Unfortunately when I started to research this post I found that the Dunhill brand is actually owned by British American tobacco (BAT) -- damn! Now cigarette companies are nearly all partly owned by each other but no matter how hard I dug I couldn't actually find a clear connection between BAT and Phillip Morris and I almost gave up looking. I then found that while a brand may be owned by one company it is very common for a different company to make the cigarettes under license -- I assume this is to do with which companies have factories in which countries. A little more digging and I found a number of pages that make it clear that Phillip Morris make Dunhill cigarettes under license from BAT.

So we know that Phillip Morris sponsor both Ferrari and Ducatti and that both use a barcode logo as part of their racing livery. We also have evidence that Phillip Morris are responsible for the manufacture (and I assume advertising) of Dunhill cigarettes, an advert for which also uses a barcode like logo. I think it is now very clear that the barcode on the Ferrari was advertising tobacco in clear contravention of the 2005 tobacco Advertising Directive and I don't see how Ferrari could continue to claim otherwise.

An interesting story that in no way shape or form makes a nine hour queue at the airport any more bearable!

Tuesday, 18 May 2010

White Chocolate

I like chocolate. I try not to eat too much (it's not good for my waist line or migraines) but I do like the odd bit now and again. I like good chocolate (think Thorntons or even better Hotel Chocolat) but I'm also partial to the everyday confectionery type chocolates as well. Whenever I get to choose a chocolate I either choose the coffee flavoured ones or I go for the white chocolate ones -- I even recently had a coffee flavoured white chocolate truffle!

I assume that the rest of the British population isn't like me when it comes to white chocolate. Whenever there are special editions of well known chocolate bars they never seem to involve white chocolate. If you head to the continent though this changes quite dramatically. In France last year I ate a white chocolate Twix and in Munich I bought a white chocolate chunky KitKat. Both of them were fantastic. Come on people why can't we have white chocolate special editions in the UK?

Friday, 14 May 2010

A Room With A View

Given that we don't go around wasting tax payers money booking expensive hotel rooms when we travel for work I usually end up looking out over a car park or at the wall of another building. I was, therefore, surprised by the view I got when I pulled back the curtains of my room at the Park Hotel Vitosha in Sofia.
Certainly a better view than I had the first night of the trip!

Thursday, 13 May 2010

Catching Up On Sleep

Just to let you all know that I made it home from Sofia early this morning without any more volcanic ash cloud related delays. I'll blog more about the trip when I've finally caught up on all the sleep I've missed over the last few days (I didn't sleep well even at the hotel in Sofia as I think I've pulled some muscles in my back/shoulder trying to sleep at the airport).

Wednesday, 12 May 2010

A Night At The Airport

As you know from my last post I spent Sunday night trying to sleep on the chairs by the departure gate at Munich airport. Notice I said trying to sleep, those chairs really are not comfortable. Anyway I thought I'd post a few of the photos I took that evening showing the departure board, my pillow and blanket and the view from my bed.
So if you want something fun to do then I'd definitely suggest A Night At The Opera or A Day At The Races and most certainly not A Night At The Airport!

Monday, 10 May 2010

Under A Cloud

No I'm not feeling particularly depressed although I am unbelievably tired. As some of you may know I'm due in Sofia, Bulgaria this week for a project meeting. I was due to arrive late on Sunday evening but... it's 2am on Monday and I'm sat in Munich airport. Yes the volcanic ash cloud is back. They closed the airspace at 3pm on Sunday and my flight wasn't due to leave until 7:25. I was hopeful that it would all sort itself out before my flight but of course I'm just not that lucky. So at 4pm they told us to go to the Lufthansa service centre where they would try to arrange accommodation and alternative transport. I dutifully joined the end of the queue. Nine hours and ten minutes later I finally reached the front of the queue. I don't think I've ever stood up almost motionless for quite so long in my entire life and I can promise you all it isn't an experience I wish to repeat anytime soon.

So I'm now on standby for the 9:30 flight (which boards in just seven hours) and if that ends up being full then I've also got a seat confirmed on the 1 o'clock flight. I've been issued with a pillow and blanket so I'm going to try and get some sleep but somehow I doubt I'm going to get much rest.

[I made it on to the 9:30 flight and am now at the meeting in Sofia, I'll update the story properly when I'm not working and when I'm not quite so tired!]

Saturday, 1 May 2010

An Odd Choice Of Photo

I wonder who choose the following still from the third leaders debate to illustrate the programme on the BBC's iPlayer.
I'm sure they could have found a slightly more flattering and less bizarre image if they had tried.