Tuesday, September 29, 2009

You want to know about luxury bed linen? Pull up a seat, I'll be here for a while.

One of my ongoing copywriting jobs is writing the fortnightly newsletter for Melbourne-based online retailer Bear & Duck. If you’re after Egyptian cotton, bespoke-packaged bed linen that’s delivered to your door with a healthy dose of humour and humanity, then sign up to receive their sales alerts. I’m lucky the retail manager lets me cut loose and showcase my expertise – celebrity shoe trends, stupid baby names, “where are they now?” info on iconic 90s stars… you know, all the big issues. FYI – product specials are inserted into the newsletter after I’ve finished the copywriting, but that’s not my department.
The best thing about Bear & Duck is its unwavering mission to debunk the earnest drivel that’s churned out most lifestyle and consumer marketing departments.


If you believe all those health and lifestyle product ads on late-night TV, there’s a wealth of secrets “out there” (cue X-Files music) that are guarded tighter than inmates in a supermax prison unit. How generous is it, then, that these companies advertise them exclusively – oops, we mean “let us in on the secret” – through the medium of low-budget infomertials, televised at times that incidentally also offer bargain-basement ad rates and cater to vulnerable viewers (namely, desperate insomniacs and stoned couch potatoes). Seriously, if the “secret to younger looking skin” – ummm… avoid boozing, smoking, and sunbaking? – was that revolutionary, surely the next generation of nuclear physicists and biochemists would be lining up to intern at the Ponds Institute instead of NASA, right? As for Colonel Sanders’ secret recipe of 11 herbs and spices… Our bet is that he took that one to the grave, because nothing inside a KFC snack box remotely resembles anything derived from a living multi-cellular organism – chicken included.

Yet conversely, in this Twitterific age of instant information, a confessional culture has become the norm where “too much information” is never enough (we’re looking at you, Lily, Jordan, and the entire Kardashian family). If you’re burdened with a secret you need to unload don’t bother seeking a trusted confidante, just get online and clean your slate infront of an anonymous audience. Jilted bridesmaids and barmy bridezillas tell all on TruuConfessions.com, but the revelations are generally more salicious and creative on Post Secret – although it can be a tad NSFW… just a warning!

You know how obvious it can be when littlies try to lie, but they haven’t mastered the intricacies of body language and hiding evidence? One of the B&D team revealed the secret of her honest and obedient childhood: she grew up believing that if she told a fib, black spots would immediately appear on her tongue. Failure to clean teeth, shower, make bed and all those other tedious chores were caught out and remedied as soon as you could say “Poke out your tongue: BLACK SPOTS!”. OK, so it’s slightly hypercritical, but we think it’s a great one to add to the artillery of fantastical fibs you can tell gullible tots to keep them on the straight and narrow.

Prevarication, deception, call it what you will. Universally acknowledged as appropriate when prefaced with the questions pertaining to muffin tops (“I’ve just washed my jeans – do they look too tight?”) or culinary seasoning (“I slipped with the Chinese five spice – does it taste OK?”). Universally condemned in a court of law – no matter if you’re a Grammy-winning rapper or a millionaire author. In this competitive jobs market you might be tempted to “over-optimise” your skills and experience when writing your CV, but rest assured there are ways to side-step awkward issues without lying out your ass. If in doubt, check out recent Emmy-winning screenwriter Ben Schwarz’s succinct demonstration of “what NOT to do” when it comes to job interviews and prospective employers.

Posh might have 100-odd variations of the real mccoy – the classic Hermes Birkin handbag that is, starting price $7,600 – but the closest most of us will get to this is a dodgy imitation from Bali, Bangkok or Hong Kong. Not that we’d ever condone “luxury” products in shoddy materials – polycotton sheets gives us hives, honest to God – but when you’re comparing leather and suede Louboutins (£570) to those from the high street (£110) it makes you wonder what all the fuss is about. DISCLAIMER: For any loved-up readers planning surprise engagements, we’d advise against offering the fake Tiffany solitaire when you go down on bended knee… Some things just shouldn’t be faked, and diamond engagement rings is one of them.

Friday, September 4, 2009

Benefit's scents evoke Mad Men and Desperate Housewives

Benefit Cosmetics, best known for its 1950s pin-up aesthetic and tongue-in-cheek taglines, takes inspiration from the city of Bath and Desperate Housewives for its new range of fragrances. The Crescent Row collection features three scents based on three characters with their own unique style and personality, not unlike the residents of Wisteria Lane. Since the San Francisco-based company launched the range in Paris last month all three scents have remained in Sephora’s top 10 list of best-selling fragrances.

The story goes that the daughter of one of Benefit’s founders (identical twins Jean and Jane Ford launched the brand in 1978) visited Royal Crescent in Bath and imagined the ladies residing behind the street’s brightly-coloured doors. As far as televisual references go, the marketing behind the range definitely has a Mad Men vibe to it – think pearls, chaise lounges and pink flamingos.

It’s the most imaginative packaging you’ll see on a fragrance counter this season, with each box opening like a doll’s house to reveal the character’s lounge room within. Each bottle is shaped like miniature cocktail shaker, undoubtedly a key item for a house-bound lady of leisure. The three scents cover all tastes, the lightest (Lee Lee) is fresh and citrusy with jasmine and lily; Sofia features oriental blossoms, mango and vanilla; and Gina – the resident seductress and bombshell – combines patchouli, wild raspberry and pink pepper.

The Crescent Row collection looks set to become Benefit’s signature fragrance range; sales reps will helpfully point out that all three scents can be layered without interfering with each other, so you can create your own unique scent (I’m guessing the rationale is, why flog one 30ml bottle for 29.50 when you can sell all three…).

Yes, that really IS Hermione for Burberry Autumn 2009

In what’s set to be Burberry’s most accessible and successful advertising campaign in recent years, Harry Potter ingĂ©nue Emma Watson has made her first foray into a modelling career, as the face of the Brit brand for Autumn 2009. The campaign, shot by Italian maestro Mario Testini, was shot near Burberry’s London headquarters (yep, that’s the Thames in the background) back in June.

It’ll be hard to miss the ads if you happen to open a high-end glossy this month, or wander past one of Burberry’s stores in London or Manchester. It is, however, easy to overlook 19-year-old actress, given her look is altogether more grown-up and sophisticated than the tunic and capes audiences are most familiar her in. When the time comes for French Vogue editor Carine Roitfeld to make a biopic of her life, Watson would be a sure bet for the lead – with her smoky eyes and caramel tresses, she looks more like French style maven than Roitfeld’s own daughter, model Julia Restoin Roifeld.

Modelling the brand’s iconic trench coats and tartan scarves, she nails the “understated cool” look like a seasoned pro. While the 695-pound pricetag on the Burberry Technical taffeta trench she models might be out of most 19-year-olds’ budgets, on Miss Watson it looks utterly convincing (which is not surprising, given her net worth from the Potter franchise will nudge 15 million pounds by the series’ end).

The celebrity covergirl marks a change in direction for the 153-year-old luxury fashion house, which has relied on the supermodel appeal of Lily Donaldson, Agyness Deyn and Eden Clark in recent seasons. The result, however, is right on target – she provides an utterly aspirational vision for the typical (albeit, slightly older) Burberry customer, while at the same time anchoring the brand back to its British roots. Despite the campaign’s back-to-basics inspiration, it’s refreshing to hear its covergirl’s response to the job, describing it as “the biggest ego boost of my life!”

The Melbourne Design Guide, and a relocation "abroad"

I opened this space at the start of 2009 with the same intentions as most new bloggers: to write about things that interested me outside of the hilarious daily email exchanges to friends, and my 9-5 commitments of corporate copywriting and online content management. Since then, a big exciting freelance project took over my time, and then I decided to pack up my life in Melbourne and make the move to London (via Paris, Marseille, Barcelona and Valencia).

Sadly, I left Melbourne before the launch of the Melbourne Design Guide during the State of Design Festival in July. I'd worked on the project as an Assistant Editor since November last year, and co-ordinated the "Products/Objects" section of the chunky little tome. I think we can all agree it's an impressive development from the first edition, and the graphic design and layout certainly possesses The Wow Factor (what used to be a take-the-piss reference to non-aesthetically-minded clients trying to describe a brief to graphic designers has now, sadly, cemented itself in my vernacular).

It's the perfect housewarming/Christmas/birthday present for an artsy creative who's new to Melbourne. I guess that's the main PR line, although I do think it's Indispensible for any self-respecting hipster going on a first date. The "Eat/Drink" section is so comprehensive I think it lists nearly every bar or restaurant included in last week's 2010 Good Food Guide awards.
Now in London, I'm still freelancing for a few websites back in Melbourne, but looking for regular writing gig. Preferably one that involves a purpose-built workstation that's not a couch, or a leather bench seat with a wooden "desk" that's sticky with cider or beer. In this part of the world, it seems pubs are the new Starbucks for wifi-needy freelancers...