Right Brain, Left Brain Blog

75 posts categorized "Culture Shocks"

23 February 2015

Tiffany’s extends ‘Will You?’ campaign featuring its first gay couple

Tiffany & Co is continuing the story of its ‘Will You?’ ad campaign, with a new TV spot featuring the same gay duo that hit the headlines earlier this year when the brand introduced a same-sex couple for the first time in its advertising history.

In January, Tiffany & Co officially launched the new ad campaign – entitled ‘Will You?’ – to promote its iconic engagement rings. The media was ablaze with stories focusing on the fact that the print ad featured a gay couple for the first time.


The new TV spot is an extension of that print ad. Created by Ogilvy & Mather, it follows the stories of various modern day couples’ marriage proposals – one of which is the love story around the real-life gay couple, who actually wed in real-life in May last year.

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12 February 2015

Translating Regional Food Ideals Into Reality

Food culture pic

Is it possible to invent a meaningful food culture for a place that doesn’t have one? Radio presenter and food consultant Simon Preston has based his BBC Radio 4 series “The Town is the Menu” on this very question. In the five-episode run, Preston travels to small markets across the UK, where generations have abandoned eel, renounced mutton, given up kippers in favour of egg and chips, beef burgers, even sushi.

In Barnard Castle, a town in Teesdale, in England’s north, Preston interviewed local historians, antiquiers and chefs about the area’s natural assets – the biggest juniper forest in England, for instance. Then they collaborated on a meal that the most famous native, Richard III, might have dined on: venison and pheasant with juniper berries; potato mash with wild garlic; and wild boar sausage with local honey (though the boar was impossible to source, so they substituted pork).

Will it stick, this idea of eating not just locally but patriotically? Or are we all doomed to be taken over by Big Food?


In Canada, the “regional cuisine” trend has come and gone – and come again. In the 1980s, proper dining rooms in genteel communities touted Atlantic salmon, Alberta beef, Ontario lamb and quixotic sides like fiddleheads and, yes, juniper berries. Those rooms did not age especially well and some faded away, leaving Tex Mex, Japanese and Ethiopian to serve the yuppies.

With the newly branded “hipsters” ruling the restaurant scene, peameal-bacon sliders and elk steaks have suddenly risen to the top of the menu. A year ago, Mark Pupo, food editor of Toronto Life magazine, heralded a “new Canadian” cuisine imagined by a cohort of chefs “devoted to Canadian ingredients like spruce tips, red fife wheat, lake trout, small-batch birch syrup and wild leeks”. Their hero, he claims, is the Danish chef René Redzepi of the renowned Copenhagen restaurant Noma, itself famous for reviving northern European cuisine.

“The story behind our dinner plate,” says Pupo, “is loaded with philosophical import.”

But whose benefit is this for? Is it for us, or the tourists?

In the book City Branding, Richard Tellström warns that tourists, often armed with dubious research, seek out food experiences that match their romanticised perception of the region. And restaurants deliver, regardless of the truth behind the ideal. “A restaurant in Sweden which is located in a traditional northern farming district is often visited by guests who consider this part of Sweden to be arctic and alpine, and therefore accept reindeer as local meat, which historically it has not been,” Tellström writes. “However the restaurant does not argue… and instead offers a variety of reindeer dishes on the menu.”

But what of authenticity? It is noble in theory and gratifying in practice, but it can also be wildly impractical. In the US, where farm-to-table, organic markets and the “locavore” movement have all taken hold, it is increasingly controversial to eat foreign. And yet, as much as eating regional decreases dependence on imported produce and oil, reduces threat of contamination, et cetera, research suggests that food shipped between continents by sea have less effect on the environment than food transported between cities by van. Furthermore, write Pamela Goyan Kittler and Kathryn Sucher in the book Food and Culture, “Goods shipped in very large trucks produce less damage to the environment than those brought to market by dozens of smaller trucks.”

Not to mention the damage to your purse. Would the folks of Barnard Castle be able to afford venison and pheasant with juniper berries as a rule, when the game is sold by a local farmer at several times the price of their imported lamb mince?

If you had to create a defining dish for the town you live in, what would it look like? Could it catch on? And would it make sense to anyone besides an elite few?

10 July 2014

“Make Me Beautiful” – Creative Translation of Female Beauty Hits Social Media

The News:

One woman’s personal exploration into global perceptions of beauty was doing the rounds on social media last week.  Ester Honig, a freelance American journalist, sent an image of herself to graphic designers in 25 different countries, with a simple brief: “make me beautiful”. The outcome of the creative translation experiment is an intriguing series of before and after photographs, documenting the designers’ digital permutations. Localisations of beauty differed vastly, with some even altering eye colour and skin tone.

Make me Beautiful - image

Behind the News:

The cosmopolitan images highlight that beauty is indeed in the eye of the beholder, although local market and cultural influences are undeniable – an important reality for any multimarket brand that chooses to translate its advertising. A Philippines entry dressed Honig in smart clothes and added a colourful background, but made minimal changes to her face and hair. Bulgaria gave her blue eyes; India took away her collarbones and gave her a darker complexion and thicker eyebrows. The Moroccan adaptation put Honig in a hijab and gave her smoky eye make-up.

The media tends to represent an aspirational ideal of beauty; a kind of perfection that is elusive, and something to strive for. Honig’s project highlights that there is no universal standard for the beauty ideal, suggesting that advertising agencies developing international beauty campaigns will be more successful to consider not only transcreation of copy to local tastes but also the cultural relevance of visuals. In an interview with InStyle Magazine, Honig says: “when we compare unobtainable standards on a global scale, achieving the ideal remains all that more elusive. It almost neutralizes the belief in a universal beauty.”

The iconic Dove’s Campaign for Real Beauty was built around this very notion: the campaign features ordinary women of all shapes, sizes and ethnic backgrounds, representing beauty in all its forms. Truly innovative when it was launched, the campaign challenged beauty stereotypes and is today still one of the only cosmetics brands questioning the definition of female beauty.  Instead of espousing an unattainable ideal, the Campaign for Real Beauty reflects reality – a beauty which is personal, subjective and diverse.

Like the Dove campaign, the “make me beautiful” project is an artful reminder that there is no one-size-fits-all: what’s desirable to some could be off-putting to others. It all depends on who you talk to, where they come from and what core brand values you want to convey to local customers.

25 June 2014

Impossible to Translate Words into Images? How an Obsessive Blockbuster French Director Proved Hollywood Wrong…

TS Spivet - Image

The News

The film adaptation of Reif Larson’s 2009 novel, The Selected Works of TS Spivet, was released in cinemas on Friday, 13 June. This is somewhat remarkable, considering that the book was initially deemed “unfilmable”. In a recent interview in the Guardian, Larson explains that, despite a flurry of initial interest from Hollywood agents, the book was too challenging to adapt for cinema. So when he unexpectedly received an e-mail from the filmmaker Jean-Pierre Jeunet (of Amélie fame), he was astonished. Jeunet wrote that he was “smitten” with the novel and wanted to make the film. Thus began the intricate process of translating the novel; by rearranging sequences, adapting characters and re-ordering scenes, Jeunet deconstructed the book piece-by-piece to re-create the story.

Behind the news

Adapting a novel to film is a bit like transcreating an advertisement into a foreign language: it needs to be re-crafted with a different mindset. For a film, it is not enough to simply lift dialogue from the novel and drop it into a script – such literal translation merely results in a dramatisation of the book. In a novel, narrative is used to convey characters’ thoughts and feelings; in a film, the challenge is to translate the interior of a novel into scenes using visual tools and cinematic techniques – acting, lighting, photography, soundtrack, etc. – this is the language of film. Books can tell, but films have to show.

Beyond translating the book into the language of film, there needs to be artistic synergy between the book author and film director. In the interview, Larson speaks of his admiration for Jeunet and “having the distinct sensation that somehow this director had crawled inside [his] head”. He later says that “Jeunet’s way of seeing was embedded into the DNA of Spivet”. Thus, it is no coincidence that Jeunet approached Larson: the two were able to relate to each other artistically, drawn together by a sense of familiarity “bound not by blood but by aesthetic sensibility”.

In order for a film to retain the original meaning of the book, it must capture the essence and spirit of the story. This is echoed in Larson’s sentiment that he wanted Jeunet to “look beyond the bounds of the text to get at the ‘essential spirit’ of [his] book”. Recognising that books and films are two distinct forms of storytelling, Larson wanted the director to be faithful to his work, but ultimately to create a new story, not just reproduce the original in a different medium.

Whether Jeunet achieved this is up to the readers and viewers to decide. From Larson’s part, he felt “a sense of familiarity” but also some detachment while watching the film, realising that the story was no longer his alone.



24 June 2014

Most Global Campaign Ever? Soccer Fever Transcreated...


For the next month, football fans around the world will be united in World Cup fervour, a collective frenzy ranging from pure elation to inconsolable rage and quiet disappointment. International events such as the World Cup present the perfect opportunity for global brands to appeal to customers in their local market based around one global concept. Which is exactly what Coca-Cola has done with its anthem “the World is Ours”.

Coca-cola world cup brazil pic

The song is the anchor for Coca-Cola’s World Cup campaign – the brand’s largest campaign ever, covering 85% of its markets (175 out of 207 local markets). The brand chose David Correy, a Brazilian-American X-Factor contestant, to perform the main song. Coca-Cola has adapted the song for local markets, working with local artists and translators to create 32 country-specific versions.

Behind the News

In today’s globalised world, culture, brand and identity are becoming increasingly homogenous: from Maputo to New York iconic brands such as Coca-Cola are instantly recognisable; football fans are equally as excited about the World Cup in Lima as they are in Amsterdam. It’s everybody’s drink, everybody’s game. Everybody’s world. This is the lynchpin of Coca-Cola’s World Cup campaign – the idea of a shared global culture.

At the same time, there is a counter-trend towards localisation. National identity still counts, local customs are important and language matters. Localised campaigns encourage greater brand interaction and engagement, as they are given relevance and meaning. Customers can better relate to a campaign if the theme song is in their own language, the humour resonates with theirs and local nuances are accounted for. A localisation campaign is successful when customers feel a true connection with the brand.  

Through its World Cup campaign, Coca-Cola is attempting to do exactly that. The “World is Ours” is hinged on an overarching idea of a shared global identity, embodied by the World Cup: thirty two teams gather together from everywhere to play one game, and follow one set of rules. Yet each of those teams is unique and different. It’s a global strategy focusing on local identity. 

Coca-cola has not just directly transplanted the campaign to local markets; by using local artists, trans-creation and interpretation, the brand has lent authenticity to the campaign through cultural adaptation. 

30 May 2014

The 10 most complained about ads of 2013

Not all advertising suits everyone’s tastes. Of course, the fact that the Advertising Standards Association (ASA) received a whopping 31,136 complaints in 2013 about 18,580 ads, says enough.

Among the top 10 most complained about ads of last year, according to ASA’s 2013 report, were three Unilever products (go Unilever, you daredevil you!). Here’s that top 10 in its all its glory…  

1. VIP Electronic Cigarette – “She Wants You”
Total complaints: 937
Was it banned? Upheld in part


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17 December 2013

Elle Crosses the 38th Parallel

In mid-2012, a North Korean army minister named Kim Chol was reportedly ‘obliterated’ with a mortar round, on the orders of leader Kim Jong-un, for ‘disrespectful behaviour’.

The news was only one rivulet in a stream of concerned rumour winding out of the isolationist Communist state, where reports of disappearances, poverty, summary executions and starvation form a complimentary backdrop to the Kim dynasty’s cult of personality.

For the outside world, most of these atrocities are symbolised by an overwhelming wave of moss-green nylon, gold medals and red stars, the uniform of the North Korea People’s Army and the epitome of the iron fastness that the country’s rulers lock around their own subjects.

However, Elle Magazine has seen something of worth in the iconic attire, featuring it in a recent online piece as ‘North Korea Chic’. The magazine informed its readers that “some iteration of the military trend stomps the runways every few seasons. This time, it’s edgier, even dangerous, with sharp buckles and clasps and take-no-prisoners tailoring.”  The piece included the image of a single gold stiletto poised next to a North Korean soldier at attention.

Elle - North Korea

The piece has prompted outcry from journalists and human-rights groups, who believe that the pieces trivialise the current abuses of the North Korean military complex, as well as having little respect for the people suffering under such a regime. The magazine apologised quickly and replaced the spread with a ‘Naval’ shoot, retaining the majuscule ‘N’, though not before drawing attention to the long, concomitant relationship between the military and the fashion world.

Elle is not incorrect in their point; tropes of military uniform such as gold buttons, braiding, epaulettes and camouflage continually resurface in the industry’s undulating tastes, and the importance of aesthetic impression to commanding respect and power has never been lost on the canniest designers; for instance Valentin Yudashkin designed new kit for the Russian Army only a few years ago.

However, the issue here seems to be the perceived lack of cross-cultural awareness that the magazine is exhibiting, and an absence of empathy for the ordinary people of North Korea, especially in light of recent revelations about the extent of the regime’s crimes, including the imprisonment of children in torture camps, and the execution of twelve high-profile performers for a variety of offences, including the possession of a bible.

More than most types of Advertising in Fashion, have long employed imagery that has been considered insensitive or controversial; Vogue magazine was once criticised for a shoot involving extremely expensive pieces of jewellery and clothing modelled on some of the poorest people in India, prompting accusations that the magazine was treating this demographic as little more than objects.

These publications exist at a fascinating cross-section of art and commerce, one in which a strong aesthetic ideal, perhaps considered very beautiful and thought-provoking, is paired with a strong sense of commercialism and a competitive need to sell seasonal styles.

The immediate withdrawal and apology by Elle showed a willingness to accept that a mistake had been made, and that the crossed line is now clearly marked.


23 August 2013

Part 1 – Loan Rangers: Borrowing Words from Abroad

Shitstorm in German dictionary
 Of the 5,000 new words that feature in the latest edition of the German equivalent of the OED – the Duden – one has raised a few more eyebrows than the rest. It’s an Anglicism, or a loan word from the English language, that has gained intriguing popularity in the German-speaking world, even appearing on the lips of Chancellor Angela Merkel. The word is Shitstorm, and means in German roughly what it means in English.

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