OPINION: The Checkout just blew up marketing's new world order

Paul McIntyre
By Paul McIntyre | 21 February 2014
AdNews editor-in-chief Paul McIntyre.

ABC’s The Checkout show just blew up marketing’s new world order. Again. Johnson & Johnson included.

Seriously, sometimes it’s embarrassing.

With all this talk from brand sages about the “digital ecosystem” ushering in a new world of public “authenticity” and “transparency”, why is the marketing industry still peddling so much bollocks?

The second series of The ABC’s The Checkout hit the telly last night and it landed punch after punch on brands from Johnson & Johnson and Billy Tea to Sunraysia organic juices, Anaconda Mountain Bikes (which are not meant to be taken off road) and the insanely murky regime of product labelling.

At the risk of sounding like a limpwristed leftie – and trust me I’m not - those troopers over at the ABC are onto something, once again. Every brand marketing mandarin and marcoms agency of any creed needs to wake up to themselves and ask some hard questions.

Either stop all this nonsense about proclaiming allegiance to a new public contract of brand bollockslessness (I know, it’s probably not a word); or start walking the talk.

Take Johnson & Johnson. The Checkout smashed the generally honest-to-goodness reputation of J&J with some simple analysis of two products: J&J’s Sorbolene and J&J’s Baby Sorbolene. Exactly the same product, exactly the same price on the same shelf but one has the word “baby” on it which means J&J can put 250ml less in the bottle and make a bigger margin. It’s cynical. Not illegal. And it’s fine if you’re happy for your brand to have some people/customers/consumers/douche bags out there spreading the word about the dubious marketing and packaging tricks of a $65 billion multinational.

But at the core it’s not in keeping with this apparent new requirement for brands to “earn public trust and credibility”.

The current country of origin labelling regime is another ripper. It has the fingerprints of those inglorious bastards, industry lobbyists, all over it.

We’ve known for years that the labelling regime has helped no-one but those businesses and industry groups keen to keep the punters in WTFland. I see that every time I trawl through the grocery aisles trying to make sense out of an orchestra of fuzzy claims. But The Checkout strips it all down to the simple, naked truth.

Last night’s segment around country of origin labelling was witty, simple and laced with rage-enabling research. Seriously. Watch the show on ABC iView. Any brand “custodian” who thinks this sort of smoke and mirrors stuff is good practice whilst professing commitment to a new world order of public trust is whipping a donkey.

So do yourself a favour - watch The Checkout, get the message and rethink how your brand behaves.  Rant over.

Paul McIntyre has no direct financial interest in, or fiduciary responsibility to, the ABC.

Paul McIntyre

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