Ronald to the Rescue

Ronald to the Rescue

When you think of the name “Ronald McDonald”, what springs to mind? A clown who is just as creepy looking as he is infamous? The “Joe Camel” of fast food? I wouldn’t say that glorious imagery sprung to mind when I used to hear the name myself, but maybe after reading this post you will have a new-found respect for it.

We’ve all been to a McDonald’s at some point in our lives, and I’m guessing that most of us would recognise this logo which is found on the charity boxes placed at every till point.

Duchess of Cambridge to visit Ronald McDonald House

This logo represents the Ronald McDonald House Charities (RHMC), which are based right here in Northern Ireland, the rest of the UK, Ireland, and all over the world.

I tend to throw change into charity boxes on tills when I buy things, but as much as I do that I never really think about the charity I’ve just donated to after I walk out the door. I also always tend to think of big global and dominant brands as being somewhat selfish. For example, after finding out that Starbucks Ireland only payed 45 euros in tax last year, I tend to think twice before I invest in one of their seasonal lattes.

I’ve recently learnt that not only do McDonald’s and their franchisees allow the placement of RHMC collection boxes at each till point, the company also donates money from its own sales. In 2016, they added an extra one million pounds donation from sales to the existing three million that had been collected in the UK that year.

RHMC pride McDonald’s as an “essential, valuable and sustaining partner” and McDonald’s even provide office space to the charity in their Head Quarters around the world, along with general and administrative support, HR, payroll, organisation support and ICT and computer systems.

RHMC globally has been McDonald’s charity of choice since its founding in 1989 and provides hope and respite to families during challenging times of life. The thing that inspired me to read more into McDonald’s corporate philanthropy and the RHMC, was a tweet by an individual who was personally affected by the works of the charity and was highly praising them.

So, there you go, Ronald McDonald will continue to look creepy but hey! He’s a good guy. And McDonald’s may be swimming in profits and sitting comfortably on the Forbes’ list of “Most Valuable Global Brands”, but their philanthropic measures should not go un-noticed.

McDonald’s says its mascot Ronald McDonald is keeping a low profile as reports of creepy clown sightings sweep communities across the globe.

 

Rachel Reilly is a second year BSc in Communication, Advertising & Marketing student at Ulster University. She can be found on LinkedIn: www.linkedin.com/in/rachelreilly98

Being Cruel to be Cool- Exploring makeup for those that love animals

Being Cruel to be Cool- Exploring makeup for those that love animals

How do you feel about animal testing? Have you ever heard of it? Let’s begin with a fact: I have always been a bit of a makeup snob. When I first dipped my toe into this colourful world, I would have turned my nose up quite quickly at lower-priced drugstore brands. My personal goal was to own the entirety of Bourjois Paris makeup. My reasoning was very simple; it was French, it was chic and most importantly, they make Chanel makeup and because I couldn’t afford luxury lipstick on a pocket money budget, I settled on second best. But several hundred pounds worth of products later, I have moved on. I voyaged out further from just Bourjois Paris. I went to Kiko Milano, Rimmel London and even ventured across the water to Maybelline New York. Though, many others are still very selective when it comes to shopping for cosmetics.

Cruelty-free products are becoming more about a choice rather than a suitable option for the vegan/vegetarians lifestyle. Thankfully. These types of products are making a steady advance to greater mainstream audiences due to an increased awareness of animal welfare issues. The Physicians Committee for Responsible Medicine (PCRM) conducted a public opinion survey in order to gain an insight into people’s opinions about animal welfare.

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As the graphs show, many believe that testing cosmetics and personal care products on animals are unethical, and a large majority believe such testing should not be allowed. This definitely reflects that there is an interest in the idea of animal welfare as 58% stated that they are likely to purchase products that were cruelty-free. Whilst this study was conducted in America, I feel like this really can reflect on a much larger population interest- the idea of anyone seeking animal welfare rights can be universal regardless of location and to back this notion up, on the 11th of March 2011, the European Union banned animal testing to both cosmetics products and their ingredients in Europe. Fantastic!

Let’s get down to basics; what is animal testing and why does it exist? It exists due to ensure consumer safety at the cost of animal welfare when a product is made, it is hauled through multiple tests in order for it to be deemed safe. It is tested for skin sensitization, skin or eye irritation as well as less immediate effects like reproductive development and inhalation toxicity.

Here’s an example for you: when a product is being tested for skin irritation, animal testing labs will apply the test substance to the exposed skin of a shaved rabbit. They then leave it for a period of time and “record if their skin shows any signs of redness, rash, lesions, scaling, inflammation, and/or other signs of damage” according to The Humane Society, a non-profit organisation that reviews animal safety. This test is usually done on numerous rabbits at once over a period of time to make results more valid. Should beauty be forcibly made skin deep for these animals? And yet, there is a simple alternative that exists. Cruelty-free organisations use “reconstructed human skin models”. These are grown in a laboratory from skin cells left and are the replacement to live test subjects. They highlight the potential dangers caused by a new product and are more accurate at predicting how human skin will respond to an ingredient or product.

And that isn’t the only benefit from using reasons cruelty-free products. Many everyday household brands are full of harsh chemicals, such as parabens and fragrance. For instance, aluminium is an ingredient found in antiperspirants that may be linked to breast cancer and Alzheimer’s. Cruelty-free products provide a gentler, more natural substitute for our skin to absorb.

On doing a quick google search of ‘Cruelty-Free makeup’ for my research, I was hit with a vast number of articles-most about which brands are listed as cruelty-free. But that made me think;

  • Why do you have to check these lists in order to be informed?
  • Why do so few of these companies actually make that clear?
  • Shouldn’t companies be proud to be recognised as a cruelty-free brand?

Companies such as TooFaced Cosmetics, Wet & Wild Beauty and NYX Cosmetics are proud to show their support towards the protection of animals as they print the Cruelty-Free bunny logo onto all their packaging.

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Personally, a brand should not be approved as a cruelty-free brand unless they are willing to display it on their product’s packaging. For a lot of brands, it seems to be that you have to do the research yourself to find out information about their animal testing policy. I find this to be true with a lot of brands because nowhere on their packaging, mentions “cruelty free” or even has the cruelty free bunny printed on it. Which is ironic because most brands have been certified by both PETA and The Leaping Bunny Program. To name and shame a few guilty brands: Hourglass Cosmetics, Urban Decay, Charlotte Tilbury, ELF Cosmetics. I think this is an awful shame because I own products from each of these brands and would deem it an attractive trait for the brand to demonstrate its beliefs to oppose animal testing.

When looking at this issue from a PR perceptive, these companies are losing out in my opinion. Customers dictate the market. If consumers are buying into the concept of supporting animal welfare and begin to shop with a more to ethical mindset then brands with outdated packaging and philosophies will crumble. By tapping into this idea of identifying as a cruelty-free brand, I feel animal caring customers would want to engage more. By understanding that the consumer is now actively choosing cruelty-free over animal tested products, it should set alarm bells ringing for organisations to change their ways. Now I am not expecting the CEO of these companies to become extreme animal activists but I feel owning up to the title of an animal right supporter should be enough for customers to feel more informed and connect to the brand as they share the same beliefs. This can be as easy done as printing it on packaging or training staff on the company’s ethics.

Personally, I believe the more attention we give to cruelty-free brands, the quicker more legislation is brought in in order to protect all animals. China is a perfect example. With little to no regulations set in place about animal testing, there is no framework to ensure Asian companies will uphold these documentations. Therefore, companies don’t need to make an effort to ensure animal welfare is safeguarded which leads to a higher potential for abuse. And so, hundreds of thousands, probably even more-rabbits, guinea pigs, mice, and rats are still subjected to painful tests each year to bring the likes of eyeshadow, shampoo and body lotion to store shelves.

If we can do our best to avoid cruelty-free brands through research and selective purchases, knowing which brands we stand by or boycott- then maybe the directors at these companies will get the message that all lives- from men to mice- are equal and deserve to be treated with respect. I hope that further awareness and rapid change to how testing is currently performed will change for the better- animal abuse is an ugly affair, so why should they be harmed in order for us to feel pretty.

 

Nicole Service is a third-year student on the BSc in Communication Management & Public Relations at Ulster University. She can be contacted on LinkedIn https://www.linkedin.com/in/nicole-service-056016130.

Kentucky Fried Chicken and a Female Figure

On Friday the 27th of January, KFC tweeted a video to advertise their new “Smoky Mountain BBQ” chicken. KFC’s advertising campaigns are renown to star their legendary mascot Colonel Sanders – however, in this recent video the star of the show is a female Colonel.

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Image result for kfcThe role of Colonel Sanders was taken up by Reba McEntire, a successful country singer from the United States. She appears in the video as the Colonel and as herself in the audience. McEntire’s Colonel celebrity predecessors include Rob Lowe, Billy Zane and Ray Liotta. In fact, this is the first time that KFC has had a woman as the primary protagonist of a campaign.
The new campaign has sparked an array of mixed reviews. Many find that KFC’s choice is empowering for women, whilst others find it upsetting that McEntire had to take up male features to be accepted as the Colonel – why could she not play a female Colonel?

But maybe depicting her as the classic male Colonel was a somewhat of a wise move by KFC. Maybe this is just the first step of a complete mascot evolution. If this is the case, then maybe other brands will follow this set trend of KFC and who knows, by the end of 2018 we could be experiencing a range of new and evolved logos and mascots. Maybe a Burger QUEEN, an AUNT Ben – or who knows, maybe Julius Pringles will swap that moustache for a nice set of eyelash extensions.

 

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Link to the video: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=FwzoDS3zL_4

Rachel Reilly is a second year BSc in Communication, Advertising & Marketing student at Ulster University. She can be found on LinkedIn: www.linkedin.com/in/rachelreilly98

Battle of the Christmas Adverts

Yes, it’s that time of year again when every major retailer in the UK battles it out to become the nation’s favourite Christmas advert. Our TVs are flooded with emotional ads guarantee to tug at your heart strings or in extreme cases make you cry.

But there’s really no point trying to avoid them because there is no let-up or escaping it. That’s just a fact of life! As soon as that last firework on Halloween night goes off we are bombarded with festive adverts being thrown at us from every direction.

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It’s not enough anymore for brands just to have a TV advert. They throw everything apart from the kitchen sink at these campaigns. Taking advantage of merchandising opportunities, charity partnerships, and spin-off digital campaigns. It is certainly an expensive business, but has terrific PR attached to it, if it’s done well.

Once an area dominated by John Lewis has quickly become fair game.

With each year we have more and more retailers spending millions on multi media campaigns to stand out from the rest – with good reason. If done well and done right retailers can reap the rewards and spin off merchandise could be the most sort after toy that Christmas.

I’m sure we all remember the 2014 John Lewis Christmas advert? It told the story of Monty, a penguin who dreams of love at Christmas time. This emotional advert  was said to have ‘won Christmas’ and got the whole country talking about a fake CGI penguin. People become obsessed and when John Lewis released a £12 toy model of the penguin, which to no one’s surprise sold out super quick. People completely freaked out and bought this toy on eBay for up to £400. Its safe to say that people can get a little crazy during this time of the year.

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Whilst the TV ads are the main attraction, the ads usually go above and beyond by creating something for almost all multimedia platforms. John Lewis jumped on the Snapchat bandwagon with their own ‘Buster the Boxer’ filter in 2016, whilst Waitrose released an online interactive experience of the Robin’s journey, as well as a book available to purchase sold in-store. Brands at Christmas time are slowly creeping there way into every part of our lives.

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We can’t forget about the music that feature in these ads, because it plays a huge part in this battle as well. We are starting to see more often these songs that accompany the ads climb the music charts even hitting the number 1 spot sometimes. For example, in 2013, Lily Allen sung a cover of Somewhere Only We Know for the John Lewis Christmas advert. Her version surpassed the success of the original in the UK, topping the Singles Chart and staying at number 1 for 3 weeks whilst selling over 600,000 copies.

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Lily Allen | Somewhere Only We Know (John Lewis Christmas Advert)

The increased popularity of the Christmas advert in recent years is no doubt down to social media playing a huge role in heightening the campaign. With brands including hashtags in their videos social media users being able to take to twitter or Facebook and voice their opinion on the different Christmas ads retailers throw at them.

Whither you love them or hate them they are here to stay, and brands will no doubt have bigger, better and shinier campaigns in store for us next year.

 

Niamh McNally is a final year BSc in Public Relations student at Ulster University. She can be found on Twitter at @Niamh_McNally or LinkedIn at https://www.linkedin.com/in/niamh-mcnally-7a7079120/

Guinness adverts sell more than a ‘pint of black’

Guinness adverts sell more than a ‘pint of black’

Have you ever been to the Guinness Factory? I can now successfully say I have after convincing the girls into taking a trip down last weekend. (above- the must do Dublin Guinness Factory picture). It was a great day out and of course, we did not pass up the opportunity to go into the city and treat ourselves to dinner and drinks. BUT, the factory itself was, in fact, really interesting and definitely something I would encourage everyone to do. As part of the tour we went into a room with huge screens showing the Guinness adverts playing on repeat. This sparked an interest with me into the Guinness adverts themselves and I soon realised that, despite there being hundreds of diverse adverts, they all have one thing in common… A storytelling technique, which creates an effective emotional appeal.

Take the ‘surfer’ commercial (I’m sure you will immediately visualise this, but if not I have inserted it below) which tells the story of the surfers waiting with anticipation to catch the perfect wave. The surfer waiting symbolises the slow pour of the Guinness pint and how we should feel when we are waiting on the pint. This advert was released in 1998, and really was the first of its kind to UK TV. I remember watching the advert as a kid, completely unaware of the symbolism it carried. I simply just watched the surf and the galloping white horses, no concept of the legacy this PR technique has left, allowing many to become hooked on a ‘pint of black’.

 

 

Another commercial shown, entitled “Empty Chair” caught my attention. This showed a group of young men playing basketball in wheelchairs. This advert adopted an unusual, unique technique as it deliberately withheld information from the audience. The abstract setting of the advertisement initially led me to question: “what has a game of wheelchair basketball got to do with my choice of drink in the pub on a Friday night?” The hidden gem of information in this advertisement was that all but one of the men were actually able-bodied and capable of walking thus capable of playing a game of basketball without the aid of a wheelchair. This was intelligently revealed only at the end when the game drew to a close. The message to this particular story was about friendship and loyalty with the theme of inclusivity also featuring prominently. This further relayed the brand’s key message that Guinness is a drink to be enjoyed by all, regardless of who you are. No matter how many times I watch this advert, I am still filled with a sense of happiness and content as I can appreciate the message being portrayed.

 

 

A final commercial I want to mention is the ‘Sapeurs’ one (again linked below). What I loved most about this advert was the positive message it portrayed about Africa, something which is rarely shown. With most adverts about Africa being those of charities, focussing on pity and promoting a call to action to donate, it was nice to see this was different. The message, however in this advert was this ability to defy your set circumstances and live beyond boundaries. Another dimension to this advert I observed was the focus on globalisation of the Guinness Brand. When someone mentions Guinness, a lot of people immediately and jokingly make reference to leprechauns and pots of gold. However, this advert shows the famous stout being enjoyed in a very contrast setting than to that typically associated with the brand. Again, this highlights the fact that the Guinness brand is recognised and enjoyed by those of various races from many different countries and cultures.

There is also a subtle reference to the poem “Invictus” by William Ernest Henley. Two lines are quoted from the poem: “I am the master of my fate, I am the Captain of my soul”. The title of this poem translated from Latin to English means “unconquerable” or “undefeated”; portraying the lasting legacy of the famous Guinness brand worldwide.

 

 

These three adverts have no direct link. If you removed the Guinness branding and played these adverts you would have no idea that they are from the same company promoting the same product. But, what they all do is tell a story and engage us in feeling something whether it be anticipation, happiness, inspiration or positivity or even all of these things. What they all do is make us emotional and make us feel something. It is these feelings that they want us to associate with Guinness. They want us to believe that waiting the 120 seconds (fact learnt at the factory) to enjoy the perfect pint is worth the wait. Personally, I am yet to become hooked on the Guinness product itself but I do appreciate their creative advertising.

 

Niamh Webb is a final year BSc in Communication, Advertising & Marketing student at Ulster University. She can be contacted on Twitter @1234niamh, and on LinkedIn: https://www.linkedin.com/in/niamh-webb-2b5260107/

My best investments of 2017 : Lock-It Foundation, by Kat Von D

My best investments of 2017 : Lock-It Foundation, by Kat Von D

Since Christmas and the new year are on the way, I wanted to do a reflective series of blogposts. These will be my first ever entries, so to introduce myself, I am going to base them around something that I would claim to exceptional at – spending money.

The first of the three best investments I have made in 2017 (in no particular order), is the Lock-It Foundation, by Kat Von D.

I wanted a high end and high coverage foundation that I could wear on nights out and special occasions. After hours of online research and various applications of different foundation samples (which any makeup counter in Debenhams and House of Fraser are sound about handing out), I finally made my decision, and I am yet to regret it.

So, here are the reasons why the Lock-It Foundation, by Kat Von D is the most worthy beauty investment I have made this year, and quite possibly my life.

• It only takes ONE PUMP. That’s right, ONE pump to achieve a full-face application with full coverage. I was cynical when I read this claim on the packaging, but I can safely say now that it proved to be true.

• The coverage is FLAWLESS, and it has never failed to hide any blemishes for the entire night. Kat Von D states that it is “so long-wear, you can go a full 24 hours without re-applying“. Now, I can’t speak for this claim, but I can say that it never fails to last me a full night out – from the pre, to the club, and even to the post-club McDonald’s visit. I never have to even so much as check if it is still in place.

“Technology must replace animal testing, and animal testing must be banned by governments worldwide” – Kat Von D

• Another huge advantage of the Lock-It Foundation (and all Kat Von D products), is that it is certified by PETA as being “cruelty free”.

• The Lock-It Foundation is OIL FREE, but also hydrates the skin – need I say more?

• There is no flashback in photographs. For once, I don’t have the face of a ghost beside my mates in nightclub photos anymore.

• The packaging is beautiful. If you are big on your aesthetics like I am, you will love the box that the bottle comes in – almost as much as the product itself.

• It is available in 32 shades, from “41 light – neutral undertone”, to “81 deep – cool undertone”.

• The bottle itself has been designed to prevent contamination and to preserve its rich consistency, with its “innovative, airless chamber”.

As you can, tell my experience with the Kat Von D Lock-It Foundation has been a great one. It genuinely is the best high-end foundation I have tried, and I have tried a LOT (e.g. Giorgio Armani – Luminous Silk Foundation and MAC – Studio Fix). I ordered mine from the Debenhams’ website, at £27. If you have been considering this foundation, I hope this post will act as that little push you might need to make the investment – which I promise, you will not regret.

Kat Von D website: https://www.katvondbeauty.com/face/foundation
Kat Von D @ Debenhams: http://www.debenhams.com/beauty/kat-von-d
To sign PETA’s “Pledge to be Cruelty-Free”, follow the link: https://support.peta.org/page/1405/petition/1?locale=en-US
Rachel Reilly is a 2nd year student on BSc in Communication, Advertising & Marketing at Ulster University. She can be found on LinkedIn at: www.linkedin.com/in/rachelreilly98

Kylie Jenner – PR Nightmare or Publicity Princess?

Kylie Jenner – PR Nightmare or Publicity Princess?

Whether you love her or love to hate her, it’s impossible to ignore Kylie Jenner’s success. At just twenty years old, she became the youngest celebrity to feature on the Forbes 100 list earlier this year, with a staggering net worth of $41 million (£31 million.)  To put that in context, I’m a year and 8 months older than Kylie and would probably place my own net worth at around minus £20,000, thanks to the Student Loans Company.  That’s a little bit of a bitter pill to swallow!

But how did Kylie manage to go from being the baby of the Kardashian-Jenner Klan, to perhaps the most successful of all the sisters – including Kim?  It would be easy to dismiss Kylie’s rise to the top as being the result of a perfect PR storm.  We often imagine famous celebrities and their multi million pound endorsements being carefully manufactured behind closed doors by scheming PR managers with dollar signs in their eyes.

But when you really think about it, Kylie’s career would send any sane PR practitioner running screaming in terror.  Forget the modern definitions of public relations that talk about ‘managing reputation’ and ‘creating mutually beneficial relationships’ – Kylie’s empire is built on publicity rather than PR, and her success is definitive proof that it’s still a relevant method today.

As the first of Grunig and Hunt’s Four Models of PR, publicity or ‘Press Agentry’ involves purely one-way communication from Press Agents to the public. The aim is to create publicity by any means, including by telling half truths or downright lies.  One of the classic quotes which just about sums up press agentry is, “there’s no such thing as bad publicity,” which is probably the Kardashian family motto.

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“That’s why her lips are so big – they’re full of bad publicity”

Let’s go back to the rumours that started it all.  In 2014, when a few Insta selfies of Kylie’s lips looking plumper than usual began to make tabloid headlines, the question on everyone’s (normal sized) lips was: has she had fillers?  Kylie denied any surgical enhancement, instead attributing her newly plump pout to using particular shades of MAC lipliners and lipsticks. Many of these shades sold out internationally almost immediately.  I would know, because I was one of the many trying to buy them.

Even after Kylie eventually came to admit to having lip injections, it didn’t stop fans rushing out to buy whatever lip colour she recommended. It also led to lip augmentation topping the list of most popular non-surgical cosmetic treatments in the UK in 2016.  Any product that Kylie Jenner’s lips touched seemed to turn to gold, and perhaps this is where she had her lightbulb moment – what if you could package up Kylie Jenner’s lips and sell them?

And so Kylie Cosmetics was born.  The first batches of Kylie lip kits sold out in minutes, despite conspiracies surfacing online that her $29 lip kits contained a virtually identical formula to US makeup brand Colourpop’s $6 liquid lipsticks.  Videos and pictures comparing eerily similar shades began sprouting up across the internet in a Kylie vs Colourpop showdown.  You may think a PR nightmare like this would be enough to destroy the Kylie Cosmetics brand before it had even begun. But you would be wrong – in the 18 months since, it’s raked in roughly $420 million.

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Just as before with her lip fillers, Kylie eventually addressed the accusations, promising her fans that while they shared the same manufacturers, her products used an “exclusive” formula that she “created herself”.  Yeah, sure, I buy that completely…just like I bought her Holiday Collection and Vacation Collection Lipkits later that year.  (Another classic quote of the press agentry era is, “There’s a sucker born every minute.”  I am that sucker.)

So we’ve established that Kylie is clearly gifted at working bad publicity to her own advantage, but earlier this year when possibly the biggest rumour of her career hit the headlines, she showcased just how gifted.  In case you’ve been living underneath a soundproof rock without Wi-Fi for the last few months, in September 2017 TMZ reported that Kylie Jenner is allegedly pregnant with rapper Travis Scott’s baby.  When I first read this news on my Facebook timeline, I gasped so loudly that my sister ran into my room to check if I was okay.

At the time of writing this, almost two months on, Kylie has neither confirmed nor denied that she is with child – but she continues to benefit from daily tabloid coverage as journalists analyse her every prenatal (or not) move.  Meanwhile, posts to her social media accounts appear as normal, promoting her Kylie Cosmetics Autumn collection and new Velvet Lipkit Shades.  Despite hiding possibly one of the biggest events of her life from even her most loyal of fans, her products continue to be snapped up by her followers without hesitation.

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Preggerz? Kylie and BFF Jordyn Woods test out the new Kylie Cosmetics Autumn Collection in a recent Youtube video

Kylie’s career breaks every rule in the PR handbook, with reputation and Two Way Symmetric Models of the communication going out the window long ago.  So how does she continue to be such a success?  As an unashamed Kylie fan, I think that keeping somewhat of a smokescreen between her and her fans is what keeps the Kylie brand thriving.  While many brands and celebrities become increasingly tangible and relatable as they open up every aspect of their lives to us through social media, Kylie Jenner remains an untouchable force in an A List celebrity world far, far away from our own, and by buying a little piece of her exclusive, sold out cosmetic line that she “created the formula for herself”, maybe we feel like we can buy into just a little bit of her untouchable world. Either way, I think Kylie will continue to build her booming career on half truths, downright lies and bad publicity.

And when she releases a Limited Edition Kylie Cosmetics Baby Shower Collection, I’ll still be snapping up all the shades.

 

Una McHugh is a final year BSc in Communication, Advertising and Marketing student at Ulster University. She can be contacted on Linkedin at https://www.linkedin.com/in/una-mchugh-a11956106/ and Twitter @unamickq