The Gruen Transfer – The Pitch: Banning All Religion

The Gruen Transfer is an excellent ABC TV program exploring the murky world of advertising. It’s insightful as well as funny.

One of the regular items is “The Pitch” where two ad agencies are commissioned to create a TV ad to “sell the unsellable”. Note that this is satire… past examples included briefs for invading New Zealand, reintroducing child labour, and a parenting licence.

Last week, the two companies had to sell the idea of “banning all religion”. Interestingly, that was also for the first time in four years that several ad agencies declined to participate. They were ok with previous topics like those mentioned above, but not this. Hmm…

Both ads are good, but reckon the second one is a particularly awesome.

As presenter Adam notes: “You and your god may have other views” ;-)

Other people’s mail is costly to me

Before I lived at my current address, 4 students shared this location… and from what I can tell, before them some others. A lot of post still arrives in the mailbox for all these people,  even after a few years and me doing a lot of return-to-sender efforts. The same companies just keep sending stuff anyway, not just once but ongoing. Also some post has no decent return address. So what do I do?

The range includes super funds and insurance companies; local, state and federal government; credit card companies and banks; universities. I would be a identity theft goldmine, so what do I do? I apparently can’t make it stop. So I try to shred. After all, leaving someone’s Medicare card lying around in the garbage is not nice, is it. Not that I caused it, but it feels wrong anyway.

Because I have a home office, I have a medium load shredder, and thank goodness for that because my word what businesses send out…. “highlight” today was a cosmetics company that apparently felt the need to put some sachet with some cosmetic cream in the envelope also. Aargh.


  • does return-to-sender have any effect on company-client communications? I’m not talking addressed spam, but things like banks with their clients, etc. If so, how many RTS does it take to make it stick? If RTS doesn’t work, how do you make ’em stop?
  • Companies sending me addressed unsolicited mail… I need to dispose of these items through shredding. The disposal process as a whole takes considerable time, as will asking them to stop mailing me (which apparently is not effective). Can I bill companies for this? Could I sue a company for aiding identity theft?

Update… someone has informed me of details from the Australian Commonwealth Postal Services Act of 1975. Essentially I can neither retain nor destroy the mail, on penalty of up to 2 years of imprisonment. So, no shredding then. The ponderings still apply (and it makes addressed unsolicited mail and unresponsive companies even more costly for an individual!).

And I suppose I’ll just have to hand in un-returnable post to the local post office or mail distribution centre… I can’t keep or destroy it, in those cases I am unable to address it back… so if the post gets me stuck in that way, I’ll have to hand back the responsibility to them. Best I can do?

When raisins and sultanas are grapes too

Do you sometimes see a commercial for breakfast cereal (in print or on TV) showing grapes in between the flakes and other ingredients? There are no grapes in the actual product, so you may wonder why that is not false advertising. The answer is hyperbole, or in marketing/advertising terminology: puffery.

Raisins and sultanas (what you call ’em somewhat depends on where in the world you are) are essentially dried grapes (certain varieties of), and thus apparently it’s not a lie but merely “a bit out there”. Likewise, when an advertisement projects that a product is “hand-picked by bare maidens just before dawn”, and “individually cuddled by dedicated grandmothers”, you are presumed to know that that is not actually the case. But do you, really?

What would happen if one were to go out and conduct street samples to see how many people believe the various claims to be literally true? What scary percentage might come out of that? In my example above I’ve used extreme cases make the point absolutely clear (hyperbole on my part!) but today’s product communications contain so many of them and often less blatant.

Now back from cereal to our own realm of technology… when you read announcements and claims (even in blog posts), how confident are you that you can tell literal truth from puffery?

Ref: the sultana/grape example comes from The Gruen Transfer, a fabulous TV show about advertising, broadcast on Australia’s public network ABC.