Coffee shops serving incongruous pumpkin beverages. Premature Christmas retail promotions. Leaving the European Union. It’s beginning to look a lot like Halloween.
As always, our proverbial trick or treat buckets hath overflowed with launches vile and victorious, superb and scary. Given that Halloween 2019 will forever be synonymous with Brexit, whether we actually end up leaving then or not, this lowdown holds a mirror to these contradictory times we live in.
Below lie obituaries for several recent launches that have terrified and tickled; caused shock and shrugs. Are there real monsters lurking, or just cranky janitors foiled by those meddling kids? You be the judge.
£140m. That’s 5.6m Freddo bars. Engine didn’t buy 5.6m Freddos. Instead, the titan agency launched the government’s historic ‘Get Ready for Brexit’ campaign.
Rumours were rife. Given the ever-morphing nature of a challenge like Brexit, what information could it actually provide?
The honest answer, upon its September launch? Not a whole lot. Because, much like the very thing it tried to support, it’s a logistical headache and a seemingly impossible task.
The ASA received an initial 94 complaints about the drive, on the grounds that the 31 October date seemed a little too concrete for some people’s liking.
And yes, the information provided by Engine was a bit basic. But the government’s own Brexit checker tool is fundamentally vague - ‘You may not need to do all these actions ahead of the 31 October deadline. The action you may need to take may change subject to negotiations and your own circumstances’ – because what it’s working with is just as vague.
And that’s the crux of it. Even if Engine delivered a stunning piece of creative featuring Michael Gove drinking cup after cup of nourishing water until he reached an unprecedented level of enlightenment, the agency would still be in a tight spot. The launch of this campaign could never appease everyone – especially when it’s funded by the taxpayer – simply because Brexit is a multifaceted issue that seems to change every day.
It’s funny to pull people’s legs. Think of Dom Joly pacing around screaming into that massive phone, or the time Brixton Academy tricked everyone into thinking it was scrapping its world-famous sloped floor.
But what if it’s not a joke? What if whisky giant The Glenlivet launched cocktail pods made of seaweed – little squishy edibles?
Well, you’d have whisky purists calling it ‘an abomination’ and an entire cohort of Twitter users thoroughly rinsing the idea. Despite The Glenlivet’s Capsule Collection only being available during London Cocktail Week, it seems like a bad idea and a wasted opportunity in the same breath.
Bad idea: whisky isn’t supposed to be guzzled Augustus Gloop-style. It’s a premium product. It’s supposed to be enjoyed and savoured, perhaps in front of the fireplace with a yuletide tundra raging outside the window. This launch goes against the principles of why most people drink whisky, and also seems a bit dangerous in regards to, you know, chewing potent alcoholic substances like they’re sweets.
Wasted opportunity: imagine if this were just an elaborate ruse, getting everyone all riled up before launching a new drink or experience? It’d be hilarious. Effective. A viral victory. But it’s not. It’s a real thing, and The Glenlivet has since come out and explained the pods will not be released to the public. Was this always the plan? Maybe, maybe not. We can never know that.
But one thing’s for certain: the next topic is somewhat bleak, and if the world’s going to burn, the people want to drink their whisky, dammit!
This year’s Amazon fires grabbed everyone’s attention, but the problems are obviously rooted deeper than that. The rainforest which we often refer to as the lungs of the Earth is being picked apart on a daily basis. By humans. By us.
So, digital agency AKQA tried to do something about it. Capitalising on this raised awareness, it teamed up with international non-governmental organisations to launch ‘Code of Conscience’: an open-source software which restricts deforestation crews from entering protected zones.
Rather than just saying, ‘What can we do about this horrible tragedy?’, it lets us hold specific businesses to account. Coupled with a video endorsed by chief Raoni Metuktire, the world’s most prominent Native Brazilian leader, the drive couldn’t have launched at a better time. ‘Better’ might not be the right word, but it’s making an impact - WPP agency wants the technology to become legally mandatory, and AKQA sent the chips to the world’s top ten construction equipment manufacturers.
So, this wasn’t quite the technicolour Halloween roundup it could’ve been. We live in a scary world where nothing’s black and white, despite the entire internet trying to convince us that’s the case. But maybe there’s some hope. Perhaps everything isn't as scary as it seems.
But let’s not talk about whisky pods anymore. I could do without the nightmares.
George Roberts is client services director at launch marketing agency Five by Five