Blu-ray Combo Packs: would you like fries with that?

This column was originally published in the Central Western Daily on Tuesday 10th July 2012.

There’s a trend now to release films in combo packs. That’s a blu-ray disc, DVD and digital copy of the same movie in the same package. Why would I want three copies of a film in three different formats? If I own a blu-ray player and have the capability to enjoy a film at home in glorious high definition, why would I want to watch it on my phone or in inferior DVD?

Blu-ray owners seem to be the hardest hit by these packages, which are more expensive than a standard edition. It is worse for 3D blu-ray owners who have to pay even more for a four disc combo. I understand that this may be appropriate for kiddie films so you can have a copy for the kids or the car but the majority of these combos are for adult oriented flicks. My suggestion to thrifty blu-ray owners is to find a friend who owns a DVD player only and someone who likes to watch movies on their iPad and split the cost of the combo three ways.

Published in: on July 19, 2012 at 10:35  Leave a Comment  
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Milk: now with free permeate

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This column was originally published in the Central Western Daily on Tuesday 17th July 2012.

Am I the only person in Australia who had never heard the word “permeate” until this past week?  I popped into my local corner store the other day to pick up some milk. This particular brand of moo juice I chose was covered in labels announcing that it was now permeate free. I had no idea what this meant but took the time to tell the lady behind the counter how pleased I was to no longer be charged extra for permeate.

After a moment of disbelief, she did correct me. Apparently permeate is an additive that is used to dilute milk. I no longer drink milk, but when I was growing up, the only additive for me was milo, and lots of it. Nowadays, there seems to be so many different permutations of milk products that I wouldn’t be surprised in the existence of additives.

I did try milk straight from the cow on a Rural Youth excursion to Gloucester in Year 7 and I’m certain that absolutely nothing on the shelf tastes like that. Just for the record, I did use a cup to drink the milk.

The marketing advantage for that particular brand of milk didn’t last longer than a week or so because on a visit to the supermarket today, I noticed that almost every brand now has a sticker declaring the product permeate free.

Of course, a label stating that a product doesn’t contain something is not necessarily proof that it was ever there in the first place. So in the interests of marketing, I’d like to proudly announce that this blog is now sulphide free.

Published in: on July 19, 2012 at 10:23  Leave a Comment  
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There’s only One Direction and that’s towards obscurity

This column was originally published in the Central Western Daily on Tuesday 1st May 2012.

Am I the only one who doesn’t have a clue about One Direction? It seems that they simply appeared from nowhere. For about a week they dominated the media, including high brow broadsheet newspapers and every breakfast TV show on the air.

As a good columnist, I’ve done my research. One Direction is the latest boyband from somewhere overseas and every member is named Liam (pronounced “Lame”). They are also definitive proof that human cloning is underway.

I’ve had a listen to their debut album and as far as pop songs go, it’s completely inoffensive. The tunes are well written and catchy enough, although that’s more of a credit to the songwriters and auto-tune than the performers. The voices are nothing special but they blend together nicely.

The album cover and title puzzle me though. The picture on the sleeve shows the Liams all fresh faced and smiling, but the name of the record is Up All Night. I wish I looked like them when I’ve been up all night. I think a more appropriate album title for the cover art would be It’s Almost Recess.

On a recent trip to Sydney, I was shocked to come across the One Direction Official Merchandise Store in Pitt Street. Teenage girls were lining out the door to purchase t-shirts, shopping bags and badges adorned with the mugs of the Liams. You could even buy the complete doll set of the group for $200. I’m sure the store is a nice little earner for someone, probably One Direction’s manager. As far as I’m concerned, it would have been much more efficient to simply erect a big sign in front of the shop saying, “Attention teenyboppers, please drop your parents’ hard earned cash here.”

Apparently tickets for One Direction’s upcoming Australian arena tour have been selling like there’s no tomorrow. Most of the concerts are sold out and tickets have been appearing on ebay with huge mark-ups. If you are lucky enough to have acquired tickets, my advice is to sell, sell, sell. You see, the concert tour is scheduled for September 2013. That’s right, sixteen months from now.

Having survived the musical fads that were New Kids on the Block, Hanson, Backstreet Boys, Girlfriend, Bros, Milli Vanilli, Spice Girls, B*Witched and Daryl Somers, I’m pretty sure that the average peak popularity of these groups is less than a year. I did manage to avoid Bieber fever because I got vaccinated.

Whoever is pulling the strings on One Direction’s marketing is a genius. Make a fortune selling tickets now for concerts so far ahead in the future that it’s most likely that fans would have moved on to the next big thing by then. Trust me girls, list your precious tickets on ebay now because you’ll probably be giving them away next year. Use your profits to buy shares in a boyband marketing company.

It won’t be so bad for the Liams when One Direction inevitably fade into obscurity. They’ll still be young enough to go back and finish school. Primary school, that is.

Is it the real thing?

This column was originally published in the Central Western Daily on Tuesday 13th July 2010.

A major improvement has been made to the world’s biggest selling soft drink. That’s right, Coca-Cola have added grip to their 450ml PET (polyethylene terephthalate) bottles. In what should receive the award for most dubious product improvement of the year, the manufacturers of Coke are labelling the new container “easy to hold”. That’s strange. I haven’t heard of anyone having problems holding a bottle of Coke. Do they realise that the container is made of plastic and won’t shatter when you drop it anyway? Perhaps they should be adding grip to their glass bottles? To be fair, Coke are claiming that the new bottle design uses 5% less PET than the previous one. OK, this may be an environmentally sound improvement I guess, but I don’t suppose that this new bottle will come with a small price reduction either. Despite its domination and success worldwide, the history of Coca-Cola is littered with several controversies and odd marketing decisions, much like the new grippy bottle. Created in 1886 by John Pemberton, a pharmacist in Columbus, Georgia, Coca-Cola had a rough start with a little legal turmoil after the creator sold his formula twice, the second sale to fund his morphine addiction. Initially containing cocaine (this was ceased in 1904), Coke is now manufactured with coca leaves from which cocaine has already been extracted (for medicinal purposes only of course). In 1985, New Coke was unleashed upon the US and Canada. With a new sweeter formula, it was developed to improve Coca-Cola’s market share in the US, where a fierce battle was being fought against Pepsi. Despite market research which showed that the majority of taste testers preferred the new formula, Coke did not anticipate the backlash it would receive, especially from the company’s home of Atlanta, Georgia, buoyed by nostalgia for what was considered an American icon. Less than twelve weeks later, in a complete back-flip, Coca-Cola Classic was back on the shelves, alongside New Coke, now known as Coca-Cola 2. By 2002, New Coke, as a separate product, was no more. Conspiracy theorists believe that the New Coke controversy was manufactured to allow Classic Coke to be brought back in the US with the cheaper (and much more fattening) high fructose corn syrup, rather than cane sugar, as its principal ingredient. Call in Fox Mulder. Not all of Coco-Cola’s ideas have involved Coke itself. Tab was a diet cola that was developed by Coca-Cola in 1963. The emergence of Diet Coke in 1982 saw Tab sales decline and it disappeared in Australia sometime in the late nineties. In 1993, Tab Clear was released in Australia. Clear cola, a fad around that time with several different brands, failed as a marketing gimmick and less than a year later had disappeared from shelves. Perhaps they forgot that the colour of the beverage itself was somewhat irrelevant considering Tab was mostly sold in cans. In 2008, Australian actress Kerry Armstrong was hired to front an advertising campaign “mythbusting” the notion that Coke was bad for you. I would suggest that an actress who makes a living saying someone else’s lines would not be the person Australians go to for nutritional advice. A year later, the Australian Competition and Consumer Commission (ACCC) ruled that the ads were misleading. Despite these hiccups, Coca-Cola remains a dominant brand in the Australian beverage marketplace, expanding their portfolio to include beer, water, fruit juice, coffee and sports drinks. So if you go for “the real thing”, “just for the taste of it”, to “add life”, I also suggest you also “get a grip”.

Published in: on July 18, 2010 at 11:20  Leave a Comment  
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