A Christmas elf ‘teabagging’ a Barbie-type doll.

I remember spitting my tea out when I first saw Poundland’s #ElfBehavingBad campaign on Twitter. Surely they’d been hacked? Or perhaps it was a spoof feed?

Sure enough, there was the blue tick that confirmed its authenticity. At last! It was really happening. I’d patiently waited for the day a high street retailer would resort to bawdy behaviour – and here was my reward. I immediately embraced it before it would, inevitably, be taken away from us.

Fortunately, the ban came after Christmas so we managed to see the festive japes in all their glory. Only 85 people complained about the posts but it was enough for the ASA to take action and ban them from appearing again. The star of the show is currently serving time and thinking about his actions. (Nicely done, Poundland.)

Of course, nothing disappears from the internet that easily and we can still see what it was that got Elfie into trouble. Top-of-mind awareness, boosted sales, word of mouth, and a marketing campaign that didn’t cost the earth. Pure genius all round. Not all retailers could take this kind of risk. 

For Easter, they’ve introduced us to Bunny & Chick. I doubt that anything will shock the way that the naughty elf did – but I’m sure Poundland will give it their best shot. There’s still time. 

ps: I tried my best to write this without resorting to innuendo. It was so hard.




I came a bit late to Instagram. Mea culpa. But it’s now my favourite – if least informative – social media platform because it’s just oh…so…pretty.

I lament ads on Twitter. I lament ads on Facebook (in fact, I lament Facebook full stop). But when an ad pops up on Instagram I am there, I am IN and I am poised with my credit card. If I can’t get it delivered, preferably on subscription, I don’t want it.

Last week was a biggie.

The March magazine from my Stack subscription arrived. They choose an independent journal and post it out to you once a month. Last month was poetry (not my thing). This month it’s a magazine published by the Copenhagen Institute for Futures Studies. All matt paper, big photos and articles that will make me smarter. Heaven. Died. Gone to.

My first instalment of VITL vitamins plopped onto my desk. I’d filled in a nifty online questionnaire and then got my first month’s tailored box of daily vits. This is a vitamin selection I won’t forget to take because (joy) it has my name printed on it. Love that.

My first ‘wellness’ plant arrived. A big box of leafy goodness designed to suck the toxins from my home in the same way the vitamins will suck the toxins from my body. I’ve subscribed to quarterly deliveries – which is about the same time it will take me to accidentally kill the plant. Probably with the same toxins it’s designed to eradicate.

And if that wasn’t cleansing enough, let’s not forget All Plants. I’m no vegan but I do like a frozen ready meal. The packaging is beautiful and the meals I’ve eaten so far are entirely delicious. Yes, all ordered and delivered from Insta.

Subscriptions aren’t new, of course they’re not. I’ve done Graze (too much snack!), meal delivery (I now favour Gousto) and regular magazines. And, frankly, if you tried to figure out who I am from this list of recent subscriptions you’d get me pretty wrong. You’d think I was healthier, skinnier, bendier and cleverer than I am. 

Instagram ads get me because they’re pretty and they say it all in one image. And yes, I’m reminded to get on and do it because the algorithm delivers me the same ad until I eventually succumb.

But I love it.  And I’m one click away from ordering my latest faux-me trinket. Watch this space @thirstyulla.


Video Nation

Real people are everywhere now. They’re on our televisions. In our ads. On our YouTube channels. But, back in the ‘90s, real people were a novelty.

Between 1993 and 2001, the BBC broadcasted Video Nation – a revolving diary series spotlighting the lives of normal people. Inspired by the Mass Observation project of the 1930s, ‘40s, and ‘50s (in which everyday people recorded their thoughts, feelings, and experiences), members of the public were given camcorders and invited to record aspects of their daily lives. The footage was then edited into short films and aired before Newsnight.

At The Story 2018 conference last month, Mandy Rose, one of the co-producers of the project, shared highlights from the show as well as insights into how they made it.

Watching the footage now, it’s striking just how natural and unforced it is. Granted an open platform, the participants disclosed their hopes, their fears and their insecurities; from a pensioner lamenting his ageing appearance, to a pregnant mum speculating on her child’s future.

One can only imagine what it was like to watch such intimate scenes at the time – before YouTube made ‘user-generated content’ commonplace. But, unlike YouTube, it was very much a collaboration: participants had the final say over the edit and were closely involved throughout.

Together, this combination of skilled documentarians and everyday people results in a more revelatory, more ‘human’, output than if the participants had simply uploaded the content themselves.

And I think this is why it feels so much more authentic than what passes for user-generated content these days. Rather than an incontinent splurge, Video Nation shorts are tightly constructed, with the human truth brought front and centre – yet another reminder that ‘authentic’ representations are often more constructed than they first appear.

What could this mean for brands? Don’t sacrifice storytelling at the altar of the ‘real’. User-generated content requires the same craft and rigour as any other. And, curiously, feels a lot more real.

Sleep deprived?

Foggy. Wonky. Out of it. However you say it, I’m simply not functioning this morning*. I’m not distracted. I’m not bored. My mind feels dense – like a saturated sponge I just can’t wring out. I’m reading the same lines over and over but nothing is going in. Even my miracle-worker, coffee, can’t pull me out of this lull. What on earth should I do?


We seem to consider sleep a luxury, the quality kind reserved specially for the weekends, for rest days, for our teenage years. Well, I have good news and bad news; adequate sleep should be so much more than a weekend indulgence. Now I’m not saying that ‘catching up on sleep’ is suddenly a valid excuse for being late to work. BUT we should treat sleep in the same way we treat food…with the utmost importance!

On a cellular level, as we sleep our bodies repair and restores themselves. Therefore a lack of sleep limits us during the day both mentally and physically.

Insufficient sleep alters focus and inhibits learning and memory processes. Research suggests that when we sleep, memory consolidation occurs through the strengthening of neural connections. These then form our memories. If we don’t get enough sleep, it impedes our ability to develop any new information we acquire. Also, without adequate sleep, overworked neurons cannot function to coordinate information properly. This means we not only struggle to learn new things, but we also struggle to recall things we already know. (Suddenly the ‘dense’ feeling I experienced earlier is making more sense.)

We know that inadequate sleep slows our reaction time and hinders our decision-making abilities. Did you also know that it has a similar effect on the brain as drinking alcohol?

Sleep also plays a huge role in our physical well-being. Roger Federer gets 12 hours’ sleep a night. Yes, that is a little extreme, but many top athletes prioritise sleep so much more than the rest of us. That’s because sleep is crucial to healthy growth and development. Indeed, it is deep sleep that triggers the release of hormones needed to help build muscle mass and repair any cells and tissues damaged by fitness training. Whether you’re a casual gym-goer, a park runner, or an athlete, sleep is equally important.

Even if you care not for a focused mind-set, strong concentration, healthy growth, or sufficient muscle recovery, adequate sleep should still be a priority. That’s because sleep affects our attitude towards food. Yes, you read that correctly, FOOD. Sleep deprivation increases our ghrelin levels and decreases our leptin levels. Ghrelin and leptin are hormones; ghrelin makes you feel hungry, leptin makes you feel full. Simply put, if you’re not getting enough sleep, you tend to feel hungrier. If this isn’t an incentive to prioritise sleep then I don’t know what is. No one likes to be hangry.

So, there it is. Sleep is our refueller, our friend, our saviour. Who knew how much our bodies do while we’re getting a bit of shut-eye? Off for an early one tonight I think.

*Not really ‘this’ morning.

Time for action

At Razor Kids, we regularly explore emerging trends, behaviours and attitudes. Recently we turned our attention towards self-image amongst girls aged 8-14 years. For the first time, we heard them starting to voice resentment towards the unattainable benchmarks (driven mainly by social media and selfie culture) on how they should look and present themselves.

As young girls become more active consumers of media – particularly on YouTube and Instagram – they’re increasingly exposed to unrealistic expectations of self-imagery. This is creating a generation that views everything in ‘real’ life as ugly – including themselves.

Whilst there’s now substantial evidence to show that too much social media can lead to poor mental health, it seems that the government and DCMS are powerless to create a regulated system to protect the young and vulnerable. It’s time to act.

If you listen to girls talk about what it’s like growing up in 2018, it sounds like a positive story on the surface. They have greater aspirations and opportunities for their careers, along with an array of positive female role models to emulate. Many cite their mums as someone they aspire to be like.

So, why do young girls still suffer with low self-esteem and poor body image? We believe it’s rooted in how they’re being exposed to unrealistic ideals on how they should look and act and in the current media environment. The ‘beauty gap’ is prolific and harmful.

‘Because people use filters and Photoshop over their pictures, it makes me think my own image isn’t good enough to please society.’
Age 12 (year 7), Brighton

Children’s media independence – and access to adult content – is accelerating them into adult worlds and norms. Previous studies we’ve worked on revealed that kids tend to get their own social media accounts as soon as they have a smartphone. This happens by year 6 for most kids in the UK, but it can also be from a younger age.

Where traditional media was once censored by responsible guardians, the present-day ownership of personal devices means very little safeguarding. In fact, when we chat to kids about this, they are acutely aware of their loss of childhood and feel slightly sad that they aren’t truly able to enjoy what they know is supposed to be a ‘special’ and carefree period in their life.

‘It’s difficult being told so many things and still not knowing who you are.
I sometimes want to be a baby again and not have to care about any of it.’

Age 13 (year 8), London

Transitioning into a teenager always comes with angst, self-doubt, and a need for peer acceptance – but this has been exacerbated for teens who are active on social media, sharing and living their lives under public scrutiny. They feel compelled to post selfies that will increase their ‘likes’, take photos to keep their ‘streaks’ up, and tell the world what they are up to and how they are feeling. Given their tender age, it isn’t surprising that they don’t all have the emotional resilience to cope with being judged so openly and harshly.

Our study found that regardless of location/family set-up/age, as soon as girls become active on social media (especially Instagram) they tend to experience feelings of insecurity and ugliness. When scrolling through posts from peers, vloggers and celebrities, they feel pressurised to be as good at everything. This relates to the way they look and dress – as well as needing to showcase cues that suggest their talent and popularity.

‘I do feel like I pressure myself. If I see someone who looks really pretty in all their photos, I look at my photos and think, why do I not look like that?’. Why am I not as pretty?’
Age 11 (year 6), Crewe

The current rhetoric preached at schools focuses on inclusion and diversity. When it comes to beauty definitions, we heard that tweens and teens have a greater regard for intrinsic values, compared to external looks and traditional norms around beauty. But media content, advertising imagery and brand messaging is out of kilter, still presenting the world with a very narrowly defined view of what is regarded as socially acceptable with idealised norms.

‘In adverts it’s always the tall, skinny and pretty people being shown. They aren’t exactly showing equality. People speak about diversity but then don’t act on it.’
Age 14 (year 9), Scunthorpe

Today’s media platforms should be used as a tool to celebrate diversity around self-image. Instead, they re-affirm a confined perspective of what is aspirational. Teens mimic beauty imagery with selfies and poses and apply ‘pretty’ filters to enhance their looks. As app technology innovates, the benchmark for how one presents themselves in public rises substantially. Sadly, girls talk about feeling ugly when they are looking at themselves in the real world. Quite worrying when you think about their identities being formed at this crucial time in their lives. We see a schizophrenic split emerge of real versus virtual identities that they are struggling to work out. It’s social media that forces them to focus on their public self, rather than their private world where they can feel comfortable and safe.

‘The way that the media describes fitting in is that you have to be ‘pretty’. You have to have the right clothes, the right body and the right face. I can definitely say that I’ve felt insecure about myself from pictures I’ve seen all over Instagram and other social media sites.’
Age 14 (year 10), London 

Some of the 12-14 year-olds we spoke to are angry. They criticise brands and posts for not presenting beauty authentically. They are confused about who are models, who are their peers, and whether the beauty they see is real or has been manipulated. The benchmarks on how they should present themselves are being pushed to unattainable limits. They lament that social media relentlessly feeds them imagery that all looks the same.

‘I think there is pressure on how I look. I think this comes from social media and magazines where models are all perfect but fake looking. They make me feel that this is how society thinks people should look and how I should look.’
Age 12 (year 7)

Currently, the icons they look up to are respected for their inner qualities, such as their positivity or supporting causes that they affiliate with. When they talk about beauty, they choose people who are brave (such as Nikki Lilly), or bold and unique (ike transgender vloggers James Charles and Patrick Starr). However, we wonder how long it will be before they drop them and move towards more ‘conventional’ models of beauty?

As sub-cultures become homogenised, it is having a devastating impact on the girls who don’t feel like they fit in. The result is a generation of girls who feel squeezed and marginalized in how they want to express themselves or develop their identity. Whilst various beauty and personal care brands have begun to challenge the status quo, the message isn’t filtering down to tweens and teens.

We have a responsibility to protect our future generation of women. For the first time, we are hearing from them that they don’t like the impact of social media and the way it creates insecurities around acceptance and belonging (a fundamental human need). This cannot be ignored. We are living in a social experiment where it’s hard to predict the future – but early signs of the impact on social media are alarming. It’s time to regulate social media and become more stringent in what children have access to.

Our full report – The Beauty Project – is now available to share.

Contact Lesley Salem, head of Razor Kids, for further details.


See you later, alligator?

It’s not every day you see a brand do away with its logo. But, for the first time ever, Lacoste has done precisely that for an extremely limited edition collection.

Lacoste and creative agency, BETC Paris, recently teamed up with the International Union for Conservation of Nature (IUCN) to help raise awareness of, and funds for, endangered species. Whilst the famous Lacoste crocodile isn’t endangered, there are many species that aren’t as lucky.

Across the collection of classic white polos, 10 endangered species have individually appeared where the croc used to be. Not only that, but the number of polos in existence (for sale) of each species corresponds to the number alive left in the wild.

For instance, the Vaquita (porpoise) range offered only 30 polos (specimens). At the top end of the scale, there were 450 of the Anegada Ground Iguana shirts.

That gives us a total of 1,775 polo shirts across the entire collection. That knowledge certainly puts things into perspective. Not only is this partnership raising much needed attention to the #SaveTheSpecies campaign, it’s genuinely creating a buzz, a collector’s item and (most importantly) a dialogue about the cause. With every polo purchased, the money goes towards preserving that species in the wild. And it goes without saying, the limited stock was snapped up almost instantly; pun intended.

In the past, I’ve questioned whether corporate social responsibility is something that big brands are merely latching onto, rather than truly standing for something. Some attempts of CSR seem disingenuous and removed from the brand – essentially just piggy-backing onto someone else’s social work. However, I think this is a great example of how to get it right. Lacoste has created something relevant, worthy and important. This campaign certainly gets the Razor approval. And it’s only the beginning – the partnership will run for the next three years. Good work!

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(Photo by Lacoste.)