Whenever people discuss regulation, whether for or against, it’s always treated as basically one type of thing. Opponents might say, “regulation is bad for business,” or, “we need to cut red tape,” while advocates might argue, “regulation makes us safer,” or, less positively, “regulation is a necessary evil.”
Occasionally, someone will distinguish between good and bad regulation, but it’s still talked about as one thing, with one purpose; the debate is whether it achieves that purpose to a better or worse extent.
Visiting India helped crystallise in my mind that there are two very different things, both called “regulation”. They have different aims, and different effects on business. We shouldn’t confuse one for the other. We should also be aware that it’s a deliberate policy of business lobby groups to try to make us do just that.
I haven’t done Worst Adverts of the Year for a while now, but I’m considering resurrecting it for 2016, given Heineken’s early lead in the coveted ‘Most Dishonest Advert’ category.
The ad shows a sequence of women on a night out, singing a montage of Bonnie Tyler’sHolding Out for a Hero, as they contemptuously ignore the drunk men stumbling and snoozing around them. It ends with a female bartender being impressed by a man who leaves the bar after having only one drink, which leads to the tagline, “Moderate Drinkers Wanted”:
The advert is so breathtakingly disingenuous, it takes a few seconds after seeing it to start to process what might be going on here. Obviously, they can’t be telling their customers, “we want you to buy less of our product.” They must know that, as studies prove, the majority of their revenues come from dangerous and harmful levels of binge-drinking.
Do they think that by pretending their beer is only for more discerning (and therefore attractive) moderate-drinking men, they’ll raise its status and men will stupidly drink more of it? No, I don’t think that’s Heineken’s tactic here.
To understand the advert, you have to realise that it’s not aimed at potential Heineken customers at all. It’s primarily aimed at regulators. It’s part of a big lobbying campaign, attempting to prove to governments that the alcohol industry is a responsible self-regulator, that it doesn’t want its customers to over-use its products and is taking steps to stop them.
The campaign, of course, is paid for with the profits Heineken makes as it fuels a public health catastrophe, the costs of which are socialised to the rest of us. And the reason the industry wants self-regulation is so they can avoid minimum unit pricing, and continue to sell 15p/unit cider to its biggest customers: alcoholics drinking themselves to death.
Do you find, like I do, that however rigorous you try to be in checking every “do not email me…” option, you still end up receiving corporate spam, marketing emails from every company you’ve done business with? I think they just ignore those boxes, add you to the marketing list anyway, and hope a few of you won’t bother unsubscribing.
What’s even worse is when you find yourself unable to unsubscribe. This often happens, ironically, because you took the most data-cautious route of all, and refused to sign up for an account. They added your address to the mailing list anyway, and now you’ve got no account to log in to, to change your subscription settings.
The solution to this is either to create an account (and they’ve got you after all, the conniving bastards) or contact customer services. But the latter option is often made deliberately difficult. There’s no email address on the website, or if there is it doesn’t work. The final resort is haemorrhaging cash on a telephone call to Bangalore in which you have to navigate a problem resolution flow chart, which you’re not allowed to see, and which is only described to you indirectly via an intermediary, who speaks the same language as you, but not a mutually intelligible dialect of it.
At the end of the phone call, in which you’ve been told to “click the unsubscribe link” and then explained that you’ve already done this 14 times and you’re still receiving emails, you just know that when the operator has told you they’ve unsubscribed you from the list themselves and the problem is now resolved, all they’ve done is click the same link, and you’ll be receiving more spam from them in less than 24 hours.
I’ve developed a new strategy to fight unsubscribable corporate marketing emails, although it could be applied more widely to get resolution on any customer service issue. I call it the CXO Clusterbomb.