Edith Gassion was born in Paris in 1915. Her mother abandoned her at birth and her grandmother raised her in a brothel. Her friends and mentors were the prostitutes she grew up with. At 14, she began earning money by singing on the streets. At 17, she was pregnant and got married. At 19, a nightclub owner heard her unusual voice and hired her to sing in his club. She was so tiny, just 4’ 8” tall and weighing 66lbs, that he called her “La Mome Piaf” (The Little Sparrow). So Edith Gassion changed her name to Edith Piaf. Her voice, trained in street singing, sounded like no one else. The public loved her, every song she sang became a massive hit. But she lived a self-destructive life. Gossip and scandal, public love affairs, rumoured prostitution, heavy drinking. In 1949 the love of her life, world-champion boxer Marcel Cerdan, was killed in a plane crash. In 1951 she was seriously injured in the first of a series of car crashes.
It’s the end of October. Black history month in the UK is drawing to a close and advertisers around the country are safely turning to an easier event on the calendar, Halloween. We really do live in frightening times. This year, adland's two most famous Black History Month contributions have come from Loreal and Dove; beauty brands who were not actively participating at the time. CCO of M&C Saatchi Justin Tindall is bored of diversity but yet appeared to be unaware of his own company’s list of HR diversity initiatives until he was emailed them to copy and paste into an apology letter until he had to… well... copy and paste them into an apology letter. Yesterday a friend posted a celebration of Bodyform showing real blood in their sanitary pad test on Insta, and had the head of design at 101 reply ‘bore off’ on her post. Public trolling from a 'head of' is pretty worrying behaviour.
I wrote a naively optimistic piece when they launched in the UK about how the sharing economy tapped into deeply human decency: that by sharing our cars (and more broadly, our homes, even our dogs) we were proving that respect for our neighbour and their property could be the foundation of future work. Adorable. I suspect that it has proved quite the opposite. The unwavering defence of Uber by the vast majority of its UK customers tells an interesting tale. #SaveYourUber was launched and gathered pace almost as soon as the TfL licence ruling was announced. A petition against the decision was change.org’s fastest growing petition this year. The latter fact is downright depressing given there have been petitions on topics that aim to tackle much more fundamental concerns than a cheap taxi ride home. The thing that I am obsessed with specifically is this – when the prevailing notion is that consumers want to buy from purpose-driven businesses, how are Uber seen by vast swathes of consumers as the people’s champion?
When Professor Jonathan AJ Wilson, PhD started thinking about Saudi Arabia lifting the ban on women drivers, he played ‘My Favourite Game’ by the Cardigans. “The video takes me back to memories of the iconic movie Thelma & Louise and the bittersweet catharsis of women suffocated by misogyny and circumstance,” he explained. Misogyny and circumstance, religion and tradition, politics and repression – whatever was stopping women from getting behind the wheel of car (or a plane) without permission and a guardian in the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia (KSA) has been spiked in favour of equality. Or if you’re a cynic, in favour of international pacification; the news was announced with fanfare at a media event in the USA.
In many ways, Japan remains a land of big corporations. Young graduates still aspire to join a large company and climb the ranks. Yet for two days last week, there was a vivid glimpse of how things could be different. Start-ups and venture capital firms converged at Tokyo’s Belle Salle Shibuya Garden for Tech in Asia Tokyo, one of three annual conferences—the others in Jakarta and Singapore—organized by the regional publisher. With the Japanese venture capital sector going through what some see as a golden age, technology services look poised to transform stodgy legacy businesses. “Now when you release an app, it is no longer easy to get instant followers and users,” said James Riney, managing director of 500 Startups Japan. “Growth is in the legacy industries such as insurance, where IT hasn’t had much reach yet.”