The Musings Of An Opinionated Sod [Help Me Grow!]

Some Bling Isn’t Good, Infact Some Is A Fucking Disgrace!
January 24, 2008, 7:37 am
Filed under: Comment


See that TV above? See those flickers of white around the frame?

They are all diamonds. 160 of them. Totalling 20 carats.

But it gets even more ridiculous … you see it costs US$130,000.


As far as I am concerned, the maker, Keymat Industrie, should be charged with crimes against humanity and ordered to give me the names and addresses of each person who has ever enquired about the monstrosity so I can go round to their houses, burn them down then dance in the ashes.

Actually what I’d really like to do is get a client who represents ‘consumer value’ [someone like K-Mart or Kia] and convince them to take a stand against vulgar displays of wealth.

They would name and shame brands [and people] who make/buy products that are extreme in cost and promote simple pleasures such as community, family, culture and creativity …

Sure it would alienate a fuckload of companies and segments in society [though as I wrote in a post a while back, many of the super wealthy have a FUCK YOU attitude towards the masses which means this idea is already potentially flawed], but I do believe it would at least galvanise the support of the masses [or at least the middle country, middle classes] because as much as everyone has the right to do what they want with their cash, there’s a point where it can be viewed almost as an aggressive act against their beloved fabric of society.

Alright, so this would only work if the company in question actually lived it claims rather than just spouted them PLUS it shouldn’t try and follow this strategy in countries where they seem to follow a ‘Wear Your Wealth’ philosophy [that’s HK and Dubai for a start] but maybe – just maybe – in some parts of the UK and US it could provide a powerful platform for a brand to stand out from the clutter and make a positive difference to both the wider society and their profits.

[Can you imagine how powerful it would be if a building society was behind I think it would be wonderful not to mention commercially beneficial]

Oh, and before someone suggests I talk to Virgin about it, I would tell them to go here first – then tell me if it would be entirely appropriate for them to take this stance! 🙂

42 Comments so far
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Despite your slight on Virgin Galactic (we’re bringing intergalactic space travel within the reach of millions) I like this post and I like the idea you suggest.

As you correctly point out, it would require an organisation who has the courage of its convictions rather than one who just sees it as a marketing ploy, but it could be a very strong platform if handled correctly.

I suppose the biggest issue is whether there are enough people with this viewpoint to make it financially viable for a brand to invest in. That and the fact that from then on, they would have to always represent societal value which could affect shareholder value.

Maybe it’s not such a good idea afterall.

(I do like the thought really, I’m just getting a sly dig in. Don’t complain, you started it.)

Comment by Lee Hill

no matter how many chunks of compressed carbon it has stuck to it or how much it costs, that is one ugly television!

Comment by lauren

You’re getting soft Lee, normally your comments have an air of ambiguity so no one can be sure whether you are angry, offended or just having fun at their expense. Robert gets off the hook again, Andy will be disappointed.
Unfortunately I think your view is in the minority Robert. I’m not saying it’s wrong, just that if people are willing to pay outrageous sums of money for blinged items, can you blame companies for making them?
I do like the idea you have though and even though I get what Lee is saying, I think it would work, especially for brands who have a heritage of consumer value retailing.
I would have suggested Virgin but having been reminded about their ego space business, I’ve changed my mind now 🙂

Comment by Pete

An astonishing amount of people give to charities that are knee deep in adminstrative hierarchies and dumb names, so I would suggest Lee that there’s a huge potential constituency of people who would be turned on to the idea of truly seeing where their money goes. Trouble is, just like Rob until recently, they aren’t aware of kiva.

Comment by John

I love your thinking Rob. That is a golden opportunity for K-Mart etc… I think the bling thing is fast reaching a point of parody (as that TV proves so well) so it’s the PERFECT time for someone like them to do something like that.

Comment by Age

I will pass over Pete’s attempt to mock me and just say I laughed out loud when I saw Lauren’s wonderful comment because my wife had said the same thing just moments before. It is disgusting isn’t it, the Italians are so inconsistent given their self appointed title of style leaders. I was reading recently that certain Russian Billionaires are hiring bling consultants to help pimp up their lifestyles, I wonder if this television was created with them in mind?

John you are entirely correct though I would counter that societies view of charity organisations, however ineffective with their cash donations, is still likely to be more highly favoured than a commercial brand who is claiming to help make society more balanced, at least initially. Of course Tesco’s screws my argument so I think it best I now depart.

As for kiva, I have known about it for a long time and just so everyone knows, since Robert discovered it, he has said that if clients invest in a minimum of 10 kiva projects per camapaign, they will lower their agency fee. Very decent man that Robert. Questionable business sense, but very honourable.

Comment by Lee Hill

“Actually what I’d really like to do is get a client who represents ‘consumer value’ [someone like K-Mart or Kia] and convince them to take a stand against vulgar displays of wealth.”

Ditto Age… That’s fucking genius. Pitch winner no doubt. Awesome.

Comment by Charles Frith

Honorable indeed, but that’ll teach some people to take long holidays.

Comment by John

He’s giving even more of my payrise away? Soon I’ll qualify as a fucking charity. Neat idea though, I think we should do it before Age or Chaz take all the credit 🙂

Comment by Billy Whizz

I don’t work in advertising so I feel I shouldn’t be here but I’ve been a big fan of your blog for a long time and this post really struck a nerve with me.
As a mum of 2 small children I’d really welcome a brand who fought against “vulgar displays of wealth”. I don’t really understand why, but somehow it would make me feel less of a total outsider and help me feel like I belong in my community again. I know I’m going to sound like a Daily Mail reader (I’m not) but I long for the times when saying “please” and “thank you” were not considered optional. Hope this doesn’t make me sound too silly. Keep up the lovely blog, it make me smile every day and its nice to know there’s people in business who don’t just want to take, take, take. Jenny.

Comment by Jenny Clarke

Oooooh a post with some genuine, healthy debate in it. Now that is unusual, ha!

Hello Jenny Clarke … there’s a lot of new women on this blog and I have to say I like it.

The fact you’re not in advertising means you are far better placed to pass comment than the folk who think a quick lunch is a 10 course meal at The Ivy.

It is at this point I should state that whilst I am in advertising, my version of a quick lunch is NOT a 10 course meal at the Ivy, it’s a Chili Chicken at Wild Bamboo – the only place where I can get some food within a short walk.

PS: I LOVE your comment Lauren. Pure bloody gold. And as a half-Iti, I have to agree with Lee, the image of Italians always having effortless style is very open to debate. You should see some of the furniture in my families houses, haha!

PPS2: You’re right Lee … Virgin Galactic is bringing space travel to the ‘masses’, it’s just the masses still need to have a fuck load of money to blow, haha! In all seriousness, I do think you could take this issue on – but I still feel it would be more appropriate for K-Mart, Target or even Tesco’s – but hey, if I can sell the concept before Charles [Chaz?] or Age, I’ll take anyone, hahaha!

PPS3: What would your charity be called Billy? “Fraud?” 🙂

Comment by Rob

First, it is often the big industrialists/tycoons of the world who ends up displaying their vulgar side of wealth (I do have plenty of examples and big names to throw here with examples of their vulgar display of wealth, anyway). They have worked hard to earn it and they love to flaunt it. No issues.

These are the same people who at board meetings speaks a lot about how their organizations are working towards providing a better life to people and society in general. This is the root cause according to me. In a competitive environment of the business world, you need to stand out, you want to portray an image which will draw people but alas you hardly comes across an organization that has a real HUMANE side. What they have is something called as the CSR program. Now, either their CSR policies are flawed or it boils down to just publicity stints. The real intention of helping people gets buried.

I foresee a change coming our way in the future. People… normal people will understand and identify brands and companies and either stick to them or reject them based on what they do for them. It can be as basic as a Mont Blanc pen (the brand) sponsoring the entire education cost of a poor kid. Or DLF (the land developers) building homes for the homeless in their endeavor of “Building a New India” instead of buying luxury yacht. Am not bitching. Ha.

Comment by poor\

You know what Poor\, I’m not sure if I agree with you. Let me rephrase that … I don’t know if I agree with ALL of what you’re saying.

I know many incredibly successful business people [including some under 30] who do not feel a need to ‘flaunt their wealth’.

Infact, their attitude is that their success naturally brings attention so they neither have to announce it or court it.

Admitidly these individuals are not Asian or Middle Eastern [who culturally almost are required to ‘flaunt their riches’] but it’s not true that all who have cash need to scream about it!

OK, that’s the bit I didn’t agree with 🙂 now the bits I do …

It is a competitive environment and everyone wants to associate with a winner – however what I find interesting is that there is a shift going on and people are starting to regard companies who make money via a social philosophy far more attractive than those who simply look at maximising the bottom line.

Of course this adoration is limited to the general punter on the street rather than the money market whores, but this is a significant shift because this pressure could manifest itself into fundamentally changing corporate attitudes.

I’m not saying this WILL happen – but it could – and I for one hope so. As I said before, I am pro-making cash – it’s what you need to make things change – however my view is that making money is fine as long as you do it the right way and then use it the right way.

History is littered with organisations who have raped employees and consumers of their rights only to rose-tint history by setting up ‘charitable causes’.

To me, how you make it is as important as what you do with it … and if you are going to charge more, embrace it rather than try and create an illusion.

I’ve said it a million times, but if [RED] came out and said they were the Robin Hood of Charity [stealing from the brand label obsessives to help the aids victims] I’d feel far more positive about them than this ‘We All Care’ approach – which, when you look at who are main partners in the program, is obviously a crock of shit.

Comment by Rob

I just read a WWF-funded report on what luxury means today. It seems that “eco-luxury” is emerging as a dominant code in many industrialized societies. To read the report, go to

Comment by Mark

I’ve read the report Mark and it’s really good.

I must admit, I do think some of the findings are overly optimistic because you just have to see what/how/where/when society is consuming [especially in Asia and the Middle East] to realise eco-luxury is more often about ‘sentiment’ than fundamental change in behaviour.

I was talking to a sociologist recently and he commented that whilst the wealthy are looking for more eco-life experiences, they still demand all the external trappings they’ve got used to.

Climbing a mountain doesn’t mean much when you have a helicopter drop you off half way … owning a Toyota Prius is pointless when you still have three Bentleys … planting trees every time you fly isn’t actually making a major change.

I know I’m being cynical – but I can’t help but feel the illusion of compassion is more harmful than the arrogance of disbelief because at least then you know exactly what needs to be done rather than having this misguided belief things are beginning to change.

As much as it kills me, Andy wrote a great comment about his sort of thing so if you go …

… and scroll down, you’ll see why environmental luxury has the potential to alienate society rather than encourage it to get on board.

Slightly off topic here, but it’s all connected.

Comment by Rob

Its no good. I have to confess that I own some poor mans bling. Its very loud, vulgar and the bracelet is actually cursed because I bought during a moment of madness from sleep deprivation. I still like to bring it out on special occasions but mainly to annoy people and it does work a treat!

Comment by Charles Frith

OK but in all seriousness. Comments like Jenny’s are very welcome. Very welcome indeed.

Comment by Charles Frith

Yes there are exceptions and you’re right, its more an Asian or Middle Eastern phenomenon to flaunt wealth.
Very inspired with what is doing. This is one company which is really pushing itself hard for the betterment of peoples lives.

Comment by poor\

Of course you own Bling, you’re the ‘Huggy Bear’ of adland.

Having looked at the item, I can’t tell if it’s actually expensive or not [hahaha] however this isn’t about the odd bit of self-indulgence [I bought a fucking R2D2 robot for christsake!] it’s about brands who create over-priced, over-rated products for people who are obviously lacking in self esteem and wanting acceptance from a body of people who wouldn’t be worth pissing on if they were on fire.

In my opinion, the definition of ‘vulgar display of wealth’ is when extremely expensive options are added to a product/service despite it having no direct affect on the performance of the experience. I’m sure there are countless examples of this definition not proving to be tight, but for today – that’s what I think a brand could fight against.

To be honest, flying into space is not nearly as an offensive use of money as buying a US$130,000 television – at least that would be something life changing, a television with diamonds encrusted into it is about as much fucking use as a pill which makes you shit gold glitter.


[And for the record, I didn’t praise spacetravel in an attempt to get back into Lee’s good books 🙂 ]

Comment by Rob

Funny you should say that Poor\ …

[That really pisses you off doesn’t it Marcus 🙂 ]

Comment by Rob

That TV makes me feel ill. Things like this are not about self indulgence. It’s about self-humiliation. The whole thing just screams of lack of self esteem, not to mention lack of taste.

Comment by fredrik sarnblad

The Huggy Bear of Adland. Most awesome 🙂

Comment by Charles Frith

Blimey. You’ve all been busy (even Lee managed more than his usual three sentence comment). Excellent post with fantastic comments (and it all seems to be staying on topic).

Well done. Morning.

Comment by Marcus

… and I have NO idea what you mean Campbell 😉

Comment by Marcus

Maybe it’s because I’m a mother or simply a case of women sticking together but I completely related to Jenny’s earlier comment which is why I am fairly confident a brand that took a stand against “vulgar spending” (I love that phrase) would experience a huge reaction, especially from Mums.

Comment by Abba James

Keep this sort of post up and I’ll have to think about forgiving you for your earlier blog indiscretions 🙂
Great post even better idea, see you next week.

Comment by George

Oh my god … this post is still on track and not only has it got George out the luxury holiday woodwork [bit ironic you’re writing about ‘vulgar displays of wealth’ when you’re living it at the moment 🙂 ] but it has attracted a couple of new commentators – and they’re lovely Mum’s to boot.

Wonders will never cease and we haven’t even got the UK regulars on board yet.

Comment by Rob

Hello Robert, really love the post. I was wondering if there is an email or phone number I can contact you on, there’s something I would like to discuss with you. Thanks.

Comment by Jasmin Glass

Hello Jasmin …

It is spelt that way isn’t it?

It’s just that I always thought it had an ‘e’ on the end.

Mind you, if anyone is going to know, it’ll probably be someone who is actually called it.

You probably don’t want to get in touch now do you?

For what it’s worth, you can email me on …

rob at cynical-world dot com

… then we can sort out a phone conversation.

Looking forward to hearing from you.

Comment by Robert

Yes I do want to still speak to you and yes that is how you spell my name. Thanks for the email details, I’ll write to you shortly.

Comment by Jasmin Glass

Not sure why this came to mind but where does the Bugatti Veyron fit into this. A car that retails at £800,000 is clearly a “vulgar display of worth” but, on the other hand, they cost £4 million to produce so it’s actually a smart piece of thrifty shopping.

Now the economics are clearly mad, but is it the actual price of something that makes it vulgar, is it the nature of the item or is it the notion that companies are making a profit from “vulgar displays of worth” that is the most offensive?

Comment by John

[…] what I’ll be banging on about tonight. I will probably have a little rant about “vulgar displays of wealth ” as well (if you haven’t already read Rob’s post, you should. It’s […]

Pingback by The 5th P is politics.

Good point John … I think alot of it has to do with the intention of creation and/or purchase.

For some reason, I find an $800,000 handcrafted car less offensive than some blinged up Hummer.

Of course if the Bugatti was pimped up to the nines, then the owner would need to be shot, obviously.

I wrote in an earlier comment that for me, the definition of ‘vulgar display of wealth’ is when extremely expensive options are added to a product/service despite it having no direct affect on the performance of the experience.

It is open to debate, but it sort-of works for me – and hopefully it’ll work for the client we’re now trying to buy it 😉

Comment by Robert

Maybe along the lines of Ikea’s anti expensive fashion furniture campaign?

As you say, it would work mainly in the UK/US, but I think there are plenty of people who would latch onto that. Especially if it was speaking about waste in a green sense as part of it.

Comment by Rob Mortimer

Something for the ladies:

@Abba James – how on earth does this site get a welcome visitor like you? What mad combination of words have to be googled?

@JasminGlass – don’t be surprised if your email ends up filtered into his spam folder (or is that just mine Rob?)

Comment by John

Good point Mr M.

Infact years ago we did a campaign for IKEA [RICH DOESN’T MEAN CLEVER] that could so easily of been turned into an “Anti Vulgar Spending” platform.


Wish we’d done it – but in my defence, the World was at a slightly different place than it is now. Of course that’s a shit excuse, but it makes me kick myself slightly less.

And as for you John, don’t hassle the nice new visitors … we don’t want them to be scared off like you’ve done to other people I could mention 🙂

Comment by Rob

I kid you not, there was just an item on the radio about the world’s most expensive marmalade. It has gold leaf in it and this means it costs £5000 per jar which equates to £76 per slice of toast.

Comment by Trusted Advisor Department

That is a classic ‘VULGAR DISPLAY OF WEALTH’ … or more accurately, fucking stupid.

How cool would it be for a brand to call them on it – stand up for the good of the masses and try and help get some balance back into life.

I’m so up for this …

Comment by Rob

Oh, on another note… found Ferrari aftershave reduced to 9.99 in town yesterday!

Comment by Rob Mortimer

I love this idea Robert. Can we get someone to do it for real? Can we, can we, can we? Jemma x

Comment by Jemma King

We’re working on it Jem and on tonight’s [Fri]videocon, I’ll tell you more about it.

This post led to a very interesting ‘development’ … doesn’t mean anything will happen from it, but it opened the door to someone thinking very differently about what they can do with their brand.

Be good … 🙂

Comment by Rob

[…] And a TV that cost over US$130,000. […]

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