Last October the artvehicle editorial traipsed deep into the soul of Moonpig.com looking for opportunities for self-expression. It was a journey of discovery, out of the safety zone and away, like Apocalypse Now meets Finding Nemo. It is a world cloaked in secrecy, a worthy setting for the next Dan Brown epic that links Roswell and The Knights Templar by discovering secret messages in Hallmark greetings cards.
We re-enter this murky world through the portal that is Greetings Today Magazine - specifically January 2010, issue 4, volume 11, which contains an article by Jack Ratcliffe and three fascinating pages of company thinking on the subject of Male Cards. 'It's time to man up' is the very greetings-cardy title that persuades artvehicle to grab its whip and beige hat, finds its exciting theme tune on the iPod, and head off again to analyse the greeting card market.
With the rocking mark-up that occurs as a folded piece of thin card becomes a birthday card it's no wonder the industry is grumpy about tight-fisted, penny-pinching men not getting their stingy little fingers into their moth-filled wallets and wasting money and trees on some tacky rubbish to make their friend's flat look untidy. So what's to be done?
Well GT did a survey and found that 74% of people believed that there was a lack of variety in cards for men. Oh dear thought GT ('a long time believer in equality of the sexes') and off they went to find out 'why men are under the thumb when it comes to greeting?'
I assume that the designers, retailers and consumers they asked told them to come back when they had a proper question.
Men, we are told, don't care about birthdays, don't buy cards, don't like shopping and think buying cards is the wife's job. There is a worry too that it might send out the wrong idea. No details are given as to this idea but possibly it means that the sender is secretly a homosexual and he is attracted to the sendee. A quick survey confirmed that this is, in fact, very low on the list of techniques used by gay men to seduce one another.
On the horizon, here to save the industry, is the new man, and he will 'relish the challenge of finding the perfect card'. Oh yes he will, and this is what his relished challenge will find:
Humour: clever, toilet humour no less. Thought-provoking, but not so you don't get the joke. Aw, bless. Like Viz or the 'masculine urban scrawls of Banksy'.
Nostalgia: apparently a lot of men are harking back to the 60s, 70s and 80s when they were comfortable. Bless further.
Artistic: a bit 'sophisticated', this means 'art photographer', 'strong photography' and designs that boast a 'manly' black border.
Storytelling: 'Our images have to have a story that has a character to it' explains Artscape, incompetently.
Provocative: 'men do like a bit of sexy' with 'Pretty girls in high heels'. That would be new man masquerading as old-style, dumb chauvinist then.
Just another fat slab of clichés then and not enough to break the classic male birthday acknowledgment of, a-pint-if-you're-near/text-if-you're-not, classics: particularly the guitar/Concorde/rugby/girl's-bum/Vespa fodder that serves to illustrate said article.
So Jack, what are you really going to give Kev on his 30th, a pint of Stella for him to slosh on his shoes or some macho padded satin number, maybe with a stencilled, wisecracking spacehopper and a tasteful dolly bird with a back-story on it?