If you were an advertiser, would you continue to peg your brand to a another brand, if that brand proved to be a constant, lamentable failure? Just imagine getting Nick Clegg, Danny Alexander and Vince Cable to film a series of adverts of them twatting about eating crisps, sharing pizza, swigging coke while smiling at each other or pretending that they spend their spare time meeting each other in shit restaurants or using office white goods.
Nick Clegg, electoral poison – like graphite preventing neutrons interacting with one another – shitting all over your brand. You just know he’s going to bow out of the next competition that comes along with an abject performance that lacks guts, nous and passion; you just know he’s going to emerge, blinking and squinting – red eyed and looking like he’s just pissed himself – into a press conference to mutter the usual empty platitudes and excuses, looking as shocked as a man who’s just been told that his family has been wiped out in a mass gerbil attack; you just know that you might as well sponsor a slug to promote your brand of Ready Salted crisps.
So, why would you throw a tonne of cash at this washed-up, permanently-useless brand in painfully stilted adverts that no-one likes? What good can possibly come from it?
Clearly no-one in advertising asks themselves these questions, as we’re subjected to a four-year cycle of appalling adverts, generally from the less-recognisable members of an England squad you know is going to underperform, with the air of a troop of WWII soldiers who’ve spent the winter in a Belgian ditch. With Roy Hodgson.
Not many of them are Youtube yet, but they’ve stated to leak onto television screens, like toxic fracking fluid leaking into the water table. I’ve seen one where Joe Hart attends a crisp-based festival; another where Jeff Stelling, Ian Wright and Paddy McGuinness – three men who should either have the word BANTER or TWAT written across their foreheads – fix problems in a pub.
Both are appalling – and the latter especially features a meme that needs to be stabbed in the neck, buried and forgotten. Footerblokes – three of them, every time, in case people think they’re sad (one), gay (two) our loutish (four upwards) – standing around in a pub looking gormless, nodding at one another and no doubt discussing Nigel Farage in admiring tones. Here it is – can’t you just smell the lingering ‘coming-over-ere’ xenophobia in a whiny estuary accent?
England out in the second round. The hollow-eyed excuses, the retirements, an empty can of Pringles with Steven Gerrard unsmilingly staring out from the artwork. The World Cup is a money-making exercise that just happens to have some football bolted on; like Christmas it’s been royally shafted up the wrong ‘un by the corporate world – these adverts are just the lube.
There was, a few years ago, a wonderful footy ad that was a rare happy marriage between football and brand. It had wit, charm and warmth. It’s this one, also by Carlbserg, from a time, not so long ago, that the grasping excess of modern football, the horrible empty artifice of it all, wasn’t so spirit-crushingly apparent. Looking at it, you could almost believe that the modern game isn’t quite so hideous – the spit-roasting, the racism, the obscene cash, the sense of entitlement, the simple-minded partisanship – a failed brand that gets dug up every four years and pumped with cash until it writhes about a bit. Unbelievable, Jeff.
NB. Skip the next thousand words if you’re just here for the funny stuff
Four hours. That’s how long, if you’re an average Brit, you spend watching television every day. And, if you’re not watching the BBC, that means one whole hour of adverts every day.
There’s a popular misconception that you don’t pay anything when you’re watching ITV or one of the free satellite channels. This is bollocks since you pay what amounts to a television tax at the checkouts when you buy the products you see advertised on television. Of course, if you subscribe to Sky you’re not only creating the very adverts in the first place, you’re also paying for the privilege to watch adverts: a double whammy that seems to be strangely overlooked by licence-fee whingers.
So, an hour of advertising every single day that you’re paying for and also paying someone else to watch. Imagine allowing a door-to-door salesman into your home for an hour a day – and you pay him for the privilege. Or standing in front of a load of billboards for an hour every day – you bought them. Or switching on a television channel for the express purpose of being brainwashed by advertisers for an hour every single day – at a fiver per half hour. 365 hours a year. 16 days. Two weeks. Half a month. Every Sunday you might as well go to the cinema for seven hours just to watch adverts and pay for the privilege. Insane.
I wrote this after a walk through Hartlepool’s town centre – a north-east conurbation that has been shat on from a great height by government policy, town planning and profiteering private landlords grown fat on the benefits of the feckless, ill, terminally unemployable or luckless.
Shorn of any meaningful industry or trades much of the north-east produces virtually nothing of value these days. Jobs mainly exist to service people and in this environment the requirement to sell stuff – necessarily goods of little or no value bought by people with no money on tick – becomes even greater, because without even this meagre trade even the hellish shopping centres and retail parks would be turned into rubble-strewn £2.50-a-visit parking lots.
Pound shops, value marques, charity outlets and even food banks make up much of the town centre. A friend of a friend runs one of those shops that sells food supplements and herbs. Recently his main supplier told him that he couldn’t sell to him any more as he’d become an approved supplier to Holland & Barrett, a place whose clients are nothing if not eclectic, seemingly consisting solely of doormen seeking muscle protein and arthritic pensioners buying St John’s Wort. The whey-protein vendors told him that he would not be allowed to supply anyone else within a certain radius. So another independent retailer is crushed into the dirt, the town becomes a little more homogenous and what little money there is is concentrated in the pockets of multinationals and spirited out of the town.
A job for a job, you might think. But that really isn’t the case. Some jobs generate less value, per capita, than others and it’s the big beasts who create the least value. An indie might generate, say, £20,000 a year. A McJob might create only £15,000. So when one of these places boasts of creating 20 new jobs the chances are there’s a net loss in value to the region. Remember that, next time Tesco comes a-calling.
Why is this relevant? Because this system we live in relies on buying more and stuff. Stuff that we don’t need. Stuff created abroad by miserable people for buttons, of material that’s designed to become obsolete within months, requiring us to replace it with more shit. That the end of the line for these ‘goods’ is a place like Hartlepool, full of people with no money, is particularly perverse but it’s become one of the prime money generators in our utterly fucked economy. Buying shit. It’s a little like the last days of Rome, but with a TOWIE onesie instead of a Bacchanalian orgy.
The fuel for this ghastly engine is, of course, advertising. It’s become utterly imperative that we keep purchasing, well beyond our needs or even meaningful desires. Thusly television adverts take on a greater significance. They must make us buy things we neither want nor desire. Our out-of-control demand drives down prices, which means everyone along that chain earns a little less. In doing so we perpetuate a system that destroys jobs, money, value and choice. We’re all racing to the bottom; a fevered, insane dash to pay ourselves less, rob ourselves of hard-fought rights and salve our bruised personalities with holidays, cars and cheap shit – palliatives to block out the horror of it all.
Look around you the next time you’re in a shopping centre, a supermarket or fast food joint. If you’re particularly unlucky you might experience a chilling moment of clarity; a horrible insight into what lies beneath the facades. The Amazon warehouse, the Asian sweatshops, the palm oil plantations, the mines that provide the precious metals for electronics, the vast mechanised slaughterhouses. We’re all complicit in this; we’re born complicit. But we don’t have to like it.
Adverts are the devil on our shoulder, whispering that we deserve it, that it’s Christmas; a can of pop, a smartphone, a 12-month subscription to Netflix will complete us. Only adverts are done whispering. Adverts will mislead, pester, guilt-trip and annoy in their efforts to encourage us to cough up, barely stopping short of a metaphorical skull-fucking in terms of the aural assaults adverts increasingly lob at us. Adverts will inveigle and batter their way past your personal spam settings. They’re not simply unskippable on a DVD these days, they’re unskippable in your head. As a concept I find that objectively sinister.
Advertising doesn’t have to be bad. It’s just that advertisers have cottoned on to the fact that bad adverts frequently work better than good adverts. Remember that old maxim about a bad meal, and how you’ll tell ten times more people telling their friends about a negative experience than a good one? We’re wired to remember those details: the slap in the face, the finger in the door, the hair in the soup and that bloody awful tune that we can’t get out of our heads. To be in your heads in what advertisers want, cooing that you deserve a new satnav or imprinting their url on your mind like cattle being branded.
Advertising pretends to be your friend. It is not. I can’t tell anymore whether it is a symptom of our slavery to the worst excesses of the market or something more sinister: something that is leading us further down to the road to our own anaesthetic stupor; a wanton shoulder-shrug, idle channel-hop and a listless wank.
Ads may sometimes be a bit of fun, they might even be amusing and cheering occasionally. But they are not benign. They are precision-guided missiles aimed directly at your sense of guilt, unhappiness, esteem, self-image and alienation.
You choose to watch them for an hour a day while they try to fuck you up.
In that context, they’re all bad. But these are the worst. Merry Christmas.
A bank makes stalkers live with sportspeople. Most of them seem to have some sort of alarming crush on said sportspeople now; at the beginning it was the other way round. There’s some relationship dynamics right there. Expect Jessica Ennis’ head to be found in a bucket soon.
2013’s most annoying noise – another appearance for the ‘ordinary voice’ meme – has returned for Christmas to mop up any viewers who may have luckily escaped thus far, like a battlefield executioner dispatching wounded soldiers with a bullet to the head. Oo-wack-a-doo-what-a-loada-crap.
This carnivorous fish was vaulted a long time ago but watching these once-amusing adverts devolve into late-era Only-Fools-And-Horses drivel has been painful. The only sane response is to hope for a cobra attack on the whole troop followed by twitching deaths, like when Flower got offed in Meerkat Manor.
Enough to make one pray for the second coming just so Christ can twat the money-lenders again. 1, 2, 3, 4, 5.
You might not think there’s much that’s particularly hateful about this, apart from its syrupy, sickly chicken-soup-for-the-soul bullshit and that awful kids’ choir. But look closer – this is the Irish version of the advert and it’s more notable for what it doesn’t include than what it does. Compare it with the UK version below, which features a happy – and gay – couple. Seems Coke can conquer anything – apart from homophobia. And tooth decay, obviously.