|I’m not at all surprised to hear that government spending on advertising and marketing has risen by nearly 40 percent in the last year, to £253m. As someone who regularly goes to the cinema and watches a fair amount of television, I have to sit through a lot of this rubbish – and every time I do it irritates me.
In the last year I’ve been treated to adverts telling me not to speed, not to drink and drive, to give up smoking and to avoid saturated fats. I have been advised to ‘talk to Frank’ about my drug use. I’ve been told to cut my energy use and recycle. I’ve been informed that studying maths is fun and that there is nothing more rewarding than teaching in a rough inner-city school. I’ve been warned countless times about how to avoid swine flu and how to spot someone having a stroke. I’ve been told by the TV licensing authority that “London is in our database” and “Evaders will pay”. The Department of Work and Pensions has told me that they are spying on benefit cheats, while the DVLA has said my car will be confiscated and crushed if I don’t pay my road tax on time. And then there’s that curiously (and presumably unintentionally) erotic advert where the breathy-voiced woman says “sexually transmitted diseases are spreading fast” as, on screen, lots of attractive people grope each other.
This stuff is simply infuriating – I don’t want to be bombarded by messages from our crypto-fascist overlords while I’m trying to relax and have a good time. Nor do I want them wasting my money on a pointless exercise in Soviet-style self-promotion. Or as Mike Gannat, a former head of the Government Information Service, put it, “of course, it’s a gross waste of public money”.
A couple of recent ad campaigns really take the biscuit though. The first, which involves a TV advert and posters all over London’s public transport, essentially tells people that it’s there fault if they become victims of theft, because they clearly weren’t being careful enough with their property. The other is the advert below, which employs lots of celebrities to convince us that direct.gov.uk is “the nation’s official website”. Please excuse me while I throw up.