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WRITER, CONSULTANT AND BROADCASTER SPECIALISING IN BEER, PUBS AND CIDER. BEER WRITER OF THE YEAR 2009 AND 2012

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Saturday, 26 May 2007

"The very last thing before I go..."*

Yahoo news story today:

The creators of the online phenomenon "Lonelygirl15" have joined forces with social networking site Bebo to create a British spin-off story that will use brands to help define the characters. The organisers say the project will give advertisers the chance to pitch their products such as clothing or mobile phones at a younger audience who have moved in recent years from traditional media to the Internet.

I've often wanted to say this, and a blog is a good start in being able to do so: can I just apologise, on behalf of the advertising industry, for the fucking bullshit that we create for no other purpose than to instil the brands that we work for in peoples' minds?

Why an apology? Because each time we succeed in planting a brand there, we pollute and degrade your intellect that little bit further.

I think the most frightening thing about the above press release is that the people who wrote it (yeah, "people" -trust me, this was agreed by committee) have absolutely no moral dilemma whatsoever with creating a character that vulnerable teenagers identify with and believe is real, and then using that character as yet another medium to sell meaningless shit that nobody needs - because there aren't enough media around already to do that with, right?

"Lonelygirl15" started life as a series of video diaries posted on YouTube by a 15 year-old girl, talking about her life and the angst she faced. She caught the imaginations of teenage girls across the planet, who saw these posts as a voice they did not have - a real person, speaking their thoughts, when until that point they felt like they were alone.

So when it turned out that the whole thing was fake - "Lonelygirl" was a 21-year-old actress, employed by a couple of twats trying to make their name and fortune - many of "her" followers felt a genuine sense of bereavement - a friend had been revealed as an artificial construct.

Does that remind you of - ooh, I dunno - the horror stories we hear about paedophiles grooming kids in chat rooms, pretending to be 13 year old girls and then turning out to be 40 year-old men?

And then, when the plot is revealed, and YouTube is suddenly deluged with videos from REAL girls talking to their webcams about how hurt, betrayed and deceived they feel (even if you find them insufferable, you have to concede they do really feel this way), how do the perpetrators respond? Do they apologise for the hurt they've caused thousands of vulnerable kids? Course not - they say, "Cool! How can we sell this to the advertisers who already have a stranglehold on these peoples' minds?"

As my sense of disgust with advertising grows (like smokers who become the most vehement anti-smokers, or racists who instantly switch to the Anti-Nazi League and go from beating up "pakis" to beating up the people who use that offensive term) I find this intolerable.

People ask me how I can say this and still be happy promoting beer drinking as a good thing - sniffing for hypocrisy.

But I believe beer drinking is a good thing - statistics show that for the vast, vast majority of people who drink beer, it relaxes them and aids social interaction - and that's something we need more than ever. When you're in a pub, you're not in the shops. In the pub you talk to people, often people you don't know. You make friends. You put the word to rights. The whole ambience is designed to make you feel relaxed, at home, content.

In shops you're alone, insecure, competitive.

That's why the state that loves to turn us into good consumers would rather have us in shops than pubs. You're not much use to the economy if you're happy propping up a bar stool, spending £2.50 an hour for a decent pint, when you could be out buying Product.

With this new development, the guys behind LonelyGirl reveal their game plan. They don't want to fuck children; they just want to harness their purchasing power. They're not paedophiles. But isn't it interesting that they're using exactly the same techniques paedophiles use? When nonces do it, we condemn it unreservedly because it pollutes and deceives young minds. When someone does it in order to sell brands, we hail it as cutting edge marketing.

Does anyone else feel sick or is it just me?

*Lyric from arguably the best Cure song ever

2 comments:

Anonymous said...

No I feel sick too.

Donavan said...

I like contrasting "the shop" with "the pub". I've never like shopping, but I thought that was just because I was a guy. You'll find me at the pub more often then you'll find me shopping for stuff. I stopped in at my local the other night and had a good conversation with a guy who was just passing through and who wanted to pass the time. Very relaxing, very social.