Saturday, March 14, 2009

It's great being British

So Comic Relief raised £54 million - the highest total in its history, in the middle of the worst recession in living memory.

It sums up what I love about this country.  As a nation, we're self-hating at times - "doing something funny for money" is a very David Brent thing to do, and when he got fired in the second series of The Office while wearing a 'humorous' ostrich and rider costume, it was a brilliant moment of pathos.  When you see someone wearing a red nose and thinking that's the same thing as having a sense of humour, when you roll your eyes as someone gets sponsored to sit in a bath of beans (why does it always HAVE to be beans?) you sort of cringe a bit.

But we just go out and we fucking do it, and the collective result is inspirational.  We do it in a way that says 'I know this is crap, but come on...', we give money in a way which says 'oh go on then, this is all a bit embarrassing but here you go' and we achieve something. 

What did I do?  I sat and watched telly all night, drinking beer.  And at one point, after one tearjerking short film, I went online and bought ten mosquito nets, which might save ten lives.  And I feel fucking good about it.  And I feel that every now and then, you can stick turn a blind eye to the relentless cynicism and societal unease that normally holds sway over our thoughts, and smile.

Some of Comic relief was shit.  Some of it was hilarious.  But that's hardly the point.  We can debate the ethics of charity versus the developed world's obligation to drop Third World debt, and whether aid really gets to where it's supposed to rather than going into Robert Mugabe's birthday bar tab.  Yeah, but do that next week.  Giving is good for the soul.  

And the main point when I started this - if I had one - is that this is one of those rare occasions - like Christmas, perfect summer days and the Strictly Come Dancing final - when we feel that we're all doing the same thing, participating, being together as a nation.  And if you can just shut the cynical voice up long enough, it feels rather nice.

Why I'm forming a political party

The Christian Party are currently running a bus-side ad campaign in London with the headline 'there definitely is a god', so I complained to the advertising standards authority.  

Today I got a reply.  The Christian Party 'is a political party' and therefore the advert is classed as 'electioneering material' (even though there are no elections of any kind imminent) and that means it's 'exempt from our Code'.  So there's proof that politicians are allowed to lie in ads but no-one else is.

In my time working in advertising, I've tried to get ads passed that pointed out that films were available on video six months before they were available on satellite.  We were not allowed to say this, because even though it was true at the time, it was 'denigratory' to Sky.  

Alcohol brands are not allowed in any way to suggest that drinking makes you more socially successful, even though the main reason people drink is because they know it enhances sociability.  

But if you're a political party, and you can say what you like, even when you KNOW it's not true ('definitely' implies proof, and even devout Christians believe in faith without requiring proof - it's the whole POINT of the entire religion).  

So I'm writing back to the ASA - if I form the 'Alcohol Liberation Party' and register it as a political party, under their code, if I'm governed by the same rules as the Christian Party, surely that means I can create ads that say 'Drink beer and you'll be the funniest, most popular guy in the room and you are GUARANTEED to pull'.  

I'll let you know how I get on.

Sunday, March 8, 2009

The perils of shopping in WHSmith

A long silence from me, thanks to the very sad and unexpected death of my father-in-law, which kind of wiped us out for a month. 

He lived in South Wales, and for the last three weeks so was I.  Abergavenny is a beautiful place and I'm really missing it since being back.  

Anyway, one day last week I had to go from Wales up to Leicester for a meeting, and changed at Birmingham New Street.  It was the day after the funeral and I was hungover, and went into Smith's to buy a bottle of water.  As I walked up to the counter, before I got there, the assistant scanned a copy of the Daily Telegraph, ringing it up on the till, and held it out to me.

Me: I don't want a Daily Telegraph.

Her: You get the water free with the paper.

Me: But I don't want the paper.  I just want the water.

Her: But you'll save 60p!

Me: No, the paper's 90p, so it would cost me 30p more.

Her: But you get the water for free!

Me: I don't want a copy of the Daily Telegraph.  I just want to buy a bottle of water.

Her: But I've already rung it through the till now. 

Me: Well, I didn't ask you to.

There was a queue by this time.  Clearly thinking I was insane, she cancelled the Daily Telegraph and rang up the water.  Then:

Her: Big bar of Aero for just a pound with any purchase?

And off we went again...