No Affection Please, We’re Homophobic
Both my Twitter and Facebook feeds today have been full of condemnation of Adshell’s removal of a poster from bus shelters. The poster is part of a “Rip and Roll” safe sex campaign by the Queensland Association of Healthy Communities. I’m including the picture so that you can see which one I’m talking about and my comments do not relate to any other pictures that might be associated with the Facebook page that has been created explaining the background and protesting removal of the poster. Like all such sites, it’s better if you don’t read the comments. The poster was removed after complaints, the most vocal complainant seems, again, to be Wendy Francis from the Australian Christian lobby, helping to give Christians everywhere a bad name.
I like the picture, and I’ll explain why in a moment.
Merry Christmas Mr Harvey
Nearly Christmas, and that means one thing: being blitzed by desperate retailers trying to maximise profits. Shopping centres have been full of “Christmas Spirit” (that is tacky tinsel decorations and irrelevant carols) for weeks, and forests-worth of paper in the form of catalogues of useless junk are flooding my mailbox on a daily basis.
OK, maybe a bit of “bah humbug” on my part, but every year thousands of families get into financial difficulty because they cannot resist the avalanche of guilt-inducing advertising that implies that they are bad parents if they don’t buy little Johnny the latest electronic gadget that will be broken by New Year.
Organisations like Lifeline have to deal with the fallout of these sorts of issues, and regularly issue press-releases urging caution:
Lifeline Community Care Financial Counsellor Robyn Underwood said the spending frenzy over the holiday season may put some people, without realising it, into a precarious financial position.
“Overspending during the festive season may lead to financial pressures that can have an overflow affect on relationships and may create family conflict – all the things individuals and families want to actually avoid during what’s meant to be a joyful and relaxing period,” said Ms Underwood.
Lifeline urges Queenslanders to spend wisely over the holiday season (Lifeline Queensland)
Did you see that on the evening news? No, neither did I.
All publicity is good, right?
Well maybe not if you’re the 10:10 organisation, presiding over a public relations disaster caused by a short film written by Richard Curtis. Designed to get attention for a campaign encouraging people to personally reduce their carbon emissions by 10%, the film used comedic shock to make its point. The organisation took the video down within hours of its release, but by then it had gone viral (wasn’t that the point?). You can see it here (warning: you might need a strong stomach).
The director of 10:10 UK, Eugenie Harvey, issued an apology, but by then the damage was done. Complaints flooded in, and inevitably the denialist community got to work with a logic that is actually difficult to refute, claiming that the video is advocating a totalitarian, fascist agenda of agree or be, well, blown up.
In spite of some evidence that shock ads don’t work, governments and non-profit organisations seem pretty sold on the idea, and with each campaign the shock value gets stronger, as advertisers try to break through the de-sensitisation. As the founder of 10:10, Franny Armstrong, joked in a Guardian interview:
Doing nothing about climate change is still a fairly common affliction, even in this day and age. What to do with those people, who are together threatening everybody’s existence on this planet? Clearly we don’t really think they should be blown up, that’s just a joke for the mini-movie, but maybe a little amputating would be a good place to start?
As friends of mine put it on Twitter: smug and arrogant.
For Curtis’s part however, I see this as coming from a long tradition of absurdist comedy. The short film doesn’t seem like quite so much of a stretch when seen in conjunction with this famous sketch from Monty Python in 1970: The “How not to be seen” Public Service Announcement. Watch it here.
I guess it follows that what makes good comedy doesn’t necessarily make good advertising, especially when the stakes are this high, and the whole thing is a massive failure in terms of convincing people that greenies are not a bunch of out-of-touch wankers.