Friday, 21 March 2014

Why Grant Shapps is laughing all the way to the bingo

How do you get your adverts talked about when you have little or no budget for actually posting them on billboards?

I was asked a similar question some years ago by a friend of mine at a development charity, who had been given the money to make a short TV advert about development aid, but no money to buy the  space to show it.

I suggested he try to get it censored.

This turned out to be quite simple.  The TV companies refused to show it on the grounds that it was 'political' (these were the days before YouTube).  As a result, people queued up to watch it in special showings in cinemas, thrilled at the idea that merely watching the thing was flying in the face of an uncaring establishment.

Now, when Grant Shapps published his notorious and much maligned poster about beer and bingo, he couldn't really get it banned.  Nor could he reasonably get it reviled by fundamentalists or puritans.  So he did the next best thing - he got it reviled by the Labour Party.

This has got it noticed and talked about and, while people are talking about it, they are internalising exactly the message Shapps wanted: that the costs of wasting money have been going down.

I know he has also been ridiculed for using the word 'they', and maybe it is revealing, but it is also hard to see how any other word would have worked with the grammar.

Still, I share the exasperation with the beer-and-bingo aspect of the budget.  It is one thing to cut the costs of people playing bingo if they want to, but quite another to reduce the costs of air travel so that people can flood Somerset again.

I'm not defending the poster, which has spawned some brilliant spoofs.  But somehow it does demonstrate that the Labour Party is far from the sophisticated campaigning machine it takes itself for.

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