THE SATURDAY ESSAY: if you want to analyse the dysfunctional nature of Britain, start with its advertising


The sorcerer’s apprentices in Britain are out to smash, bash and compel without any real grasp of what they’re doing. In demanding this, Owen Jones and Boris Johnson are merely predictable reflections of our uncivilised culture.


Are you tired of being beaten up by high razor prices? No, I’m not either. I buy only disposables these days, and the last thing I’d ever call them is expensive. But there’s an advertising campaign that’s been running for some time on various US/UK channels for reusable razor cartridges, and it wants us to believe that the entire Anglosphere is consumed by rabid anger about not just the price of such items, but also by the way pharmacists punch them in the face and gonads.

In 2018, there is absolutely no excuse for risible commercials with wooden actors and atrocious production values. Actually, there never was: but with the digital hitech available now, anything going to air this badly executed is committing a crime involving such risible neglect of filmic craft skills, the creative team who wrote it (and the marketing director who bought it) should be taken out and stabbed to death with a 9H DADA pencil. In front of the entirety of their nearest and dearest.

Almost half a century after brave advertising agencies like CDP, BMP, Abbott Mead, Chiat Day, Campaign Palace, Gold Greenlees Trott, Bartle Bogle Hegarty and Leagas Delaney – most if not all of them originally inspired by the great New York agency Doyle Dane Bernbach – decided that the sort of P&G/Lever Brothers/Nestlé style of advertising wasn’t working, the globalist model of commercials that treat consumers like lobotomy victims is still going strong.

In these campaigns, there is the set up, which involves a problem that often doesn’t really exist; the presenter, who points the packaging at the camera as he describes the product as a major key to eternal life; and the resolution, during which Stepford wives and husbands off the Truman Show say things of such tooth-rattling oddity, the viewer’s blink-rate shoots up to levels normally associated with grit on the eyeball.

There are but two variations on this “theme”. One was what in less pc strangulated days we used to call 2CK advertising – Two C**ts in the Kitchen. In this format, the first woman expressed her profound clinical depression in the face of skin wrinkles, underpants that were not brilliant white after washing, toilet odours that made them want to chuck up, flyaway hair, period stains, and the lack of dental rings of confidence. The second woman always had the answer, which was of course the regular use of Omo, Sanilav, Supersoft, Tampax and Colgate. I never met any woman (including my grandma) who ever viewed such campaigns with anything other than contempt.

The second variation was even worse, involving as it did men talking variously about close shaves, investment portfolios, beer and lawnmowers in the manner of those sad folks you meet at Christmas drinks parties who insist on telling you how they got to the event, and how they avoided the snarl-up on the A22 by using the more scenic route offered by the B6571.

“Say, who keeps you up to speed with all this information on the markets?” asks Dale of his partner on the squash court.

Instead of asking whether Dale has had a stroke,  Jeff answers, “Why, Mangold Chase of course….they just can’t be beaten”.

“Wow!” Dale expostulates, “I guess I should give them a call.”

There are other TV advertising clichés. The car that cannot be advertised without a rock track is one. And in the corporate sector, commercials for Asian investment destinations:

“With its focus on leather goods, shipbuilding, mangos, horticulture, cleaning services and beheading infidels, all the evidence points to Malaysia” 

But by and large (and the quality plunge has been exacerbated by digiull meeja morons) the 1970s insight that persuasively creative ads engage the consumer and let them into a sharing of we both  know this is just an ad has been lost. As an aggressive Turk in advertising during those years, I was a young man on whom youth was wasted. I didn’t know how lucky and blessed I was to be part of it.

But there is more to this post than nostalgia.


The death of sharing, persuasive and entertaining ads is a parallel with what’s happened to media editorial independence and political honesty in the decades since those halcyon years.

I have always been amused by the fact that there is but one form of advertising that is exempt from Advertising Standards Authority rules; it is, of course, political advertising. But here, I’m talking more about how generally (especially online) advertising has become utterly misleading and dishonest….and in being like that, it reflects (as it always did) the cultural context in which it is produced.

Far too many professionals (witness the recent debate about ‘points of Law’ in the Tommy Robinson case) like to see themselves existing in a vacuum where their own ‘norms’ can act as an excuse for questionable behaviour. Indeed, one of the daftest things ever said by Milt Friedman – and there are plenty from which to choose – was “A board of directors’ only responsibility is to the shareholders”.  From that has come, “A policeman’s only responsibility is to the Party in charge at the Home Office”. It is total and utter bunk.

If we take each of the two pursuits I mentioned above in turn, the decline in Truth is the easiest case in the world to make.

Media editorial independence barely exists anywhere offline. Yesterday, the ironically entitled Independent ran a full-page feature telling Brexiteers to stock up on bacon and sausages, because after leaving the customs union, they’d be in short supply. At the turn of the year, The Guardian ran a piece claiming “tens of thousands may well starve” if we leave the Brussels womb. It’s not just that this kind of drivel is risibly infantile, it’s the mindset of the “journalists” who put their name to it. They see themselves as writing for a noble cause, but I can only repeat what I have written endlessly: you cannot be a good journalist and an ideologue at the same time. Propaganda is not journalism.

Equally, you can’t be a journalist and write hack stuff  knowing that the slant has been dictated by the media sales department. The Daily Telegraph is littered with this awful ‘advertorial’ feebly masquerading as objective content, and in 2016 it was revealed that the Barclay twins had been taking money from ‘advertisers’ in return for both censoring anything bad or highighting anything good written about them. Their main client taking advantage of this fabulous offer was HSBC – a bank close to the Cameron government, which had in turn placed HSBC “advisors” in senior BBC roles with the same end in mind.

Sky now openly advertises how both its entertainment and news channels can accommodate everything from brand mentions to product placement. I’m informed that, off the record as it were, they will even change plots to accommodate a branded product.

For centuries, newspaper proprietors and TV contractors have been the subject of dodgy deals in relation to politicians themselves. Murdoch has changed his Newscorp “alliances” with political candidates over and over again. Both the New York Times and The Washington Post somehow manage to reconcile a “loyalty” to the Democratic Party and a slavish devotion to the State Department line as both cognitively consistent and journalism. I’m damned if I know how.

Political mendacity has been with us for as long as there have been chiefs and monarchs. However, up until about twenty years ago, there were certain lies (beyond the standard exaggeration) that were absolutely not done.

The main one – lying to the House of Commons – was an instant red card. But no more: in the lead-up to the Second Iraq War, Tony Blair knowingly lied about Saddam’s weapons capability. Gordon Brown’s Home Secretary Jacqui Smith lied for England about the £13bn budget GCHQ that had already been signed off, calling it “only a limited test at this point”. David Cameron lied about the nature of his Boxing Day lunch with senior Newscorp executives involved in the BSkyB takeover, and during the same scandal, Jeremy Hunt told fellow-MPs “I have done nothing wrong” when in fact he had redacted 173 emails of an incriminating nature to the CMS Committee. Hunt’s punishment for doing this was to be promoted to Health Secretary. And this year, most observers now have little doubt that Boris Johnson lied on one occasion before the House about both what chemists at Porton Down had said to him about the “poison” used on the Skripals, and where the ‘Novochok’ had been produced.

None of these even takes into account the sins of omission and lies told by Chancellors in recent years. Gordon Brown lied about the circumstances surrounding the sale of UK gold reserves, consistently lied about the proportion of the UK economy reliant upon financial services, hid off balance sheet the details of the disastrous cooperation between the NHS and the private sector, and lied about what the real cost of Connecting for Health had been.

Beyond Parliament, Brown lied about his health to Andrew Marr (an untruth in which Marr himself was complicit) and in other interviews about his decision to delay the election that eventually did for him in 2010. Boris Johnson lied about the money available for the NHS during the Brexit referendum, and to a German TV station about the Porton Down findings. Peter Mandelson lied to Jeremy Paxman on Newsnight in 2009 about when he knew various things. And of course, Keith Vaz lies to everyone about everything all the time.

The clear link I am postulating here between advertising (as well as other professions) the media and politics is one of trust, reliability, verity and objectivity on the one hand. On the other hand, however, there is a further strong parallel, and that is the move away from persuasion and engagement to compulsion and baseless assertion. In both marketing and politics now, we increasingly face a forced choice. To be more blunt, it is a fascist choice as empty as anything the USSR’s distribution disaster ever produced.

Although there are choices beyond Microsoft, for example, everyone using the software of Gatesville is now on either Windows 8 or 10, neither of which come close to 7 as pc operating systems. They’re on them because Microsoft makes it impossible for users to resist “automatic updates” that zap Windows 7. If you hope that maybe its email system might be more honourable than Gmail, at some point during the download your search engine will be changed to Bing, which is as useless as it is parasitic.

The only universally thorough search engine is Google, and that too misuses data as well as doing the State’s bidding when it comes to the antilibertarian censorship farce that is the EU’s Data Protection Act. If you want a quick rundown on somebody or something, no other source comes close to Wikipedia…but its information quality controls are not to be trusted, and it’s clear they’re in the pay of today’s “image management agencies” who really exist solely to plant lies and change history on behalf of their usually sociopathic clients.

If you want to stay in touch with what your kids are up to, Facebook is about it: you accept the data lies of Mark Zuckerberg’s creation, or you go without. If you want a reliable conduit for hits to your blog, there’s Twitter, complete with its totally unaccountable Star Chamber approach to tweet deletion….consistently in favour of the State narrative.

There are alternatives to all these ‘forced’ choices; but for the vast majority of online users, a combination of limited funds, desired results and time-starvation inevitably means they accept the easy way out. In the old media, Rupert Mephistophedoch has UK Premiership football sewn up: there is no realistic alternative to Sky. Similarly, all the dominant TV-based news channels in the UK carry the heavy baggage of agenda: the BBC and Sky broadcast the Establishment line, and Channel4 only covers stories offering a politically correct opposition to that.

So too in politics, we have a choice which (left to themselves) a clear majority of Brits would eschew in favour of something better.

The stats supporting that contention are hard to deny. In the 1950 General Election, the turnout was 85%. By 2001, it had fallen to 59%. At the last election, it was back at 67% – but a huge proportion of that last figure was the young and desperate voting in the hope that the new Messiah Jeremy would deliver us from Evil. Even at 67%, it was the highest turnout for a quarter of a century.

The last place you’d expect to scotch the idea of Jeremy of Galilee is The Guardian, but even that holder of the flame opined in February this year, ‘Labour is dreaming if it thinks the British people want Socialism’. They don’t want neoliberalism either. The same old issue applies: but what’s the alternative? It is forced choice.

One major anti-democratic reality that keeps the choice one between two evils – and has kept the two of them in power since the early 1920s – is First Past the Post as a voting system. But the other is the very monied, globalist interests that continue to donate massive amounts to the Duopoly…alongside their allies in the security services and media/ISP network that stifle debate at every opportunity.

Right across what’s left of British civilisation, professionals behave unprofessionally, the media act is if they were censorially gigantic PR outfits, and the State defends a Realm it no longer understands beyond the raw-meat concept of naked power.

Contemporary advertising reflects the hammerhead sloppiness of its surrounding culture. Flick back over the last dozen or so Slogposts, and you will find one recurring theme: incompetently constructed prisons where Truth must serve out a life sentence.

If we do nothing, the next step will be to lynch it.