Saturday, 21 June 2008



I don't suppose anybody will be surprised or shocked if I say that advertising is an iffy thing, but it can't hurt to add another voice to the crowd. And this ain't a happy crowd. If we were hanging about outside a castle on a stormy night, we'd definitely be carrying pitchforks and burning torches. Don't be tempted to try burning pitchforks – that's just taking good-natured running-a-warlock-out-of-town enthusiasm to a level that's both silly and dangerous, perhaps even reckless.

Anyway, advertising, and its manifold wrongs. I'm struck by one such sin at the beginning of every day, and I'm sure that in the long term it's ruining my breakfast, my digestion, and by extension, my life. You see, my very cereal packet offends me. For reasons no grander than convenience, I'm a regular at that corner shop run by the nice Mr Sainsbury1, and their cereal boxes, while thoroughly respectable as far as the contents go (if they were people, they'd probably be vicars or bakers. They'd certainly turn up in the sort of wholesome villages where they set children's stories), are disgraced by a heinous act of malpackaging. The back of every single blasted box informs me:

'If every Sainsbury's shopper recycled their cereal box, 750 tonnes of cardboard would be reused every year.'

Perfectly innocent so far, but the next line doesn't just slap you in the face, it sets your dog on fire as well.

'That's the equivalent to 101 double decker buses.'

Part one - slap in face: either 'the equivalent of', or 'equivalent to'. Mr Sainsbury and his assistant must have produced millions of these boxes since the new design went into action, and they all have this embarrassing, unpleasant, weevils-in-the-biscuits, Spice-Girls-in-the-record-collection of an error. But because somebody will no doubt point out that I'm wrong, I'll stagger swiftly on to the true horror:

Part two -'Good grief, what have you done to Rover? Put him out, you villain': You can't make a bus out of cardboard. Got that? It just doesn't work. The passengers will be too heavy (unless you make them out of cardboard as well), the wheels won't turn properly, and the engine, oh lord, the engine – there's supposed to be combustion going on in there! There'll be flaming chunks of eco-bus all over the place before you've even put it in gear.

There are hippy types about who won't wear shoes in case they hurt the syringes in the park, and even they wouldn't try to base a public transport system on cardboard. You could throw in junk mail, paper clips and rubber bands as well, and you'd still be hard-pressed to make anything fancier than a rickshaw, and, before you think 'hey, they're not so bad', let me remind you that this one won't have any tyres.

Gosh, there's more to complain about here than I had anticipated, so like a slightly frustrating television drama, I hereby declare this a two-parter, though not the kind that you have to follow to find out who the murderer is.

Having fumed at breakfast, off to work I go, and as the tube stops at Fulham Broadway, I am struck by another advert-based oddity. This one is only partly the fault of the advertiser, Adidas, but it did amuse me. Fulham Broadway has these big floor-to-ceiling spaces for posters, and just in front of each poster is a bench. Adidas have sent round some second division footballers to put up their new posters (sporting chaps standing on some dramatically lit rooftops, looking stern, holding footballs, and wondering how they're going to get down again. I think two of them are still up there), without realising that their logo is only on the very bottom of each poster. This, naturally, is completely obscured by the benches, so from the train you have no idea who the posters are actually for. Let's face it: every trainer company is essentially identical (except Hi-Tech, who have managed to carve out a curious niche by selling really cheap and spectacularly un-hip squash shoes to fencers), so without the logo, it's impossible to tell who the posters are for. I can just imagine some tracksuited youth seeing them from the window and thinking, 'hmm, yes, good point. I really must buy some new Nikes'.

Abrupt finish.

1 I was one by loyalty in the year they sent me a Toblerone for my birthday, but that policy seems to have ended. A pity. I'd have been an evangelist if they'd sent me some bread as well. I was a student at the time, you see. Nothing says 'happy birthday' like a small bar of chocolate from a faceless corporation.

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