Poverty Sells

You know that thing where you feel so exasperated that  you want to lie face down on the carpet until you drown in the shit of the feral cats that have broken into your house? That. That, that and that. See this is because what little faith I have left in humanity has been stolen by The Guardian’s advertising department and sent, wrapped in brown paper, all the way to Shitsville.

I’ve seen this film on the Guardian’s website. It’s a harrowing report about how one British family has not just lived in searing poverty but has had to withstand the death of their 11 month old daughter. It’s called the Life and Tragic Death of Telan Stone Aged 11 Months and it falls under the paper’s banner of Breadline Britain: films from the front line. It’s as bleak and heartbreaking as it sounds and terrifying that this is happening in the very towns we live in.

What I have found really upsetting too, though, are the adverts that precede this film. Now keep in mind that the film is about people who have no money and who are raising kids in the bleakest conditions. Then goggle that each time I have viewed the film it has opened with an ad for fancy coffee, IBM and XBoxes.

You have got to be shitting me. I find it incomprehensible that of all of the people involved in putting this lot online – the advertisers, the web developers, the editors – not one of them has suggested that the matching of posh coffee to raging poverty is crashingly insensitive. Perhaps I am wrong. Perhaps these ads have been challenged at every turn. Whatever. At some point someone has thought “Fuck it. We need the cash” and decided that the feelings of the family who have to watch this online mean nothing compared to keeping a client sweet.

And I find this even more shocking when it comes from a paper like the Guardian. It purports to be at the forefront of progression and a moral, well,  guardian but it lets itself down in the most appalling way when it allows these ads to piggybank on the backs of these films.

Is there anyone, anywhere who doesn’t see the suppurating crassness of these badly placed ads? Or, I dunno, perhaps they do but they console themselves by pouring a cup of that posh coffee or having a quick game of whatever-the-fuck on the Xbox. Anything to detract from making money from the poor.

Look, I know newspapers have to sell ads and I know that the industry is on its knees. Ad departments across the land have been sweating spinal fluid every month since the crash and they’ll take any client they can get. But can’t they do it with a little more sensitivity? Yeah, reel in IBM and coffee companies with your promises but at least place the ads more carefully.

Otherwise, what the hell! Let’s use films about child sex trafficking to advertise exclusive private schools or let’s film tortured animals so that we can flog some designer’s latest fur-draped creation. The more crass the idea, the better.

In which case papers like the Guardian have to think about whether they’re presenting these films as entertainment or hard-hitting journalism. And if they do want to be taken seriously then they should also take seriously their responsibility to those who appear in these films. I’m sure that if I were being featured for my poverty-stricken life and the death of my beloved little girl I’d want to be treated sensitively. It’s the least you’d expect, don’t you think?

So what do you think? Do advertisers and editors have a responsibility to be sensitive with their ads or have I got a stick up my arse? Go on, you can tell me. Get stuck into the comment box below.

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One Response to Poverty Sells

  1. James Hall says:

    Agree absolutely! We always tried to be sensitive on the beeb with promos… and then would turn over to view crash bang whalopp on ITV or Sky… though even they aren’t as bad as most US commercial TV….

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