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WRITER, CONSULTANT AND BROADCASTER SPECIALISING IN BEER, PUBS AND CIDER. BEER WRITER OF THE YEAR 2009 AND 2012

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Wednesday, 13 January 2010

Some pretty ladies illustrate the problem

Everyone seemed to welcome the Myleene Klass post as a bit of light relief from my anti-neopro posts, so here's a happy medium between the two, specially for Cooking Lager. Have a look at this poster, which is currently displayed on a crosstrack site at Finsbury Park Tube:

It's safe to assume that these three ladies are not policewomen on duty, and should therefore not be wearing policewomen's hats. But they are. That's because they're partying. They're on a night out. They are cheeky - as well as the hats, one of them is sticking her tongue out at the camera. But that's really all we can imply from the picture.

And what's the caption? That's right: 'alcohol misuse in England is costing the NHS £2.7 billion a year'.

Simply because these women are having a good time on a night out, the implication is that they are 'misusing' alcohol. We're used to the widely repeated images of women with their knickers round their ankles, or collapsed in the street, but now, you don't even have to do that - simply by being young, happy and out with your friends, you look like someone who is 'misusing' alcohol.

Look again at the picture: they don't look bleary-eyed. Their make-up is in good condition. They look quite sharp and alert. Their behaviour doesn't look outrageous - they're simply posing for a photo. They're not doing anything anti-social. In fact quite the opposite, they look very friendly. They show no signs of intoxication whatsoever. Christ, it could be a teetotaller's fancy dress party for all we know. But they're still 'misusing' alcohol.

The tiny writing up in the corner says 'representative image used'. In other words, this photo was probably posed by models. But these healthy, attractive, perfectly turned out models are quite clearly meant to 'represent' alcohol misuse.

And this isn't an ad from a temperance or health group - it's an ad for ITV news. It's not attempting to define what constitutes alcohol misuse, merely reflect contemporary understanding of what alcohol misuse is, and who is doing the misusing.

The social demonisation of alcohol continues apace.

15 comments:

Roland said...

As anyone who has ever watched ITV News will know, it bears very little relation to reality.

impymalting said...

I've often stared at this ad, wondering if I'm missing some key detail. If that's alcohol misuse it looks like a lot more fun than being stuck on the tube.

DaveT said...

Not that I'm trying to defend ITV news in any way but I think this is the point of their billboard campaign - juxtaposing an inflammatory statement with an unrepresentative photo. One of the other boards has a strapline about high UK unemployment over a photo of happy graduates throwing their hats in the air.

I think the intention is to show ITV news encouraging debate - at least that's how I read it.

Barry M said...

If that represents alcohol misuse, I've been doing it all wrong and need to practice more!

Mark said...

I've seen this on the tube a few times and just don't get it - it's a terrible advert. If anything it makes me want to 'misuse alcohol' to go and join these girls and have some fun.

I wonder how much it cost to make that advert and plaster it all over the underground...

Cooking Lager said...

What am I meant to say? £2.7 billion looks cheap if it means there are tasty lasses out on the pop to flirt with. Looks a better use of the money than bailing out banks.

eddy said...

I hope that you're right here DaveT, as otherwise it's just complete crap. I think I prefer this to the Tory's DaveCam billboards but it's pretty close.

The Beer Nut said...

I first saw this ad in early November. They're still using it? Doesn't say much about their news-gathering abilities.

Brad said...

Dave, your point is interesting but I'm not sure how to reconcile ITV's previous knack for clever juxtapositions, as you report, with this particular billboard. To my (and I suspect most people's) eyes, this one's not quite ironic enough to be obviously so. Instead, I think the primary impression this billboard makes is as Pete describes.

Velky Al said...

I sometimes wonder what exactly "social" behaviour is according to these people?

Sitting with a blanket over your knees and sipping a cup of camomile tea no doubt.

Given that one of the dictionary definition of "social" is "seeking or enjoying the companionship of others", then surely it is the whingers who should be slapped with an ASBO?

Pete Brown said...

Dave - The old adman in me sees your point - but I did just see another one about domestic abuse, and the illustration was a close up of a woman clearly in distress. So I'm not sure the campaign really knows what it's trying to do - the idea is certainly ambiguous.

BN - to be fair someone did mention this to me a few months ago, but I only just saw myself - it is a little bit old news. I think the one at Finsbury Park is still up simply because no one has yet posted over it.

Everyone else - yes, it does make the point doesn't it? If this is what misuse looks like, pass the bottle!

DaveT said...

@Brad. I don't disagree - even if, as I suspect, the intention was ironic the overwhelming impression most people will take away from it is the opposite.

Puts me in the mood for a night out though, much in the same way those "safe drinking" ads from early last year put me in the mood for a pint with their lovingly shot footage of condensation covered glasses of lager.

Stono said...

the impression it gives is certainly, those girls are "misusing alcohol" and I think thats totally the intention of the ad. But its like alot of the pictures that the media use to illustrate "Booze Britain", you can guarantee one article will have a picture, usually of a girl, sat on a pavement propped up against a wall, and theres no information about why they are like that (it might again be a representative image with a model as it gets used all the time), but your just meant to draw the conclusion its something to do with alcohol and its bad, and I really hate it when the media manipulate images and news in that way.

But keep up the work Pete on the report mythbusting, as I saw Mark Easton had written an article on the BBC news website, called "The myths of boozed up britain " http://www.bbc.co.uk/blogs/thereporters/markeaston/2010/01/alcohol.html finally you think someone in the MSM has spotted the flaws in the report, maybe even hattips your debunking, well no not really its alot of quoting of graphs straight out of the report and fulminating on how bad it all looks !!!!

First Stater said...

It appears that the UK conservatives, like their American counterparts, cannot stand anyone enjoying themselves. Next they'll outlaw wanking because it causes callouses.

Anonymous said...

Ah, thanks! This cleared up some confusion I've heard.