‘Don’t Be a Tosser’ and other sticky campaigns

In my weekly trawl through the marketing press I found an article about the use of shock tactics in advertising in the UK, which linked nicely to something I was pondering yesterday. In my humble opinion, and purely based on my own observations, there are quite a few things ingrained in the minds of Australians that just don’t seem to register as being quite so important for the British. I find this rather curious given there are so many parallels and similarities between our two cultures.

The four major areas I’ve noticed this distinct difference in importance are water conservation, being sun smart, littering, and safe driving. I suppose it makes sense given Australia is such a hot country, often consumed by drought, but water is a global issue and it’s not like the British don’t travel to sunny parts of the world and experience the sheer pain and discomfort of a bad sunburn. However, growing up in Australia, shock tactics were always a big part of advertising campaigns and I think this has played a huge part in drilling the messages home.

I remember when I first moved here, at one of the first places I worked there was this dripping tap. No actually, it wasn’t a dripping tap but it just ran, or dribbled, constantly. It never seemed to bother the people in charge and I remember being quite shocked that it wasn’t something that was fixed immediately. Of course I mentioned it to the boss but he just shrugged and said he had bigger things to worry about. It went on for months, and I nagged for months, until finally it was fixed. I’ve also noticed a lot of British people (including to my dismay, my husband) wash up with the tap running the whole time, or brush their teeth with the tap running, or fill the bathtub all the way to the top and then keep it running while they’re in it. It really bothers me and makes me quite uncomfortable. I guess coming from a country that when I left it, was still in the throws of one of the longest droughts ever and being used to water bans was one thing, but I can’t tell you how many water saving adverts, initiatives and schemes I was exposed to and I guess the message was well and truly ingrained – water is precious and not to be wasted.

The same goes for littering and being sun smart – when I was in school there were lots of litter campaigns and we always got in trouble if we were caught littering. Detention wasn’t spent inside a school room at the end of the day, but involved walking around the playground supervised as you collected other students’ rubbish. The embarrassment was enough to drill it home for me. Recycling was a big deal too, and taking care of the environment around us was hugely important. It was common for the media to show images of birds or other wildlife trapped or hurt by rubbish, or beautiful beaches destroyed by litter. Being sun smart was drilled home aswell… we got in just as much trouble for not wearing our hat at recess or lunch as we did for dropping the plastic that covered our sandwich that day. I still remember the slip, slop, slap campaign vividly and I remember as I got older I used to tell my cousin, with gorgeous porcelain-like skin to never, never get it burnt. Here in the UK I can’t tell you how many times I’ve seen people just casually throwing stuff in the street without so much as a guilty sideways glance, or smokers flicking their butts into the gutter despite having an ashtray directly in front of them. I still carry around my rubbish until I find an appropriate disposal service to dump it in. And when we’re on holidays I put so much suncream on C’s delicate Irish skin that he never even turns pink and people wonder if he went on holiday at all!

As for shock tactics, the strongest and the most ‘sticky’ were the driving ones. Even as a little girl before driving a car was even remotely on the agenda, I was exposed to extremely graphic ads where people would get into an accident on a country road from driving too long when they were tired or drink driving. These ads were incredibly graphic especially for 5-year-old eyes and some still give me nightmares, but damn if it didn’t make me super conscious about my driving capabilities and drill home the message  that it’s just not worth not taking a break, or how much better it would be to leave your car behind at the pub, than get behind that wheel.

Another impressive and quite successful tactic used is humour. I mean, who in Melbourne/Victoria hasn’t had the Dumb Ways to Die song stuck in their head, and what Australian didn’t love the ‘Don’t be a Tosser’ campaign?

But it was more than just the advertising. All of these things were well and truly on the agenda, at home, at school, at work. It was just part of the culture, save the water, look after the environment, take car of your skin and think about your family when driving.

As I draw to the end of this post, I’m not sure I really have a point aside from the fact that I find it quite odd how to most Brits I know, these things just don’t register and while they know the sun is bad or the next war will likely be over water, they just don’t have it drilled so deeply that it’s become habit or part of their daily routine. Perhaps advertisers in the UK should think about using shock tactics and develop those bigger campaigns that hit you at every single touch point.

Advertisements

2 thoughts on “‘Don’t Be a Tosser’ and other sticky campaigns

  1. Excellent blog. I would also mention that Australia had a big ‘buy Australian’ campaign when I lived there. It has always puzzled me that Britain hasn’t done the same thing, given our euro-phobia. Due to this, we have no industry left as it has all been sold overseas and as the recent purchase of virgin media illustrates, our media companies are going the same way. Most of the tabloids and sky are owned by an Australian, for example. With the upcoming European referendum, I think that Britain has much to learn from this aspect of Australia…

    • Thanks for reading and for the comment – it’s true that the demand in the UK for British owned/made isn’t that high which is odd considering how valued it is in other places like China and even now in South America since the Olympics.

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s