CREATIVE STRATEGY: go Northwest my son?
When you're judging communications, does it help to be in the target audience? Normally, I would say yes because it short cuts the process of imagining the ad is directed at you and how you'd respond.
Salford: BBC prepares to move north
But then I saw the new campaign from the Northwest Regional Development Agency. And it was tricky to disentangle my personal from my professional reaction, for reasons I’ll explain later. First, a bit of background...
A big chunk of the BBC is being shunted north. It will be known as MediaCityUK, Salford Quays – see the BBC jobs site.
Now, the London-centricity of Aunty Beeb is no myth. But, gentle reader, even you may be shocked by the depths of ignorance revealed by a survey of the BBC’s London employees facing a transfer north of Watford, who were asked what Manchester meant to them.
Mills. Rain. Terraced housing. Manchester United. And no shops. I kid you not.
Jobs are there for the taking, but will any Southerners apply? Over at one quango that’s survived the Coalition cuts (perhaps because our old Etonian governors are only vaguely aware that the North exists?) they have a cunning plan... If we can’t tempt Londoners up the M6, let’s target Northerners who work in the capital’s creative industries.
It’s an interesting strategy. I don’t know the numbers, but I’m hardly the only creative who left his Thatcherite-recession-ravaged homeland for a job down south... and then found the Great Wen quite to his liking.
The ad is a pastiche of those gut-wrenching films of parents appealing for a runaway child to come home. But in this case, the tearful Mum and distraught Dad beg their grown-up progeny to exchange the Big Smoke’s media village for the bright lights of Mancland.
It could have been funny. After all, I don’t know any Northerner who can’t take the piss out of themselves and where they live. Instead, the ad manages to patronise both the missing metro-phile and his heavily-accented folks.
On a personal level, the film made me slightly queasy – because my own parents struggled with the idea of my apparently permanent exile from all points north. But distancing myself from those emotions, my professional view is that this campaign needs a new direction.
Manchester is a great European city that doesn’t need to make any apologies for itself. Talking to the likes of me is far too parochial. Why not reach out across the world?
Meanwhile, if people in North London prefer the dole to Salford, good luck to them.
Simon S Kershaw is a creative consultant and a former creative director at Craik Jones.
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