4 July, 2019 - 11:07 By Richard Taylor, Managing Director, Simpsons Creative

Who appointed the media as wet nurses to the world?

It’s now a commonplace to see a couple in a restaurant, ostensibly enjoying a tête à tête, but each communing silently with their smart phones.  

Together yet, for all practical purposes, apart.  They’ve lost the power of speech, although in all probability they’re texting one another!

It rather gives the lie to the social media injunction to ‘join the conversation’, and it has become such a worrying social phenomenon that it is not only concerning teachers and health professionals, but even advertisers are encouraging the public to put down their phones and rediscover the pleasure of the spoken word.

In a bid to ‘create a community of conviviality’, Pernod Ricard, the French aperitif distillers, have launched a global corporate campaign encouraging people to stop fidgeting with their phones and wrap their fingers around a glass of their aniseed liqueur.  ‘What we’re doing’ they say, ‘is telling the world, our consumers, what we stand for and what conviviality really means’.

I’m sure its very noble of them to try and revive the lost art of social intercourse, and for once I’m inclined to agree that their ‘brand purpose’ fits well with the product.  Certainly, I’d rather sit on the terrace of a Parisienne café shooting the breeze with a good friend than surfing eBay or scrolling through Instagram posts – or maybe that’s just me?!

Isn’t it curious, by the way, that advertisers are going all PC and protective on us, whilst in the same breath social media giants are disclaiming all moral responsibility for pumping out pornographic and self-harming images to our children? Regardless of Nick Clegg’s latest PR, which seems to boil down to ‘we can’t police ourselves, so let’s give the job to someone else’, there really hasn’t been much progress in that regard. 

But I digress.  Whilst reinstituting the social niceties amongst adults is one thing, getting kids to communicate in whole sentences in another.  Clarks shoes are coming to the rescue here.  As part of a Government project to tackle ‘concerning’ rates of literacy and communication amongst children Clarks employees are being trained to speak to children ‘as part of a drive to impart language skills to disadvantaged families’.

Excuse me, but what has disadvantage, economic or otherwise, to do with talking to your kids?  Is it the responsibility of Clarks to give them a basic education?  Is it the responsibility of Pernod Ricard to teach adults social skills? 

Don’t get me wrong, I’m delighted that Clarks have taken it on themselves to give kids a step up in life, and Pernod Ricard to bring a dash of joie de vivre to our social lives.  

But what’s going on here?  As an adman I recognise my responsibilities to be ‘legal, honest, decent and truthful’ but not to be a wet nurse to the world!


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