Although one never expects a bingo company’s advertising to be the height of sophisticated creative communication, I am being driven slowly crazy by Gala’s new strapline. ‘Sing Gala-la-la’ it goes. Leaving aside the obvious gaffe they’ve made by running the phrase over a version of Steam’s 1969 hit ‘Kiss Him Goodbye’ (the lyric is ‘NaNa/NaNa’ not ‘LaLa/LaLa’), this is just another example of the media’s enthusiasm for treating us like children.
As someone who works in advertising, I’m all for the use of catchy music and verbal hooks to support commercial campaigns; but ‘Gala-la-la’ has no meaning, and worse, resembles the noises an infant makes when they’re struggling, and failing, to speak.
Something similar is going on with the Halifax, too. Their campaign, which has been running for about a year now, talks about grown adults in a toe-curling tone, which a toddler would reject as overly patronising. “Laura, you’re on a roll!”, “If anyone’s giving extra, it’s you Linda!”, they say. This appalling claptrap is akin to listening to a kindergarten teacher, rather than a bank addressing potential customers.
This approach infests communications far and wide. Just look at the packaging on everyday foodstuffs. There was a time when a list of ingredients and some straightforward cooking directions were sufficient; now we’re faced with childish stuff about ‘yummy toppings’ and ‘toasty goodness’. A couple of months ago, I bought a granola bar to go with my fashionable coffee. Under the brand name was the phrase ‘Open me and put me in your tummy’. Well, thank you snack people, now I’m aware of the mechanisms of eating, I’ll go right ahead. Reading this message made me feel quite sick, before I’d even taken a bite.
Since the success of those meerkats (who I actually exempt from this accusation, as they’re beautifully realised and perfectly written), many brands have been racing down the same path. Unfortunately, they’ve sacrificed wit and sharpness for nauseating cuteness. If you’d have told my grandparents they’d receive a free soft toy with their life insurance, they’d have been astonished, annoyed and perplexed. Now, some kind of juvenile mascot is standard. In the event of an accident, a little clay dog will explain how you might extract legal redress; and sad-eyed robots personify a car insurance comparison website. We live in a world where serious subjects are smothered in the language of the nursery, as though we’re too immature to process hard information and must have it mushed and spoonfed to our eager little brains.
“No surname, just a handle which reminds us of Postman Pat.”
Funnily enough, weather forecasters are particularly guilty in this regard. On my local TV bulletin, the man tells us he’d like us to send him our photographs (for no apparent reason). His email address starts paultheweatherman@xxxx. No surname, just a handle which reminds us of Postman Pat or Fireman Sam. Light showers are now referred to as ‘spits and spots’ and when an icy wind blows, we’re told to ‘wrap up warm’, lest we take to the streets in a state of nakedness and perish. Producers would be amazed to know we’d be content to receive the forecast in straightforward, multi-syllable words, and take it from there.
What’s happening? How have we drifted into a baffling era of infantilisation? I suspect it’s almost unconscious. Young bucks now working in TV, advertising and the wider media, have grown up being spoken to in a twee, patronising way – and so they push everything through the same sickly filter. There’s also an arrogant superiority afoot. An assumption that, because they work in the super-hip, super smart creative industries, they have a mission to explain everything in childish terms to a populace too underdeveloped to absorb facts in any other way.
Of course, this observation could easily be confused with the voice of a confirmed killjoy. Surely this style is only there to make the world a more light-hearted, enjoyable place? But no. That would be to confuse fun with crassness, and levity with ludicrousness. So here’s my plea: if you’re in the fortunate position of communicating with an audience of under fives, then please continue with the above. But if you’re speaking to grown-ups, adjust your language accordingly. That would be just yummy.