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A few months ago I got incredibly outraged by an advert for some firm offering ISAs which urged weary parents travelling home on the tube to make all those missed bedtimes worthwhile by ‘investing’ the money earned in the process in their product. It makes my blood boil just thinking about it. Never had an advert provoked such a strong, passionate reaction in me.
Until now – albeit with far less anger.
In fact I am more amused by this advert I have just seen on a billboard because it is a shining example of the creatives involved being more than a little out of touch with the audience they are trying to target.
It is an advert for Sky which says: ‘Baby sleeping. Box sets on Sky+. Me time, bliss.’ Then alongside it is a photo of a young, smiling and – crucially – awake-looking woman, clearly about to grab her Sky remote and throw herself energetically onto the sofa for a bit of ‘me-time’.
Dear oh dear oh dear. Of course, we can see what they are trying to say and I’d be the first to advise any new parent to invest in some sort of TV recorder so they can record their favourite show and watch it at a later date when their baby permits. But is there any household in the whole country where a young mum has finally got their baby to sleep, probably after a tiring day tending to their every need already on a string of sleepless nights, and their first thought is: ‘whoopee at last I can watch episodes 1-6 of Breaking Bad season three’?
It just isn’t going to happen. And I’d go as far to say it has never happened and it never will happen.
When both my kids were babies, watching telly was something of a luxury. You could grab odd moments in the day, sure, while the baby was on your lap, so long as there was nothing else that urgently needed doing. Like the washing-up, the laundry, preparing something for dinner. Oh, and sleeping. But a box set? Ha!
If this advert wanted in any way to depict real life, it would read: ‘Baby sleeping. Let’s put on the season opener of House that I haven’t got round to seeing for six months. Me-time, bliszzzzzzzzzzz….’
About the time I became a parent was the boom period for DVD box sets. I’d hear people saying how they’d spent the weekend enjoying a whole series of The Sopranos or 24 back to back, shows that I had once enjoyed and followed religiously, never missing an episode week in week out and now it was possible to buy whole series of them and watch them in a row, whenever you wanted. Wow!
Except by then I couldn’t. My weekends were an endless real life show called Parenthood where I was living through a season in a day, broken up into back to back episodes of bottle feeding, nappy changing, babygro washing and nap times. And it wasn’t easy. Sure, it wasn’t brain surgery, but it wasn’t easy. At least brain surgeons got a break. At least brain surgeons could look forward to going home and switching on a few editions of Sex And The City if the mood took them. Yes, there’d be moments in every day when I’d long to be a brain surgeon.
And that’s just the sort of feeling that the Sky advert is going to invoke in any parent of young kids. They’ll look at this apparently happy-go-lucky mum about to spend hours in front of the telly and, of course, first they’ll laugh at how preposterous a scenario it depicts, but then they’ll feel jealous, jealous that they can’t summon the energy and be the woman in that picture because they have a baby and they are constantly so DAMN TIRED.
Now that my kids are seven and five, I pride myself on still not having forgotten what it is like to have young kids – maybe because it’s often more exhausting and relentless than it was back then; I am still determined to watch the whole series of the new Dallas only I am yet to get past episode one.
But I tread carefully when recounting experiences that new parents have yet to go through for fear of seeming like I am gloating. ‘You’ve got it all to come’ is a banned phrase in my book. And I’d never dream of rubbing in what I can now find the time to do that they can’t.
Advertising agencies trying to sell luxury products would do well to do the same.