Tuesday, 22 July 2008

The hypocrisy of advertising

On the escalators going down into the London Underground, there have always been, as long as I can remember, lots of adverts posted onto the walls. Recently however, these paper ads have been removed and replaced with LCD screens, which now flash logos and corporate images at you, as you descend into the belly of the capital.

The very first thing that stuck me when I saw these new illuminated screens was that it was a complete waste of energy. British Gas, who also supply customers with electricity, advertise through this means. Hypocritically, they inform you that if you switch to their service, you will be the beneficiary of a number of energy saving light bulbs. Every time I see the this advert, I scowl and think how much more power British Gas is using to propagate itself, than will actually be saved by customers switching their bulbs.

This got me thinking. All too often, companies are using the green agenda to promote themselves as clearly some genius guy in marketing as latched on to the fact that environmentalism is growing – that change is indeed coming. We should all be wary of this tactic. Don’t be fooled by it.

The truth of the matter is that environmentalism requires people to be sustainable in their way of life - or at least not to be wasteful. Holding back on buying that nice piece of lamb as its been shipped from New Zealand, or taking the train to Paris, as opposed to the plane, are just a couple of simple examples. Marketing on the other hand is designed for one thing, and one thing only – to make us buy tings we don’t really want. This gizmo will get you there that much quicker, make you that much more sexier…at the end of the day, they just want you to spend. The corporate world has no qualms about using environmentalism as a means to an end. Sustainability and consumerism, are quite honestly essentially mutually exclusive.

A way of keeping ahead of this game is to keep informed and to keep questioning everything. Don’t take corporate messages on face value. Always question a company’s motives for saying what they’re saying. Research them, if you have to. Just don’t be fooled.

In the interest of fairness, here is British Gas' energy efficiency website:


Unknown said...

It is important to consider that the new illuminated advertising screens on the London Underground, will, in time, generate a lot more income for the city's public transport. Is this such a bad thing?

Having these screens enables TFL to charge customers a premium for advertisements at 'peak' times, such as commuter time. Also, it is possible to vary rates according to the level of exposure as the screens can show both short and long length clips.

Furthermore, demographics can also be targeted a lot more easily. This is something that the UK advertising industry use the most to judge the effectiveness of their campaigns.

All in all, I believe the environmental cost of having illuminated screens (which I would like to see just how much impact they do have), does not outweigh the positive economic impact on our city's transport. It can only help generate more money that can be streamed into marketing campaigns for TFL themselves, encouraging others to use public transport and thus reducing future emissions.

speckl said...

With fares set at £4 for a single journey, does London Underground really need more income?

Tasha said...

It's SMEs who are really leading the way with environmental marketing and we're finding that 50% of our jobs are now printed on some form of recycled paper. In order to match the demand of our customers we have sourced printers who use vegetable dye.

So in your face Tomas - blaming marketing for everything.

Anonymous said...

Why do people respond well to airplane advertising?