Advertising=a fundamental force for good?

In the editorial piece the founder of the magazine, John Bird, discusses how things are so much better now than in the old days.

‘In fact there was so much that was loathsome about the 1950s, ’60s and ’70s I grew up in that you can only come to the conclusion they were loathsome times. And we are well out of those times. I remember how acceptable it was to talk about disabled people as ‘spastics’, as failed and cast-off people who were only good to joke at.

Or women and girls were described without personality, purposeless other than to be on your arm or in your bed or up against a wall.

British governments and many of the people looked upon foreigners as some low form of life, not just because of their colour but their culture, their food and their clothing. ‘John Foreigner’ was how posh people described anyone who wasn’t British.

Children could be beaten on public transport by their parents without anyone turning a blind eye. Even a total stranger might grab you by the ear because of some misdemeanour – a well-tossed stinkbomb might do it – and you would be thrown to the floor.

I remember all these times, and the racism and classism – the anti-humanity of it all – and thank the lord that we got out of it.

But how? What changed?

…The big thing was our embrace of consumerism, from the early to mid-1950s days of commercial television – with its incessant round of TV ads with monkeys drinking tea while chatting and riding push bikes – to the clothes we got on hire purchase from Burton and other high-street tailors.

We became customers, and suddenly coppers, teachers, magistrates, shopkeepers and publicans seemed to realise our evocative power – our money.

We changed so radically that soon, although our working lives might still be shit, we used deodorant and shower gels. And had baths more than once a week and changed our underwear at least twice a week.

And attitudes changed. Appearances changed. The good old days, on reflection, were not that good, and I am so glad we are where we are. But we’ve still got a shit lot to do to make this society more just and free. But then, that’s another story.’

That’s an interesting theory; one that squarely lays much of the credit for the upward mobility of the less well-off at the door of London’s advertising agencies. (I imagine that Alan Parker’s work, which really broke through the class divide with more working class casts and situations, accelerated this effect.)

The current default position for many is to consider globalisation and consumerism as the endless feeding of a giant beast that will not be satisfied until is has gobbled up every resource the planet can produce, and all its inhabitants are hocked up to their eyeballs, enslaved to years of debt.

But further afield, beyond the First World consumerist guilt, the world has been getting steadily better in clear and measurable ways that might not be readily apparent to the middle classes of this country.

If I were Dave Trott I would now make a point about people not being able to see beyond the end of their noses.

But I’m not.

So I’ll just stop here.