BBC enters the image business

Welcome to the Crowd Pleaser, an occasional newsletter for those who market to morons. Our mission is to highlight significant developments in this demanding field, which may help to shape the future campaigns and strategies of our readers.

Following intensive research, the BBC has drawn up a secret “love list” that ranks the corporation’s news presenters in terms of what the public thinks of them. Executives will use the list to decide who gets the plum jobs in the biggest shake-up in news coverage in the history of the BBC.

This confirms what moron marketers have known for some time: that television news has little to do with news and more to do with what the presenters look like. Anyone who is interested in being informed about what is going on in the world will read a newspaper. This holds true even though in Britain today there are no longer any quality daily newspapers. The Daily Telegraph, for example, has succeeded in drawing a considerable number of morons into its readership fold. Witness the daily contents table: “What Anthea did next,” “Madonna at 40,” “What Prince Charles said to Ginger Spice,” “How Emma Thompson cured her insomnia,” “Paula Yates finds love in a rehab clinic,” “Introducing Clio’s new Nicole.” All this can be seen beneath the strapline “Britain’s biggest selling quality daily.”

Given what people want and expect from news coverage, it is logical that the BBC should seek to meet the desired criteria, namely nice teeth, a pleasant smile, smart clothes, evenly balanced ears, fab hair cut, seductive voice and so on.

Its research shows that the public want big names who they feel they can trust with major stories, such as Kate Adie. Some other reporters cannot be trusted with, say, a famine in the Sudan, either because their hair is parted on the wrong side or their eyes are too close together.

Nor, it seems, does the public like having lots of obscure specialist reporters. This is not at all surprising given that the public does not like lots of obscure specialist reports, or, for that matter, any reports at all. What the public wants is blue eyes and a sexy smile. Consequently, the Six O’Clock News is widely reported to be planning to adopt a “more informal touch suitable for younger, less politically interested viewers”. That is one in the eye for those who thought it was impossible to further to dumb down the Six O’Clock News without using presenters who subsist on bananas and pick fleas from each other’s armpits.

There’s good news for moron marketers who each day pick their way through the legal minefield laid by consumerists. Judge Anthony Cleary recently awarded derisory damages to three families whose eyes lit up with greed when their holidays in Malta proved disappointing. It is now commonplace for any Briton who suffers a minor setback or disagreeable experience to take recourse to the law in the hope of landing a windfall. Until this judgment, the law rewarded petty litigation of this sort on the commonsense grounds that it made lots of money for lawyers, and lawyers like lots of money.

However, Judge Cleary is plainly an aberrant fellow who, on spotting such cleverness, kicks it into touch. He said the plaintiffs had exaggerated their dissatisfaction, sometimes to an extent that was “unattractive and unworthy” of them. Which translated means they were possibly on the make. As a result, he decided that the scales of justice should “come down with a pretty hefty thump” on the defendant’s side. Hooray for the judge, who added that the three families, who paid a “rock bottom” price for their holidays, had received good value for money. And too bad for the family of five who were each awarded 5 compensation for not having a light in their hotel bedroom.

Sometimes it pays to set a moron to catch a moron. Tesco’s consumer planning department, for example, is, on the available evidence, staffed by people who, in politically correct speak, have learning difficulties.

They claim to have discovered a “direct link between choice of sandwich and a shopper’s social status”. Customers, it alleges, buy a sandwich which best suits their image or the image they would like to have. “There is a definite hierarchy in the sandwich world as well as an aspirational approach to buying them,” says one of Tesco’s cerebrally challenged spokesman. “For example, people are buying sandwiches made from luxury Canadian prawns in the hope that one day they will have the position that goes with this lifestyle choice.”

Which only goes to show that there is a definite hierarchy in the moron world. At the bottom are those who believe that eating a particular kind of sandwich filling will bestow good fortune, social grace, the esteem of others and a salmon pink Porsche.

Finally, a tip for those who, though already conversant with terms such as “luxury prawn”, like to keep abreast of the latest in moron parlance. Watch out for the little German preposition “ber”, as in ber-boutique, ber-icon, ber-cult, and so on. It’s the new mega. Thus the farmer’s wife, who, it was said in court, grabbed a worker’s testicles as he tended a tractor and whispered in his ear she that she herself could do with a mega service, should, had she been streetwise, have requested an ber-servicing.

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