Were all going on a social marketing holiday. But is it the last resort?

Any 16 – 24 year olds hoping to take a holiday from the constant stream of Government-created health, safety, crime reduction and anti-binge drinking advertising which assails them daily are in for a shock. The State is going on holiday with them.

By David Benady

Any 16 – 24 year olds hoping to take a holiday from the constant stream of Government-created health, safety, crime reduction and anti-binge drinking advertising which assails them daily are in for a shock. The State is going on holiday with them.

The Government is chasing after the nation’s youth as they set out on their summer vacations, pursuing them to their sun loungers and holiday resorts. Whitehall departments are getting ready to target young adults with a series of reminders, warnings, dos and don’ts and other sage advice.

The Department of Health is getting on its shorts and panama hat as it pursues youths across the Mediterranean with handfuls of condoms (supplied by Durex) and the message: “Condom: Essential wear.” Luggage stickers, ticket wallets and brochure ads will bear the slogan. Holiday reps from Club 18-30, 2wenties, Escapades and Freestyle will join in the fun, signing up as advocates for the cause. The reps will distribute the condoms to 18-24 year olds in resorts such as Tenerife, Corfu and Ibiza. The campaign, created by Iris, seeks to reduce sexually transmitted diseases.

Meanwhile, the Foreign & Commonwealth Office is launching its own campaign to warn holidaying youth about the dangers of getting into fights, becoming victims of crime or taking risks that result in injury. The ads feature stories about three friends, Tom, Dick and Harry. In each story, Dick gets into trouble into trouble and the ad ends with the strapline: “Don’t be a Dick.” That’s rich coming from a Ministry headed by David Miliband. The ads will appear on beer mats, hotel cards, posters and beach balls. They will be distributed across Club 18-30 and 2wentys resorts across Europe.

You may notice a common factor here – Club 18-30 and the other rep-hosted holiday companies. What a change has come over these organisations. Club 18-30 was once considered a wild, risque brand, blamed for fuelling the drunken, lewd, and rowdy behaviour for which British youth are apparently famed. Who can forget the “Beaver Espana” and “You get two weeks for being drunk and disorderly” ads?

However, following the Faliraki outrages of 2003, when a number of Club 18-30 reps were arrested for leading banned pub crawls (they were released without charge) while TV carried images of riotous drunken antics encouraged by the reps, the company has seriously toned down its image.

Where once its website boasted: “Nothing is sacred” and diverted users to a website for a vodka shots brand, these days the site is tame. It even features a section seeking to dispel “myths” about Club 18-30, such as the impression that people are dragged from bar to bar and encouraged to get drunk.

The holiday company has gone from sinner to saint and is joining in with the forces of law, order, sanity and responsibility by warning of the downsides of the behaviour it once so assiduously promoted.

Now the rep companies have been forced to adopt “partnership marketing” campaigns with government departments meaning they must carry the messages and pay for the promotions that these departments deem appropriate. This is cost effective for the tax payer, though turns youth brands into propagandists for State communications.

For the average youth, responsibility messages are becoming as much part of their media diet as ads for mobile phones, beer or music. A number of top radio stations such as Kiss and Xfm depend on the state for a large proportion of their advertising.

The Home Office dedicates almost its entire £14m ad budget to targeting the criminal and anti-social behaviour of 16 – 24 year olds, mainly males.

From cocaine to mini-motos and binge drinking to knife crime, barely an inch of youth media space is devoid of of health and safety advice from a Government department.

These days, you can’t even pick up a beach ball without getting a warning on some aspect of your behaviour from the State. But try not to let it ruin your holiday.

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