Good times will return when we wring humour out of adversity

We must learn to accentuate positives if the distinct lack of feelgood factor that threatens to cast a black cloud over Britain is not to become terminal

Into every column a little rain must fall and so it is with sadness we note that, according to a survey by Ipsos Mori, the “feelgood factor” is the lowest in recorded memory. Britons to a man and, yes, a woman, too, are sinking deep into the slough of despond and, heaven help us, they think worse is yet to come.

But not this column. Not for us the furrowed brow or the downcast eye. And you, my friends, have not made your way through this edition of Marketing Week only to reach a final page that reeks of despair. No, we are here to cheer you up and that is what we shall do.

Let us first note that the feelgood factor is an insubstantial, ephemeral thing, a Will o’ the Wisp that changes from day to day. One minute we are elated by some good news – Hillary Clinton fails to win the Democratic nomination, Ireland votes against the Lisbon treaty, Ken Livingstone is trounced – and the next, the champagne is flat.

The trick, as the old song says, is to accentuate the positive, so here are a few good things to lift the spirit and buck up the bonhomie.

First, and most obvious, is that Ipsos Mori is still trading silly questions for silly answers. If an organisation such as this can weather the recession, there is hope for all service industries, even those that specialise in niche markets such as fingernail and hair extensions. Cheering, too, to note that if Ipsos Mori means anything in Latin, it is “themselves dead”.

Another cause for mirth is John Cleese, which is especially heartening since, let’s face it, he has not been funny since Fawlty Towers. The old booby, who is currently embroiled in a hugely expensive divorce case, has fallen for a 34-year-old US marketing executive called Veronica Smiley. Speaking of his new love, he says: “I never thought I’d be interested in somebody in marketing.” This from the man who made a fortune from a company called Video Arts, which through skilful marketing sold business training programmes, and who also starred in some truly awful TV commercials for Sainsbury’s, still remembered by many with a shudder. Thanks for the giggle, John.

Next up is Dawn Primarola, the thin-lipped, wild-eyed public health minister, who in surveying Britain’s chronic drink problem fingered the middle classes. It was they, she declared, who were the problem drinkers, not the chavs rolling down provincial high streets in their own vomit. Now it is revealed that every year 800,000 lawyers, accountants, managers, marketing executives, bankers, Rotarians, members of the Women’s Institute, pillars of the tennis club and the like are treated in hospital for drink-related illnesses. Actually, the statement simply said 800,000 people, but since we have it on the minister’s authority that the bourgeoisie are the problem boozers, it must follow that it was they who were dragged comatose from their privet hedges and into an ambulance.

A cause not so much for cheer but quiet satisfaction and an eager sense of anticipation, is that fate may at last be catching up with the BBC. There is a growing belief that at last this overweening, haughty and spendthrift nationalised industry may have to forfeit part of the licence fee, a monstrous tax whose justification is no longer sustainable. Should that happen, it will open the way to a more thorough examination of the role of the corporation, which, if sense and logic prevail, will lead to a diminution in its activities. What is wanted from the BBC is something no other broadcaster can provide, namely quality, public service programming undiluted by populist tosh.

It would be mistaken, however, to think the BBC is not good for a laugh. In an increasingly desperate attempt to justify its extracting £4bn a year from the public, many of whom seldom if ever watch its output, it commissioned a report from PricewaterhouseCoopers, which showed, would you believe it, that the corporation gives back almost twice what it takes. The study claims the BBC adds £6.5bn a year to the economy, much of it in “intangibles such as innovation, imagination and creativity”, words that aptly describe the research itself.

So every household in the land pays £139.50 a year and gets back twice the value in Jonathan Ross. If you didn’t laugh, you’d weep.

That’s enough humour for one week. But the best is yet to come. In time, the London Olympics will deliver joke after joke with custard pies dripping from the chins of Tessa Jowell and Lord Coe. An ebullience of spirited laughter awaits. v

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