Thursday, 25 November 2010


I intend to start a series or two.

Please Don't Break The Law (PDBTL)  and Stop Wasting My Fucking Money (SWMFM) - government spending wasting money on advertising suggesting (or telling) you to or not to do something.

This post started off as the first one in the series for PDBTL, but the background to the opening paragraphs started getting a bit verbose, so thought it needed a post in its own right.

Naturally this post is UK-centric, but I've seen other nations' governments' attempting to cajole their subjects/citizens.

Since the 'majority'[1] of the UK population that could be bothered to turn out and vote[2] at the last (May 2010) election removed the Labour party, who seemed to be such spendthrifts[3] - especially when it came to spending the tax-payer's money on advertising (£253M 2009/10[4],) I thought at least the coalition would have at least reduced it.

Down to nothing.

Especially since we're they're we're[5] supposed to be saving money in these straightened economic times.

No such luck. Though I have noticed a reduction in the number of government sponsored adverts, they are still there.

The previous Labour government spending on advertising spanned a few areas:

  • Health (^178% 2009 ->2010[4])
    • get your flu jabs
    • stop fucking around
    • if you must fuck around get yourself tested for chlamydia
  • Education (^50% 2009 -> 2010[4])
    • lern 2 spel
    • Learn to count
    • Learn the other stuff you should have learnt in school but didn't because they didn't teach you nothing.
  • HMRC
    • Tax needn't be taxing
    • Pay your fucking tax
    • Pension bollocks (NEST, GMP, S2P, SERPS)[6]
  • DWP
    • Get a job yer lazy twats
  • Among others.

    But the ones that really annoy me are the ones that suggest/tell you not to do things that are against the law.

    The government thinks they need to tell us what's against the law through the medium of  dance using adverts. Using our tax.

    For example in a few clicks of a mouse you can have access to the Highway Code. Or, alternatively, for the Luddites among you, you could pop down to your local WH Smiths and purchase a dead tree version for under £2.00.

    In it, it has words of wisdom such as things that are actually against the law, and if you (don't) do them, you leave yourself liable to a fine, points on your licence, or even accommodation at Her Majesty's Pleasure. (The online version lists the relevant laws - not sure about the book.)

    Things such as
    All three of the above have copious adverts telling you not to do them.

    Why? It tends to change nothing, and some of the statistics show it. The DFT (presumably by wasting more money) collated some results in their report entitled: Seatbelt and mobile phone use surveys: 2009 results. Some 'interesting' results:

    • The proportion of car drivers observed wearing seat belts has not changed since the 2008 survey, remaining at 95 per cent in 2009.
    • The proportion of car front seat passengers observed wearing seat belts or child restraints has decreased slightly from 96 per cent in 2008 to 95 per cent in 2009.
    • The proportion of car rear seat passengers observed wearing seat belts or child restraints has risen to 89 per cent in 2009 from 88 per cent in 2008.

    • Since the last survey in September 2008 the proportion of drivers observed using hand-held mobile phones whilst driving increased (from 1.1 per cent to 1.4 per cent for car drivers and from 2.2 per cent to 2.6 per cent for van and lorry drivers).
    • An increase in the number of drivers who appear to be using hands free mobile phones (from 0.5 per cent to 1.4 per cent for car drivers and from 1.1 per cent to 2.4 per cent for van and lorry drivers) was observed in the same period.
    Now that first section has changes of at most 1%. Taking front seat passengers with seatbelts, if 2008 was 95.5% and 2009 was 95.4%, and we round to 2s.f. we now have our 1% difference, generated from a 0.1% difference. Well within the bounds of error. (Granted other valid values could be 96.4% and 94.5% (1.9%) but I'm sure that this would have been pointed out had it been the case.)

    Likewise, the differences for phone use differ by at most 0.4% - suspected statistical error again.

    Hardly encouraging, or justification for spending on adverts, given that we've had these adverts on UK media for years.

    The cynic in me is waiting for the first advert telling you not to steal.

    Or don't go around murdering people.

    [1] Since (roughly) two thirds of eligible voters[2] actually bothered to turn up and vote, and of those only 60%[2] voted for either of the parties eventually involved with the coalition, I hardly think 40% of the electorate constitutes a majority.


    [3] Spendthrifts, contrary to what some/most seem to believe (me too, until I saw that first link when it was first published,) derives from "spending the money that [previous] thrifts saved," and thus indicates someone who spends a lot, rather than someone who is thrifty by not spending.

    [4] In Labour's last year of government, they managed to increase their spending on advertising from around £180,000,000 to £253,000,000. (The article says 40% up to £253M)

    [5] It's my tax you're spending damn-it!

    [6] Win 2 internets if you actually know what all those stand for without hovering over the links, visiting the linked sites, or work in the pension industry.


    1. (Sigh).

      Your mention of the Highway Code refers.

      This annoyed me so much in the past I published the real version here:

      Real, as in, how it is really applied.
      I've come to the conclusion that it matters not which party is in power.
      They're all exactly the same.

    2. V8 - <chuckle> Mind if I quote from that in future posts?

      And of course you're right - as the unknown graffiti artist once said in the 1970's: "It doesn't matter who you vote for, the Government always gets in."

    3. You missed out a major health advertising campaign - that of the eat healthy live healthy Change For life advertising bollocks which appeared on a lot of the minor channels nearly every other advert break.

    4. Minor channels? Are you talking about the morph-lookalikes that appeared on bus-stops, hoardings and ITV?


      I was expecting the current incumbants to do a similar thing, but if they're not I'll do re-run of the LIFE plasticine models.

    5. Memphis, Tennessee has actually had the "don't go around murdering people" ads. "Chill, Don't Kill":

    6. "Chill, Don't Kill"

      Oh dear. How depressing.