Negative publicity may be just what we need

By Charlotte Hofton

Published on Friday, February 01, 2013 - 11:14


THE VIEW FROM HERE GOVERNMENT ministers in Bulgaria and Romania are considering a campaign of negative advertising in an attempt to stop people emigrating to Britain.

Their marketing ploys will surely include a giant picture of Nigel Farage, the UK’s rainfall statistics, a trawl through the Inland Revenue’s switchboard system and a video of the checkout queue at Lidl in some dingy UK conurbation (in the interests of avoiding a brick through my window, I should emphasise I am not referring to the Island’s Lidl, which, hem-hem, is nothing short of top-class elegance.)

That will be more than enough to keep these would-be emigrants at home. Or will it?

Negative advertising can actually have the opposite effect to what might be predicted.

During the 1960s, a London estate agent called Roy Brooks made his name — and lots of money — by giving his clients the unvarnished truth. The properties in his shop window were never "deceptively spacious" (ie, poky) or "charming" (poky) or "delightfully situated in an up-and coming area" (poky, and in a very rough street).

No, Roy Brooks had no hesitation in advertising a residence which reeked "of damp or worse … plaster coming off the walls … slimy back yard." But it worked. House-hunters flocked to buy a property with "a pathetic kitchen and one cold tap."

When told by Mr Brooks "the decor, some of which hangs inelegantly from the walls, is revolting", they got out their chequebooks.

It all hinges, presumably, on there being no such thing as bad publicity. Airlines sometimes discover sales figures actually rising after a plane crash. Either people simply register a celeb factor in the news (if you’re in the headlines, you must be famous and therefore a good thing, even if your aircraft has just gone belly-up) or they reckon things can’t get any worse.

There is, it seems, no limit to what turns people on. How else to explain the carefully marketed advertisements for Eurostar which wooed Belgians to London a few years ago by showing a tattooed skinhead urinating into a teacup?

So the campaign to keep these Eastern Europeans at home may backfire, as hordes of Bulgarians and Romanians rush to experience the delights of persistent rain, UKIP, scary tax regulations and giant bags of value chips. Visit IW, the Island’s new tourism marketing organisation, has just announced it will be spending £1.1 million on spreading the word about how brilliant we are.

It won’t be the first time the cash has been splashed around in pursuit of bumping up visitor numbers and chief executive David Thornton will doubtless trot out the usual stuff. Fab food, super beaches, yachting, charming residents, exactly like the Riviera only nearer Portsmouth, quirky yet sophisticated, the kids will love the ferry, Queen Victoria woz here, treat yourself to a slice of Madeira cake and an aspidistra.

And, of course, garlic, the Hambrough Hotel, and Mark King.

It’s all a bit old hat, really, isn’t it? And it’s never worked that well before.

How about being truly daring and trying the Roy Brooks approach?

"Island sorely in need of a facelift, rotten roads, mad council, weather’s been lousy for months, ferry fares exorbitant, schools frightful, and they bang on about garlic, the Hambrough Hotel and Mark King until you could scream."

Might work. And if it doesn’t, we can always recoup our money by flogging our negative advertising to those government marketing guys in Bulgaria and Romania.

Poetry could be a start for schools

SOME while back, I took pity on the council and defended its school record, saying it was unfair to put all the blame on the local authority for poor results.

Parents, teachers, the council, and the kids themselves should all take their share of responsibility.

Co-operation was what was needed. We could do it if we really tried.

After the latest set of GCSE results, in which the Island has gone from bad to worse, I’m inclined to give up. The council’s useless, the students are clueless, so let’s just shut everything down.

Make the kids go out and sweep chimneys or something.

Or they could learn a poem. It won’t get them a GCSE but it would give them a sense of achievement.

The Poetry Archive is holding a national competition for Years 10-13 students, in which they are asked to learn and recite poems from the archive’s own anthology.

The opening rounds take place at school and county level, with the finals held at the National Portrait Gallery, London.

Have any of our schools entered this competition or are they too busy failing exams?

Full details can be found on the Poetry Archive’s website and there’s still time to register at

The Island’s academic results are soul-destroying. Could we at least restore some of our children’s souls by involving them in the joys of poetry?

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