Wednesday, January 16, 2013

Creeping Informality

Joe Kennedy's piece in The Quietus
on “the widespread employment of baby-talk “ raises an issue that I’ve been meaning to write about for a while but hitherto not found a substantive angle. Joe points out that the artist Robert Montgomery indulges in the grating, infantilising language that has become the standard in today's advertising; the advert that claims to know you and know what you want, or worse, to know that you acknowledge it knows what you want, because you both want the same thing; a nicer world, nicer trade, nicer capitalism. You are not customers, you are friends. Intimate friends with identical values. It's absolutely vile. On an Easyjet flight recently I parted with £4.50 for a 'snack box' consisting of two biscuits, a thimble of hummus and a few olives. I had some difficulty ordering it because I refused to refer to it by name. Even typing it makes me cringe - “The Yumble Bumble Snack Box”. I just pointed at the picture; the air steward wasn't able to tell which of the two 'snack boxes' I wanted. So the interaction went “Which one?” “Erm...” “The Yumble Bumble Snack Box or the Feel Good Snack Box?” “The former” “Sorry?” “The first one” “The Yumble Bumble Snack Box?” “Yes”. Urgh. Feel Good. The price alone is a violation, being forced to adopt baby talk is a humiliation too far. They're sodomising me over a barrel and barking “Call me Uncle!!”. Another company guilty of this sickening enforced intimacy is the smoothie manufacturer Innocent. Their smugness isn't restricted to name alone; the packaging is an orgy of vainglory, whimsy, sanctimony and tedious self-celebration that culminates in storage guidelines that refer to the product in the first person: “I like to be kept chilled, and once you've opened me, drink me in a couple of days...” etc etc. They clearly believe this kind of emetic chumminess will break down the barriers and make us forget that we are customers and they are salesmen; that we should somehow be impressed, glad, grateful and indeed rather touched that they've taken the time to get to know us so well. It's part of a wider culture of creeping informality, one where bank managers seem to think it's ok to call me by my first name. Well, how about this for informal: fuck you, Innocent. You're not a kindly face in a cold world of commerce; you're a stranger rubbing up against me on a crowded commuter train for your own gratification. And you are selling fruit. Grow up.


porcupine said...

You reject it in theory but buy the thing anyway. They won't read your blog and think "he's so right, lets just call it "Two biscuits, a thimble of hummus and a few olives"". But if it doesn't sell they will have to change something.

Nick Talbot said...

True, but I was hungry. They have a rather captive audience don't they?