On the second of this month I wrote a piece about knife crime. In the Daily Telegraph the other day both Blair and Brown were being castigated for the vast amount of money they have wasted during their time in office. In the piece, I quoted that Brown was proposing to waste a million pounds on advertisements in the hope of stopping knife crime, and I gave my reasons for saying ‘waste’. I now discover he has upped the anti for advertising to 3 million. What I find annoying is that it is pure knee-jerk.
Advertising has all the same principles as canvassing for an election. If you have been voting for one party all your life, the canvasser is wasting his time – except that if he doesn’t call some would be offended. Conversely if you dislike his party, he can talk or he might and you won’t be swayed. So he is really canvassing that small percentage of the waverers and the don’t knows. If you think of products instead of parties, the attitude of the viewer of advertisements, as a generality, follows the same path, after all politics is an intellectual product. One other thing, he is talking about 16 to 18 year olds who carry knives and are likely to use them, probably less than 1% of the population, and it is highly probable that this particular 1% wouldn’t waste its time looking at advertisements. If I am right in this assessment, the £3 million is going to be totally wasted. This government has always had a propensity for throwing money at things in the hope of getting away with a cure. The 3 million is needed because the government is going to use high octane professionals to direct, to write the scripts, hunt out the locations, select the cameraman and actors, and then put the whole story on a disc.
I have had a different idea which would involve the very people who share their lives with the knife carriers, and cost buttons by comparison. Instead of spending £3 million, on professionals, with their egos, their units, and their large salaries, why not have a competition for all secondary schools, or only those in areas where gun crime is prevalent. The schools to put forward how they would make advertisements that would be telling. The winning schools would be provided with the technical hardware as a permanent gift, to enable them to create the advertisements that they propose. This idea would have several aspects which would bring home the message. The fact that so many children were initially involved in the subject and the creation of a scenario which would show the horror of gun crime, the fact that some could be acting as part of the procedure as gun criminals, and the fact that it was competitive and one would we hope be highlighted on regional television as progressive programming, I believe that this would be far more advantageous than the ads.