Government’s ‘Cyber first’ campaign pulled amid online backlash

Campaign called ‘crass’ by culture secretary.

Cyber first: campaign features ballerina encouraged to 'reskill'
Cyber first: campaign features ballerina encouraged to 'reskill'

The UK government has pulled a campaign suggesting that ballet dancers should “rethink, reboot and reskill” following an online backlash.

Originally launched in 2019, “Cyber first” shows a ballet dancer, barista and retail worker alongside a caption claiming that each person’s “next job could be in cyber”. 

The campaign has come under fire on social media in light of remarks made by chancellor of the exchequer Rishi Sunak last week, in which he suggested to ITV that people “in all walks of life” should look to find new opportunities during the pandemic.

However, due to a misquote from ITV, which suggested that Sunak's comments were aimed solely at those in the arts, the article caused an angry response from those working in those industries, including Liam Gallagher, Sue Perkins and Sam Fender among others.

Sunak also encouraged creatives to participate in retraining programmes, while the government created a website offering alternative careers.

The “Cyber first” campaign has been deemed as “poor marketing” by viewers on Twitter, with some people accusing the government of undermining the arts with its focus on “cyber”.

According to the BBC, the campaign’s (now deleted) website read: "If your career plan's been altered this year, you're not alone.

"2020 has shaken up jobs – but most successful careers have a turning point. The government-backed Rethink. Reskill. Reboot. programme by CyberFirst could be yours."

Culture secretary Oliver Dowden took to Twitter to distance the Department for Digital, Culture, Media and Sport from the campaign, deeming it “crass”.

— Oliver Dowden (@OliverDowden) October 12, 2020

He said: "This is not something from DCMS and I agree it was crass.

"This was a partner campaign encouraging people from all walks of life to think about a career in cyber security. I want to save jobs in the arts, which is why we are investing £1.57bn."

Boris Johnson’s official spokesperson told the Independent that the long-running campaign has been pulled.

They said: “This is part of a campaign encouraging people from all walks of life to think about a career in cyber security but this particular piece of content was not appropriate and has been removed from the campaign.

“The timing today is what’s considered to be not acceptable."

Today (12 September), the government announced it would be giving upwards of £250m worth of grants to 1,300 arts organisations across the UK in the first wave of its support package.

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