Opinion: Beale on ... GLA litter campaign

It's a commonly held misconception that pigs love living in shit. Londoners, on the other hand, clearly do. How else to explain the quagmire of filth in which we happily fester every day? On the scale of most annoying things in life, litter is right up there (with Michael Winner). Sit in a traffic jam on any aerial route round the capital and weep.

You probably won't be surprised to learn that London produces enough municipal waste to fill Canary Wharf every eight days. That's a lot of crap. Shipping it all over to Canary Wharf seems a preferable (if short-term) solution to the one that most of London's citizens seem to favour: litter lobbing.

OK, maybe it's a sign that I'm hurtling towards my own middle-aged scrap heap here, but I really, really, really hate litter. Thankfully, Ken has a plan. Like all pseudo-governmental plans, it has a silly name: "The Major's Municipal Waste Management Strategy: Rethinking Rubbish in London." There's a sub-section specifically for litter: "The Capital Standards Programme", which promises 500 litter enforcement officers on London streets by the end of this year. And a song for schoolchildren.

Judging by my daily path to the office, it's not working. But like all pseudo-governmental plans that aren't working, this one has an ad campaign, by Euro RSCG London to help.

This is one ad campaign I desperately want to work. So perhaps it's hard to be objective about it. But I think it's an awful ad. Not because it's badly written or directed. It's not. Or because it's in the wrong places, at the wrong times. But because it doesn't have any of the imperative that's required to shake us all out of our littering thoughtlessness.

The real problem with the campaign is the central conceit. The target market undoubtedly contains rather a lot of uncouth, low-life louts. So what has the agency chosen as its theme to shock these foulers out of their lazy-arse carelessness? A little Litter Fairy.

Now a litter fairy might resonate with all those pavement fouling six-year-old girls out there, but I reckon they're only part of the problem.

There are thousands of burger-munching, beer can-swilling, vomit-projecting, alley-pissing punters out there who need to be bashed around the head with this anti-litter message. No way is a fairy going to do it for them.

The campaign includes posters. They have some impact; they're moody, dark, with the fairy providing an eye-catching pin of mystical light.

But it's hard, at first glance, to see that this spot of light is a fairy.

The fairy and her litter are dominated by the street-setting, so that your eye focuses on the scene (a bus-shelter, park bench, house), rather than the fuzzy, tiny fairy and her discarded can or empty crisp packet.

And the copy is written in a spindly typeface that is impossible to read when you're hurrying by.

The campaign also includes a 40-second cinema ad showing the fairy (think Tinkerbell) flying around London's landmarks clearing up food wrappers, scraping off chewing gum, etc.

But it's the posters on the street that must work hardest: point-of-fouling advertising. I saw one on my way home the other night. On a bus-shelter.

Surrounded by detritus. "When you leave things on the ground, will a litter fairy come around?" No, nor any of Ken's enforcement officers neither by the looks of it.

The ads also carry the line: "A cleaner London is up to you." With limp advertising like this trying to tackle such an enormous problem, it probably is up to me. I can't see any other bugger being moved to clean up after seeing this.

Dead cert for a Pencil? Bound to be a few on that waste ground near the

school gates, under the beer cans and car batteries. That's the closest

this campaign will get.

File under ... F for foul.

What would the chairman's wife say? "These filthy streets are why I need

a chauffeur."


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