As a Londoner who sadly cannot afford a chauffeur and considers cycling in London the reserve of those who find sky diving just doesn’t give them that special adrenaline kick anymore, I am one of the many users of the underground.
Participants of this voluntary herding system cannot fail to have noticed the many adverts lining the walls of the platforms, the escalators and inside the carriages themselves. In fact these adverts provide many uses that enrich your tube journey: for those of us who just don’t do mornings and have effectively sleep walked into a suit and onto the tube, these posters gradually reintroduce the alphabet and reading to our brains; for those who need an excuse to avoid the awkwardness of staring at the same person all journey or wish to avoid the attention of the drunk in the carriage these adverts offer you a pretext to look studiously above their heads and even makes doing so vaguely interesting for a couple of seconds; and occasionally, they do actually provide you with useful information.
Given the masses of people who rush to cram themselves in the tube, it is not surprising to learn that advertising on the underground is expensive but with lucrative returns. Ad sheets cost around a grand and the CBS Outdoor website tells me that 79% of underground users have responded to an ad (presumably in a more positive way than just writing abusive graffiti on it). However lately in my attempts to avoid interaction with any other human being I’m sharing a carriage with, it has come to my attention that some adverts could do with some vetting.
For example in the run up to Mother’s Day posters told me quite firmly that my mother would love me to either buy her a copy of Danielle Steel’s new novel 44 Charles Street or even more ludicrously (to my cheapskate mind) that she would want a Sony e-reader, with which, the advert suggests, she would download more Danielle Steel novels or Paul O’ Grady’s book. I have two problems with this: a) I would feel rather dirty buying my mother badly written smut to show her how much I love her on Mother’s day and b) I disagree with the crude stereotyping of mothers. The creators of the advert have sadly linked motherhood with a longing for an excitingly dirty love life and bawdy over the garden fence style gossip. In this enlightened age of equality I personally feel it would be more fitting if book publishing companies or e-reader manufacturers showed a more varied selection of books a mother may like, in their bid to manipulate Mother’s day to their advantage. So next to the Sony e-reader showing a generic Danielle Steel novel, advertisers should show another one with The Art of War by Sun Tzu on the screen. Alternatively The Man in the White Suit: The Stig, Le Mans, the Fast Lane and Me by Ben Collins should have been marketed as a treat for your mother on posters across the underground. Therefore not only would we be showing mum that we loved her with words, but also that we respect that she does not necessarily conform to female stereotypes unless she so of course chooses to.
Another advert that needs some vetting is the one for Corsodyl. Mostly, because it is really quite sinister. A little bit because I do not find it aesthetically pleasing and I almost prefer to make eye contact than look at it. The combination of the green background, the disembodied set of teeth with the black hole-esque gap that your eyes are sucked towards and the BOLD writing promising me that I will be toothless unless I buy this product, is both an example of highly effective advertising and shameless scaremongering to sell a product. (My heart did skip a beat in shock when I came home to my flat-share and opened the bathroom cabinet to find a bottle of Corsodyl staring back at me – ‘oh god, it’s following me’). I’m genuinely surprised most people’s reactions to this advert just involve worriedly running their tongue over their teeth as opposed to screaming and legging it out of the carriage at the next stop.
Finally, the other advert that seems misplaced to me on the underground are the ones for dating websites such as e-harmony, promising me that love is just a click away and that they will help me find someone with whom I will connect instantly. I’m on the underground, currently pressed up on all sides to people I don’t know and never wish to smell again, glaring at anyone making lively conversation and reading this advert to pretend I can’t see the humans in front of me. E-harmony you are reaching out to the wrong audience.