Brassed off with Brassed Off Britain

Devotion to duty is one thing, masochism another.

On the other hand, an extreme case of the screaming habdabs, if self-induced, would break the conditions of my insurance policy.

All of which is a way of admitting I couldn't bring myself to watch all 13 episodes of the BBC's Brassed Off Britain. Sitting through the final programme, plus those on 'junk mail' and call centres, was quite enough.

For those who lacked the courage to watch even these, the final result was that junk mail, the banks, and call centres, in that order, were voted the most irritating services in Britain. All within a percentage or two of each other, and way ahead of other contenders such the railways, estate agents and car retailers.

As someone who has done his share of insulting the DM sector, I had to admit I've never reached the heights of hysteria achieved by presenter Matt Allwright in his attack on junk mail.

It included an interview with a Scottish pensioner whose life savings have gone to people targeting her with offers to claim non-existing lottery prizes on her behalf, for a fee - not direct marketing as we normally think of it, but straightforward criminal activity.

He switched straight from there to reminding viewers of the number to call to vote for junk mail as the country's worst service industry. As neat a piece of emotional propaganda as you could ever hope to see. I was lost in admiration.

But here's a funny thing. While, admittedly, it would have been difficult for the whole series to maintain the same hysterical pitch, the call centres programme struck me as a reasonably responsible documentary. Allwright went to India, presumably to mock, but came back impressed by its emerging call centre industry.

Like so much TV, the series tried too hard to entertain and be funny while tackling a serious subject. Some of the criticism was unfair, but the BBC was right to say that a lot of service industries, including DM, need to raise their standards. A lot.

And it's no coincidence that direct mail, the banks, and call centres came out as the most hated. They're linked. Financial services are by far the biggest users of direct mail, and very probably of telemarketing, too.

There can't be many people whose lives are blighted by badly targeted direct mail, but there are plenty who find it irritating. Allwright said the credit card companies are happy if one mailshot in a thousand leads to someone taking out a new credit card. If he's right, that's pathetic.

The industry needs a tougher code of conduct. How about a provision that potential customers who don't respond to the first three mailshots should be removed from the mailing list?


Before commenting please read our rules for commenting on articles.

If you see a comment you find offensive, you can flag it as inappropriate. In the top right-hand corner of an individual comment, you will see 'flag as inappropriate'. Clicking this prompts us to review the comment. For further information see our rules for commenting on articles.

comments powered by Disqus
Brand Republic Jobs

subscribe now


Ex-Thomas Cook marketer Mike Hoban resurfaces at Morrisons
Barbour creates real-time illustrations of consumers' stories for summer campaign
Viral review: Samsung goes for Apple’s jugular but fails to connect
View from Brazil: why we didn't believe we could lose the World Cup
Heineken unveils ‘Open Your City’ drive with Metro for ‘men of the world’
Unilever continues portfolio 'reshaping' with Slim-Fast sale
Amazon to fight US authorities over in-app purchase claims
Google set to invest $100m in Europe's tech start-ups
Metcalfe's set to release quirky debut TV ad
Samsung pities the iPhone 'wall huggers'
Smirnoff campaign aims to make Formula One less elitist
Apple wins EU battle to register store layout as trademark
Marketing directors need to step outside 'marketing box' to earn seat on the board
Hottest virals: Burger King’s emotional gay pride Whopper ad, plus Apple and Guinness
Developer creates software enabling Google Glass mind-control
Kick-ass girl beats up shopping centre staff in music video
Top 10 ads of the week: Aldi's World Cup cider ad scores with consumers
Sony relives Germany's 7-1 victory against Brazil in Subbuteo Vine
Burberry credits 9% revenue hike on strong online sales and 'more targeted marketing'
Ritz returns to UK TV screens after 30-year hiatus
Mars creates chief health and wellbeing officer role
Brands make the most of Germany's dramatic victory over Brazil
Adios Justin King! Watch our video tribute as he leaves Sainsbury's after a decade
Nike calls time on 13-year Manchester United kit deal
Three TV ad banned over misleading 'free' call claims
GNM boss David Pemsel: 'The Guardian has got its mojo back'
M&S has missed a massive opportunity to put digital strategy at its heart
Google partners with the Barbican to show coders are artists
Samaritans encourages men to talk about issues with #DownNotOut campaign
Lego's partnership with Shell 'not awesome', according to Greenpeace viral