Mixed messages for Xmas 2008

Can the Christmas message ever have been more confusing for comms or consumers? Most have long accepted the supplanting of the Nativity story by the dictates of a modern consumerist ideology urging endless seasonal spending.

Ian Monk
Ian Monk

But in this year of crunch and crisis the calls to action have become muddled to the point of chaos. The Government has seen the UK economy brought to the brink of collapse by reckless borrowing. Yet its remedy is to urge citizens to hit the high street with renewed vengeance and spend the extra cash freed up for them by untold billions of new state borrowing.

Spend for Britain. Your Country Needs Your Wallet. The none-too-subliminal message is that spending to and beyond the limits of means is now a patriotic duty.

The fact that payback time will come in the form of tax and VAT hikes carrying as powerful a sting as the most exorbitant credit card charges is downplayed.

Meanwhile supermarket ads make it clear that there has never been a better time to stock up on cheap booze. Despite coy reminders of the need to drink responsibly, the message is clear. Binge drinking is now cheaper than ever. And you don’t have to suffer the inconvenience of taking a ferry to Calais to bring back the booty.

Previous green messages also seem to be a thing of the past, a luxury of the boom times for which we are all now paying. Hardly a censorious voice is raised against the plunging petrol prices that free consumers to get back behind the wheel for what were previously decried as needless planet-endangering journeys.

Already the virtues of cheap holidays, regardless of carbon footprint, are again blaringly extolled to help preserve the jobs of the thousands employed in the travel business.

Christmas this year comes in many-splendoured wrappings. None of them seem designed for recycling. The good news for the PR industry is that parcelling up all the competing messages may well require greater numbers of our practitioners than ever before.

Ian Monk is founder of Ian Monk Associates and a former executive at the Daily Mail and The Sun

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