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Blog : Posts tagged with 'gambling'

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Presents

In which I rant about lottery advertising


Today, I suppose, I should really go out and start looking for Christmas presents for people. I have no idea, at all, what anybody wants; no idea what anybody needs; and no idea what I’m going to buy. I know what I’m not going to buy, though.

On the way between our house and the local library, there’s a bus stop,* and as bus stops tend to, it has a space for advertising on the side. And at the moment, the advert is nothing more than: a giant picture of a lottery scratchcard. With a slogan something along the lines of: “The ideal present for Christmas”.

Now. Just wait a minute. No. No, it isn’t. Excuse me for wanting to rant, but a lottery scratchcard is, in so many ways, just about the worst Christmas present imaginable.** Never mind a gambling ethics debate, it’s wrong in so many other ways. It’s small, flat, hardly anything to unwrap, no box to shake, no wrapping paper to tear off with abandon. Its entertainment value lasts for all of, ooh, about 3 seconds. It’s completely thoughtless and says nothing at all about the recipient, the giver, or anybody: it has no emotional or personal value whatsoever. And, finally, the chances are that it’s valueless: a piece of litter. It’s less use as a present than a sheet of wrapping paper. Or a stick. If I was given one as a present, I’d be crossing that person out of my address book straight away. And then hire assassins. Maybe I’m not the target audience for the advert, but there’s no way in hell that a poster is going to persuade me that buying a scratchcard for someone is a good plan as a present for them. What on earth would it say about me, for one thing? That I have so little imagination that I’ve bought them, ooh, a coloured piece of paper with that silver rub-off stuff on it.*** Because a poster said so. Because that’s how brain-dead I am.

So, no. That’s not going to be on the shopping list, at least.

* actually there’s several, but never mind

** if you can think of worse ones, please let me know.

*** What the hell is that stuff, anyway?

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The Artist’s Dilemma

In which we discuss music and advertising


It’s a question that must come to every artist and musician who starts to get successful. Sell out, or not sell out? And what is “selling out” anyway? What about advertising? Do you license your music for use in advertising, knowing you’ll effectively lose control over how it’s presented?1 Maintain artistic integrity, or go for the money? There are some bands whose oeuvre will, forevermore, be thought of as “oh, it’s that song off that advert, you know, that one for thingy, that stuff.” – the Penguin Cafe Orchestra being a prime example.2

I was rather pleased when I was idly watching late-night telly the other month, and a bouncy Casiolike tune popped up in the ad-break. It was “Summer’s Gone”, an early track by a very good (and little-known) Scottish band, Aberfeldy. if you want to track it down, it’s on their first album, Young Forever, released by Rough Trade.3 Good to hear a little-known band on the telly; good to think they’ll be getting some money for it.

Less good, though, to see that it was being used to advertise an online gambling company. If I was Riley Briggs – the chap who formed the band and wrote the song – I’m not sure I’d be happy about that. I wouldn’t want my music to be used that way. I wouldn’t want to be associated with gambling; the only saving grace being, 99.3%4 of the people who see the advert will never have heard of the band.5 The song will seep into their memories without them really knowing it, until they hear it again by some offchance on the radio and think: hang on, don’t I know this from somewhere. It’s a hard call. Do you take the money and the airplay, or do you take the high moral stance? I’m glad it’s not a question I’ve had to face yet in life. What would you do?

1: Or, for that matter, for TV. Belle and Sebastian, another of my favourite bands, have been used many times over the years as TV and soundtrack filler material; most famously, the title track from their third album The Boy With The Arab Strap was used, without lyrics, as the theme music of the Bristol-set comedy-drama series Teachers. I’m sure I recall, when the band were asked, saying that they weren’t able to say yes or no to that or any other specific TV use of the music; they’d granted a blanket license and that was that. On the other hand, unsurprisingly for a band with a socialist and Presbyterian background, they don’t (I think) let their music be used in advertising.

2: PCO might have been helped slightly by the death of MFI, who used their well-known “Music For A Found Harmonium”; I doubt, though, that anyone now who hears their best-known track “Telephone And Rubber Band” thinks of the band first. The Jesus And Mary Chain might be heading this way – we’ve heard “Just Like Honey” an awful lot on TV lately, most strangely as incidental music on Hollyoaks.

3: and it must have come out a long, long time ago now, going by where I lived when I bought it. For that matter, their second album – released just before Rough Trade dropped them – must also be a few years old, because I picked it up in Avalanche Records on my last trip to Glasgow.

4: If there’s one thing I learned from the vegetarian food roadshow we went to, it’s to use invented and ridiculously precise statistics with panache and confidence.

5: According to that famous encyclopaedia, the same song has been used to advertise Diet Coke in the USA. So I’d bet that by far the vast majority of people worldwide who have heard an Aberfeldy song, have heard that song, on an advert.

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