A major international soft drink manufacturer has recently begun emblazoning common first names on containers of their main products. I am unwilling to name the company in question, as I do not believe in giving most brands any undue mention that may help further embed their names in the public conscious. I am also certain that you can imagine who I refer to, given my opening sentence. They are not known for scrimping on their advertising or sponsorship budgets.
It is probably a shrewd move on their part to personalise bottles, leading people to seek out specific names and perhaps buy something they would otherwise not have purchased. I detest advertising and marketing though, and the dedicated psychologies that target consumers in attempts to sell us things we do not need and that do not benefit us. I make a deliberate effort to try and remain unsusceptible, as far as possible, while being aware of the power of suggestion. I despise commercials that are designed to tempt us by asking “why not try…?” or telling me to “go on,” “treat myself,” or that I “am worth it.” Use of these and similar phrases is a sure-fire way to make me boycott whatever service or product you are hawking.
In the supermarket recently, I noticed a display of these canned soft drinks. Rather than being aimed at one person, as the individual bottles are, the multipacks are for sharing with “friends” or “family”, something about “summer”, and the one that caught my attention – “everyone.”
It is not clear to me how it can be possible to share twelve cans with “everyone.” One possible explanation is that this multinational corporation has now developed such a messianic view of itself that it believes that its primary carbonated output is akin to five loaves and two fish. Even Jesus only managed to feed five thousand in that way, considerably less than the current population of the world which could generally be considered to constitute “everyone.” With approximately seven billion people on earth, most are going to get barely a sniff from this particular pack size.
Another possibility is that a dozen people is indeed everyone. Given that there are no provisos, such as “everyone at your party” or “everyone in the meeting,” perhaps this design was accidentally released for sale early, being intended to go out after the nuclear holocaust/flooding/mutated superbug decimated our human number down to barely double figures. If this is the case, then how could the manufacturer know just how many survivors would be left? Conspiracy theorists, you can have some fun here if you wish.
A more realistic slogan would be to advocate sharing beverages with The Dirty Dozen, or with 12 Angry Men. You could try giving them to the days of Christmas, or to the Christian apostles. If you were so inclined, you could have one and spread the rest around every member of your favourite football team. Alternatively, they could have stopped short of quantifying who you should share it with, as it seems they have grossly underestimated how many of us there are.
When I ran the above observation past a friend, she envisaged a far different scenario – that you would share this liquid by opening a pack and distributing the contents freely to other shoppers around you. I much prefer this idea, taking the caption at face value and immediately presenting passers-by with tins as instructed. It would be similar to the experiment conducted in the brilliant pop-culture Adam And Joe Show of the late nineties, when they helped themselves to the free percentages of promotionally-marked items.
In response to this global supplier’s current strategy of printing different names on their bottles, the makers of Scotland’s homegrown and most popular soft drink adopted the idea with tongue firmly in cheek. Tying in to their own current advertising campaign, they printed up several thousand limited-edition bottles with the girls name Fanny. As well as being an outdated forename, the term is an everyday slang name for the female genitals and – therefore – also used as a (relatively mild) insult, often between friends and on a par with eejit or numpty. Ya mad fanny.
They also produced bottles named Tam, Rab, and Senga – the first two being very common Scots versions of Tom and Rob, and the third being a ubiquitous though now largely under-used girls name.
Given the dual meaning of “fanny,” it is easy to derive risque or vulgar humour from it. For instance, with reference to the photo below, it can be said that it is wet and it tastes good; it is best enjoyed when it is wet on the inside; some guys see it and lose their bottle; nothing wrong with a bit of fanny juice. You can probably come up with your own too, and by placing two bottles together you can refer to them colloquially as “a pair of fannies.”
I do hate advertising, and yet I have a wee soft spot for a local, highly successful business whose ad campaigns are famously risky, cheeky, bold, funny, innovative, silly, memorable, definitely Scottish, parodical, and genuinely entertaining. It makes them a lot more tolerable.
I cannot be fucked with people who “take offence” or “find that offensive.” Everything has the potential to offend. Everything. Offence is taken, it is not given.
Frankie Boyle says that what he finds offensive is banality. I find it offensive that more people vote for television shows than vote in elections. Who cares? I can deal with it without greeting to the national press or starting a lobby group. I don’t hold the same reverence for Stephen Fry as the rest of the nation, but he does occasionally say some important things.
The true absurdity of “offence” was highlighted to me some years ago, on the back of this Irn Bru advert:
The advert received seventeen complaints because of the final scene, where the woman is shown shaving. It was feared that this may cause offence to transgender people. Whether it was actually transgender people who complained, or merely goody-two-shoes acting on their behalf and without their approval was not made clear.
I remember questioning it at the time. If seventeen negative comments can get something banned, does that mean that eighteen positive ones can get the same thing reinstated? That would demonstrate that more people like it than don’t.
That is the fundamental nature of my hatred of this culture. That a handful of people can ruin something for the rest of us, just because they are not equipped to deal with things internally. As Fry says, being offended is essentially a whine.
There was the controversy, too, when Frankie Boyle upset the parents of someone with Down’s Syndrome. As I believe he said at the time, people laugh at the things that don’t affect them, which are (in his case) no less abhorrent than the other jokes he makes. They just chose to be offended by the one that related to them, rather than by the AIDS and cancer jokes. There’s an intelligent article on it here.
The final word on this is a quote that I got from the Father Ted scripts book. Somebody had complained to Channel 4 about an episode where Father Jack refers to rabbits as “hairy Japanese bastards.” As descriptions go, it is fully in keeping with the nonsensical, whimsical world they created. I think I read the quote sometime in 1998 0r 1999. It summed up what I felt at the time, and something that I have come to firmly believe.
“You can never underestimate the desire some people have to be offended.”
– Graham Linehan
If you do feel offended by something that you see on TV, do remember that there is an ‘off’ switch. Try reaching for it.