‘How to appeal to the Proletariat Market’ – a guest post from David Cameron’s digital team

The savvy amongst you may have read this illuminating guest post from David Cameron’s social media whizz-kid team a few months back. I’m delighted to say that they have agreed to do another guest post for me, this time on their latest budget-themed coup de génie. Read and learn. 

Yesterday was D-Day, or should we say B-Day, that is to say –  Budget Day. B Day is a pretty big deal in political circles, kind of like the first day of Glastonbury – or the Hunt Ball.

D.C. tasked us with coming up with some awesome social media graphics to really get the net buzzing with Budget excitement. You probably already know what we came up with – but wait ’til you hear how we did it…

Once Jozborne had got down from the dispatch box, we ran over to the office computer and put ‘budget’ in to Yahoo – loads of people were talking about it, but there were some people getting a bit sensitive about benefits/ poor people etc.

We saw immediately that the debate needed re-shaping, and fast. I dashed over to the flipchart and wrote ‘How can we win the plebs back?’. I underlined the word ‘plebs’, and the ideas started flowing thick and fast.

Joffy, my head of #Creative pointed out that George and the boys have brought in loads of awesome verticals on #leisure, and we could use these to entice the poor. Some of these tax breaks are truly awesome – reduced theatre tickets, HELLO! – but we weren’t going to catch the proles with Noël Coward . It was time to think harder.

Another quick search revealed that G-bear was also bringing in some sweet breaks on beer and ‘Bingo’ – a quick net search later, and we were all familiar with what Bingo was – and ready to go!

We didn’t want to patronise anyone in the Disadvantaged Market, but we wanted to make our message clear – here’s what we came up with (you might have seen it, it is #trending).


Let me talk you through it: the graphics were a no-brainer – fun, primary colours, capital letters ie. Easy-To-Read.

It took us a bit longer to the nail the copy. Our first draft was almost there:

‘Cutting the Bingo Tax and Beer Duty: To give the working man something to vote for’

But on reflection, we thought this might be too cerebral, so we tried something else:

‘Cutting the Bingo Tax and Beer Duty: because benefits won’t squander themselves.’

But finally we went for this – ‘Cutting the Bingo Tax and Beer Duty: To help plebs hardworking people do more of things they enjoy’.

We used a #hashtag because it’s very modern to do that.

Once we’d made the graphic, we thought long and hard about who we should get to tweet it; first we thought of D-Cam himself, but we decided against because, as Joffy said, “too obvious”. Then we thought of the G-Ozzenator – but, as we soon figured, the dude’s cool enough already.

We needed to give this piece of marketing genius to a rising star, someone on the cusp of greatness. There was only one choice – it had to be the Shappster. Our reasoning was three-fold:

1) He’s a Minister Without Portfolio – how fucking badass is that, no portfolio NEEDED bro! #legend

2) He’s got that whole cool-Tory-could-imagine-him-toe-tapping-at-a-Coldplay-gig thing nailed.

3) His name’s Shapps – that’s fucking schnappy.

Needless to say, the internet’s reaction has been EPIC.:


– He’s from outta space boi!

This one really shows our messaging was crystal clear –  we properly appealed to our target market. But, mate, no offence, you would not know how to appreciate swan blood #redmouth2008.


We even managed to spawn a new #hashtag without even meaning to (#exponential) – #torybingo est né Check it:


Nice One Egg Man!

But I think what really marks this particular #viral success out, is that now people have actually started doing our job for us – #crowsdsourcing #skills.


This is so on message I cannot believe we didn’t write it ourselves – awesome namedrop of #Eton too.

Finally, here’s the Shap-Dancer visiting a menial workplace today. A Working Class Hero is born. Job done.



‘How to maximise your messaging using social media’ : A guest post from David Cameron’s digital team

As some of you may well know, the internet is big now. If you’ve got a message to push, you could really help yourself out by getting out there on to Bebo, Myspace and beyond.

Here’s the top lessons we’ve learned from working on ‘Brand Cameron’, or as we like to call the campaign, #noTORYous.

 1) It’s all in the timing

Any PR worth their salt knows that timing is key – we are no exception, in fact, we’re the rule. With unprecedented cuts to welfare budgets and a plunging approval ratings for the Chancellor of the Exchequer, launching George Osborne’s Twitter on budget day 2013 was an obvious move. Before we knew it, his début digital was trending, and it was really getting web-tongues wagging.

 2) Food is #ontrend

With any kind of marketing, it’s important to take things back to basic #humaninstinct. Since time immemorial, humans have been eating food. Fact. It’s no coincidence, then, that food does well on the internet. For the Tory campaign, we really ran with this idea, swam with it and boogied with it ’til dawn. Here’s a couple of examples of how we used food to up the social media ante:

The G8 summit

G8 is a summit where world leaders meet to discuss global hunger <sad face>. The team drew up a mind map looking at our associations with hunger and the strongest word that came out of this was ‘food’. For this reason, we got David to tweet his menu – what better way to get people thinking about hunger than to make them feel hungry for great food?


The spending review

The Spending Review is a huge event in the political calendar and a very exciting time for the whole team (timing was also key here – see point 1). We wanted to make sure we showed that George was hard at work, but also a man of the people. After some intense hours brainstorming – we came up with this.

George Osborne's tweet of him eating a burger and chips

Some player-haters critics of the chancellor were saying that his Spending Review hit the poor quite hard – so to counter this messaging, we opted for some low-quality appearance junk food in order to appeal to a socially disadvantaged market.

 3) Sport is power

As last year’s Olympic Games showed us, there’s a huge appetite for sport in this country.  We like to make sure that David appears to be plugged in to all aspects of the sportosphere. Here’s an example of some recent work:

This tweet is particularly strong because it shows that David able to carry out his prime minesterial duties whilst still keeping an eye on the sporting pitch.

David Cameron tennis

We also like to make sure that David is mopping up the lowbrow by referring to ‘footy’; there were high-fives all round in the office when we came up with this impassioned message worthy of any die-hard soccer fan. Didn’t they used to chant that on the terraces at Old Trafford? ‘Best Wishes Becks, Best Wishes Becks. You are magic. Best Wishes Becks.’?

 4) Drop names

In the times we live in, #celebrity has never been more important. Bearing this in mind, we have been sure to drop as many names as possible.

This one is probably the best because Obama’s more or less the biggest name out there, plus we’ve used a hashtag.

This one was particularly clever as it shows David has a) a sense of humour b) friends in royal places c) a strange doll.

Without wanting to give away too many trade secrets, we can tell you that we’ve got a LOT coming up in the digital pipeline. GIFs are going to be playing a big role come 2015 <see below for preview>.

Cameron GIF

Meanwhile we’re working on a meme to equal this. Whoever’s doing this guy’s social media needs to give me a call.

See you in Cyberspace playas #YOLO

Beckett’s ‘Not I’ at The Royal Court: an existential X No Way Out

Royal Court Not I BeckettA couple of weeks ago, Samuel Beckett’s dramatic monologue ‘Not I’ ran at The Royal Court Theatre in Sloane Square. Having written my dissertation on the one-woman spectacular, I decided to put pretension before reason and invest in a £20 ticket to the 9-minute play. So, at a cheeky £2.20 per-minute of drama – was it worth it?

The play takes the form of a dense monologue spoken in a female voice; the speaker’s mouth (zanily named ‘Mouth’) floats eight feet above the stage and delivers, at break-neck speed, an outpouring of words described by critics as ‘logorrhea’.

The principal role requires astounding physical and mental dedication from the actress. In order to achieve the suspended orifice look, Lisa Dwan stands on a raised platform, a balaclava-èd head stuck through a hole and arms strapped in to the support around; a position which – she informed us in the after-show Q & A – meant she couldn’t see and could hardly hear during the performance. In addition, the actress is required to learn and recite to perfection pages of semantically muddled babble. It is not surprising, then, that Billie Whitelaw, the original Mouth, had a breakdown playing the role.

As the play begins , the audience is plunged in to complete darkness (The Royal Court actually broke the law and turned off the Fire Exit signs – luckily no pyromaniacs were present). We see only a tiny pink and white, iridescent Mouth which, depending on your position in the audience, seems to shine, bob or float.

Lisa Dwan’s Irish lilt hurtles through the text, jolting to a stop intermittently with the cries and screams that punctuate the ‘movements’ of the play. With the performance being the fastest yet of the role (the first ever took 24 minutes), the words are a little hard to decipher at times. Reproached by an audience member on this point, Dwan cites Beckett’s original note that the speech should run at the ‘speed of thought’.

Dwan’s performance was informed by the playwright’s wish that the play should “work on the nerves of the audience, not its intellect.” On these terms, it succeeds magnificently. No amount of time spent poring over the play with my Stabilo highlighter could have prepared me for the actual experience of sitting in a pitch black space faced only with Mouth and her words. It was like being strapped in to a rollercoaster; an existential X No Way Out.

In the Q & A Dwan said that the hardest part of the role was not, in fact, the Fifty Shades-style shackling – but rather having to deliver the speech whilst battling with her own internal ‘Not I’; in listening, the audience is forced to do the same. The result is electrifying.

Worth the £2.20-a-minute– just.

Lisa Dwan talks about the role (and the balaclava)

Watch Billie Whitelaw’s 1973 performance of ‘Not I’

Maria Miller: ‘Love must make its economic case’

maria+millerIn a landmark speech this morning, Culture Secretary Maria Miller told Britain’s lovers that ‘love’ must make a case for its continued recognition by focusing on its economic, rather than intrinsic value.

She told an assorted group of Love representatives that they must “hammer home the value of love to the economy” adding – “when times are tough and money is tight, our focus must be on love’s economic impact”.

She went on to say “I want to make it clear that I am fighting love’s corner as hard as I can within government; as part of this strategy I have started writing my memos on heart-shaped post-its”.

Parental, romantic and fraternal lovers are facing big challenges as a result of austerity measures.

“The government wants participants – not bystanders” Ms Miller said in her keynote speech adding, “we need to be thinking about flash-mobs and ostentatious proposals”.

The government, she said, is “committed to a mixed economy model” that combines public and private funding for love.

Lovers will be told they should “demonstrate healthy dividends that our investment – by way of child benefit, pensions etc – continues to pay.”

Ms Miller will say that “British love is perhaps the most powerful and compelling product we have available to us”, especially after the success of Kate Middleton and William Windsor’s relationship, and the popular Richard Curtis film ‘Love, Actually’.

“Either way, British love and compassion are now more in demand than ever before… The world clearly thinks this is a commodity worth buying in to.”

Last month, the Treasury wrote to departments warning most ministers they will have to cut up to 10% of their budgets for the year 2015-16.

Last November, Ms Miller hit back at criticism from senior Love figures over cuts to Love budgets.

“Much of what we’re hearing from the compassionate world is close to pure fiction,” she wrote in the London Evening Standard “Accusations that this government neither likes nor supports love are disingenuous to the extreme.”

To read about a similar speech Miller made about culture – see here.

Why I will never be a shiny retail person

underwear shopThey say, that in order to do unpaid internships, you need to be able to make regular
withdrawals from “the bank of Mum and Dad”. This is a myth; the bank of Barclays will suffice (or Natwest, or HSBC, or even the Co-Op if you’re a real kook.) My overdraft facility allowed me to offer my clueless graduate services for free, for a good four months; but after a while even your bank turfs you out. I had overgrown my warm and cosy interest-free student overdraft cocoon, and found myself out in to the big bad world of thirty-percent interest. It was time to get a job, the kind that pays money.

After handing out a wad of C.V.s, I got called for interview at a designer underwear store. I started envisaging myself selling sexy under-crackers to hot young customers who looked like Tom Hardy and Megan Fox. “They have clearly called me to interview”, I thought to myself, “because I am the type of person that you want to buy sexy undies off; I’m well turned-out, discreet and sophisticated.’” I imagined future conversations, “What did you do in your early 20s Hannah? ” “Well I’m glad you asked, Oprah, I was a free-lance journalist, and worked in a lingerie shop on the side.” Yeah. Sounds good.

But as I arrived at the store for my interview, the dream of being a pristine retail queen deflated quicker than a chicken fillet popped by a biro. The store was immaculate and sophisticated, the staff were immaculate and sophisticated, the screensaver on my phone is a photo of my cat watching Gregg Wallace on Masterchef; I didn’t belong here.

It hadn’t occurred to me to prepare for the interview. In retrospect, it would have been a good idea. After a few questions about my experience, Anja, the flawless Scandinavian manager hit me with: “So what do you know about the brand?”. Good question Anja what do I know about the brand? Very good question. I blurted out something about clear branding and clean lines. She then asked me to talk about some current trends, at which point I found myself saying an arbitrary collection of words:“erm… you see a lot of sports luxe, I know tribal was in for a while.” I sounded like a Mum trying to be down with the kids. The inanities continued as I floundered: “that over-the-top Lana Del Rey look’s very big at the moment” (Lana Del Rey, really?). And then it happened again, like a tick; “nice clean lines are big”. That’s right Hannah, in fashion they don’t like dirt, especially on lines you’ve nailed it gal.

Anja now tells me that I need to walk around the shop floor for ten minutes, doing “whatever I want”. What did this mean? I lingered self-consciously trying to think of an appropriate action somewhere in between standing still, and pulling a pair of designer Y-fronts over my trousers and lying on the floor in the foetal position making baby noises. In the end, I plumped for picking up a label that had fallen on the floor, before hovering awkwardly near a customer.

Now Anja was going to ask for my “thoughts” on what I had seen in my ten minutes. As we took a turn around the shop floor, a strange thing started to occur; a voice began to speak, it seemed to be coming from the hole in my own face. The voice, which was significantly posher and three octaves higher than my own, started muttering things like “I really like the way you have your lounge-wear sharing a rack with the lingerie; you just discover one whilst you’re looking for the other; it’s a really organic shopping experience.” As these words spilled out my mouth, I came to the frightful realisation that they had actually been devised by my own brain. Before I could continue, Anja (sweet Anja) cut me off – “yeah they’re just sharing a rack at the moment to make room for our sale items.”

“Oh sure. Yeah of course yeah. Organic, yeah”

At the end of the interview Anja told me “We will contact you on Monday saying if you get the job,” adding with a head-tilt and shiny smile – “or if you don’t.” On my way out, it is highly likely that I shouted “CLEAN LINES” a few times more, just for good measure. It is less likely that I will get the job.

But thirty percent interest isn’t so bad really, when you think about it.

This post was originally published on Funny Women

What makes a gay vicar stay in the Church of England? Interview with Reverend Ray Andrews

Father RayHe smokes roll-ups, his ring tone is Abba, and he is passionately in favour of gay marriage; what’s “Father Ray” doing in a church which won’t recognise him?

Just opposite Borough tube stands Southwark’s St George the Martyr Church, its eighteenth-century spire mirrored by the apex of The Shard that stands half a mile to the north. The saint from whom the church takes its name was killed in the year 303 for refusing to persecute Christians, and admitting he himself was one. Over a millennium later St George’s Priest-in-Charge, Reverend Ray Andrews, has been fighting his own battle against discrimination.

Meeting me at the church door, the man known to his parishioners as “Father Ray” greets me with a warm handshake and an affectionate arm-squeeze. As the interview begins, we are interrupted by Andrews’ mobile going off, blaring out the first few bars of Abba’s “Dancing Queen”. When I compliment him on a brilliant ring-tone he replies drily “it is very gay, though…”.

Two years ago, when Andrews was approached to star in a documentary about an inner London clergyman, the filming process became a catalyst for him going public about his sexual preference for men, which he had hidden for decades. The documentary became Channel 4’s cult hit Father Ray Comes Out.

The clergyman was originally reluctant to make the programme on the grounds that he did not wish to “hurt or alienate” anyone in his congregation, but his decision, he says, was vindicated by the reaction he received. He tells me that his revelation has only made his parish community “closer and warmer”.

Fuelled by this response, and encouraged by the fact that the church authorities didn’t “find a way of getting rid of me or silencing me” – as he had feared – he is now uncompromising in expressing his disdain for homophobia.

I cannot help wondering why a man with such progressive views would choose to remain at the heart of a church whose leaders refuse to legitimise gay relationships. He explains that, for him, homosexuality and Christianity are not only compatible, but he thinks a belief in Jesus should preclude any kind of homophobia. “The Jesus I understand and experience defends the oppressed, tries to free the imprisoned, and feeds the hungry and the thirsty, and above all loves and includes. And so I can’t claim to follow the teachings of that man, of God expressed in that way, and collude with the discrimination of homosexuality.”

He says he has “no problem being in contradiction with scripture”, pointing out that scripture is not obeyed when it comes to the church marrying straight couples. “I have never married a heterosexual couple who have not either been living together beforehand, or been involved in a sexual relationship for quite a while. Never.”

This considered, how does he feel about the fact that current church law, soon to be underpinned by Maria Miller’s “quadruple lock”, will prevent him from blessing same-sex unions?

“If I am approached by two people who have encountered the gift of love and wish to affirm that before God, I would find that very hard to resist. I think if it comes to the point where I am directed to respond differently to two people of the same sex, to the way that I respond when heterosexual people marry, that will raise very serious questions about the future ”

Andrews is hopeful that it still might not come to this. As Maria Miller triumphantly points out in a blog for The Huffington Post, the decision regarding gay marriage is now out of the government’s hands and rests with those responsible for canon law. Andrews feels that the church authorities will eventually have to change their stance, even if the motivation would be pragmatic rather than ethical.

He is keen to stress that the Church authorities’ position on homosexuality, and the conception of a “judging, with-holding” God that it entails, does not reflect his ideas about his own faith. “For me, as I continue to grow older, I’m less convinced that when I hear the Church speak, I hear God speak.”

He is frustrated by the conservative image that the Church, with a capital ‘c’, is presenting in opposing gay marriage, and in November’s synod vote against allowing women to become bishops, a decision which he says makes the institution look “rather ridiculous”. Does he think the Church is risking becoming irrelevant to contemporary life?

“We’re doing a great job of that at the moment. We’re losing credibility, we’re not making sense. We should be leading the way. Where we see oppression, where we see injustice, where we see discrimination, we should be the ones who are leading the way.”

Why then, does he stay in an institution whose moral values seem to be so diametrically opposed to his own? He is conflicted, but says that ultimately he stays in the Church of England because he wants to “remain effective, making changes from within”.

And for Andrews, there remains a great deal to be done – he says he is still hearing the kind of homophobic rhetoric that frightened him in to self-denial for so much of his life. He expresses indignation at public figures like Baroness Warsi who suggested that speaking to children about homosexuality in schools might be dangerous. “The permission that people take to talk in this way is based on a huge lie, that homosexuality is a chosen behaviour, something we can teach and promote and undermine society with – rubbish, absolute rubbish!”

Ray tells me that many of his colleagues are in favour of gay marriage, and there are also a good number who have same-sex partners. However, they feel that being open with their relationships might put their careers in jeopardy, especially if they have ambitions to rise through the ranks of the Church. “There is a lot of pressure on senior clerics to conceal what might be a pro-gay position.”

Clearly drawing from his own experience, he expresses his will for those people to come forward and start breaking the silence. “It’s the truth that sets you free. It might not be comfortable, it might not be easy, it involves risk, but it’s the truth that sets you free.”

All the cool kids go to McDonalds- apparently

McDSince 2008, McDonald’s UK has been working on an image overhaul with advertising leaders Leo Burnett, a company whose slogan is, “We don’t make brands famous, we make them popular”. The ad agency had a difficult job on its hands; poor old McDonald’s had a rough ride with PR in the noughties; first it was linked with political corruption, then SuperSize Me showed a man’s body slowly decomposing on a diet of Maccy D’s, and all the time those environmentalists kept harping on about that darned rainforest. Leo Burnett’s first job was to run a set of ads to show that, contrary to popular belief, McDonalds’s is actually one of the UK’s leading health and organic food retailers (come on guys, they sell apples).

This health campaign, combined with the crowd-sourced “We All Make The Games” campaign, have acted together to (according to the Leo Burnett website) “double trust” in the brand. But, not content with this, in the past twelve months the Burnett ad team have gone further, launching a raft of adverts aimed to make Maccer’s the restaurant de choix for the hip, young professional. Part of this, involves the promotion of McDonald’s “freshly ground coffee” range.

“Coffee and Conversation”, which first aired last year, shows us a series of vignettes that demonstrate the kinds of every-day conversations people have round a cup of java à la McDo. For example, the ad begins with a disgruntled thirty-something telling her friend “and then he taped his face to the dog”, ; “I hear ya sister”, the viewer will think, “if I had a penny for every time my Pete taped his face to the dog…”. Another scene shows a sassy London gal with her mates trying desperately to de-code her boyfriend’s mindbogglingly cryptic text -“C u l8a”. “What does that mean?!”, she cries, her mates are hysterically excited about the whole thing, but also unable to elucidate the mystery.

Indeed, so at home is the young professional in Mcdonald’s, that one trendy young man chooses it as the place to start his relationship, and an attractive young blonde, deems it an appropriate place to end hers; we zoom in on a drop of coffee creeping down her cup, as she splutters, “I just feel differently about you now”. The drop of Maccers coffee, in a very contained kind of pathetic fallacy, – I think – is meant to represent the anguish of the young blonde. In an even sadder scene, a dead-eyed thirty-something in a suit tells his indifferent colleagues “I talked about staplers for an hour today”.

Leo Burnett reaches out to the young professional again in ‘First Day’, an ad in which a young man starts a new job in a funky modern glass building. His new boss bombards him with information and acronyms, she even follows him into the men’s toilets to tell him he’s drying his hands wrong. Overwhelmed, he hobbles over to McDonalds’s on his lunch break, as he orders a Big Mac the world is put to rights; he proceeds to flirt with his burger, before turning his attentions to the colleague he’s made sexy eyes with earlier, who also lunches under the Golden Arches. Romance is not dead.

The ad, “He’s Happy”, again, pushes McDonalds’s as a place of sanctuary for the hot young boy- about- town. A plucky twenty-something leaves his city flat and sings a chirpy rendition of ‘The street where you live’ from My Fair Lady; he smiles at passers-by and winks at foxy florists as he goes. At the end of the ad it is revealed that the cause of his light mood and public singing is not a lovely lady, but a double big mac.

Now, It is not that these situations are so very implausible, romances may have started in McDonald’s, people probably do have depressing conversations about their work in the restaurant, and many people on their first day at a new job might choose to eat at McDonalds’s, for its grim familiarity if nothing else. But the McDonalds’s in question would not be the soft-lit, soft-focus, everyone is under 35 and gorgeous one, created by Burnett’s team; in real McDonalds’s, the lights are too bright, there is invariably at least one screaming child in the vicinity, and olfactory perception (conveniently absent in a TV ad) is filled with the smell of chip fat mixed with disinfectant. That is the reality; getting dumped in McDonalds’s would be hideously depressing, having lunch there every day would give you permanent afternoon indigestion.

Oh, and take note Burnett; nobody tapes their face to dogs.

Will the French alternative to ‘hashtag’ catch on?


Does the French government’s proposal to translate the word ‘hashtag’ represent a deeper insecurity about the threat ‘anglo-saxon’ culture poses to la belle nation? And should they be worried for French culture?

Last Wednesday, the French government’s snappily-named General Commission for Terminology and Neology, an organisation whose aim is to “propose French equivalents to words of foreign origin”, issued a recommendation that French social media users should shun the term “hashtag” in favour of proposed French alternative ‘mot-dièse, or ‘hash word’.

The recommendations of the Commission, which was created in 1996 in order to combat the influx of Anglo-American words in the French language, have been met with widespread criticism. The proposed term mot-dièse has been variously criticised for being longer than the English term, and for its inaccuracy – dièse actually denotes a musical sharp symbol (♯), rather than a small-form hashtag. The outlawing of ‘hashtag’ is also seen by many social media users as reactionary, and not a little futile; it has variously been described as a “Frankenstein word”, “ridiculous” and, fittingly (or ironically), it has been branded on Twitter an #epicfail (in English). A recent survey by opinion platform Mingle Trend showed that less than a third of French social media users questioned would adopt the term.

The Commission’s recommendation may then seem humorous at best, and wildly ill-judged at worst. But it begins to look a little more raisonnable when put in the context of a more general anxiety about French culture. In the last fifty years, English words have become increasingly ubiquitous in French day-to-day life, largely thanks to the import of a great deal of American – and some British – television programmes and films, which are watched in VO (version originale) with subtitles. American and European music is also ubiquitous in France; nothing fills a French dance floor like the opening bars of the Black Eyed Peas hit I got a Feeling, which is likely to be followed by some very enthusiastic singing at the chorus, and then trailing away to a few snatched words in the verse: “up!….off!… masel tov!”.

French governments of all political colours have fought to protect French culture from this influx of an alien tradition. Whilst Chirac’s conservative government introduced the terminology Commission in 1996, it was France’s much-revered socialist president, François Mittérand, who created the “cultural exception”, which necessitated ‘cultural goods’ to be treated differently to other commercial products, encouraging the autonomous production of French art; Mittérand also introduced the controversial radio quota that necessitates that at least 40% of music on French radio be in French. For the British, who tend to find patriotism embarrassing or distasteful (though the Olympic Games proved an exception), this cultural approach may seem a little precious, but it is worth remembering that we too grumble about the ‘Americanisation’ of the English tongue, despite the fact that we share the same language as our U.S. counterparts.

The proliferation of Anglicisms is particular present in the world of beez-nesswhere terms like “debrief”, “meeting”, and “manager” are d’un common. In recent years, Paris metro carriages have been splattered with adverts for courses to learn ‘Wall Street English’, depicted on the posters is a tanned man in a business suit, his mouth opened wide to reveal a tongue decorated with the stars and stripes. Little wonder, then, that many French people are often anxious about what writer and French culture expert Lucy Wadham terms the “relentless advance of Anglo-American capitalism.”

The dominance of English-based terms is nowhere more prevalent than in the ever-developing world of technology. The same Commission that coined mot-dièse has fought since the start of the internet to preserve French terminology, suggesting French alternatives for ‘the web’ (la toile) and ’email’ (courrier-éléctronique). But is it realistic, in a domain where new products, systems and concepts are being developed and created all the time – and therefore where words signify completely new phenomena – to seek translations for these terms? Speaking to Type Righter, David Carzon, the web editor of French cultural magazine Téléramasuggested that there is a distinction to be made between official and colloquial language. “[The state] cannot control colloquial language; ‘courrier éléctronique’ is widely used in official communication , whilst ’email’ remains the preferred term in everyday language. Ultimately, it is Twitter users that will decide if ‘mot-dièse’ will replace hashtag.”

Carzon, however, does not view the adoption of English words as necessarily worrying for French culture. “French culture doesn’t seem to have been changed radically by the adoption of foreign words. Users are capable of appropriating their own language and integrating it on to their own culture without becoming ‘colonised’.” He sees the internet as a symbol of cultural “mixing”, rather than hegemony. And he has a point – it is not anglais that the French have so taken to using, but franglais, a language in which English terms are adapted, used and mis-used to fit with French grammar, sensibilities and convenience. The hybrid term for a car-park, un parking, is a good example of this, as is the French adoption of le week-end, and the adapted French verb for texting, textoter, which can be conjugated in every which French tense and mood, including the subjunctive. English film titles are often re-translated for their French release with ‘The Hangover’ becoming ‘Very Bad Trip’, and 2010 rom-com ‘No Strings Attached’ becoming the rather more blunt, ‘Sex Friends.’

In any case, whether mot-dièse catches on or not – in spoken French at least – ‘hashtag’ will never be allowed to be anything other than the unmistakably Gallic ‘ache tague’.


This article was originally published in The New Statesman


Exploitation – it’s totes lols

ImageChannel 4’s new mock-umentary, The Work Experience,is the latest in a string of factual entertainment fixtures from the channel that mis-represent, sugar-coat or trivialise serious social issues.

Think of Jamie’s Dream School which helps children excluded by the school system by giving them lessons from Alastair Campbell, Cherie Blair and a bitter David Starkey; or Hotel GB where Jamie Oliver and a host of other Channel 4 faces such as Mary Portas and Gordon Ramsay whip some benefit scroungers in to shape; then there’ World’s Maddest Job Interview which explores mental health problems by asking a panel of business people to spot the loony from a line-up. And this is without broaching the prickly subject of My Big Fat Gypsy Wedding…

The premise for The Work Eperience is as follows: a production team have spent weeks creating a false fashion-PR start-up complete with an office, a client-base and a hideously well-acted staff. The introduction to the show describes it as “a sit-com with a difference”, presumably the difference being that the butt of the jokes are real people, and that it isn’t actually funny.

In episode 1, two eighteen year-old trendies are told that they are being filmed for a documentary about fashion start-up Grade PR. They are asked to do increasingly ridiculous tasks, by an increasingly hysterical staff: at one point fashion wannabe Aquila cries because she is fooled in to thinking that she has destroyed a fashion collection, young hipster Thomas is subsequently ordered to black-up an albino model.

The Devil Pays Nada

The phenomenon of unpaid internships certainly needs media attention. The graduate job-market is notoriously saturated, and organisations are increasingly strapped for cash, or rather unwilling to fork out unless they absolutely have to.

Figures from the European Youth Forum show that 75% of interns are not properly paid for the work they do. If, like an employee, an intern works set hours, has list of responsibilities and are subject to a bollocking by their boss – they should be paid at least minimum wage.

Organisations such as Intern Aware argue that unpaid internships are inherently unfair, their director Gus Baker told me:

Essentially the danger is that a whole generation of people get locked out…right across the creative industries. It is not only unfair but it makes the quality of our national debate go down.”

Someone Call the Fashion Police

As the Channel 4 production team have clocked, the fashion industry is notoriously bad in this field. Looking at testimonies of former fashion interns, it seems that fictitious house of horrors Grade PR isn’t so far from the reality; One person who got in contact with TR worked for a designer for three months in an office with two paid staff and 17 unpaid interns, many working until 3am in the morning.

The problem, however, is not just limited to fashion. A cursory google search (as Philip Schofield would say) shows unpaid internships offered across journalism, PR, business and – perhaps more surprisingly- in government, NGO and charity roles.

The Work Experience misses the point. Instead of a hidden camera on real young exploited people, we should have an exposé on actual exploiters. And what reward do the two hapless teens get at the end? An internship with REAL Fashion PR companies… hoorah!!