Back to the 1950s with a sexist Quidco advert – an email

Another masterpiece from Quidco

Having not yet cracked under the relentless stream of crap adverts and paid up for Spotify I have no choice but to listen to the products of the nation’s best and brightest advertising executives. A recent ad from Quidco went beyond being merely irritating into the territory of the outright insulting. In response to their carefully thought out campaign ‘Fight the signs of thinning wallet’ I sent the email below to Quidco, to one Jo Roberts, head of marketing.

Hi Jo, the only conclusion I can draw from the Quidco advert on Spotify (in which you imply that women are largely attracted to a man’s wallet) is that you think your target market is sexist in a kind of 1950s Mad Men style. This may in fact be the case. I also have to listen to the advert and am not sexist but possibly I am not your target market (my membership of Quidco is pretty inactive but I do already have an account so need no persuasion). I was wondering if you have done much research to back up the assumption of your audience’s sexism. If so I’d be interested to see this. I admit to being surprised. If time-travelling back to 1950s gender stereotyping were that lucrative I’d expect more people to be doing it. I look forward then to hearing what it is that has led you to believe this is a good way forward.

I think that you are yourself a woman, so I’d also be interested to know your personal experience of choosing a man by the contents of his wallet. I’d like to know how that has worked out for you and so on. Perhaps you did not do this however. Perhaps instead you thought “What’s a little lighthearted sexism between friends?” But we’re not friends are we Jo? And most of the people who listen to that advert are not your friends. And you do not know how people will read the sexism. Because some people actually do believe women are just interested in a man’s wallet. I’ve met some of the British sex tourists in Thailand who thought exactly that in the UK and went to Thailand to find ‘girlfriends’ who would confirm all their prejudices. Come to think of it, was this your target market? The sex tourists of the future? That would make sense. If so I have underestimated your targetting.

You may however wish to have a word with Spotify about their targetting. I think the Baka Beyond fan/sex tourist crossover market is smaller than you might wish.



For those interested, Baka Beyond play West African/Celtic fusion. It isn’t really true to say I’m a fan – they’re a bit too easy-listening for me – but I listen to them from time to time.

Now I also copied Spotify into this email. They had a category on their contact form called, and I quote exactly ‘Share something fun :)’, so I wrote a little intro saying ‘Hi Spotify! I know you like us to share fun things with you! So below is a copy of an email I sent to Quidco. Enjoy!’

I had no particular axe to grind with Spotify. They are still struggling financially and would probably sell their grandmother’s corpse to a necrophiliac for a bit of extra ad revenue, so I sent off the email and thought nothing more of it. Until they served me up this slice of grating corporate chirpiness:

Hay (sic) Jacob,

Sorry. We might have got that one wrong please forgive us…. 〷◠‿◠〷

I have let our content team know and they will definitely keep an eye on this type of content.

Thanks for raising your points with us.

Kind Regards and a friendly smile,

John L

Spotify Customer Service – Cambridge

George Leonard:
At the root of all power and motion, there is music
and rhythm, the play of patterned frequencies against
the matrix of time, Before we make music, music makes us.

Now perhaps I should feel grateful that Spotify responded and said they’d pass it on. But here’s the thing John L, if I can call you that: I hate to dent your no doubt 100% genuine twenty-four hour effervescence, but a cute picture in company emails is a poor substitute for functioning brains and a sense of ethics. Isn’t it now? I rather feel that I should never have had to send this email.

I’ll update you all if the Quidco marketing geniuses get around to replying between bouts of patronising their customers.

Heartwarming Tales: me being allowed to say anything I like for, like, my whole life

One may also sing whatever one likes in this Land Of Hope And Glory

This blog, and in fact my whole life, has until this point shown a thoroughgoing lack of gratitude for the freedom of speech that I enjoy and have always enjoyed. The aim of this post is to rectify the situation.

It would be remiss of me not to thank the following people for my freedom of speech: David Cameron, George Osborne, the Queen, the Queen Mother, Gary Lineker, Stephen Hawking, Commander Hogan-Howe, George Orwell, Jedward, and John Stuart Mill.

All of these people have, in some undefined but inestimable way, contributed to my freedom of speech. This freedom, in which we glory, is allowed to us not only for our own good but for the good of the nation. How, as Mill said, can rulers know how to rule if they cannot hear the squeaks of their subjects?

While the contribution of Jedward to my being allowed to say anything I like is not immediately obvious then think about it this way: the ability of Jedward to say whatever they like, without fear of arrest, without fear of torture or persecution, helps to create the space for my own words. I, like Jedward, am not tortured, and for this I thank them.

I would also like to thank Commander (or is it Commissioner? – I always forget) Hogan-Howe of the metropolitan police, for never knowingly entering me into a database of dissenters. Why would he know? And definitely Gary Lineker, that brave and owl-like soul, has never done such a thing. So thank you.

Finally I would like to extend special thanks once more to all the ministers in this current government, who in their generosity allow me and everyone I know to say whatever we wish without it bothering them one little bit. Thank you. Democracy is a fine and noble thing.

Let us all now stand and sing the national anthem.

What’s this liberal doing in my head? And what does it mean by a ‘free’ society?

Freedom in the US recently: management fails to achieve full complicity in NATO crimes

This post is one in a series about being a ‘liberal’, an admittedly vague term I use to refer to left-leaning, moderately-inclined people who think it worth fighting for a fairer world and who largely accept existing institutions as the appropriate channel for change.

It’s common to refer to the societies of rich Western countries as being ‘free’. A lot of people will hastily qualify this. We are, they say, relatively free. We can’t protest anywhere or anyhow we want, but we can protest. We can’t get our opinions on the BBC but we can at least hold our opinions without being arrested.

And of course, admits the liberal in your head, we all have constraints on us. For instance physics, or wealth, or the lack of it. So there are limits. But ultimately the government does not force us to hold or express certain views and we will not be punished for our political beliefs.

Mmmm, yes. And no. Sometimes things are neither one thing nor another. We are, in Western societies, rarely whipped into believing something, but does that equal freedom? We are, for instance, managed. We’re actually managed quite a lot. Let’s start with your boss. You can argue with them to some extent, but they also have the power to sack you if you argue too much.

Maybe that seems obvious. What’s a bit less obvious is that we are managed by many more people than just our bosses. The process of government, being only briefly interrupted by ballots, is a process of management. PR is a form of management of your opinions. Big media is management of what you consume – think of all those people sitting around in offices deciding what you will consume in your paper.

But even less obviously, I would also say we are managed by a whole array of professionals. Architects manage our personal and work space. Planners manage our public space. ‘Creative industry’ professionals manage what we consume, from the theatre to the television. Psychologists manage our perceptions of abberant behaviour (no-one has adequately explained to me why lack of confidence is a frequently-treated pathology while the far more damaging overconfidence is not). Social workers manage our families if we fail to hit the mark. Charities manage our altruism.

Some might argue that the good intentions of the professionals absolve them from looking like authoritarians. But well intentioned control freak parents are still control freak parents. Good intentions in themselves don’t count for much in my book, particularly when they take place in the context of very unbalanced power relations.

Perhaps, in the end, you think that all of this management, because it is not directed at you personally, because you stay out of the arenas where it is strongest, does not affect you much. Perhaps the architects you live with are long dead and the social worker never visits you. But in the unlikely event that you are immune to everything professionals say you are surrounded by people who are not. We are social beings and our social world is distorted by a vast weight of top-down management across all of society.

Meanwhile let’s go back to the obvious management: your boss. What they ostensibly manage is your technical performance and yet you likely will have noticed that the most incompetent people often get promoted first. It happens so often it’s almost like it isn’t a coincidence. Almost like, say, people are promoted for having particular personality attributes, particular ways of behaving, almost like people are rewarded by management for conformity to their viewpoint. And what is the combined effect of that happening across all of society? It’s difficult to measure but I don’t think it is small.

It’s easy not to think too much about the effect on us of all this management, particularly if you feel that you benefit from it – you may be on a management wage yourself. Perhaps you believe your personality overcomes society. Perhaps you are a superhuman, immune to social pressure. Or perhaps there’s a liberal in your head, and it loves pretending to be free. If so, try to gently introduce it to words and ideas between the two poles of ‘free’ and ‘oppressed’. Perhaps one day it will even be grateful for having learned language to describe its situation.