What daytime TV ads reveal about Britain

Forced to move in with my parents in Kent, I’m slowly turning into a Daily Mail reader – helped along by some depressing intercessions on TV.

Patrick West

Patrick West

Topics Culture

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‘Everyone’s talking about car insurance.’ So proclaims one particularly annoying advert on daytime TV at the moment. Really? Have you met anyone who has ever talked about car insurance?

I bet you haven’t. I’ve never met anyone who has talked about car insurance. The truth is that no one ever talks about car insurance. The only people who are obsessed with car insurance are the companies that advertise on Channel 4 and ITV3 during the daytime.

I don’t normally watch daytime TV, but owing to the fact that I have had to move home again, and am now shamefully living at my parents’ house, at the age of 33, I have been indulging in a bit of Neighbours, Whose Line is it Anyway?, Top Gear (again), Countdown and, most disgracefully, cooking programmes. But the most alarming thing during my idle days of being stuck in the most boring town in Kent are the scary, crap adverts on daytime TV.

I can understand why there are daytime adverts about debt relief and Stannah Stairlifts, and why there are ads that pose the question ‘Have you had an accident that wasn’t your fault?’ This makes sense. Daytime TV ads are designed for students, malingerers and the aged. So why, then, are there so many adverts about car insurance?

This is perplexing. You’d think that those who own cars would not be the kind of people who would be watching the telly in the middle of the afternoon. Those who watch daytime TV generally tend to be unemployed, or old people. In other words, they are the people most unlikely to possess a car. And in any case, octogenarians who need to use stairlifts or twentysomethings skiving from lectures and who are probably stoned or hungover are the last people who should be given car insurance. Or, indeed, that other daytime advert menace: life insurance, with June Whitfield referring to ‘the good old days’ with no sense of irony whatsoever. And don’t get me started on advertisements for sofas. What other commodity is always sold at half-price? Since they are always half-price, shouldn’t this be their normal price? Aren’t the trading standards people taking notice here?

The car insurance adverts are annoying in their sheer repetitiveness. But the debt adverts are surely the most tragic. Their basic message is: ‘Are you in debt? Do you want to get in more debt? Then take out another loan… er… sorry, meant to say, do you want to “consolidate” your debts?’ Carol Vorderman appears on these tragic adverts, presumably because we are all meant to think that she is good with numbers – although no one actually knows how good she is with money. At least the adverts with cricketer Phil Tufnell are more honest. ‘I know nothing about loans’, he proclaims. And neither do his customers.

I suspect being stuck in a miserable place in the Home Counties, in which everyone seems to read the Daily Mail, is making me more reactionary and right wing than even I ever thought I would become. But daytime TV adverts are something that should be drawn to the attention of the likes of Peter Hitchens, Richard Littlejohn or Jon Gaunt. They represent our culture of debt, which is a symptom of a culture that doesn’t understand deferred gratification, a culture that is hedonistic, and encourages living for the present. Libertines perceive hedonism as a good thing, as a manifestation of self-expression and liberation, a rejection of self-repression and boring, stuffy conservatism – but the truth is that hedonism is self-destruction by stealth.

The National Accident Helpline adverts simultaneously signify a culture of victimhood and laziness: nothing is ever my fault, and can you give me some money please? Half-price sofas are ideally suited for the indolent. I think sofas should be sold at full-price, like everything else. Why are my 20 Silk Cut never sold at half-price? I also think sometimes an accident was your fault – or maybe it was just nobody’s fault. This is because accidents do happen, something that those cretins who believe Diana was murdered should really get into their heads.

Car insurance adverts are appropriate for a society obsessed with motor vehicles and money. Online betting adverts give you further exciting methods of getting into debt. Even old people are being urged to release equity on their homes every day on ITV3 so that they can go on some ghastly cruiseliner full of other Daily Mail readers and most likely catch some bug and die and leave their children penniless.

Daytime TV gets a bad press, but my word, Noel Edmonds, Michael Palin, Richard & Judy, and even Harold Bishop and Lou Carpenter, come as such a relief between these truly depressing intercessions. The only person whose opinions I would trust about car insurance is Jeremy Clarkson, my eternal hero on re-runs of Top Gear on the Dave channel.

So this is a warning to any Marxist spiked reader who is thinking of moving house: do not move to Kent and do not watch daytime television adverts. They will turn you into Melanie Phillips. Yet even she never talks about car insurance.

Patrick West is spiked’s TV reviewer. Visit his blog here.

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