PURE DEAD BONKERS; the Embarrassing Slogans Dreamt Up by Marketing Gurus Are a Betrayal of Scotland's National Self-Image and Belittle Our History and Achievements

Daily Mail (London), August 6, 2005 | Go to article overview

PURE DEAD BONKERS; the Embarrassing Slogans Dreamt Up by Marketing Gurus Are a Betrayal of Scotland's National Self-Image and Belittle Our History and Achievements


Byline: TOM BROWN

HERE is something 'pure dead brilliant': a group of Ayrshire people have rebelled against the tyranny of the marketing man and slogans that sell Scotland short. Hundreds of signatures have been gathered for a petition against those three little words - 'pure dead brilliant' - which have been adopted as the crass catchphrase for Glasgow Prestwick International Airport.

Their complaint is that the phrase is too 'ned' - too Glasgow - and is damaging to Scotland's international image. For them, Rab C Nesbitt speaks for Govan only and should on no account speak for Scotland, especially to visitors from overseas.

They are right, of course. If 'pure dead brilliant' is meant to be a joke, it is a bad one.

But the rebellion should not stop in Ayrshire. It should spread across Scotland and we should all be shouting down the silly slogans that do nothing to promote the real Scotland.

And right at the top of the banned list should be First Minister Jack McConnell's cringe-making motto portraying Scotland as 'the best small country in the world'. This tag, in which the Scottish Executive seems to take a perverse pride, is a betrayal of our national self-image and minimises Scotland and its achievements.

McConnell's repeated use of the phrase during the G8 summit only served to make us look like a pygmy nation hanging onto the coattails of the global big boys - an image that may seem appropriate for the First Minister but should cause deep resentment among Scots who are proud of their heritage.

Question: How many agencies, spending how much money, brainstorming over how many expense account lunches should it take to devise a simple phrase that sums up Scotland and its attractions? Answer: Too many.

Question: How often do they come up with the right answer? Answer: Hardly ever.

THE one inspired exception has been the Glasgow's Miles Better campaign launched in 1983, the brainchild of advertising guru John Struthers. Given a double meaning with the Mr Happy logo, it got over brilliantly the message that Glasgow was a friendly and enjoyable place and no longer 'No Mean City'.

After an attempt to replace it with 'Glasgow's Alive', it was resurrected in the mid-1990s and finally put to bed two years ago in favour of 'Glasgow - Scotland With Style', which made nothing like the same impact.

Glasgow's great rival has done no better with the recently unveiled 'Edinburgh: Inspiring Capital'. It took [pounds sterling]800,000 of council tax payers' money and months of research and focus group testing by a London advertising agency to come up with that uninspiring result.

Similarly, Prestwick Airport's 'pure dead brilliant' has crashlanded. As a marketing strategy, to coin another Glaswegianism, it is pure mince.

Perhaps the fault can be traced to the fact that Prestwick Airport is owned by a New Zealand company, Infratil, and its chief executive is Australian Steve Fitzgerald who claims the slogan presents 'an upbeat image that is all about fun, energy, being modern and vibrant'.

Then again, the airport company's idea of being upbeat is shown in the picture on its website of a girl looking up a Scotsman's kilt. As the Scottish doctor in Tony Hancock's classic The Blood Donor drawled in his cultured accent: 'We're not all Rob Roys, you know.' Ann Paterson, who started the Ayrshire protest against 'pure dead brilliant', says locals are 'vexed and angry'. She insists it is not a snobbish reaction to the Glasgow patois. 'That's not how people around here or, indeed, how most people in Scotland speak,' she said.

'I'm from Greenock and I don't speak the Queen's English but I do think it promotes ned culture. It's offensive to Scotland, its history and people.

They're letting the country down.' She adds that a 'wee bit of tartan' or a 'Welcome to Bonnie Scotland' would be a preferable image to present to three million passengers a year. …

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