About Me

"Use every man after his desert, and who should 'scape whipping?"

Friday, 10 March 2017

Oi, you! Property developers and your ilk - can we have our words back, please?

I can think of a fourth two-word phrase ending in "OFF" which might be the best response to these corporate language thieves, seen not long ago outside the former IPC building in Stamford Street, not far from Blackfriars Bridge
First they take your words, then they take your city.

This seems to be part of the strategy of the corporate property developers who are gobbling up huge areas of what used to be a fairly open city. They grab the land, then they put up big fences. Then they write big friendly lovely words all over these fences to make you think they are wonderful people!

But even as they decorate the barriers - sometimes employing very skilled artists and copywriters to do it - behind the hoardings, they are busily privatising and colonising not only the land but also the sky above it.

Yes, that's right: we must indeed be innovative, and highly collaborative.
Thanks for the advice, Battersea Power Station Development people!

Watch out for these smug and vacuous phrases that are being painted in tasteful colours and elegant fonts on hoardings all around us, as if the words actually bring the ideas into existence!

I mean, seriously, what the hell has Rachmaninoff and Blue Note got to do with a massive block of luxury apartments that has taken over what used to be IPC Magazines HQ in Stamford Street, near Blackfriars Bridge?

Yeah, what? As though by putting the words close to each other the goodness of the first two will somehow rub off onto the badness I at least associate with the others, such as "target market" and "luxury apartments".

Look at those words above written on the miles of fence on Nine Elms Lane; "innovative", "collaborative" ....oh, yes, of course.

OK, so the blame for this sort of nonsense cannot all be laid at the feet of estate agents. It started, as so much else rotten did, in the advertising industry and was then picked up by marketing and "brand" executives, especially in the 80s.

Remember the time when perfectly sensible company names were changed to vague, often made-up words, such as "Aviva" or  the Post Office's temporary pseudonym, "Consignia"? Or when the Philip Morris tobacco firm became "Altria?" (For other horrors of this nature, read this great article in Time Magazine).

In the late 90s, under the shining eyes of Mr Blair, this trend moved into the public sector, and suddenly schools around the land were changing their names and adopting gormless or worthy slogans instead of homely Latin mottos: "Excellence for all" was a favourite; "Embracing diversity" - yes, a great thing, but are you really doing it? "Integrity, Diligence, Civility" - yes, all of those please!

No doubt it's good to have lofty ambitions: you just wonder sometimes if those schools with their flashy new buildings and lurid new uniforms can live up to the hype of their marketing.

Politicians have always loved dreadful slogans, but even the least offensive of these optimistic phrases can turn your stomach when they are over-used. A case in point at a recent London Mayoral event. while the crowd waited patiently for the arrival of delayed Mayor Khan, they played a short marketing video about London at least 20 times. The theme, "London is open" in a whole range of carefully chosen accents, thus embracing diversity as well. The trouble is by the 12th or 13th hearing of someone like the ubiquitous Jarvis Cocker mumbling "London is open" you begin to question those words. Is it really open? To whom? People with enough money? Clever buggers only?
No, actually you are NOT improving the image of construction,
not even slightly. And yes I do mind if you don't smoke.

Which brings us back to property developers and that annoying phrase you see on building sites everywhere: "Improving the image of construction".

Oh yeah? Whenever I see that I think, "Oh no you're not". If you think the way you're building that horrible pile of expensive flats that no-one living around here can hope to afford is in some way an improvement on the people who built St Paul's Cathedral, then you should think again.

Maybe we should have some new by-laws about words on hoardings. Maybe like fag packets they should be forced to print some home truths, some "health warnings" in equally trendy fonts.

Something like this, perhaps:

"Buying a flat in this development will not only bankrupt you it will also make you the laughing stock of all your even richer friends and the enemy of everyone living in the estate over the road".

No comments:

Post a Comment