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Giles Keeble: in a divided world are ads striving to be politically correct?

As the world post-Brexit and post-Trump election seems to be getting more divisive, ads seem to be falling over themselves to be more politically correct. This is perhaps especially noticeable because of the amount of slice-of-life stuff there is out there. So we have a mixed marriage in the Sainsbury’s Xmas ad, a black family (I am no longer sure what the acceptable term is) in the John Lewis ad, along with an assortment of gay people, pensioners, and red-heads (always seen as attractive in the US but ‘gingers’ over here).

I think this is fine, as good advertising should be human and believable (in the viewer’s response, so this does not exclude animation, exaggeration etc). The issue is whether or not it simply feels like an aspect of ‘corporate social responsibility’ or rings true. The key to slice-of-life is the quality of the writing and the casting. If it represents an ‘idea’ as well, so much the better.

When Tony Kaye shot ‘A Day in the Life’ with me for McDonald’s, he cast numerous sets of twins of which several were also non-white. Apparently in the early 90s, this presented some problems outside the big cities.

I also shot a McDonald’s ad with Ken Loach – though he has publicly regretted it recently with the release of ‘I, Daniel Blake’. It was many people’s favourite ad at the time because, I think, it reflected real people in a real situation in which the brand fitted realistically.

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I understand Ken’s comments, and I assume he needed the money at the time, but feel slightly sad as we got on well and it was great to work with him.

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About Giles Keeble

Giles Keeble started as a rep (account man) at JWT before moving to BMP. There Stanley Pollitt told him that JWT’s Stephen King had wanted him to become a planner. John Webster encouraged him to become a writer but after a number of years Giles moved to French Gold Abbott and, for a while, did become a planner of sorts. Returning to writing he went to David Abbott’s new agency AMV followed by WCRS and was then ECD of Leo Burnett for six years. He then returned to AMV before moving to Publicis and then Lowe in Hong Kong at the inception of the ‘World’s Local Bank’ campaign for HSBC. He now works as a writer and strategist as well as running advertising courses for senior clients.
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