Happy Christmas – as a mean-minded 2019 nears its end

It’s that time of year when it’s goodwill to all men, women and whatever other genders are on offer.

But not quite.

In his successful campaign to be Conservative leader/PM Boris Johnson famously observed: ‘fuck business.”

Whoops, that’s it for Boris the commentariat said with almost one voice, he’d broken the essential ties between the Tory Party and the business community. Oh dear.

Didn’t do him much harm though did it? The fact is that such ties between UK business and conservative (with a small ‘c’) voters had been broken years ago.

Business has well and truly lost its place in the nation’s affections (if that’s not too strong a word.)

Two unrelated examples. Bought a pack of M&S sausage rolls the other day and they were the most unpleasant versions of that, admittedly, challenging confection ever experienced. So bad the rest hit the bin. Had anyone at M&S tasted these atrocities or did they just think they could get away with it because their other stuff was mostly good? Bet they sold millions of them, too.

Rather more seriously, a friend was scammed by telephone and had her bank accounts drained, about £30,000 in all. Logically the scammer must have accessed some information from her banks to have even contacted her.

She contacted the banks in question, Starling Bank and Lloyds (Lloyds was the bigger amount.)

Starling Bank promptly compensated her; a Lloyds manager (yes they still have a few) said, don’t think we can do very much, it’s your fault. But I’ll pass it on to head office, from whom she’s still waiting to hear (without much hope.)

This is the bank which is still dragging its heels regarding compensation over a scandal in its Reading office which resulted in the ruination of many small businesses and lives.

Lloyds ads, those black horses, propose a simple message: ‘By Your Side.’ Pull the other one, it’s on its side and no-one else’s.

We bemoan the absence of great advertising these days but great commercial communications require clients who at least adhere to some principles – common decency – rather than just protecting their own interests behind a wall of lawyers. The UK’s Post Office is accused of doing just this as it wrongly persecuted scores of postmasters who had fallen foul of a faulty software programme. But the lawyers said, don’t give an inch otherwise it will cost you more.

Internationally, you’ve the 737 Max. At least Boeing’s CEO has belatedly reigned but an ethical company would have scrapped the wretched machine. Many companies these days seem to think “ethics” is a county in southern England – with a lisp.

Any agency that chooses to work for decent, principled clients only will find it has a lot of time on its hands. That surey affects the quality of communications.

But at least Scrooge is alive and well and living in the UK – and doubtless many other so-called developed economies too.

Hapoy Christmas – and a better New Year.

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About Stephen Foster

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Stephen is a former editor of Marketing Week and London Evening Standard advertising columnist. He wrote City Republic for Brand Republic and is a partner in communications consultancy The Editorial Partnership.