A lot of people are getting their knickers in a twist over the Diageo promotion campaign called Arthur’s Day, and I can see both sides of the argument.
Correction: I can see two sides of the argument.
I have as little insight into the mindset of the marketing suits behind the campaign as I would have into the foraging instincts of a Caribbean lobster. Marketing people don’t inhabit the same planet as the human race, so let’s forget them right now. If it can be crass, it will be crass, as they demonstrated recently with their insane ad based on a wheelchair basketball game.
So let’s just agree that marketing people are reptile-brained cynics who’ll do anything for a buck, and let’s move on.
The two sides of the argument that I’m concerned with are the pro- and anti- people, and to be fair to them, each has a valid point of view.
On the pro side, people are saying that Diageo isn’t forcing anyone to get drunk. If you end up in A&E, it’s because you personally went bonkers on the liquor. The Guinness didn’t force itself down your throat. And besides, what’s wrong with a day out?
The anti side will tell you that we already have a bad enough alcohol problem in Ireland without promoting even more excess. They’ll say, correctly, that this is a multinational London-based company seeking to piggyback on the Irish identity by portraying all of us as united in admiration for their product. Paddywhackery, in other words. And that’s true too.
So where are we going with this? People enjoy the day out, despite the cringe-inducing name. They enjoy the music and they enjoy the gallivanting. Musicians make a day’s pay. Taxi drivers earn a few shillings. Money goes round, which is a rare enough thing these days, and the economy gets a bit of a boost. But on the other hand, some people get drunk, some get into fights and others get so slaughtered that they end up in hospital.
I don’t know, so I asked a man with far more wisdom and years than I possess, the published author of six successful novels.
What do you think of this Arthur’s Day thing?
He considered for a moment, in his special way. To my mind, there isn’t enough drunkenness in Ireland anymore, he said.
Let me put it to this way, he said. When was the last time you remember a man walking down the street taking one step forward and two steps back, while singing a happy song at the top of his voice?
I can’t remember seeing that for a long time, I agreed.
Precisely, he said. We’ve lost all the old traditions. I blame Europe.
One way or another, the campaign has been an unqualified success for the marketing reptiles who managed to drag five years out of a one- or two-year plan before being shot down by the uber-sanctimonious reformed drinker, Christy How’s-it-goin-dere Moore. At the corporate level, nobody is particularly pretty. Not the robotic Diageo executive who appeared on PrimeTime like a deprogrammed Max Headroom and not Christy, the hellraiser-turned-sobriety-campaigner, who insists on closing the bar at every gig he plays.
Damn them all. I hate Diageo for being Diageo, and Christy annoys me for being the condescending gobshite he always was. I wonder how long he’d stay up on the surfboard after fourteen pints of stout these days? He’s been writing shite comedy songs for years, mixed in with the occasional quasi-politically-aware outburst, but in many ways, he’s the Big Tom of Irish Agit-Prop and I’ll take no lectures from him, thanks, even if I have my own misgivings about a stupid drink-promotion stunt by a soulless multinational alcohol company.
A cirrhosis on all their houses.