Bursting the London Media Bubble

by .

A client once called me to complain that the in-home research films we had made of average families were all of poor people. I explained that the choice of families represented average households of the UK. ‘But they are all poor’ she complained.

Their household incomes ranged from being on benefits to over £70k a year, the latter family being in the top 5% nationally. ‘Oh dear’ she said. ‘I shall have to tell the board’. This was from a FTSE 100 brand that you know well and is famous for having masses of data on each of us.

Shortly afterwards I did a presentation to a large London PR agency. I polled the room to compare their lifestyles to the national average. Their weekly expenditure on food and drink outside of the home was five times the average. An attendee objected indignantly to my assertion that the group assembled was relatively rich. I explained that the agency’s starting graduate salary was only £2,000 lower than the national average salary: while living in London on that income isn’t easy when you are 22, it is easier than running a household and supporting kids on it. Afterwards a young account executive came to see me ‘we tweet on behalf of a big brand: we’ve totally changed what we plan to say’. Thus missing the point that most of the people we were talking about have never seen a tweet.

It is shocking that so many of the people whose role it is to communicate know – and more importantly think – so little about how most of the country lives.

As politicians and journalists pontificate about the rise of Wonga, have pasty photoshoots at Greggs and sanctimoniously report on families who have blown their Lottery winnings, they show their hand: it is inexcusable that because you have never needed to borrow £40 for the weekend or been refused credit by a high street bank you can’t be bothered to find out about those who do. Or relate to those who need to buy inexpensive fast food on the way to a poorly paid job or dream of a way out through the chance.

If you are lucky enough to live in the London media bubble (broadly including politics, journalism, advertising, marketing, PR) you are failing every time you forget the 99%.

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