ACCENT ON MARKETING
Julie Burchill has a high pitched voice with a heavy Bristol accent.
An interviewer asked her what class she considered herself.
She said working class.
The interviewer said, “You’re one of the most famous journalists in the land, how can you be working class?”
Julie Burchill said, “I’m like a pools-winner, I’ve got a lot of money but I’m still working class. If I wanted to be middle class I would have changed my accent wouldn’t I?”
And it reminded me of Alf Ramsey.
The only English football manager ever to win The World Cup.
He came from Dagenham, and in order to be taken seriously he took elocution lessons.
He had to make himself sound middle class.
A while back a client asked me to do a talk to a group of his senior marketing people.
Later on I met one of the people who’d been at that talk.
He said he hadn’t liked me at first.
It irritated him that I put on this cockney barrow-boy act.
East London accent, crude language, etc.
But despite that, he thought everything I said made a lot of sense.
He asked me if I’d do the same talk to the people who worked for him.
I didn’t know what to make of that.
I talk the way I’ve always talked, but he thought it was an act.
He thought I was putting it on.
While I was thinking about this, a different client asked me to do a talk for his senior people.
I said pretty much the same things I’d said to the other group.
The basic, common-sense facts of life and advertising.
And again, some time later I met someone who’d been at the talk.
He said, “We all loved you Dave and thought you were great, we even buy your cockney-geezer act.”
There it was again.
If I talked in a cockney accent I must be putting it on for effect.
I tried to work it out.
Was the white collar world of marketing and senior management made up exclusively of middle class people with middle class accents?
Did they think everyone, everywhere was exactly like them?
Because here’s a funny thing.
Where I grew up everyone had cockney accents.
Around three million people.
And I’d lived my whole life without anyone ever commenting on it, until I started doing talks to people in marketing.
People who, apparently, never hear anything but middle class accents.
But marketing isn’t the entire world.
In fact nothing is.
And we’re in advertising, mass-communication, we should know better.
We can forgive people who don’t work in mass communication.
For instance, my Uncle Mick was a welder at Fords.
He lived all his life in East London.
He once said to me “How’s yer new agency going Dave?”
I said, “Very well thanks Uncle Mick.”
He said, “What about the blokes you work wiv, wot are they like?”
I said “They’re good guys. They come from all over England, so we’ve all got different accents.”
Uncle Mick looked puzzled.
He said, “But you ain’t got no accent, you talk normal like wot the rest of us do.”
You can forgive Uncle Mick.
But people who work in marketing should know better.