Angling and the Ad-Man
Cliff Hatton is a little concerned about angling advertising...We don’t want our fishing and our equipment commercialized too much, do we?
It all kicked off with Manikin and the Latino frolicking in the surf to the sound of Manfred Mann; then it was the bird in the bath with the Cadbury's Flake...
I am a little concerned. No more than this at the moment, but I am aware that my fears for one aspect of our wonderful life-style might one day intensify. I write not of modern carp-fishing; nor do I refer to water abstraction, or to otters, cormorants or the scourge of immigrant fish-thieves. I refer to pollution. It’s been around for decades and its tentacles are insinuating itself into our lives at an ever-increasing rate. There’s almost no escape from it, and even if the peoples of the world were to switch to ‘ecover’ products, adopt a passion for electric cars, stop smoking and never use another plastic bag, we’d still have our short ‘n’ curlies in the clutch of the all-pervasive advertising industry – the mass polluter of minds.
You may ask yourself what the hell this has to do with fishing. You may then ponder if, perhaps, you’ve been a victim – or, at least, a fruitful ‘prospect’: have I been swayed by a tempting ad? I’d say probably not; not in the context of your sport anyway. You saw a useful-looking piece of kit advertised in an angling magazine, checked its quality in a shop and willingly parted with your wonga – you weren’t ‘swayed’ in the manipulative sense.
Perhaps mercifully, fishing is not glamorous. It certainly has its sleeker side in big game and salmon fishing but generally it’s a pastime predicated on slimy animals, writhing insects and smelly boilies, so it’s difficult for the ad men to apply even a thin coat of gloss to the promotion of fishing gear. They’re trying though, and I can’t help adopting a wry grin when I perceive the work of the professional in an ad for, say, hooks, or a carp rod. But the bemusement fades as I remind myself of why we fish: we fish – that is, we extricate our bodies at unearthly hours from what might as well be a pit of Araldite and drive miles to a stretch of water – in order to be at one with the elements.
A degree in Human Behaviour is not at all necessary to know that the drably dressed guy ensconced in the reeds at five-thirty in the morning is at peace with his world far from MacDonald’s and Lynx ads. He may not identify his motivation as an escape from commercialism but sure as eggs is eggs - that’s what it largely is. Blitzed daily by flyers, hoardings, newspaper ads and increasingly sophisticated television ads, he’s screaming to be left alone; but is he merely fed-up with watching adverts or have the adverts affected him more fundamentally?
What are TV ads doing to us? It’s no secret that advertising appeals to our baser instincts and that the sizzle is often more important than the sausage: just look at ads for snack-foods and see that their flavour is, apparently, of no importance. What we’re sold is friendship. That tube of crisps, that dual chocolate bar and those glasses of cider will make you popular and good to be with, but at least there’s a kind of honest logic about these sorts of ads: have you seen the real subliminal stuff? Well, yes, you’d have seen it, but did you recognize it for what it was? Do you watch TV with the missus? Does she understand the message being drilled into her skull day and night? Have you ever wondered why you seem to be ‘in demand’ more and more these days and why she’s serving up risotto so often?
It’s at this point that I place my neck in close proximity to the block and trust that readers either agree or are fair-minded enough to keep a close eye on the ads, because it’s everywhere. Some of it is, indeed, subliminal, but much of it is in ‘in yer face’ – buy this and get laid. Why else would the makers of a sodding cereal-bar feature a leggy blonde suggestively getting her oats (that’s just occurred to me) beside a tennis ball serving machine? Bite…pop! Bite…pop! I really don’t know if the trajectory imparted by such contraptions can be adjusted but the one in the ad sure looks eager.
Far worse (or better, depending on your personal taste…if you see what I mean) is that kind, old, grey-haired Morgan Freeman character who flogs us his rice: have you studied his graphics? Please don’t tell me it’s just me …anyone with an ounce of good ol’ cynicism and a dirty mind knows what’s going on when those heavy, pendulous red peppers start swinging back and forth. Just listen to the voice-over, watch the crops rise and see how the missus starts fidgeting in her seat.
God forbid our fishing gear ever gets the full works from the psycho-advertisers. The only overtly sexual – and bloody hilarious – angler’s ad I ever saw was in the old Coarse Fisherman magazine back in the 70s: “Are your lobs lazy?” enquired the eel-specialist holding an uncharacteristically limp anguilla “Help is at hand from the So ‘n’ So Worm Farm”. Hardly subliminal, but it may well have been the very first angler’s ad inspired by Maslow’s Pyramid of Needs and that was enough for me…I couldn’t stop giggling for a week.
But really, Missus, we don’t want our fishing and our equipment commercialized too much, do we? It’s bad enough watching a sponsored match-man swinging-in ‘silvers’ on a blue, pink and white handled pole with a connotative name, or seeing a faded car-sticker still proclaiming that ‘Anglers do it in Wellies’. Thinking about it now, the snake featured in angling ads quite a lot a while back, didn’t it? What was that all about? Was it a semiotic shot aimed at rousing the lager-swilling, bed-bound carp man into action? If it was they wasted their money: nothing other than a big, smooth female with pouting lips will induce a modern carp-trapper to move his arse.