Ad agency laughs at people on benefits

I have nothing against Iris, the ad agency that invented 2012 Olympic mascots Wenlock and Mandeville. I even know some great people working there. But I just can’t justify what I saw on Campaign magazine’s website this week.

You see, Iris have been busy re-doing their internal staff benefits booklet. This is the brochure they give to employees to let them know what they’re entitled to at Iris in terms of life insurance, maternity leave and so on. And being an ad agency, they decided they really needed a concept for this booklet.

So they went away, thought about it for – ooh, twenty seconds? – and decided that “Iris on Benefits” was the best possible title. And for the images? Well, why don’t we all dress up as stereotypical on-benefit types (apparently inspired by the fictional people on ‘Shameless’) and have a good old laugh?

Here’s the resulting booklet. Bear in mind the models in these photos are affluent, educated people who work in advertising, poking fun at disadvantaged sections of society that they’ve probably never even encountered.

Maybe I just have no sense of humour, but to me, that’s not funny, clever or creative. It’s bloody appalling.

Campaign describes the ethos as “boozing during the day, smoking, watching Jeremy Kyle and racing each other on mobility scooters”, which is just as judgmental. What is the matter with these people? They’re representing a respectable agency and industry magazine and yet they’re talking like Iain Duncan Smith after a bottle of Moet.

I’m sure this was supposed to come across as light and humorous, but it doesn’t. It comes across as sneering, superior and ignorant. Did I mention that the pregnant lady has a cigarette in her hand in both photos? That’s right, people, if you lose your job and have to claim unemployment benefits, you’ll inevitably get up the duff and smoke through your pregnancy. What is this? Kilroy?

I’m incredibly shocked that Iris thought this was fit not only to represent their agency to new employees, but in the trade press as well (because they’ve clearly sent it to Campaign themselves). In any other industry, this would be national press scandal-worthy. I hope we can show Iris in the comments on this post that it’s not on in advertising either.

Update: One of the people involved in the project has posted a link to the entire brochure. You can see it here.

Another update: As promised on twitter, I’ve donated the ad revenue from this blog post to Trevor Beattie’s Jack & Ada Beattie Foundation. They “Assist the vulnerable and marginalised in the Midlands and London facing social injustice and inequality” – which seems appropriate given the subject matter of this post.

Therefore, contrary to some rather uncharitable suggestions, I have not profited from this blog post, nor did I ever intend to.

393 thoughts on “Ad agency laughs at people on benefits

  1. Iris says:

    Gosh it is nice to be so rich and well off as an agency that we just don’t need to worry about the little people.

    • Gordy says:

      What po-faced, sanctimonious bollocks. The people being mocked in the photos deserve to be mocked. They are not poor: they are feckless, ignorant thugs. No one forces them to get stupid tattoos, wear stupid clothes and drink stupid amounts of booze.

      Stigmatisation of scummy behaviour plays a useful role in any healthy society. That’s what’s happening here and I question the motives of those who conflate chavs with the working class.

      • JB says:

        “No one forces them to get stupid tattoos, wear stupid clothes and drink stupid amounts of booze.” Who are you talking about, the ‘scum’ or the creatives at the agency?

      • antigob says:

        No, this work does not stigmatise scummy behaviour. It equates people on benefits as ignorant criminals. It’s also a boring idea, badly executed.

      • Sam says:

        Gordy, you’ve misunderstood. The people in the photos are actually the ad agency staff – THEY are the ones conflating chav with working class, not the writers of this article. The ad agency is the one doing exactly what you’re complaining about.

      • Tarquin says:

        It’s the ad agency that conflates those on benefits with chavs. That’s the whole premise of the ‘concept’ [I use the term loosely]. They’re on ‘benefits’, geddit?

        Ad agency people aren’t above stupid tattoos as long as they were done by a Peruvian shaman, chewing cocoa leaves. They’re big into stupid, identikit clothes, as long as they have the right label and cost a week’s wages. Stupid amounts of booze and obnoxious behaviour? Adland invented it.

        God bless the middle class. If they didn’t have the lower orders to sneer at, they’d feel so terribly inadequate.

      • Richard says:

        In which case, the joke does not work. It only works if you think being on benefits = “feckless, ignorant thugs”.

      • Andy says:

        “Ad agency people aren’t above stupid tattoos as long as they were done by a Peruvian shaman, chewing cocoa leaves. They’re big into stupid, identikit clothes, as long as they have the right label and cost a week’s wages. Stupid amounts of booze and obnoxious behaviour? Adland invented it.”

        So remind me again — are you for or against caricatures? I thought I had it for a minute, but then….

      • DEANO says:

        The reaction of Holly Brockwell and many others is incredible. They are projecting their own prejudices on the work, forgetting the context of the book (it’s an internal book for iris staff; the fact it’s been PRed by the agency is irrelevant) and assume it was made by creatives in ivory towers laughing at the poor people below.

        If you look at and read the book in it’s entire format, you will see how well-crafted it is. The fact that the ‘actors’ in the images are all iris staff, but look genuinely believable, just means the casting was excellent. The standard of photography is brilliant too. If you saw any of these pics anywhere else, you’d believe they were slice-of-life, real, well-observed pictures. That’s largely the point, and part of the reason this is an excellent and irreverant piece of work.

        Advertising is about simplicity and impact; being memorable. That’s why Holly is so proud of a poem she wrote with the word c**t in it. ‘Iris on Benefits’ is not a lazy pun; it’s a lucky pun. It’s perfect for the job in hand.

        Characters like the ones portrayed in the book do exist. A lot of people seem to be ignoring this. Over £20 million lost last year in benefit fraud. There are thousands and thousands of Brits who take advantage of the system, some (not all) of whom also find it great fun to behave in a really anti-social manner. Surely most of us have encountered this supposed ‘stereotype’ in our daily lives?

        The book is observational, not judgmental. It’s written in a subtle, tongue-in-cheek way that most rational people would find engaging and entertaining. It’s also turned what could have been an exceedingly stuffy, corporate staff benefits book into a massively impactful, apparently controversial piece of work that’s had almost 20,000 hits on the net. Pretty astounding for an internal booklet.

      • operacat says:

        The people in this photo are models and actors, and have presumably been paid to appear.

      • purplewheels says:

        I would wager that those ‘idel scroungers’ who drink copious amounts of alcohol in an anti-social way are people who work. I am unable to work and my benbefit would not allow me to drink like that. So many people are believing the lies of the Coalition government who want to portray everyone on benefits as feckless and lazy! Suckers!

      • DavidG says:

        “What po-faced, sanctimonious bollocks. The people being mocked in the photos deserve to be mocked. They are not poor: they are feckless, ignorant thugs.”

        The people who attacked me in the street for being disabled didn’t seem to be worried about any distinction between ‘poor’ and ‘feckless’, they just saw my crutches and that made me a legitimate target, as happens to around 180 disabled people each and every day.

      • Totally Teen Mum says:

        If you think that’s an appropriate comment to make, clearly you are just as much of an ignorant arrogant snob as the idiots who created the campaign.
        Who are you to decide whether their tattoos and clothes are stupid? Because it’s different to what you would wear? Because it connects them to being “chavs”; council estates, poverty, benefits.
        Let me ask you, when was the last time YOU went to a council estate, where people have “stupid tattoos” and wear “stupid clothes”? Can you be certain that none of these stupid tattoo bearing chavs are unemployed and on benefits? I am familiar with plenty of people, young and old, who may look and talk like those who “deserve to be poked fun at”, and who are looked down upon by moronic snobs such as yourself, but who, in fact, are not unemployed and on benefits.
        And even if they ARE unemployed and on benefits, that means that they deserve to be poked fun at? Because they are less fortunate than yourself? Because they have different opinions on the difference between good taste and bad taste to you?
        I think your comment has made me even more angry than the campaign itself.
        You Gordy, are a fool.

      • Belinda says:

        I couldn’t agree more or put it better.

        The vast majority of working class people have pride. Comparing them or including them in the same sentence as chavs is the biggest insult.

      • operacat says:

        I find the whole thing offensive too….why are we supposed to find offensive advertising ‘humorous’?? Years ago someone created a Facebook App called ‘Council House Gift’ which basically consisted of photos of shabby tower blocks, etc – and when I protested, and explained about the council estate I live on, which has a lovely garden (maintained by me!) I got accused of being a ‘killjoy’ and ‘not having a sense of humour’ – so can I start a FB App mocking the Stockbroker Belt??!!!

      • Andy says:

        “Offensive”? Another blinkin’ offendee.

        Why do you think I should care if you are offended?

        Hold the front page! Someone on the internet is offended!

    • LillyM says:

      This just shows how appalling the level of intellect among the agency staff is! They need to get out in the real world among real people and stop being judgmental. Try reading a newspaper other than the Sun!

      • Jaden002 (@LisaLise30) says:

        Try reading a newspaper other than the Guardian. I worked in a Benefits Office for 7 years – my Guardian reading days are over. Do you really believe there is not a large underclass in Britain ? The current Benefits bill is more than the entire Income Tax received.
        Simply denying everything and calling anyone who has legitimate concerns a ‘Sun’ or ‘Daily Mail’ reader is brainwashed and ignorant.

  2. Denise T. (@dentednj) says:

    Who could have thought this callous idea through and took the time to involve everyone in it? Did employees feel they had to go along to please their superiors/not rock the boat? Someone with this kind of elitist attitude & nasty sense of humor should not be in a position of influence or power.

  3. Calvin Barnett says:

    Completely agree with your post, it is just snobbery at the highest level. Horrible use of stereotypes which seems to suggest that the agency is so disconnected from society that it simply uses Jeremy Kyle and Shameless to build a picture of this section of society. Very bad taste and doesn’t reflect well on Iris or the advertising industry for anyone coming from underprivileged backgrounds like myself or for people who have been forced to survive off benefits.

    • Charlie (@_charlie123) says:

      Clearly Iris’ creative staff all go home to London council estates after work and are comfortable wearing their usual clothes to do the photoshoot – or (more likely) they feel so ‘above’ the chavs that they are confident enough to take the piss.

      If Iris are going to mock “scroungers” on benefits then what’s their position on their own staff receiving child benefit, maternity/paternity leave, tax relief on pensions, and other “scrounges” on the public purse?

      • laura jones says:

        Jaden, I have to admit that most people who appear on that awful show are like rednecks but what evidence do you have that they are all on benefits? It never usually said on the show whether they work or not and i know plenty of people who work and dress the way the morons in the picture appear. Yet again a statement much in Iris mode without any evidence to back it up.

      • Jaden002 (@LisaLise30) says:

        Most of them admit they don’t work because Jeremy Kyle usually asks them. If you really believe most of the type of people who feature on Jeremy Kyle work you need a lobotomy. WAKE UP! I give up.

  4. badhedgehog says:

    That is so appalling I don’t even have the words. And this is me talking. I always have the words.

  5. Charlie (@_charlie123) says:

    A pretty shitty idea. Apart from the fact that the majority of benefits claimants do so legitimately, I wonder if the Iris staffers who came up with this realise how many people who are in low-paid work also claim benefits – a group likely to include the people who clean their office, serve them their morning latte and provide their childcare.

    • Katie says:

      This is the truth. As Michelle Obama said last night, she was taught to respect everyone’s contribution to her success, even the janitors. Treating people with dignity is always the right thing to do.

      • lewisjonesdesign says:

        So treat the people who sit on their arses and get money for nothing that me and my parents pay in taxes to help them pay for their flat screen tv’s and trackies ? haha no thanks

      • cuber2 says:

        lewisjonesdesign, you are an ignorant fool, flat screen TV’s? You think we all have flat screen TV’s? Kindly stop reading the daily mail and come to see the REALITY for the majority of us, thanks, I’m pretty sick of people thinking I can afford a flatscreen TV off £71 a week, which all goes on food and bills.

        Oh also, I volunteer, not sit in my arse all day, Please don’t put us all under the same brush of ignorance in the future.

      • Michael says:

        Lewisjonesdesign – the vast bulk of our welfare budget is spent on the elderly. If you think that your taxes are wasted on people who have worked hard their whole lives and just need a little support in their old age, then shame on you.

  6. circlesunderstreetlights says:

    Aside from being snobbish and offensive, it’s not even clever. A bunch of privileged people dress up as “The Poor” for shits and giggles. It’s been done so many times – you’d expect more imagination from an agency that’s supposed to make a living from being original…

  7. Molly says:

    That’s terrible ! It makes me ashamed to be studying on a course that leads to advertising. This seals the deal that advertising is not for me. Very narrow minded and spurring the stigma attached to benefits.

  8. Catherine says:

    Yuck! Truly offensive and patronising. I’m guessing Iris won’t be bidding for any contracts to advertise products used by anyone but Hooray Henrys like themselves? Disgusting.

  9. Sue Marsh says:

    A friend just pointed out that it was Iris that won the 2 million pound Gov contract to handle the PR for….. Wait for it……yep Employment and Support Allowance the benefit currently so controversially employing Atos to…. Throw people of sickness benefits!!!
    I know, it’s too good eh?

  10. Pauly Pops says:

    Although I don’t disagree with anyone here, I do believe you’re being too harsh and are being slightly hypocritical. How do any of you lot know they’re “privileged” ? Nobody here knows their backgrounds, and although I doubt the MD is living on a council estate, there is no reason s/he wasn’t raised on one. A lot of you are doing the same mistake you’re berating them for; looking down upon a group of people. The difference is that they’re not taking it seriously.

    I’d be more disgusted with the likes of Jeremy Kyle who profit under the pretence of help and care.

    • russelldornan says:

      I agree with you. The venom being spewed on this page for something that’s a) internal and b) a play on stereotypes is rather severe. There are countless ways in which chavs and benefit-seekers have been portrayed in the media, just as almost every other minority or section of the community has. At worst, I think this was a misguided attempt at humour; as such, an angry mob is a little unnecessary in my opinion.

  11. DavidG says:

    Beyond everything already mentioned, this is utterly irresponsible given the rise in disability hate crime. I’m a disabled person with a mobility impairment who was forced into the benefit system after management attitudes to my disability destroyed my career. Public attitudes towards disabled people are so bad that disability hate crime rates are spiralling out of control. Government estimates are 65,000 disability hate crime attacks a year, charity estimates put the rate at least 50% higher. I’ve faced one physical assault, I’m into double figures with verbal abuse, all from utter strangers, and as the piece de resistance someone tried to frame me for benefit fraud – all because I’m disabled and in the minds of many needing to use a mobility aid, whether it be crutches, wheelchair or scooter, makes me a perfectly legitimate target for their hatred.

    The people who produced this piece of vile hatred will carry precisely the same attitudes through into work they produce for public distribution, and that is something that is truly dangerous.

    • Viletta says:

      I get abuse when I use my disabled bus pass. I am disabled but you wouldnt know it to look at me. I am also mentally ill and have to rely on benefits to survive. I have to say that, as a Goth, I have been beaten up many times, spat at and you name it just because of how I look. The vast majority of these hate crimes have come from the ‘chavs’ themselves, so to be lumped in with them sickens me!

      • Viletta says:

        Richo, if you think thats funny, you’re about as intelligent as the people who did this leaflet! I have a bus pass because I have crippling pain in my left side, bi polar disorder and personality disorders.

      • DavidG says:

        “Does your sickness also stop you going up the pub or having ‘relations’? Thought Not.”

        Wow! So in your view disabled people can’t have a normal life and must be frauds if they do?

        That has to count as the single nastiest comment I’ve seen in a long time, but it does go a long way to explaining your other comments here

      • Jaden002 (@LisaLise30) says:

        No, I’m just pointing out that it’s always the work side that people can’t do, rarely the social life or having a relationship. Surely if you were seriously ill/disabled it would affect these areas too ?
        Also, if you really believe that there are not many fake/exaggerated benefit claims in the UK, and a large underclass you are beyond naive.

      • DavidG says:

        “I’m just pointing out that it’s always the work side that people can’t do, rarely the social life or having a relationship. Surely if you were seriously ill/disabled it would affect these areas too ?”

        You really don’t have the first idea about disability, do you? Work is generally 35 to 40 hours a week, socializing, 2 or 3, maybe. I meet friends for lunch on a Saturday, it doesn’t mean I can work 35 hours a week, in fact 50% of the time just that meeting for coffee will put me in bed for 4 or 5 hours to recuperate.

        I’m going to point you at something that is designed to help people understand the limitations of disability, it’s called the Spoon Theory, and for many disabled people, this is how our life works:

        For many disabled people, disability limits them in ways that non-disabled people find difficult to understand, or that they never see. I regularly ended my working day curled up on the office floor in so much pain I couldn’t think straight, and that pain would start building the instant I got into the office, often the instant I got out of bed. Yet if you look at me you can’t see pain. There are ways of managing pain, to a degree, by limiting what you do with your life, but as my pain management specialist pointed out, sometimes you have to just throw all the pain management activities out of the window and _live_ for a day, even knowing the cost you will pay later. I spent an evening at the Paralympic athletics a few weeks ago, mostly sitting. You might have seen me enjoying myself, you won’t have seen me for the next three days when I was effectively unable to stand, and all told recovering took me over a week.

        I can have a social life, but it is limited in ways that you can’t see, and it doesn’t mean that I can work. Don’t you owe it to yourself to understand the reality of disability before you brand us all frauds?

      • Jaden002 (@LisaLise30) says:

        I never branded all claimants frauds. Stop putting words into my mouth to suit your own argument. I’m just pointing out that many are – from my years of experience working in 3 different Benefit’s Offices. Before this experience I would have had the same naive views as you.

  12. beasleygreen says:

    Shocking! When I’m on benefits I smoke rollies because ciggies are too expensive and I get free papers with a packet of Amber Leaf which is great for the weekend when I treat myself to a packet of Mayfair King Size and a bag of skunk. As for the racing around on granny scooters, that’s just wrong. It’s mini-motorbikes and quads stolen off the kids from the posh estate all the way.

  13. Nicola Monaghan says:

    Yeah, whoever’s idea this was should end up on the dole themselves. Let’s see how funny they find that. Also, agree with previous comments – it’s not funny, clever or engaging anyway. Shame on you Iris.

  14. Robert Harvey says:

    If you want a good idea of what the 1% think of the 99% a.k.a. Their own former employees have a look at Nortel on Wikipedia, especially the part about compensation…..

    • Chickfactor says:

      No, it’s not funny. Would it be funny if the booklet was about holiday benefits and showed the same people “blacked up” with bones through their noses? Of course not, but this is exactly the same; cultural tourists making fun of a life they’ve never experienced and don’t understand. Explain to me how that kind of paternalistic colonialism is funny?

      • Bingobongo says:

        Testify! That’s it exactly chickfactor. In the 1920s the rich had such fun blacking up and going to rag parties where they pretended to be poor. No difference here. And remember chav parties? Oh how we laughed.

  15. RoTreg says:

    This is what happens when working unpaid internships is a requirement to working in ad land. You end up with agencies being mostly staffed by over privileged and out of touch dicks who think this kind of thing is a good idea. It really has to change, not just because it is unethical but because the work is obviously suffering.

    • RH says:

      I agree. I must be an out-of-touch toff. But then it’s easy to poke fun at a stereotype never experienced in real life, as the article and comments testify to.

    • Chickfactor says:

      Ah yes! Of course! That’s bound to be the problem! Not that this is an extremely nasty and sneery piece of paternalistic bullshit- no! It’s just that everyone who finds the idea of extremely privileged people mocking a culture they’ve never experienced doesn’t have a sense of humour. Thank god you were here to explain that!

    • RoTreg says:

      You don’t have to be nasty to be funny. Have you heard the Adam and Joe show, used to be on channel four and BBC6 Music, they’re the perfect example of that.

  16. Lawrence H says:

    I’d sort of understand this if it was just an internal joke, and not intended for an outside audience other than those who incidentally come across it… It’s tongue in cheek, purely inspired by a pun, and not intended to cause anyone offence. But as a showpiece of the agency’s work and character, yeah I’m with you. Not timely. Are Iris notoriously posh? I don’t know much about them.

  17. Steve says:

    They were clearly trying to be funny, but even more clearly they failed. If I was in the market for their services I would clearly give this shower a wide berth.

  18. Barry Budson (@barrybudson) says:

    However we all now know that Iris offer great benefits. Where would you rather work, somewhere 100% PC (in advertising, really?) who will stitch you up the minute you’re pregnant, or somewhere that will give you 12 months on full pay after 3 years. Whose being PC now?

  19. David Harley says:

    I wonder if some of those who find this funny, or effective, or tolerable, are among those comfortable people, in all political parties,who find the description “chavs” an appropriate way to describe the marginalized children of what used to be a proud working class.

  20. Money isn't real says:

    Quote from PR week; ‘Iris has won the £2 million integrated account to launch the Employment and Support Allowance for the Department of Work and Pensions. The pitch was handled by COI.’

    Quote from Daily Mirror; ’32 die a week after failing test for new incapacity benefit’

    So Iris won a contract to promote a scheme which fails so badly that people DIE after being declared ‘fit for work’. Not thinking that this was good enough they then went on to mock all people on benefits. I’m not thinking that this makes for good PR, but then again, I am benefit scrounging scum.

      • laura jones says:

        omg now this moron is saying she knows more than journalists who spend a long time speaking with sources and going through published data. It appears there is nothing anyone can say to you that will stop you acting so arrogantly and stupidly. I come here every few days just to see what you’ll say next. Its better than Corrie lol You must have some high powered job to personally have all this information that nobody else has. I’m virtually patting you on the head because i feel so sorry for you. 😦 Stop throwing your dummy out of the pram and get on with your own life.

      • Jaden002 (@LisaLise30) says:

        You come on here every few days to see what I have written and yet you say I have no life ? Idiot.
        Also, If you look in the comments of that article you will find various posters pointing out what I have just said and giving the official figures. I have years of experience of working in this area. If I hadn’t I would probably have the same (very) naive views as you.

  21. Some Bloke says:

    “the majority of benefits claimants do so legitimately”. Good grief! What planet do you all live on? You all clearly live in ivory towers and love to look down and pity the little people. News flash: down here the little people are having a right laugh at your expense. Literally. 99% of people in Britain claiming benifit are just scamming it. You can say what you like, but I have to live down here in the filth and see what really goes on. Suckers. The lot of you. And no, although I have to live in the filth, I personally choose to work (yes, there are more than enough jobs if you’re not picky) and have never claimed a benifit in my life (although if I did I’d actually receive more money and not have to get out of bed in the morning).

    And for the record, the images they portray are bang on. You visit any maternity ward in this country and you won’t be able to breath for the smoke around you. Self righteous muppets.

    • Sam says:

      a) The govt’s own figures estimate less than 1% benefit fraud and they’d play it up if anything.

      b) If you’re earning less than you’d get in benefits then you’re being employed illegally below minimum wage.

      c) There’s no smoking allowed on maternity wards.

      You’re simply making stuff up. My ivory tower’s on a housing association estate, btw.

    • Sjoeyrob says:

      “Literally. 99% of people in Britain claiming benifit are just scamming it.”

      Interesting stat. Care to show me the obviously-rigorously-conducted research that backs that up? I assume it was conducted by Talking Bollocks, Ltd. in association with The University of Pulling Numbers Out Of My Arse.

    • operacat says:

      This is untrue and offensive…just stop reading the Daily Mail and THINK a bit…no-one CHOOSES to be disabled, no-one CHOOSES to be unemployed, it’s not NICE being poor and out of work. I do hope that when you get old (and you will) , no-one helps you in any way……

      • Jaden002 (@LisaLise30) says:

        You are incredibly naive. Of course lots of people choose to be unemployed and many pretend or exaggerate being sick or disabled. You can get a good income from the various disabilty. housing and parent benefits. Of course many are going to choose this option rather than working in an awful job.

    • Briony Shaw says:

      i doubt very much you have a job when you can’t even spell a simple word like ‘benefit’. So according to you all those on benefits are filth and you hate living in the ‘filth’. You know what they say, if you don’t like it bugger off and live somewhere else because Its easy to hide behind a pc and spout your bigotted beliefs along with ‘jaden i have no life’. I’ve never seen such ignorant comments. I can assure you that as many people working smoke as those on benefits. That people become disabled whether working or not. That many single mothers work and that remember for every single mother there is a father not paying his way. Your a horrible, illiterate little man and I pity your poor family.

      • Jaden002 (@LisaLise30) says:

        It is you who has no life honey. And the other poster just lives in the real world, unlike you. We are not saying that ALL Benefit Claimants are fake, just that many are and could be working. If you think that is ‘Bigoted’ you need a lobotomy.

      • Briony Shaw says:

        I’ve not had so much fun in years. look at peoples responses to you hun. You just don’t get it. I’d love to know what your definition of a ‘high powered’ job is.You are absolutely in need of some form of mental health counselling. You say you know for sure of people committing fraud. If that was the case why haven’t these people been prosecuted? You are offensive, uneducated, ignorant and very very dull. High powered job? LOl erm ok.

      • Jaden002 (@LisaLise30) says:

        Idiot. I do have a very good job, and lots of experience of the issue we are talking about. I am not saying that they are committing ‘fraud’, just that many ( not all)sickness benefit claimants could and should be working. I can’t believe I am having to convince a supposedly intelligent person of this. Of course some people are going to take free money rather than working in an awful job !
        Also, you never have an actual argument, you only seem able to give insults.

      • Briony Shaw says:

        Now you’re having a go at the disabled as well? I would assume that those carrying out the medical examinations etc for those on disability know what they’re doing and can carry out their job without your help. How do you know that people are pretending to be sicker than they are? You have a hotline to the medicals being carried out? You know more than their doctors do? Of course there are going to be some people who are not telling the truth but for the majority I think i’ll rely on the various agencies knowing what they’re doing. I would love to know what you perceive as being a ‘high powered job’. You are rambling on and on simply in the hopes of gaining some sort of attention for yourself. This obviously means you lead a very lonely and unsatisfied life. I suggest you leave Burger King and maybe move to KFC. You might get some more satisfaction and stop rambling online. Nothing you have said in any post is backed up in any way.

      • Jaden002 (@LisaLise30) says:

        You have finally admitted that some claimants will not be telling the truth, that is all I am saying. And as I have said I have job in the area we are talking about, and there are various posters on here agreeing with what I am saying.

      • Briony Shaw says:

        i said some. you said many. There’s the difference. You bore me and the way you have taken over this whole comments section is ridiculous. You have no evidence to back up your claims. You say you worked in a benefits agency and have evidence that many falsely claim. I say you’re talking for the sake of talking and lead a sad little existence. What is your HIGH POWERED JOB??? You are full of it and delusional. Go away little girl and stop trying to get attention all the time.

      • Jaden002 (@LisaLise30) says:

        I’m not trying to get anyones ‘attention’. I’m just stating what I have seen. I can assure you that you bore me even more. I don’t want to reply to your naivety anymore. Bye.

      • Jaden002 (@LisaLise30) says:

        Also, there are various posters agreeing with what I am saying (not answering what I am saying). They are also pointing out the naivety of posters such as yourself. Do you really believe that there are no false/exaggerated benefit claimants in Britain and that anyone who brings this up is stupid and a bigot ?

  22. Stephen Crossley says:

    Reblogged this on North East Child Poverty and commented:
    I came across this blog via Twitter last night and the author, Holly Brockwell, kindly gave us permission to re-blog it here. It is a very good example of how people on people who receive benefits are ‘fair game’ and how, to use Owen Jones’s phrase, ‘ the working class are demonized’ . The blog is very measured but some of the language in the comments below it is a bit ‘industrial’ so to speak, so please be warned. Steve

    • DavidG says:

      Jealous of being able to go out without wondering whether I’ll be attacked simply for daring to be disabled in public? Damn straight!

      • john says:

        david g sorry to hear of your experiences. we live in a time where those that govern us like to look tough. in order to do this they need an enemy; what better than the weak; poor; mentally ill and disabled to declare war on they even have their bully boys known as ian duncan smith ;cameron ;clegg and the untrained private firm atos to make our lives full of fear. yes we have been called nut nut and been bullied but for all that the worst kind of thing we have witnessd is where a girl like us couldnt stand being ill anymore so she jumped from a building and here is a message to you the great british public who were there: shame on you for many of you filmed it on your mobile phones not a thought for her or loved ones may she find peace now. if you have any opinions and want to engage your mouth learn about mental health or disability first and dont stereotype us for one day you may unfortunately develope these types of illness your life can change just like ours i would never wish you do as i am tolerent of your ignorance think before you speak. well done david g wish you well my friend from viletta and johns heart

  23. Mr Michaels says:

    I think it’s hilarious and completely tongue-in-cheek. It’s not supposed to depict an entire demographic merely just those few who are in those positions out of choice as opposed to misfortune or lack of opportunity.

    I think it’s bloody funny!

    What I would say that is that from a text book HR standing it’s probably not the ideal way to advertise employee benefits. It should have been published as a bit of fun and then filed.

  24. Alex says:

    Guys this is JUST a stereotype.

    Look at some of the most successful comedies at the moment, Citizen Khan and Goodness Gracious Me – based on a stereotype of Asian people. The Big Bang Theory – based on a stereotype of geeks. Shameless – based on the stereotype of people in Manchester. The Inbetweeners – based on the stereotype of the uncool kids.

    Who do you think wrote them? – Comedy writers who earn a shit load. And we ALL laugh at them.

    Nobody actually cares about this. We’re just making a big thing about it because we’re in the ad industry. So what if Iris wanted to have a laugh?

    Can we please discuss something that actually matters? Like innocent people dying in Iraq/Afghanistan, the Paralympics or people starving around the world? – Oh I forgot, an advertising agency made a joke – SOMEBODY PLEASE RING THE NEWS.

    • copybot says:


      Go back to the charity work that you definitely, definitely do when you’re not trolling on the internet.

    • DavidG says:

      ‘just a stereotype’? It’s a stereotype, the stereotype that we’re all benefit scroungers, frauds and fakers, that leads to any disabled person being in danger any time they go out in public.

      I was at the Paralympics on Tuesday, it was the first time I’ve felt safe in a British crowd in the last couple of years. If you want to discuss ‘something that matters’, maybe disability hate crime might be a good subject, we don’t even have to stop discussing attitudes at Iris.

  25. Reality Check says:

    I hate to break it to you guys, but I don’t think they have copies of Campaign Magazine at the pubs that deal weed, so I don’t think we’ll get much of a backlash from those chaps.

    Whilst I agree that sending an internal joke like this out for creative kudos is wrong GET A FUCKING GRIP PEOPLE it’s not offending anyone who doesn’t deserve it. I think the recent riots, and indeed the people I see around my local estates prove that there ARE a huge amount of scumbag chavs smoking while pregnant, claiming benefits when they are able to work, dossing around all day, and generally fucking up our society.

    Fair enough, disagree with what IRIS chose to do in this case, but don’t try and claim it’s unfair on society, poor unemployed people blah blah bollocks. This is aiming at specific losers who do exist, and do deserve it.

    Also, how dare you make assumptions that only rich kids work in advertising? I work in a similar ‘affluent’ industry and I grew up in an underprivileged (shite) area surrounded by scumbags. I decided to not be one of them and got a job. Personally, if I want to take the piss out of the losers I left behind I’ll do it thanks, and you people can’t stop me. I was there. I’m not now. I make money now. I earn it too. I assume, of course, you all grew up hungry and without both parents too?

    While you’re up on those high horses why don’t you write to Channel 4 to complain about Shameless then? They make far more money in advertising sales during that show than IRIS did by creating an internal initiative I’m sure.

    • DavidG says:

      ‘ it’s not offending anyone who doesn’t deserve it’

      Okay, I’m offended, please explain to me why I deserve it?

      Just to save you searching out the details in the thread, I’m disabled, I was made redundant from a career at the cutting edge of technology because my ‘national champion’ employer didn’t want to bother with someone with a disability, and I’ve been repeatedly attacked on the street for no reason other than my disability, as have many of my friends.

      Disability hate crime rates are soaring, and these idiots are portraying mobility aid users as frauds. If you don’t see the problem, think yourself lucky, because some of us have the views that kind of imagery inspires driven home at the point of a fist.

    • operacat says:

      If people are ABLE to work, they look for jobs.,.,.which as you may have noticed, are few and far between…and surely they are entitled to have SOMETHING to live on while they are looking for work? While we’re on the subject, people should also be ENTITLED to assistance with travel expenses to get to job interviews….

      And if people are not ABLE to work, through disability, then they are entitled to live with dignity….

  26. james says:

    Funny when you consider how much of the industry’s profits come from that precise section of society, too. Way to understand the hand that feeds you.

  27. Wez says:

    I’m a chav from Essex and I work as a creative at a top London agency. I personally found this funny and inoffensive. It’s also supposed to be internal. If a creative agency can’t have a bit of fun in its internal communication, then we might as well all give up. I’d much rather this than the bland, corporate material most agencies give new joiners.

    • Barry says:

      Hi Wez, I’m also from Essex and my family was on benefits for my entire childhood and education. I wouldn’t have gotten near my University or career in advertising had it not been for benefits. It’s not so much that it’s ‘offensive’ or not, more that it perpetuates a culture that says it’s okay/humourous to mock those who are different to us, irrelevant of the reason.

  28. Andy says:

    I’m curious about this blog’s attitude to censorship.

    I note that my comment has not been “approved”, perhaps because I disagreed with the substance and tone of the original item.

    Seems you have to either agree with the piece, feign speechlessness, or call someone a cunt to get pass the moderation filter.

    • copybot says:

      I don’t know what your comment was, Andy, but it’s not in my moderation queue.

      As you can see, I have approved many comments that disagree with the post.

      • Andy says:

        Hmm, ok thanks, I believe you. Not sure what happened, as I have been receiving email notifications of ‘replies’ even though my message was apparently not received, Whatever,

      • copybot says:

        Now that you’ve had one comment approved, your comments will be auto-approved. The replies you got were to your approved comment – how can anyone have replied to a comment I hadn’t approved? It wouldn’t appear.

        I’d turn the paranoia down a bit.

  29. Leigh says:

    It’s a joke.

    Get over it.

    You have the right to be offended. But just because you’re offended it doesnt make you right and them wrong.

    These people exist. (see Little Britain, Shameless, Jeremy Kyle etc etc)

    Iris decided to take the pXss out of them.

    That’s all.

    • Andy says:

      Well said. Pretty much sums up my position.

      Here we have hypocritical hands being thrown up in horror to hide strategically sensitive natures.

      What’s the betting that most of the ‘offended’ parading their credentials here chortled along with the rest of us at characters like Vickie Pollard and Harry Enfield’s grotesque chavs? It’s the stuff of sitcom. We like to say ine thing in ppublic, and behave another way in private. When it suits us, we lambast MPs (and members of the royal family) for being out of touch with ornery folk, but when they behave like the commonweal, we demand they should lead spotless, exemplary lives. Humbug!

      Whether it’s ‘appropriate’ (another weaselly word I keep seeing used in connection with this story) is immaterial. It was an internal publication with a limited audience. Whether it was funny, or any good, or hackneyed, blah, is even more irrelevant.

      The irony is that, being sad enough to magnify the page to read the benefits offered, I came away with the impression that they are a pretty decent bunch who look after their people.

      • lisa miller says:

        Yes. Imagine…There is no irony. I am better than… that person. I have a job. I have all the benefits of having a job. Let the people that work for Iris imagine the situation…you lose your job, you separate from your partner, you have no family to fall back on. Ranting, wibbling in public. There by the grace of it go I.

    • danivon says:

      You do realise that Little Britain was not a documentary, right? And that neither is Shameless? Or that Jeremy Kyle basically creates a myth by paying people to act up so he can be all high and mighty about them?

      No one is calling for these pillocks to go to jail, just highlighting how crass their ‘humour’ is, and particularly in equating ‘benefits’ to ‘chavs’.

      • Leigh says:

        Of course i do.

        I use those examples because these comedies have brought to light that these people exist.

        They exist. And iris have also had some fun at their expense in order to communicate a message.

        Now no-one would say that all people on benefits equals chavs.

        Failure to recognise that certain members of society do behave in this way is madness though surely?

        All iris have done is have a light hearted go at the ones that do.

  30. Rach says:

    Ironic as well, considering how little advertising and PR companies actually contribute to the general well-being of society apart from to get people to buy more stuff than they need or can actually afford -ooh like people on benefits/low incomes.

  31. Franke Frith says:

    Where do you people work? Who doesn’t mock the less fortunate? What a shower of sanctimonious bollox. It’s a fucking joke. Look, they’re not blacking up and, the only way the people who’re being parodied will ever see this is if they crack the password on my laptop – which they’ve stollen – and follow the link from Popbitch to here!

    I speak to poor people all the time. Once they hear me talk they begin mimicking my accent. Do I care? Nope. I simply know I’m better than these people.

    • Franke Frith says:


      When I set up my company I claimed working tax credit. It was awesome after years of paying higher rate tax and I did sit around my house wearing a tracksuit all day. Fucking Magic!

    • lisa miller says:

      Ok, you speak to ‘poor people’ all the time and ‘they mimic your accent’. You obviously do care. A lot.
      And just because ‘they are not blacking up’ …what century do you live in? Ps.’s a traditional German cake

  32. chrisworth says:

    It seems they’re a bunch of feckless and scrounging wastrels of no value to society, who should have been strangled at conception.

    And the characters they’re playing look just as bad 🙂

  33. Mike McManus says:

    Poking fun? Nah, attempted irony from people who think Harry Enfield is a satirist, and that they can be funnier. Neither is true; they’re all just posh kids with an inferiority complex going for soft targets.

  34. JB says:

    I like how, in calling Iris out for trivializing based on stereotypes, the majority of these comments are stereotyping the Iris staff.

    • David Milligan-Croft says:

      Interesting point, JB. As a lot of the comments are calling for the heads of the creatives who creative work. Personally, I would lay the blame further up the chain to the CD and MD for allowing it to represent their company and their beliefs.

  35. Julian says:

    It’s not just that it’s offensive to people who are on benefits – it’s a pretty clear message to employees that there are benefits to which they are entitled (eg maternity cover) but their colleagues will regard them as sponging chavvy scroungers if they so much as think of having a child / going off sick / needing flexitime. Works both as an advert (look at our shiny employee benefits, aren’t we lovely!) and as a disincentive (but don’t find yourself in need of them, sunshine, if you ever want a promotion.) Clever…. if appalling.

  36. Reality Check says:

    It’s only supposed to make the people at IRIS laugh… because they know and work with the people in the pictures. It’s really just that simple. It’s funny pictures. If you don’t know the people, you don’t get the joke. And you lot don’t work there or get the joke, see how it works now?

    This is absolutely no different to comping a funny card of your workmate with a big cock on his head being buggered by a horse. Incidentally, if you saw my last work birthday card comp you’d be phoning the police and animal rights activists.

    Oh, and if you don’t think there are real benefits cheats, smoking mothers, rioting scumbags, then read the news rather than some Copywriter’s ignorant rant. Just because you don’t see these types of people in the nice areas you all live in doesn’t mean they don’t exist.

    • DavidG says:

      ‘Oh, and if you don’t think there are real benefits cheats, smoking mothers, rioting scumbags, then read the news’


      Have you any idea of the amount of manipulation of the media that is going on to push the benefit scrounger message?

      Here’s a clue, when the Telegraph, Mail, Express and Sun all launch coordinated attacks on disability benefit claimants like me (as they do pretty much weekly), and the targets are people with specific disabilities which will be universally misinterpreted as insignificant, backed up by stats on how many people with that condition have been claiming for how long, stats that could only come from a deep troll of DWP data, then just possibly a Ministerial SpAd is pulling the strings.

      When DWP press releases are castigated for promoting negative views of disabled benefit recipients by the cross-party Select Committee on Work and Pensions, and the Office of National Statistics has to invoke its statutory powers to prevent the abuse continuing quite so blatantly (DWP now label them as ‘research’ rather than official data), then the evidence for media manipulation is there to see, for all who want to admit to it anyway.

      Disabled people have been systematically demonized as scroungers in the press over the past couple of years, statistical analysis of press reporting have shown stories about disabled people have taken a clear turn for the worse, with public attitudes following inexorably in the path set out for them, and with the same inexorable rise in the disability hate crimes stats, now estimated at 65,000 a year by the government, and at least 50% higher by disability charities.

      • Jaden002 (@LisaLise30) says:

        You are incredibly naive if you truly believe that there are not many false and exaggerated sickness benefit claimants, and a large underclass in Britain. A decent income can be made from all the disability/child benefits. Of course many are going to choose this option rather than working in an awful job.
        Also, stop with the Brainwashed ‘Daily Mail reader’ crap, the TV news also shows daily the ‘underclass’ and many problems in Britain.

      • dezrez says:


        You’ve obviously been taken in by distorted media reporting – the DWP’s own figures for fraudulent claims is less than 1%

        Try doing a bit of research before regurgitating the crap that the government is feeding you through the media (which, BTW, TV is part of.)

      • Jaden002 (@LisaLise30) says:

        ‘Taken in’ ? You brainwashed idiot. I worked in a Benefits Office for 7 years, anyone who does the same sees the reality of what is going on in Britain. You should do the same.

      • DavidG says:

        “You are incredibly naive if you truly believe that there are not many false and exaggerated sickness benefit claimants”

        Even the DWP accepts that the fraud rate is only 0.3% and is lower than any other benefit. You admit to working in a benefit office, which may explain your difficulty in accepting the true figures, my experience of dealing with JCP DEAs has led me to conclude that JCP is the single most institutionally disablist organisation it has been my misfortune to come across and that the only JCP staff who aren’t utterly clueless on disability, including their supposed disability specialists, are those who are disabled themselves.

        Combine this attitude with the assumption of most people that they can judge disability at a glance, where in fact much of disability is invisible, inconsistent, and often downright counter-intuitive, and you have a recipe for people spreading the kind of scurrilous accusations of widespread and systematic fraud which has led to me and most of my disabled friends being attacked in the street by utter strangers.

        “A decent income can be made from all the disability/child benefits.”

        So why is my income currently zero?

      • Jaden002 (@LisaLise30) says:

        You may indeed be disabled and your current income may be nil, but there are many for which this is not the case. Of course, lots of people are going to fake/exaggerate their claims, in order to receive ESA, DLA, Housing and Council Tax benefit instead of working in an awful and stressful job.
        The top rates of DLA alone can give an income of £100’s of pounds a month. Please undertake work experience in a benefits office to see what is really going on.
        Basically you are saying that because you are not a fraud there are not many who aren’t – that is beyond naive.

      • DavidG says:

        “Please undertake work experience in a benefits office to see what is really going on.”

        I’ve seen it from the other side, such as the DEA who when told I struggled with the 15 minute commute to work said “we won’t force you to look at anything further than 30 minutes from home then,” and her colleagues who every time I signed on, tried to force me to increase it to an hour, four times the distance I was already struggling with. So if someone who works for DWP claims there is significant exaggeration, then I find it far more believable that people with genuine disabilities are being stigmatized by an institutionally disablist organisation. (A concern that has been expressed about DWP’s most senior echelons by both the cross-party Select Committee on Work and Pensions and the National Statistical Authority, which found it necessary to invoke its statutory powers in order to stop DWP making outrageous, and untrue, claims of fraud to the tabloids).

      • Jaden002 (@LisaLise30) says:

        The newspapers usually report actual court cases where defendants are convicted, not random claims by the DWP. Yes, maybe you and many others are genuine, why does that mean there are not many who aren’t ?

      • DavidG says:

        ” maybe you and many others are genuine, why does that mean there are not many who aren’t ?”

        This is just going in circles, you clearly aren’t willing to listen even to the official statistics generated by your own employer.

    • operacat says:

      Right, well as I said in a previous mailing…it’s OK for me to make a advertising programme mocking the inhabitants of suburbia, or mocking Upper-Class Twits….it’s just funny, don’t be such a killjoy, eh??

      And – er – no, if you’re poor you can’t unfortunately wear designer clothes.

  37. Martin says:

    I am one of those in the booklet, and I have been unemployed, I come from Plaistow in East London, and I earn a reasonable living.
    I am not rich, a Hooray Henry, or any other such rubbish we are being portayed as.
    I was also a publican in the East End, so I know plenty of people like the ones portrayed in the booklet, not all scum, but a lot of them chancing their arm for an easy life.
    It is an internal booklet giving people a chance to laugh at their work colleagues.

    How sad it is seen as something so sinister.

    • copybot says:

      The “it’s an internal booklet” argument doesn’t work because Iris sent a press release to the industry magazine showing it off.

      • Reality Check says:

        Not ALL the staff at iris sent a press release out did they Copybot… just someone in authority. To tar all iris staff with the same brush is contemptibly hypocritical in light of your initial comments.

      • Reality Check says:

        You seemed to be unable to grasp this fundamental difference between those on the dole who riot, steal, cheat, make their kids breath cigarette smoke and the struggling, hardworking single mums. The booklet doesn’t target the latter. I thought that was very, very obvious.

      • Chavtastic says:

        Its not laughing at the underprivileged you fool!! millions of people laugh at shameless is that laughing at the underprivileged? I grew up on an estate and still live on the same estate! I smoked weed hung out on street corners, drunk, and used to run riot on the streets just to get kicks and chase’s from police… i am who this booklet is having a laugh at!! Is it offensive to me… No because the images hit home, it reminds me of those days and i laugh at them! Id say i was underprivileged especially compared to most of the people on this blog that went to private school and obivously dont know what real life is like if they think the people in this booklet dont exsist! I was one an i found it funny. So for all the people complaining that this booklet pokes fun at disability benefit claimers and the mentally ill or who ever else needs to fix up and look sharp!

  38. James says:

    Sorry, don’t see the problem. I work for a marketing agency and think this is very creative. All sections of the public have the piss taken out of them for one thing or another, this is just the same. Love it!

  39. Andy says:


    In response to your earlier comment about me “turning down the paranoia a bit”.

    Firstly, I received a confirmation at 00:28 that I would be emailed responses to my comment, and am presuming that I could have received that only if my original, unpublished comment had been submitted and received, as that was how I made the request to receive responses. I repeat: “whatever”.

    Secondly, on behalf of the paranoid everywhere, but particularly the many contributing to this discussion, may I express my utter revulsion and contempt at you making light of this serious emotional disability to promote your own agenda?

    Er, hang on…..

  40. Sabs says:

    all of you who think that people in Iris are all stuck up people who have never even come across anyone on benefits are wrong! Have a sense of humour, I know a number of people who are illegally on benefits who match the criteria of smoking whilst pregnant, and doing basically fuck all for free as shown in the booklet, having their lovely 50 inch LCD screen TVs, their rent and council tax paid for, their kids in designer gear whilst the WORKING CLASS people like myself and a lot of people in IRIS work hard and still struggle to meet ends meet.
    I work full time, have two children and yet I can’t afford the lavish lifestyle of these benefit scum who sit at home knowing there is no point in working becuase the rest of us dumbass people who actually work and pay tax will pay for their fat arses to do fuck all!!!

    get a REALITY check!!!!! this is REAL!!! I have lived around council estates and thats EXACTLY what you see there!!

    So lighten and face reality, Its a JOKE for gods sake! And you all know its TRUE!

    • operacat says:

      Well it doesn’t happen on the Council Estate where I live, I can assure you…..oh dear, sorry, not conforming to the stereotype! OK, most of us are pensioners, but there are a couple of families with young kids, and sometimes the kids come to help me with the garden…..yes, we have a lovely garden. And yes, I am a pensioner and disabled, so my rent and council tax is paid.

  41. russelldornan says:

    I think it’s hilarious that people are so deeply offended by this in a way that clearly demonstrates their own snobbery, i.e. “How dare you imply benefit seekers are all chavs like the people portrayed in these images!?” Hypocrisy, much?

  42. Tim Wilson says:

    Interesting to see from their website that they’re on the roster for the Central Office of Information, the Government department responsible for commissioning advertising and awareness campaigns in areas such as benefits, housing, anti-social behaviour, drug prevention, alcohol abuse etc. Seems to jar somewhat with the creative treatment seen here…

  43. Smudge says:

    It’a certainly opened a can of worms. Going back to the point, iris were a bit dumb in sending internal communication stuff out to Campaign impying they were proud of this work, which is like farting in a lift full of people, giggling hysterically and then realising you have followed through.

    I worked there for five years- they always used to be maverick and a bit irreverant.

  44. Alan Conran says:

    Having come from a background that would be considered similar to that depicted in the photos, and where many of my relatives sport such clothing, tattoos and disregard for unborn children I find the booklet depiction hilarious. I deal with similar people day to day and they themselves together with my relatives take pride in the whole image. The only glaring omission that I can see is there aren’t any Staffordshire Bull Terriers in the picture!

  45. Joe Nobody says:

    What sanctimonious piffle.

    Society teaches us to laugh at the socially awkward taboo’s.

    We’ve been doing it for years and will continue to do so.

  46. jackbarham says:

    It’s all done tongue and cheek, I dont know why you’re all moaning about it! Are you saying that the TV Shameless portrays people living on council estates, no, it just focuses on certain types of individuals. Thats exactly what they have done here. Does everyone on benefits smoke while they are pregnant, no, but some do! It’s clearly focusing on the chav culture and thats all it is.

  47. queereyeseesall says:

    Clearly i’m in the minority in finding it f*cking hilarious then. As a stunt it is funny, but as a legitimate campaign, it does seem a bit risky even if it is portraying obvious caricatures of dole scum :-).

  48. chrisworth says:

    I’m also finding it odd that so many people are hopping mad about it… these are the creative industries, people! We’re SUPPOSED to question things, find humorous viewpoints on humdrum subjects, poke pomposity in the eye and scratch our asses in public.

    But since we’re being serious here, the dividing line for me is always: can the subject of your derision change by his/her own efforts? If he/she can but won’t, it’s ok to make fun of them.

    A working-age able-bodied adult who thinks living off the State is a valid lifestyle? All it takes is a morning asking around restaurants and you’re in work. So YES, I’d make fun of them.

    A religious person wanting special privileges in law or the workplace because of his private special feelings? YES, because a belief system is a choice and all are open to question. There’s no human right to never be offended.

    BUT making fun of someone’s race or sexuality – NO, because they were born that way, can’t change and have no reason to change, and there’s nothing wrong with it. Bernard Manning’s not the cutting edge of comedy these days.

    My £0.02…

  49. lewisjonesdesign says:

    Personally I think people need to lighten up, it’s an in house document designed to be seen by their employees. Yes it pokes fun at people on benefits, but let’s be honest this is most peoples views of people on benefits and they have that belief for a reason. I know of at least 5 people on benefits and living off the state who could easily go out and work for a living and I think it’s wrong so why not take the piss out of them. Oh and just to note, I don’t know anybody currently legitimately on benefits that couldn’t work to make a living in some capacity.

      • lewisjonesdesign says:

        And those are not the type of people this ad agency is portraying, they are portraying the criminal chav type of person. Please notice that I only said that taking the piss out of people who are claiming off the state because they are lazy is ok. Nowhere did I say that taking the piss of legitimate people on benefits is okay, for example if they showed a hard working single mother and took the piss out of her, that would not be okay as she is working hard and has a valid reason as you say you do. But people who are lazy, and have an option to fix it … it’s their own fault people have this perception of them.

      • Peggy says:

        @lewisjonesdesign Seriously, I am a little annoyed by people who think those who are worse off in life are just lazy. To be precise, it sickens me. Even the “criminal chav type” wasn’t born like that. Society in its current condition has a fair share that ‘these people’ ended up being who they are. And lookig down on them in disgust won’t change a thing.

    • sjoeyrob says:

      You know of FIVE? FIVE? Jesus, if we’d known you had first hand knowledge of FIVE people out of a nation of 60 million that are conning the welfare state, we’d have stopped it way before now. Someone get this man a time machine and let him have a long, stern talk with Nye Bevan, so that we can nip this fiasco in the bud.

      And if only people realised that this is most people’s view of things, surely everyone would realise that it’s right. After all, if history teaches us anything, it’s that “most people”s view – particularly as related by someone with no factual basis for stating what “most people’s” view is – is as close to the god’s honest truth as is practically possible at any time. Thank god you’ve come along to dose this debate with some good honest common sense, as opposed to the baseless, ignorant meanderings that preceded you.

      • lewisjonesdesign says:

        I can only give you my opinion from my experience, and as that is my experience that is my view. They aren’t taking the piss out of genuine people they are taking the piss out of people who are bad members of society but could change this. Its their choice so they can’t complain when people take the piss.

      • Sjoeyrob says:

        “I can only give you my opinion from my experience, and as that is my experience that is my view.”

        Not necessarily. You could give your view based on evidence, reading, research: y’know – facts. Increasingly it seems that those dont really matter to people, but I naively and perhaps conservatively hark back to a time when having an informed view was something people might aspire to. Silly old me.

        “They aren’t taking the piss out of genuine people they are taking the piss out of people who are bad members of society but could change this. Its their choice so they can’t complain when people take the piss.”

        Weirdly, I must have missed the disclaimer in the piece that pointed out EXACTLY who was having the piss taken out of them (did it include their names and addresses, perhaps? Is it the five people you were talking about?) but, the exact target of the work to one side…
        a. everyone has a right to complain about whatever they want – particularly when it’s a gag that stereotypes or marginalises them – it’s called free speech.
        b. by your logic, it was Iris’ decision to execute a lazy, three year old gag that made them look like cocks and then send it to the industry press to show off about it, “so they can’t complain when people take the piss.”, either.

      • Jaden002 (@LisaLise30) says:

        If you really believe there are not many false/exaggerated benefits claims in Britain you are beyond naive. A decent income can be made from the various benefits, of course many are going to choose this option rather than working in an awful job.
        Denying the existence of a large and growing underclass will not help anyone. Please don’t come back to me with the brainwashed ‘Daily Mail’ rubbish. The local and national TV news show a similar picture every day.
        A simple visit to the majority of council estates in Britain will open your eyes. I’m not saying all benefit claimant are lazy/false but far too many are. As you will find out from anyone who lives in the ‘real’ world.

    • annie says:

      Could you expand on your comment ‘I don’t know anybody currently legitimately on benefits that couldn’t work to make a living in some capacity’? Interested how you judge this.

      • lewisjonesdesign says:

        In the fact that I know a number of 17 year olds at my college that A) Quit college because they couldn’t be bothered to turn up and then B) say they can’t find a job when I know for a fact that there are jobs in the area because even the place I am working are offering jobs at the moment so if they were actually looking for jobs they could have them but they are too lazy. These people that I know of are currently on benefits not because they can’t work or earn a living it’s because they are lazy and can’t be bothered to learn or work to pay their way in the world. By “I don’t know anybody currently legitimately on benefits” I mean I personally don’t know a person who is claiming benefits because they have no other option.

  50. shauno says:

    I don’t think its poking fun at the working class, but the underclass. Its a bit naive to think that the agency view everyone on benefits to be like this. I think they have focused particularly on the people who are not looking for work, and who are happy to live on benefits all their lives. The sort of people who get pregnant so as not to have to go back to work. Its not laughing at the disadvantaged, but the disinterested, unambitious and lazy. If it was poking fun at the poor & uneducated, then it would be a different story, but its not, its a section within this. The campaign fails because it allows people to misunderstand this.

  51. Simon says:

    I wonder what the cleaners who clean their offices think, or the archetypal “sandwich lady” who probably pushes a lunch trolly around their offices???

    • Andy says:

      Why do you wonder what their cleaners think? Why don’t you wonder what the pizza delivery guy or any other arbitrary taxpayer thinks? These are working people who clearly are not depicted in the brochure.

      The booklet is taking the piss out of the Vicky Pollard types who leech money from the taxpayers, and not the cleaners and drivers and accountants or anyone else.

      • Peggy says:

        The cleaners are in the same socio-economic class. I’m sure the next research company will tell you this. Those with low incomes are more likely to actually live where imaginary Vicky Pollard lives.

      • Andy says:

        It wasn’t poking fun at an economic class, it was poking fun at chavvy people who expect me and other tax payers to fund their idleness and their ghastly kids.

        Cleaners are bloody heroes. They work hard and should get paid more.

  52. David Milligan-Croft says:

    First of all, it’s a very insightful and pertinent post. So, thank you, Holly. I like the cut of your jib.

    I shared your post on my FB page and it’s creating a bit of a stir. In the sense that it has opened up the wider debate about social stereotyping. For example, is it okay to ridicule Oxbridge ‘types’ too? Are all gay men effeminate? Are all Muslims terrorists? Etc…

    For me, on a professional level, it’s less about stereotyping, and more about shallow thinking. Social extremes, racial and sexual minorities are soft targets. Only the lazy go there because they know they can get a cheap laugh.

    Sure, Iris may say they’ve achieved what they wanted to, by creating a media storm. But, in reality, I doubt that that was their objective. (And, I suspect the person who threatened you with libel is also consulting HR on whom to fire.)

    What they have demonstrated is sixth form college thinking. I would presume their clients would expect a slightly more cerebral approach to problem-solving.

    Secondly, on a personal level, I do find it offensive, in that, I know lots of people in our industry who have lost their jobs, are in dire financial straits, who are on benefits, (usually months after they are entitled to them), who don’t fit into these stereotypes.

    So, the moral is: Know your target audience.

    Ergo: Iris’ staff are one-dimensional, stereotyping, shallow-thinking, hermits who haven’t got a clue about the world around them.

    I doubt that is the case.

    Unfortunately, the same can’t be said of their management.

    • Andy says:

      David, you are probably a nice chap, but you also come across as an egregiously oleaginous git.

      “….I do find it offensive….” Gah!! Tell me why I should give a toss that you have allowed yourself to be offended. You state that you are offended as if we should suddenly sit up and take note. Your self-imposed bruises are of no interest. Construct a decent argument rather than tell us how many centilitres of salty water water have flowed down your trembling cheeks.

      Yes, people have lost their jobs in this and every other industry that do not fit the Vicky Pollard stereotype. Remind me what point you are making here? The booklet was not poking fun at the unemployed, but at a particular type of lazy chav that we see every day. Why are you not “offended”by them?

      • Peggy says:

        Are you the PR guy? If so, stop it already. There’s no pot of gold at the end of the rainbow for making people not like other people.

      • Andy says:


        No freakin’ idea what you’re on about.

        You’re an angry bird, I can see that. When you sober up, or come down, or whatever it is you have to do, come back and talk sense.

      • David Milligan-Croft says:

        Well, Andy, you obviously don’t have the attention span of a gnat, otherwise you would have read the point I was trying to make in the opening paragraph.

        As you’re not actually interested in the debate, but purely provoking and insulting people, I shan’t bother to explain it to a dullard like yourself.

        You’re obviously one of those people who sits at their laptop all night, alone in your bedsit, searching for people to troll because you’re unable to hold mature relationships with adult human beings.

      • Andy says:

        You weren’t making any point in your opening para that I can see. You were being ingratiating: “very insightful” and similar baloney. The irony is that there is almost no insight whatsoever in the original piece. It’s shallow, knee-jerk, manipulative, lazy and plain wrong in its conclusions.

        Of course I am interested in the debate, and I’m interested in the weird characters that populate it.

        So you accuse me of being “insulting” before squeezing out all that timid guff about bedsits and trolling and an inability to hold mature relationships? Priceless!

        You were, at least, correct about the laptop.

        I can’t stand the strategically timid, the self-pitiers, the logic-blind, and cynical truth-benders. The lowest of the low are The Offended. Discussions like this are full of them.

        Welfare is a splendid and civilising concept. Taking the piss out of those who keep the purse filled is despicable. The agency is deriding the latter, and not making an observation about the need for a safety net and a helping hand. The critics of this agency are either too stupid or too dishonourable to see the difference.

        That is my position.

      • David Milligan-Croft says:

        The only thing that’s lazy is the concept. It isn’t singling out benefit cheats, it’s perpetuating the myth that this is what all people on benefit are like. Or are you too inept in the arts of advertising to see that? If this is what people on benefit are like, is it okay to stereotype all gay men as effeminate? Or, all Muslims as potential terrorists? The list goes on. (A bit like you, really.) John was correct when he labeled you a bully and a troll. You are incapable of rational debate because you are intransigent in the face of reason. Instead, you prefer to shout, heckle, insult when people don’t subscribe to your dogma. (And, yes, I did give a few cheap shots to see how you liked it.) You strike me as a very angry man, Andy.

    • antimanq says:

      Yes it OK to ridicule Oxbridge types. That is a choice and normal ones do ridicule the more stereo typical. How could anyone not be expected to laugh at Jacob Rees-Mogg, it either that or cry.

  53. ashiwel says:

    So, copybot appoints herself the moral watchdog and defender of the chavs. Nice!
    I’m not saying Iris’s manual is the best they could have done. I’m just saying, what grounds have we to judge them?

      • ashiwel says:

        Those brains seem a little bit judgmental, don’t you think? Besides, it’s your opinion versus theirs, isn’t it, Mr. Milligan-Croft?

      • David Milligan-Croft says:

        Only in so much, as yours is judgmental toward the author being a moral watchdog. That’s your opinion.

        Personally, I’m pleased she’s made me aware of it. Sometimes, we have to think beyond the linear and ponder the wider consequences of our actions.

        It isn’t purely an internal document, in that, they submitted it to their peers, (Campaign), for approval.

        Does this piece of work move creativity on? No.

        Does it make the world a better place? No.

        Will it make the staff of Iris feel better about their organisation? I hope not.

        Will it make Iris’ clients feel uneasy? Probably.

        When you look at the broader picture, I can’t think of too many positives to be gleaned from this work.

        But then, that is only my opinion…

      • ashiwel says:

        So, it’s judging the author to point out quite matter-of-factly, that the tone of her article was a bit judgmental ? Lol! Let’s agree that it is, still doesn’t answer my question: if we all, including the author are entitled to our opinions, who are we to judge?

      • ashiwel says:

        That is true, and this has been quite enlightening. Of course, perhaps because I live in Africa and I see disabled people, from the blind, to the crippled to even the partially paralyzed and victims of industrial injuries earning their living on a daily basis, doing blue collar jobs and learning crafts just to survive, without the remote possibility of government cheques or benefit claims; perhaps, that might be the reason I find some humour in that booklet. A wonderful evening to you, Mr. Milligan-Croft.

      • David Milligan-Croft says:

        And to you, Ashiwel. What a wonderful thing this is – how people who would probably never connect, do. Lovely blog that you have there. I shall read with interest. My thanks go out to Holly for enabling me to meet you…

  54. andrew stewart says:

    People get real. What a lazy, unimaginative and distasteful concept. What a poor poor show. I won’t forget the company name. For all the wrong reasons.

  55. Peggy says:

    Not only is it in bad taste to make fun of people one — by pure chance and don’t you f*cking forget that — is no part of, but that this car crash is actually representing how they view caring for their staff.

    • Andy says:

      Listen to yourself.

      “….it is in bad taste to make fun of people one… is no part of”

      Bad taste? What does that mean? What social code are you referring to here? Or does “bad taste” simply mean ‘not something I like, so no one else should like it either’?

      And does this mean we should not make fun of MPs or bankers or cab drivers or, I dunno, Australian cricketers — or whatever your interests are — on the grounds that we are not a part of their group?

      You don’t mean that, do you?

      • Peggy says:

        Bad taste as in being an *sshole.

        Oh yes, of course I mean that it’s stupid to make fun of people just because they’re the out-group. In-group, out-group. It’s what racism and all other bullsh*t is based on. Oh yeah, and marketing. Cheerio.

      • Andy says:


        “Bad taste as in being an *sshole.”

        Right. That certainly clears that one up then.

        So remind me, where do we go to download this moral code? Or are you essentially saying that your opinion is correct simply because it is your opinion and we shouldn’t challenge it?

        I ask again, are bankers and MPs part of this in-out thing? Or do you also get to decide this without explanation?

        And don’t you just love it when some cyber-loser gets challenged and grumpily says “Cheerio” as code for ‘how dare you disagree with me? I’m not playing anymore!’

      • Peggy says: there’s something for you to look for a moral code. But I have a feeling any ethical education is lost on you. I blame those evil people who are spending all the taxes you pay on your hard earned money. And bloody hell is it hard earned.

      • Andy says:

        Well at least we’re both Lennon fans. Thanks for that, but even Karma doesn’t quite give us the answer because we still have to define good and bad, good and evil, and we still tend to define these things on our own subjective terms.

        So offering financial help to the poor might be seen as an obvious “good” but when it turns some people into chavvy piss-takers, who will then pass these corrosive values onto their state-funded offspring, some of us might think this isn’t quite such a ‘good thing’ after all.

        Look beyond the simplistic. Welfare is good if it gives the poor a chance. Bad if people take the piss out of the generosity of others — as the Vicky Pollards and their ghastly children do.

  56. Jo says:

    Not big or clever or funny. Profoundly offensive on so many levels. Snobs. Idiots. I’m actually shocked. How dare they.

    • Reality Check says:

      I’m still genuinely confused as to how people are assuming this targets ALL people on benefits. My wife get’s £10 family allowance per month, but I’m not making the assumption it’s aimed at her. From what I can see from the published images, they are clearly aiming at clear and specific negative stereoptypes, such as:

      1. Pictures of a pregnant girl smoking. These people do exist. It is a very, very bad thing to do. It does not laugh at all unemployed pregnant women in any way I can identify.

      2. A group of youths in the act of stealing things. Aka, the riots or the many people who shoplift as a full time ‘job’. The riots were bad weren’t they? I don’t think this image is insulting youths who stayed at home during the riots, or those who don’t shoplift.

      3. A youth on a stolen disability scooter. I’ve seen this happen, and I gave chase. If I’d caught the scumbag I’d have probably done something I’d have been arrested for. Does this imply all people on benefits are likely to steal a scooter in such a way, or is it aimed at the type of people, and it is a type as there are many, who would do such a sick thing for kicks, as they have nothing better to do.

      4. It also shows a lot of people with abhorrent dress sense. While at my age most youth trends are unfathomable, I don’t think the fashion that has been shown in these pictures in any way suggests an attempt to portray all claimants of benefits, but rather exaggerates those we are used to seeing in such shows as Little Britain, Brass Eye, Shameless.

      I grew up in a family on benefits, some of whom desperately sought work, some of whom didn’t. I’m not personally offended by this. It actually has no effect on me at all. That’s why I’m struggling to see why people have reacted to it like it had clearly stated “Everyone on benefits is lazy”. It didn’t as far as I can see. Not at all.

      Can someone, ideally everyone who commented negatively above, please answer my questions. Perhaps I’m missing something, but it’s more likely that you might have filled in a few gaps yourselves.

      • Viletta says:

        I find it offensive because at this present time, hate crimes against the disabled and mentally ill are at a high and we are currently having to battle just to get any benefits at all. The perception that we are like those in the photos does not help matters. It is easy for people who arent in our position to laugh this off, but for some it is a daily struggle to just get out and to live our lives in peace. I was forced out of my flat by people who equated my mental illness with being ‘lazy and on benefits’.

      • Reality Check says:

        But there ARE people who are lazy and on benefits. There ARE a huge amount of benefits cheats, 2010 cost us over £20m, and nearly £2m housing benefit fraud. There ARE people on benefits who also work.

        Should you not be venting your anger at those people on the basis that they are both drawing unfair attention to you, taking YOUR money, and generally ruining our society’s benefits system. That is why you are battling to get benefits. The people at this agency, hate them all you like, are at least contributing quite a lot of their large salaries to you.

        I still don’t see where you are getting the idea that these images represent ‘hate crimes against the disabled and mentally ill’.

      • Reality Check says:

        Incidentally, as you’re a proud ‘Satanist’ I am a little confused by your concerns. Surely this is the good work of The Devil? You should be pleased : )

      • DavidG says:

        “3. A youth on a stolen disability scooter. ”

        That might be how you interpret it, I suspect the overwhelming interpretation from ‘the man on the street’ will be that mobility scooter users, are, like all disabled people, frauds and scroungers, because that twisted distortion of reality is the attitude I encounter when actually out on the street as a disabled person, and polling reveals this is overwhelmingly the experience of disabled people.

        As someone who has to deal with the reality, should we prefer my interpretation, or yours?

      • Briony Shaw says:

        family allowance is the same as child benefit. The minimum you can get working or not is £20. 80 i think, a week per child. So saying your wife gets £10 a month for a child is a blatant lie. Perhaps you mean a different allowance?

  57. Viletta says:

    I am a non-theistic Satanist. This means that I believe in myself, not in any gods or devils. I don’t like chavvy types; indeed, i have been assualted and spat at by them. However, things like this leaflet are fuelling the idea that people on benefits in general are like that. I agree that there are people who use the system wrongly and they should be dealt with. the government are targeting us instead of them. This is wrong. The more propaganda about benefits, the worse genuine claimaints get treated.

    • Reality Check says:

      Ah, a perfect example of easily misinterpreted “badges” Viletta, wouldn’t you agree? By calling yourself a Satanist do you think people would judge you instantly as a bad person, or alternatively ask you – the only one with the answer – what your Satanism represents? The ones doing the judging would be at fault, by your own criteria.

      I understand why you’re upset, but I really don’t think this booklet is really contributing to that.

      The only people here I can see making the link between genuine benefit claimants and the chav layabouts are those condemning the booklet. Each and every person has made the – very personal and subjective – leap from the chavs pastiched in the booklet, to “the universal community of benefit claimants.”

      Without @copybot and the above people vocally and vehemently creatively interpreting and proclaiming this link to be there, it wouldn’t be. And thus the promotional/propoganda element is removed.

      As far as I can see, other than yourself, all those complaining seem to have little reason to do so other than to jump on the bandwagon and take a swipe at what is a historically disliked industry.

      • Sjoeyrob says:

        “as far as I can see, other than yourself, all those complaining seem to have little reason to do so other than to jump on the bandwagon and take a swipe at what is a historically disliked industry.”

        For the record, I’m complaining because I belong to that industry and the work under discussion is crap that annoys me. Also, because many of the people supporting it are talking crap that annoys me. Present company largely excluded.

      • copybot says:

        I can assure you that I’M not “taking a swipe at what is a historically disliked industry” because I work in that same industry. I’m not having a go at advertising, and there’s nothing in my post to suggest I am.

        I think some of the people in this comment thread and the wider discussion are confusing what I wrote in my post with what commenters are saying.

    • Andy says:

      Come on Viletta, get a grip. If that is really what you look like, and if you openly describe yourself as a “a non-theistic Satanist” then you will struggle for acceptance. It’s a self-fulfilling prophecy. You put yourself on the margins of society and then complain that you’re treated like an outsider.

      Whatever it is you are doing now isn’t making you happy. You are clearly articulate, computer-literate and passionate about issues (whether or not we agree). Instead of ‘fighting for benefits’, why not fight for financial independence and self-esteem. That’s a much better way of sticking two fingers up at your critics. Bollocks to begging for benefits. Bollocks to Satanism, FFS. Bollocks to these crap labels you like to stick on yourself and others. Play the game and defeat them. Decide you’ve had enough of all that crap. Say no. Make a plan today.

      • john says:

        well andy why dont you read the post by john about viletta you are obviousy unintelligent and obnoxious you are nothing but a bully and a troll to pick on a woman with a diagnosed mentall illness your ignorance and type of person you are is for all to see shame on you coward

      • viletta says:

        My appearance is my business. As are my religious beliefs. Both are protected by law. Why should I have to ‘conform’? I’m happier with myself than I have ever been.

      • DavidG says:

        “You are clearly articulate, computer-literate and passionate about issues (whether or not we agree). Instead of ‘fighting for benefits’, why not fight for financial independence and self-esteem”

        I’d hope that same list of attributes would apply to me, after developing the fly-by-wire system for the Eurofighter computer-literate certainly should, but none of those stopped me being forced out of work when people decided my disability was too inconvenient to tolerate. Not all of us can fight for ‘financial independence and self esteem’, for many disabled people it takes every ounce of physical and emotional energy just to get through the day, even feeding yourself may be too much effort. When we fight for benefits, it is because we have no alternative.

        A couple of years ago one of the employer’s organisations portrayed it as a triumph for equality that 27% of their members would consider employing a disabled person, yet it is illegal to consider disability in an employment decision. I’ve had recruiters tell me that it will be impossible for me to find an job in the private sector with my disability, and merely almost impossible in the public sector. Just think about those statistics the next time you urge a disabled person to ‘get a job’.

      • viletta says:

        DavidG I cannot thank you enough for your well thought out comments regarding disability and benefits. I would work if I could, but with mental and physical illness, not only would it be incredibly difficult for me to do so, I very much doubt anybody would employ me with my history of illness.

      • Andy says:

        @Viletta — Sure, your appearance and your Satanist principles are your business. But if you’re coherent enough to post some excellent stuff on here, and to express your concerns much more effectively than most of us, you should be able to work out that the way you look and your ‘religious beliefs’ will partly control the way you are treated on the street, and by the world at large.

        It might be a sad reflection on the society we live in, but there are some pretty simple rules that are worth following in order to improve your chances in life. For instance, most people (I am led to believe) will break wind loudly in private, but realise that a little self restraint in public will pay dividends.

      • viletta says:

        Andy – tell that to Sophie Lancaster’s mother. Sophie was kicked to death for just ‘looking different’. The world needs to change, NOT the individual’s right to look and believe in what they want.

      • Andy says:


        Strong words, but better out than in, as my gay neighbour likes to shout (with a grin and a wave) from his balcony.

        Curious really. Don’t get me wrong — I don’t mind a bit. It’s good to unroll a few emotions and get them out there. But it interests me that people attack me for being obnoxious / insulting blah, by name-calling and being abusive. Oh well.

        As it happens, I hadn’t read the information you posted about Villeta before my earlier message, and I also realise that it was aimed at another contributor.

        It’s an impossible situation. Mental / emotional disability is real. Or can be. It can also be a ruse. I have two people in my immediate family who i would say represent roughly the two ends of the horseshoe.

        One is a chronic alcoholic who couldn’t cope with the death of her husband 3 years ago. She is terminally ill. I feel love and sorrow for her, and support her in every reasonable way I can.

        The other has worked for 4 years out of the last 35, and is a career scrounger. (Is that obnoxious? Tough shit. It’s true.) He has told me quite openly that he has exaggerated his depression in order to avoid working and to get additional benefits. Here’s the kicker — and that he attributes his ‘depression’ to being unable to find a job.

        Kafka, Escher, you name it.

        If I’ve upset you personally, I apologise and I feel bad about that. I hope I’m not a bully. But I do get fucking angry sometimes.

        You sound like a good fellow. Keep looking after your friend.

      • Andy says:


        “…tell that to Sophie Lancaster’s mother. Sophie was kicked to death for just ‘looking different’. The world needs to change, NOT the individual’s right to look and believe in what they want.”

        The Sophie Lancaster story was very sad indeed. I don’t even have to rush to Google to investigate. I remember the incident.

        But it doesn’t change my view. We can debate till the cows come home about how unfair or otherwise it is that people are judged by their appearance.

        As it happens, I think it’s pie-in-the-sky. Anyone in advertising / marketing / PR knows damn well that visual impact is everything. “Content is king” might be a reassuring slogan to people like me, but we all know the unspoken truth — that presentation is almost all that matters, at least to bring you to a position where you can start to be taken seriously.

        In other words, forget this old bollocks about “The world needs to change”. Just writing those words reminds me of idealistic student days, when I thought that if I kept writing it and saying it, then the world really would change.

        “The world needs to change” usually actually means “The world needs to change [to suit my position, my values, my perceptions]”, regardless of whether I am Viletta or Osama Bin Laden or Gandhi or Hitler or Stalin. It took me 30 years to suss that out,

        In my opinion, there is one ghastly truth that drives Viletta, me, and everyone else on this discussion. Accept it or reject it, but it makes it no less true in my eyes:

        We are driven by self-interest.

        Yep, even you Viletta.

  58. john says:

    before u engage your self opinionated mouth viletta was pronounced dead 3 years ago only with the great emergencies services was they able to save her life she has endured many dark moments in psychiatric units and intensive care she relies on councillors and hospital treatment you cant see her ilness as in a loss of a limb but she is on strong medicaion and is under a psychiatrist many of the friends that we have met on our journey of mental health problems have not been so lucky they commited suicide i myself have a diagnosis of paranoid scizophrenia i worked for 20 years and never asked for a penny from anyone then one day i got mentally ill carted through mental hospital and prison thanks to the lack of a diagnosis at the time i am terrified now of the outside world and the nasty self opiniated unintelligent people like you i only hope that you dont suffer the way we have if you get unwell and are regarded by many as a nut nut like us shame on you my friend for your ignorance on the subject

  59. david says:

    God when did everyone become so serious. I grew up in a low income family and I find this inoffensive.

    There is no malice in this whatsoever, just tongue in cheek humour.

    Lighten up.

  60. David says:

    I don’t buy the internal argument either as Iris have put their logo on it so it therefore represents their company, also when you send a press release out your asking for it. It is not acceptable to print material like this, some people are not bothered but when do you cross the line? If you did an internal piece on people in wheelchairs or foreigners then would that be considered in poor taste? Our nation has become very good at taking the micky out of each other instead of trying to do anything to change the way people think or challenge stereotypes.

    • Reality Check says:

      Wheelchairs? Yes that would be very wrong, and exceptionally irrelevant. As is the example you use David. In what way is your argument proven by comparing taking the piss out of a wheelchair user, or someone from another country to a thief/benefits cheat?

      Why don’t you add dead puppies to your argument?

      • David says:

        I’m not sure if I made myself very clear. What I meant is lots of people here find it acceptable to make fun of a section of our society, in this case anyone on benefits. What I am saying is when do you cross the line when you start making fun of people? As most people here feel making fun of people on benefits is acceptable. Would you cross line if you made fun of the disabled or foreigners? (I’m sorry I used the word foreigners but the only other word I could think of to use is immigrants which is just as bad, so sorry I didn’t get my Thesaurus out) Yes of course there are people who are benefit cheats, no one is denying that but obviously not all of them. Also I’m not sure I like the way you immediately think everyone who claims benefits is a thief and a cheat. Are you suggesting your own wife who claims a £10 family allowance each month is a thief and a cheat? Thats not very nice is it? Also I apologise for not writing a thesis to support my argument.

      • DavidG says:

        “Wheelchairs? Yes that would be very wrong”

        And yet there we have the picture in the booklet implying mobility scooters are simply used by frauds and thugs.

        Of the two disabled friends I’ve talked to this week, one is a scooter user, because her local wheelchair service refused to fund the electric wheelchair they accept she needs, and the other is currently debating between wheelchair and scooter because of a change in her needs, with scooter looking like it its coming out ahead. And in fact I’m in precisely the same situation as she is, though a manual chair will probably suit my needs better.

        Wheelchair, mobility scooter, crutches. same difference.

      • Andy says:


        It’s not “anyone on benefits” that we as a society (and the booklet in question) likes to make fun of.

        Most non-chavs think that the dopes caricatured in the booklet are pretty contemptible. The booklet is sort of a living proof of that.

        But my experience is that most people are sympathetic and supportive towards those who have fallen on hard times and need help to get them back on their feet. There’s a big difference between those two groups.

  61. NC says:

    This thread is hilarious…as someone who knows iris…I can tell you that they are just having a bit of fun. Bad taste? Maybe. And I totally agree it was wrong to go to Campaign with it…absolutely. But then maybe we should all march against the way The Sun advertise, or Paddy Power or boycott Channel 4 for airing Shameless.

    Anyone who thinks that everyone who works in advertising is a snob and that we look down on people on benefits from our high horses is basically wrong.

    I myself was raised on benefits in a single parent family and do not find this offensive in the slightest. Also, people talking about hate crimes against the disabled here really need to find a more appropriate argument to join in on. Also Copybot, you seem a little stuck up – but then again you probably went to private school.

    • DavidG says:

      “people talking about hate crimes against the disabled here really need to find a more appropriate argument to join in on”

      I’d suggest opening your eyes and looking at that last picture again. Is that or is that not intended to imply mobility scooters are used by frauds and fakers?

      Are, or are not, Iris the company which handled the ESA launch, disablist headlines over which benefit are at the heart of the rise in disability hate crimes?

      Don’t the two of these together suggest that there may be a real problem within Iris with regard to the way they perceive disability, and the way they then go on to portray it in their work?

      And isn’t that something disabled people, and indeed non-disabled people, should be calling attention to?

      When you’ve been attacked in the street for walking while disabled I’ll accept you have a valid input on whether or not something is relevant, but until then I’d suggest educating yourself on the reality facing disabled people.

      • DavidG says:

        You may interpret it as kids nicking a mobility scooter, that’s not the attitude to disability I encounter on the street as a disabled person, rather I find myself being attacked by utter strangers as a ‘fraud’ and ‘benefit scrounger’. When there’s a pack of adults chanting things like ‘This is the DWP, we know where you live, we know you’re faking’ it tends to make an impression, and indicate how imagery like this will be interpreted by the ‘man on the street’.

  62. Amelia D (@AmeliaLKD) says:

    I think the thing that really sticks in my throat is the fact that this is a booklet talking about employee benefits – i.e. little extras that are pleasing perks to their job

    Whereas the * perceived* and *stereotyping* lifestyle they choose to lampoon actually boils down to essential living requirements for many people. People who have had horrible things happen to them or are struggling and thus need the support of the welfare state.

    There is quite a discrepancy there and this is what people find distasteful.

    People in this thread are citing many different stereotypes. Stereotypes serve to remove the human face of benefits and welfare. It’s seemingly easy to dismiss a young, pregnant and jobless woman when society labels her a ‘chav’. However, every single person is different and has a different story. You don’t know *anyone’s* story. Would you judge yourself in the same way you judge others so quickly? I highly doubt it.

    For those of you claiming that everyone on benefits is some sort of scammer. Yes, people commit benefit fraud, every day. But there are also lots of different types of fraud. Generally, if a framework exists that gives out money, there will always be one bad egg around trying to screw it over. That’s just life. It sucks. But please don’t tar everyone with the same brush.

    I am speaking as someone who *has* claimed benefits (job seekers allowance) and who now works in advertising myself. I’m very middle of the road in terms of background and *no*…. not everyone in advertising is privileged. I really struggled to get my job and worked throughout uni. Luckily someone took a chance on me and gave me a paid internship which gave me my foot in the door. Who knows what would have happened if they hadn’t.

    I think Iris should apologise for a lack of judgement and taste, do something to show they are sorry. It’s the only right thing to do in this case.

      • DEANO says:

        It’s hilarious that you accuse the book of tarring everyone with the same brush. Do you not realise that that is exactly what you are doing? It’s your own prejudices and sense of stereotypes that are tarring everyone with the same brush. You are presuming the book is trying to do something it isn’t – that it deliberately set out to make a big important social comment. It is not judgmental, it is purely observational, and simply a vehicle for informing staff of their company benefits. It’s a brilliant, concise, irreverent, impactful piece of creative work.

    • Andy says:

      An interesting irony has been pointed out many times in this discussion, but not actually confronted. It’s this — that it’s mainly the critics of the booklet who are conflating the benefit ‘scammers’ / idle chavs with those who deserve support. Almost everyone who isn’t weeping and wailing over the booklet is making clear that they see the distinction between these groups. Again, the booklet is taking the piss out of the Vicky Pollard-types and other brain-dead wastrels.

      But the critics insist that actually the booklet is attacking (variously) all benefit claimants, all the underprivileged, all disabled, all unemployed, all long-term sick, all cleaners, all low-paid workers, all of the ‘economic underclass’, all ‘working class’ people (whatever that means in 2012, all long-term sick, people with emotional issues, the unfairly dismissed….. the list is never bloody ending.

      Get a sense of perspective and look at the facts. It’s a joke.

      And people like Amelia are talking about “the only right thing to do in this case”, as though her slanted perspective is the one fundamental truth that we should all bow towards. Gah!!

      • Reality Check says:

        Agreed, and Copybot is notably absent in responding directly to these valid points.

      • copybot says:

        I’m not “notably absent”. This comment thread is enormous, and much as I’m enjoying reading it occasionally, I do have other things to do.

      • Sjoeyrob says:

        Whoopdy doo. You grew up on a council estate and didn’t like it. As did I. Now you work at a big agency. So do I. I have less contempt for the people I grew up among, but there you go. Neither of our experiences have any bearing whatsoever on the general principle that humour based on mocking those less powerful than yourself is arrogant, lazy and bullying, and that humour based on negative stereotyping of a whole class is the preserve of the coward, the bully and creatively bereft.

      • Ann Brownbill says:

        I think youre treading a fine line wben you poke fun at people who claim benefits. Surely something more professional, tasteful and less controversial given the current state of welfare in this country would have been more appropriate. Its a piss poor attempt at being funny. It doesnt work .

      • David says:

        I have now looked in detail at this booklet thanks to DEANO and the problem now is you posting the full booklet only means you can look at detail at the copy which will only infuriate people more than the idea. Not sure its best you tell everyone how good you are. Isn’t that for everyone else to decide? (I am not questioning the quality of the photography and art direction just the concept) You as well as this idea should of just been kept internal and private.

      • Andy says:

        David — I’m pretty sure Deano had his tongue in cheek when he expressed the heart-breaking magnificence or whatever of his own work. Sheesh. Did I really have to explain that?!

      • Chavtastic says:


        ‘which will only infuriate people more’ who are you to decide what infuriates ‘people’? It didn’t infuriate me, am i not a person?

  63. Shaunyk says:

    If you can’t see the funny side to this you should buggar off and live on a desert island or something. 1. It’s a bloody joke and 2. it’s an internal brochure so not really meant for public use anyway.

    • David says:

      1, yeah its a joke but it’s gone too far and got out of hand, if you were the one having the piss taken out of you I’m sure it would no longer be a joke, and 2, yes it is internal but they published it in the public domain with their logo and branding all over it so it portrays a negative image of the agency. Ask yourself this, if you were a major client of Iris and you saw that they not only spent lots of money and time on an internal brochure when they could of been working on your brand but also that they seem happy to send this message out into the public domain. If you had a 100k account with them would you want to keep them after this? Knowing they might approach your 100k work as a “joke”?

      • Andy says:

        All poor arguments.

        Can’t be arsed repeating yet again the chavs vs benefit claimant points.

        Whether or not it “portrays a negative image of the agency” is not for you to proclaim as some sort of unchallengeable truth. Their work looks pretty good to me (but I’m not a corporate buyer).

  64. Ann Brownbill says:

    That’s a disgrace. I wouuld love to meet one of these cynical people just to show them how they are stereotyping sick and disabled people. I worked for 23 years with the same company before i became ill after having an operation. Its very very narrow minded and completely unimaginative. I thought advertising companies were more creative than to be stereotyping people like that. Get a soul and think outside the box , it will do your image a World of good.

  65. Rob Hunter says:

    “Iris Benefits” : lazy; callous, not very funny;
    “ignorant; feckless; violent; stupid, underclass”: reality.

    I wonder how many commenters here have worked for a big agency and have also lived on a terrible housing estate? I have, and I escaped. My motivation, in both cases, was the same: the terrible, terrible people.

    It’s easy to hate on the privileged, and sometimes they deserve it; but please, don’t romanticise the underclass. This isn’t Les Miserables, and it hasn’t been for ages.

    • Amelia D (@AmeliaLKD) says:

      “Impactful, well-crafted, well-observed, simple and memorable”

      Really? Is that *really* what a booklet talking about company benefits should be about?

      That’s what the ‘real’ work should be doing, surely?

      Haven’t you got better things to be doing?

      People in this thread have continuously called out ‘benefit scroungers’. So – let’s work with this concept. Are your staff also ‘scroungers’ for needing to find out the ins-and-outs of the benefit system your company provides? You certainly depict them that way in the pictures and copy…

      In truth this is 1) people in the office with a lot of time on their hands (and probably not many clients to keep them busy and 2) A pathetic PR stunt designed to cause a ruckus and … not much else.

      The fact you sent it to Campaign only furthers that… I can’t understand how anyone would be proud of making something so utterly alienating. Whether you think it’s marvelous or useless, you’ve made a whole lot of people really dislike Iris.

      It’s a shame, because the company benefits are quite good. Who knows – people may have wanted to work there previously to this.

      • Andy says:

        Amelia D — Another one in a lengthening line of contributors who are pretending they understand the criteria employed by major corporate buyers.

        I just can’t be bothered anymore. You sound like a nice fluffy student and I’m sure you are good at what you do, but quit this pseudo threatening shit about this booklet being ‘utterly alienating’ and how a lot of people now jolly well dislike this agency.

        Look, Amelia. I’d never heard of Iris before. Now I have. I’m not a buyer but I don;t give a shit about your placard-waving, 6th form idealism. If I was looking for some effective collateral I might well think that these guys would produce something eye-catching and capable of making a splash.

  66. biblejohn says:

    I worked at iris and they are lovely people who look after their staff. I think it’s benefits cheats or a ‘benefits culture’ they are mocking rather than people who legitimately claim benefit. The bigger problem, and one advertising might address is that why the word ‘benefits’ immediately brings to mind images of people in sports leisurewear watching Jeremy Kyle. The Paralympics has done masses to shine a positive light on disability, maybe now it’s time to champion those whose financial situation means they genuinely need a helping hand.

  67. Antony says:

    Wow. Such indignation. People look like that, let’s face it. They’re not innocent children being mocked. Every comedy TV show under the sun makes fun of different classes of people. This is no different.

    The above does not mock people on benefits – it is a clever, tongue in cheek acutely observed look at certain people in society. If that’s not you, you wouldn’t be offended. I was unemployed once due to redundancy – but would the above offend me? No, as it’s not me.

    I would say the stuck up person writing this article has clearly never been in a place with these sorts of people. And if this was posh people in top hats killing foxes it wouldn’t have raised an eyebrow.

    There are far, far worse examples of prejudice. I would say a cartoon of a woman asking a man what insulation of the home would do is for is FAR more offensive.

    Why does everyone have to be OUTRAGED at everything just to get themselves exposure.

  68. antimanq says:

    Well regardless of whether or not it was intended as a joke. Simply doing it was going to attract this kind of attention. So either they are idiots or they wanted it for PR reasons.
    In the end the AD industries management has such a large percentage of over aggressive, go getter, Tory, private school freaks that some will actually think it is great do not get irony, if that is what was intended, and while hire the company for being one of them.
    Warren Mitchell said there are two types of people who laugh at Alf Garnet, those who are laughing with him and those who are laughing at him. It was written by those who laugh at him. That he is played by a Jew should give that away but I bet he is still in the BNP/EDL favourite characters.
    So those laughing at this grotesque, if that is what was intended, are you laughing at or with the Agency?

  69. antimanq says:

    I miss read this bit “I have nothing against Iris, the ad agency that invented 2012 Olympic mascots Wenlock and Mandeville” I do have something against them in that they vomited forth Wenlock and Mandeville. I can only assume that they have friends in high places and have dirt on them, or perhaps it is a sacrificial company design to live fast and die young and give it seniors a high profile.

  70. DetritusAndMisc says:

    I agree with Dan. This can be an opportunity to motivate you to tune into your own sensitivities to make better work than this.

    While the visuals are actually skillfully executed, the joke or even the intended irony is lost in its theme. Utilising a stereotype to subvert its underlying cruelty and ignorance can be powerful, regurgitating such prejudice is generally less so.

    The photos are heavily weighted over the less prominent copy, so the message they convey is dominant. As a creative, I find this sloppy and in poor taste. As someone on disability benefits, I’m deeply offended that once more my own situation and those of many intelligent and talented individuals who have had to accept this safety net is being portrayed as something of a paid holiday, criminal and ‘feckless’. This is not humourous in the least.

    Few realise how close they actually are to needing assistance, until the floor comes out from under them.

    Stay in advertising, and do something meaningful. Raise the bar through your efforts; don’t be dismayed.

    • Andy says:

      Cheerio everyone, it’s been fun.

      Detritus is the last straw.

      “As a creative, I find this sloppy and in poor taste.”

      Fuck right off, fella,

      Good night.

  71. berlin says:

    DEANO says “It is not judgmental, it is purely observational.” I disagree. The book’s concept and execution are based on making the characters objects of ridicule and contempt. They are placed beneath the observer, as objects of derision. Especially the man and woman on the dental care page. The characters created, their make up, the terrible condition of the woman’s teeth, their extremely rough appearance, the camera angle, the art direction are not, as DEANO claims ‘observational’, which implies neutrality. There’s no neutrality here, the book is taking cheap shots and scoring points off these characters. Maybe the employees of Iris had fun for a day playing chavs as a previous poster said, ‘for shits and giggles’ but the iris employees can go home to their middle class lives without having to face the challenges and hard realities of the people they just mocked.

  72. Paul says:

    I have to admire the Maternity Benefits they offer to their employees.

    Any chance we could get together and enrol their support to ensure the same benefits are extended to ALL employees in Britain?

  73. Tom says:

    There are some incredibly sanctimonious comments on this article. Seems loke a lot of people are happy to criticise ‘middle class, rich, well-off people in ad agencies wearing ‘identikit clothes’ for perpetuating a stereotype without realising their hypocrisy.

    Are iris saying that all people on benefits are the same as the people depicted? Are they saying working class people are all like this? No they’re poking fun at a specific type of character (that does exist by the way). If you want to project that onto something else and be offended then good for you, but why not work out what you’re actually offended about first.

  74. Helena says:

    It’s a PR stunt that’s worked well in my opinion, as it demonstrates that Iris is in a minority of agencies that has enough employee benefits to actually warrant a booklet.

    An ad agency giving a pension? Unheard of.

  75. jamie says:

    Wow. Loving the line of defense here “We’re not taking the piss out of all people on benefits – just the disgusting chavvy cheating ones”

    “We’re not taking the piss out of all gay people, just the annoying campy queeny ones”

    “We’re not taking the piss out of all immigrants, just the ones who come to steal our jobs and scrounge off the NHS”

    “We’re not taking the piss out of all jews, just the greedy avaricious ones”

    “We’re not taking the piss out of all black people, just the ones who act like n****s”

    If nothing else Iris need to find a way, way better team of people to handle their online reputation and troll messageboards for them. This is piss poor.

    • terry says:

      But this is the point Jamie…

      They are NOT taking the piss out of all immigrants, jews, gay people, black people etc etc. They are taking the piss out of Chavs. Not working class people, or people who genuinely need benefits, Chavs. In case you’ve never come across one, Chavs are the people who intimidate ordinary people on council estates. Chavs glass people in pubs. They drive loudly and dangerously around suburban streets at night. They are the people who beat up disabled people.They tend to look like the people in the Iris pictures. And if you really don’t think these people exist and that they don’t spend other working class peoples taxes on fags, sky tv and booze then you really are living in another planet.

      I actually also work in ad land, and as it happens a number of my family live on council estates and they, like me, can easily tell the difference between someone who is working class or in genuine need of disability benefit and Chavs. And they despise Chavs just as much as me. Try telling the old lady who’s life is ruined by intimidating Chavs every night that they are just ‘working class’ people, and that the years of taxes she and her working class husband payed really should go towards the Chavs new VW Golf spoiler. There really ARE people like this. Really. And they are not very nice. And the handy word we use to describe them is Chavs.

      ‘Chav’ is a collective noun for stupid, aggressive people who usually dress in branded sportswear. If someone had the same behavior and was rich they would be called a posh twat. Would it be better if we said moron? Or idiot? The photos are tongue in cheek. Get a grip. Or better still, wander round a council estate tonight, find some people in branded sportswear carrying a cans of Fosters and chat about the lies told about benefit fraud. Stop a speeding souped up chav car and offer to chat about the importance of human rights.

      I know you mean well, and I applaud your principles but you don’t seem to be aware of the real world. I hate the way that ignorant people now lump working class people in with chavs. They are not the same thing.

      • beasleygreen says:

        I agree with you Terry, but mainly because I like to read your posting in the same accent as Terry Tibbs from Fonejacker… but besides that, you make a great point; very similar to the point Chris Rock made in his universally lauded sketch about the difference between Black People and N****s. However to play devils advocate Chris Rock is a Black American and therefore is in a position to do this sketch and make this observation.

        I would imagine most people who are outraged in this thread probably love Shameless. I hate Shameless. Anyone with a useless, workshy, selfish, reckless, alcoholic dad probably would; mainly because he battered them and their mum, fondled them in their sleep, spent all the money on alcohol and was an absolute embarrassment who contributed nothing to their lives but deep seeded issues… But to those producers in the South it’s funny poor Northern folk doing dirty scummy Northern stuff like we all do. The link between Chris Rock, Shameless and Frankie Boyle, is that as soon as something becomes popular and part of a universally sanctioned Zeitgeist (I think that is the correct use of the word), like sheep, most people without the courage of their own convictions – weak minded people who’s opinion and perspective on the world is largely given to them by advertisers and the media – will accept it. But if you’re not famous then you’re just an offensive twat.

        I see the humour in this more than in Shameless, but like the outrage at 21 year old millionaire footballer-playboys who aren’t very bright who then go and behave really badly, it baffles me that anyone is surprised by poor taste coming from a generally amoral industry like advertising (show us the money and we’ll promote whatever you want Mr. Rich Client).

  76. Jerry says:

    What else would you expect from the people who came up with Wenlock and Mandeville? My kids are still having nightmares after their day out at the Olympics.
    Tossers (not my kids).

  77. Bumpy says:

    Po-faced load of arse. The pictures are great, and clearly mock those who richly deserve public scorn – dole scum who have CHOSEN to live lives of feckless self-indulgence. I was on benefits for a few months after being made redundant. I had to go to the job centre every fortnight and I can safely say I have never observed more pathetic specimens utterly worthy of scorn. Endless smoking was just the start – it was the self-righteous moaning about having to explain to a hard-pressed official exactly why they’d got sacked from McDonalds, or why they never turned up to arranged interviews, or jobs which had been found for them. The stench of booze was unbelievable. There were clearly an overwhelming majority of people seriously looking for work, trying desperately hard to better themselves, taking up training, getting up early, getting stuff done; they are not the ones mocked by these pictures. Chuck a stone in a Wetherspoons at 10.59am on a Tuesday morning, and you’ll meet the types who are.

    ps @Andy – love your work

  78. Pete says:

    This is hillarious, why not take the piss out of chavs and the scum of society? After all, the hard working people at iris are paying these scrounging bastard’s benefits whilst they are working!!

  79. Tom says:

    If this offends you then don’t watch Little Britain. I’m from a working class background (single parent on benefits) and I didn’t find it offensive.

  80. Peggy says:

    Anyone who has shown some heart and brains in this discussion: Thank you. My faith in mankind is one step closer to being restored.

  81. Arbolioto says:

    Time for ad agencies to clean up their ‘naughty little boy’ act. They are responsible of selling junk to children and parents alike in no small quantities.

    Ad agencies have gotten off lightly until now about their responsibilities towards the wider society and the way it is perceived by the public.

    Usually they hide behind their clients. However, with social media people are looking more into advertising agency ethos and behaviour and they will be surprised at the degree of responsibility they have.

  82. judithhaire says:

    Gosh. When I first worked in advertising I was warned not to take it too seriously. I have a splendid sense of humour but I ain’t laughing or even smiling. Don’t disrespect those on benefits please. If this agency had enough work to do there would be no prancing around producing company booklets. Company booklet? What’s wrong with an email? This booklet is a mindless waste of time and does the advertising industry no favours at all.
    What a waste.

    • J Mark Dodds says:

      Rather shallow and humourless for an ad agency to go this way though perhaps the people responsible thought it was a good idea. It’s way too much work to have been designed and produced just for an in house publication, presumably they put it forward for industry awards and wanted it to attract as much notice as possible?

      Immature thinking in poor taste, a blunt instrument that seems to be doing the job. Much like the Olympics ident.

  83. Rob R says:

    A lot of people calling “it’s only a joke” here are kind of missing why it’s damaging and, for many, very offensive. It’s not because working class arseholes don’t exist, as they do in every walk of life*, it’s that its people in high-end jobs feeding and mocking a stereotype that is increasingly being blanketed across anyone and everyone with the wrong kind of accent or the wrong kind of cv and postcode.

    “Being on benefits” has been the subject of a hideous campaign to pretend that anyone who’s out of work or disabled and doesn’t have a lovely stable middle class family to fall back on is basically scum for the best part of two decades now.

    If you think this is a bit of a dramatic statement, think on the following. According to the British Social Attitudes Survey the average Briton believes that around 37% of benefit claimants are doing so fraudulently. The actual figure for fraud AND error, according to the DWP, is 2% (approx £3.2bn, which drops to £1.9bn when you take off the amount underpaid every year due to error).

    Why the discrepancy? Well, mainly because of shit like this. For years we’ve been treated to the dubious pleasures of “comedy,” drama, documentaries, exposes from the press and hysterical political discussions in pretty much every media which pretend that British working class life is defined by a massive underclass living on “the estates” for whom benefit fraud and other crime is as natural as breathing.

    Of course to most working class people they’re recognised as those few dickheads who cause trouble. For safely removed middle class and upper class people, they ARE the working classes (30% – the bottom third).

    That’s why it’s offensive. It’s not “just a joke,” in the same way as talking about how “women are only good for the kitchen” isn’t just a joke. It’s a reinforcing of stereotypes which slowly ruin people’s lives and make our society just a little less human, just a little less tolerant, just a little less cohesive and open, every time they’re repeated.

    * I do wonder, would these people who rely so heavily on the business of the rich have been so quick to don a cashmere sweater and pretend to trash Fortnum and Mason in a drunken display of gaudy wealth? Or perhaps they could have hilariously spoofed Atos staff signing a guy in a coma off as “fit to work” because he hadn’t filled in a form they sent him (both of those actually happened btw).

    Maybe next time, if they’re brave enough – as Richard Herring once put it, good comedy punches in or up, never down.

  84. Rosie Evans says:

    Just typical of the increasingly self obsessed and unkind attitudes in the modern world. If it was race they were lampooning it would be a criminal act. It is time these people realised that if you make fun of those less fortunate or powerful than yourself you are the one who looks like the witless fool

  85. Barnetboy8 says:

    I was on benefits at Christmas, am I offended? No. Am I amused? Very much so. Why the massive sense of humour failure?

  86. Sean Fleming (@flemingsean) says:

    Speaking as someone with relatively humble origins and with relatives on benefits, this is not much to get worked up over, frankly. There are far more condescending portrayals of the so-called working classes to be found in the media on any given day.

  87. Scott says:

    Everyone seems to be missing the point, which is to judge this as a pure piece of comms, not on emotive arguments. What was the objecitve? To boost take up of benefits, to attract new employees? To retain talented and creative staff? What are the metrics? If it boosted employee satisfaction by more than say 5% in a survey then it was probably worth it. If it didn’t, maybe it wasn’t. I think you have to judge it on it’s evaluation. What were employee attitudes to benefits before the brochure and afterwards? Why did the employees themselves take part.

    The external relations side of the equation is clearly a ‘risk’ which should have been identified, but I am one person who has now heard of Iris and knows they are a bit different and maybe attracted to work for them so it’s maybe worth it. If I were Iris I would commission a proper survey of external reaction to be be sure.

    End of, replacing one member of staff costs approx £50,000, if this brochure kept one member of staff from leaving it saved Iris £50k. I don’t know, I just prefer judging fact rather than opinion.

  88. Terry says:

    A friend of mine who describes himself as a “limp wrist-ed liberal’ has recently started work in a benefits department. He told me only yesterday that his years of high minded Guardian reading values have been replaced by disgust and disbelief of how our taxes are spent funding the very people Iris are mocking. i.e NOT the ‘working class’, the disabled or people who live on council estates, but benefit fraudsters, AKA Chavs. Weirdly one or two of the people who get their rent paid and who are exempt from council tax etc etc actually earn more than him too.

    My sister lives on a council estate and both her and her husband work hard. But she has to put up with Chavs making peoples lives a misery by being violent, loud and stockpiling white goods in their garden. And of course, these people don’t work so it’s nice to know that our taxes are supporting this lifestyle. And somehow they have a newer car than me, but hey ho…

    Just to clarify, before you call me a Daily Mail reader, that I don’t think EVERYONE on benefits is a cheating chav, but I find it annoying that SOME people ARE. Is this clear?

    To the naive/self-righteous/ignorant people who are offended by this I don’t really know what else to say. If you can’t see the difference between the working class, disabled people and the people portrayed here (Chavs) then i give up.

  89. Patsy Robertson says:

    I am appalled at this:-( I worked for 20 years within theatres in the NHS as a manager and anaesthetic practitioner. I worked on calls, many times 24 hour long days until last year when I suffered a sub arachnoid haemorrhage. I contracted bacterial meningitis also which has left me with numerous disabling conditions. I am now reliant on state hand outs in order to survive as I had no choice but to leave work. I think it is disgusting to generalise in this way:-(

    • Chloe says:

      Totally agree I am in the same situation . If the world thinks companies want to employ disabled people they are wrong my employer did everything to keep me out.

      • Patsy Robertson says:

        Chloe my employer only offered me ill health retirement, at no point did they discuss the possibility of me remaining in their employment.
        A few posts on here are disgusting, very degrading:-( I was a fabulous employee previously so I am appalled at some of the attitudes here.

  90. Gary Fox says:

    Any piece of communication is written in a context – very little stands on its own. At present, we have a government that is slashing welfare and they are being cheered on by a supine and reactionary Press. The clear message is that anyone on benefits (except pensioners and the occasional saintly paralympian) is a scrounger, cheat and thief. No other segment of society is being demonised in this way – certainly not the Gary Barlows, Jimmy Carrs and Bob Diamonds (and Vodaphone and others) who have ‘legitimately’ robbed the Exchequer of sums that far outweigh benefit fraud – they get a couple of days of bad press and then an OBE! So for IRIS to be seen as taking the piss out of claimants whilst this demonising is going-on is irresponsible, cheap and places the agency firmly on one side of a controversial debate. Stereotypical images that purport to show just one aspect,and the ‘real’ nature, of what are in reality is a very heterogenuous collection of individuals are not new – Jews were depicted that way throughout 1920’s and 1930’s Germany; black Americans were caricatured that way throughout the 19th century; the list is endless because it enables those at the top to belittle and dehumanise those at the bottom. Of course there are benefit claimants who are on the fiddle- just like there are ad agency staff who are monogamous, dont do coke and are teetotal – but its the context and the generalisation that is so damaging. yes – and I know that I’ve made a sweeping generalisation about ad agency staff – imagine if that generalisation was the ONLY way that ad agency staff were ever portrayed! Not only that, but public policy was then created based on that generalisation?

    • Jeff Hodge says:

      Totally agree

      I posted this on face book

      I would like to recommend that before you produce stereotypical abusive crap like this you take the time to carry out constructive research into the subject or people you are abusing, then when you have all the correct information you need, you could write a constructive apology to all the normal everyday people you have grossly offended with your uneducated crass statements and images, its good for you that we won’t all take to the streets and react in an adverse way to this utter drivel you have wasted our (Public) money on.
      Maybe if you lost your place of work, became ill or lost your jobs it would knock the smirk of your, ignorant, arrogant condescending faces, personally I would like take your brochure and shove it where the sun does not shine.
      I’ve just had a wonderful idea for new brochure which is strange really because I look like the illiterate, dishevelled scum you portray in your brochure.
      My brochure would only consist of one page, it would contain an image of the steps in front of the Bank of England, and I will call this brochure the Robin Brochure. On every step I would place a member of our hierarchal establishment like so.
      Each member starting at bottom would have his hand in the pocket of the esteemed gent above him
      Step 1: Bankers (you can shorten this to wankers)
      Step 2: Politicians (also known as Tossers)
      Step 3: Corporations and Big Business (called twats in some circles)
      Step 4: Judicial System ( I know that they get paid well and only do what the government tell them. Oh and they are dammed good at fleecing everybody and jailing the likes of me and other criminals, except thieving bankers and politicians…. all in the name justice of course)
      Step 5: Private Health Care (don’t know much about these gits can’t afford their brochures, I tried to join once but they said I couldn’t because I was unwell……they meant poor, same thing really.)
      Step 6: DWP and ATOS (one word, IDIOTS if you need a job don’t apply here unless you’re as thick as pig shit and like making stupid mistakes, if you have to communicate verbally speak in a broken Asian dialect using words with one syllable, and for christsake don’t tell them your unwell…)
      At the bottom step of this proverbial pile of shit you could put pictures of chavs, old people, the mentally ill, your mum, dad, sister, brother, granny, drug addicts, alcoholics, criminals, the homeless normal people with normal jobs, all holding their hands with looks of disdain on their harrowed worried faces, as they pass what they have remaining of their hard earned money to the first in line of a grotesque system that hasn’t got a clue as to how 99% us live, work and die, how many bankers, politicians, corporate CEO`s will go cold or hungry this winter or not be able to make ends meet? NONE of them, but they will continue to squeeze us until they have it all and their pockets are fully lined and when we are beaten they will start on our children, sooner or later things have to change. We have to make them listen?Not being a professional bullshitter you probably wont agree with my idea, but then I’m a just low life living of the state in my council house, people like you don’t give a shit for anyone but yourselves and where your next dollar/pound will come from.
      Oh forgot… called it robin brochure because they are all robin bastards . Cya

      • Jaden002 (@LisaLise30) says:

        If you really believe welfare reform is not needed in Britain then you are beyond naive. Unfortunately those pictures only show the reality of many benefits claimants, of course not all.People who live in the real world see them every day.

  91. jane horsely says:

    Well seems this is spreading around the net and sooner or later i would imagine these ignorant people will get a governmental slap of some kind. It doesn’t take much of an education or even knowing people on benefits to know that everyone is different. To put some unnattractive people in hoodies and claim that’s a representation of people on benefits hasn’t drawn people to their little company its angered people. A lot of complaints going in and i hope these uneducated little morons are made to remove the whole thing. Disgusting.

      • laura jones says:

        Jaden you have more comments than anyone and seem to be spending all your time here having a temper tantrum. I think we ALL live in the real world sweetie and your vitriol leaves me wondering exactly who YOU work for. Nothing you have said is based on fact but just some sort of foot stamping. If you believe those pictures show the reality of benefit claimants then you are wrong and obviously don’t live in the real world. You don’t have to continually post because i think we get just how uneducated you are, you don’t have to keep repeating yourself

      • Jaden002 (@LisaLise30) says:

        Uneducated ? Vitriol ? No, as I said I just live in the real world. Of course there are going to be many false/exaggerated benefit claimants, when the other option is working in an awful and stressful job. I never said that all benefit claimants are fake,just that too many are, as ever you are putting words in to my mouth.
        How can you call me uneducated or ill informed when I spent years working in 3 Benefits Office, witnessing the reality of many claimants. You obviously have no similar experience, only readership of the Guardian.

      • suzanna gentle says:

        Perhaps you shouldnt have been working in benefits offices when you have such a biased, ill informed view of those on benefits and also a real hatred of them. Of course you wouldn’t have had a job if not for those on benefits. So far you’ve insulted people who read the Guardian and Mail. I am a reader of neither of those papers hun so keep your insults to yourself. You find no possibility that you are wrong in anything you say and continue to make sweeping insults against all who disagree with you. As there are many, perhaps you should start thinking that maybe, just maybe, you are wrong. The facts simply don’t let your arguement stand up. The percentage of false claiments and fraudsters are low in relation to those claiming responsibly. I have met many people that work who actually look like those in the photo published. It is the sweeping statement made by Iris that is insulting to those on benefits and those who are disabled. Remember that many who claim DLA also work full time. I suggest you find yourself a more interesting job because if you did you wouldn’t feel the need or have the time to spend hours and hours on here spreading your arrogant and ignorant beliefs. You’re wrong. Your facts are wrong. Your attitude is unwelcome and outdated.

      • Jaden002 (@LisaLise30) says:

        I haven’t insulted anyone who reads the Mail, you misread my message. I actually have EXPERIENCE of many benefit claimants, YOU obviously don’t and yet you tell me I am wrong ! Also, I never said I hate benefit claimants, or that all claimants are false.
        I am also aware that DWP fraud figures are only for those convicted in a court/organised fraud.
        Are you denying there are not many false/exaggerated benefits claims in Britain ? Of course many are going to choose this option rather than working in an awful job. You are stupid, naive and offensive.

      • suzanna gentle says:

        i’m stupid naive and offensive? You’re the one responding to everybody’s posts proclaiming because you’ve worked in a low paid, unskilled job at a benefits centre, you know better than anyone else. Using capital letters in a post is childish to say the least and I’m confused as to why you think it will make anyone take more notice of your ramblings. Look back through all the comments and you will see that not one person agrees with you.. As a Doctor I have treated many patients who are on benefits and I have yet to come across one who is wearing a hoodie or in my opinion falsely claiming benefits. Working in a benefits office does not give you insight into anything. Of course the only figures that count are those of people actually found guilty in a court of law of benefit fraud. Your assumptions about anyone else scamming the system are meaningless without evidence. You should not even have the meagre job you do if your views are as stated. If i was stupid and you were intelligent, I would be working in a benefits office and you would be a GP. It bothers me that you are spending hours here. What credentials do you have to support your opinions? Are you the manager of a benefits office? Do you have a sociology degree? I suggest you spend more time worrying about improving your own lot in life instead of putting down everyone else. Every case is individual and your sweeping statements are ridiculous.

      • Jaden002 (@LisaLise30) says:

        You are beyond disgusting. You claim that I am making ‘sweeping’ statements when I have clearly stated that I have not claimed that all benefit claimants are false, just that many are and could be working.
        Denying this and calling anyone who points this out bigoted and stupid is not intelligent or informed. I have a high powered job and years of experience in this issue. If I hadn’t I may have the same naive views as you.

      • lucy james says:

        sweetie calm yourself, your head will explode 🙂 I’m going to try to be kinder because there is certainly something very very odd about you. Your in a high powered job and yet live in the real world. You talk to a Doctor as though you are above them which i highly doubt. You have one follower on twitter which speaks volumes.You say you have the right to your opinion, which you do…. BUT…. you keep repeating it over and over and over. Any comment anyone makes in support of those on benefits or disabled brings you out of the woodwork and you feel the need to respond to every single comment and try to force your opinion on us all. Nobodys interested. The longer you go on, the longer we will respond. I probably pay more tax than you earn in a year hun and i am not foaming at the mouth in the same way you are. What is going on here? The point originally made is the visual presentation of declaring that all people on benefits wear hoodies and smoke while pregnant. Whose to say people might think you dress inappropriately or in a way people find unfashionable etc. What do clothes have to do with anything? There is something far deeper going on here because you most certainly have some sort of issue closer to home going on. Feel free to share with the group because i think a lot of us now are beginning to consider you to be our pet project.. I pity you and I genuinely mean that. xx

      • Jaden002 (@LisaLise30) says:

        I pity you to honey. Idiot. I do have a good job, but it is working with claimants in the area we are talking about. There are various posters on here agreeing with me. All I am saying is that many (not all) benefit claims are false or exaggerated – why is that so offensive to you ?
        If I did not have the experience I have I would probably have the same naive views as you.

  92. Cyberwolf says:

    Best be very, very careful not to laugh too loud that any of these people ever hear you: for they will make your life short, nasty and a protracted act of violent dehumanization followed by a simple and gratuitous moment of entirely excruciating execution.

  93. A F Case says:

    Whatever the idea was behind this it illustrates to me that the more fortunate in society are prepared to draw conclusions from peoples appearance. It generalises and discriminates against those who appear to the observer to be less fortunate than the observer.
    You have to question why anyone would want to do this, perhaps they feel superior or better for it. It is the thin edge of the wedge and only leads to further damage to society in general.
    It shows to me how very uncreative these people are and a high level of ignorance on their part.

  94. nuttylittlefruitcake says:

    I don’t know if anyone else has made this point, but…surely if people see these labels as representative of all benefits claimants, then we may as well give up now. Yes they may represent some, but not all. If we consign people to these negative stereotypes, even in the form of attempted humour/irony etc, we have lost the point in having any reasonable society. People have to have hope, and to believe they can better themselves. If they do not, then we have made them that way as a society.

    The irony also is that to assign negative labels, we are placing ourselves above them, and therefore creating an ‘us and them’ situation. In other words, I’m ok, you’re not ok. If we do that from a position of power (ad agency) then we really have lost all credibility and cannot pretend to know anything about society and the true realities of that society.

    Try spending 6 months on benefits or in an area of low employment with no jobs for unskilled workers, and see how unfunny this type of portrayal really is. It is beyond offensive, and if some people cannot see that then they really are a class removed. That being the case, we may as well build walls in our society, because once we believe these people are the scum they are being portrayed as, we have bought into the government message, which is: anyone on benefits is a scrounger. God help any of you who haven’t been there, because it ain’t pleasant, no matter how the tabloids like to portray that differently.

    Ever had to live off a food parcel? Ever had to live on the street? If society thinks these people actually have a choice, then society has no place in the argument, because society is showing its ignorance. End of.

    • Jaden002 (@LisaLise30) says:

      Wake up dear. Of course there are many false/exaggerated benefit claims. A decent income can be made from the various disability, housing and child benefits so of course many are going to choose this option rather than work in an awful job.
      Please don’t come back to me with the brainwashed ‘Daily Mail’ reader rubbish. Anyone who lives in the real world will tell you that benefit dependency and fraud are far too common in Britain and welfare reform is badly needed. Labour made it far too easy for many too be better off on benefits than working – I see this everyday in my workplace.. Of course I am not saying that all benefit recipients are fakes or well off.

      • Woody says:

        Lisa Lise…
        What sort of person am I, I wonder; in your world?
        IMy wife and I live on benefits.
        I am seriously incapacitated [hey… note the lack of ‘disabled’ there??] by a 2 conditions that will probably prevent me seeing my 60th birthday in a few years from now.
        My wife and I look after a grandson 24/7/52, who is one of only 36 in the world with multiple conditions which cause 100% dependancy on others for all his care needs.
        We recieve a substantial amount of money to buy in care for our grandson, running into 10s of thousands of pounds a year.
        We are currently saving ‘the powers that be’ over £250,000 a year.
        But WE are called scroungers by people in our area.
        I take great offence at ANY media depiction of benefit claimants as ‘scroungers’ because MOST people do not think for themselves any more.
        The attitude of most people towards myself is that I live the highlife and , as a family, we are ‘screwing the system’.
        I know people who ARE blagging their way round the system. I despise them with all my heart… BUT, thanks to the media, I am classed as being exactly like them.
        By the way… I don’t read newspapers!!!

      • viletta says:

        But it isn’t the people who abuse the benefits system who are being targeted by the government – it is the disabled and mentally ill. I know this for a fact because I am both. Many people I know, including me, have been declared ‘fit for work’ by ATOS and it is causing stress, misery, homelessness, suicide attempts, you name it.

      • Jaden002 (@LisaLise30) says:

        They retesting EVERY claimant to try to pick out the many ‘malingerers’. Yes, mistakes will be made, but if someone is said to be severely disabled or ill, then they are being given MORE money than before.

      • viletta says:

        Mistakes? where I live, 95% of people who appeal, win the sick benefits back. In the meantime some go without money for up to a year! The stress it is causing people, especially the mentally ill, will cause (if hasn’t already) deaths. The governement should pick on the lazy people, not the people who have a long history of hospital admissions etc. My GP and psychiatrist, psychiatric nurse etc have reams of notes about me. Surely that is good enough for the governement?

      • Jaden002 (@LisaLise30) says:

        As I said they are retesting EVERYONE to try to weed out the fake/exaggerated claims. The rates for the most seriously ill/disabled have gone UP. People are never going to like being retested but it has to be done.

      • DavidG says:

        “They retesting EVERY claimant to try to pick out the many ‘malingerers’.”

        Since when did 0.3% (DWP figures, less than any other benefit) count as ‘many’. The IB to ESA migration is not targeted at malingers, it introduces a far harsher definition of disability in order to force a significant number of disabled people off disability benefits and onto JSA, and a test for it, the Work Capability Assessment, that the BMA have declared not fit for purpose. And as the Select Committee on Work and Pensions made clear, the vast majority of people refused benefit under WCA will have very significant levels of disability which JCP is unprepared to deal with.

        “Yes, mistakes will be made”

        An average of 40% of decisions to refuse ESA are overturned on appeal, that’s 1 case in 6 across all claimants, and the percentages overturned are far higher where adequate legal support is available, up to 95% in some area. Name me an industry in which a failure rate of 1 in 6 would be considered anything other than disastrous.

        “but if someone is said to be severely disabled or ill, then they are being given MORE money than before.”

        Wow, and you accuse us of being naive? Practically the first thing the Tories did after coming into office was to close the Independent Living Fund, the benefit aimed at helping the most disabled of all. They may claim ‘the most vulnerable have nothing to fear’ but that’s the big lie, they were actually the first people targeted.

  95. SCG says:

    “Abusing the system” seems to be a way of life unfortunately, but having it depicted this way almost makes you feel sorry for those who are causing the abuse. Taken too far… yes, a little truth.. yes as well.

  96. who me says:

    Notice how they have 1 token black man and no more as this would be deemed racist to show an enthnic minority in a negative light,but its fine to mock people of lower class which is equally offensive and something which people are born into,children cannot help if there are born poor or born black.I bet no one can give me a reasoned argument why its acceptable to target poor people as a group and not to target black people as a group.

  97. Keith says:

    “The people being mocked in the photos deserve to be mocked. They are not poor: they are feckless, ignorant thugs”

    Nah – the people being mocked are models, and the scenarios are staged. You know that, right?

    Therefore the whole brochure is appealing to the “demonise it to deal with it” mindset of our de facto Conservative junta.

    What group are YOU in? How would YOU want to be portrayed in that way?

    • Marie Harper. says:

      Your brainwashed naivety is astounding. There are unfortunately far too many people like those pictured in these photos, in Britain.
      If you are not aware of this fact you must live in one of the few areas in the UK where this is not the case.
      As for the ‘Conservative Junta’ – surely you can not truly believe that New Labour were a better government ?

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