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.