Hiding in the toilet with Nationwide

I very rarely tell my TV to fuck off.

We have a good relationship, my Hitachi 32 inch HD screen and I. We’ve spent many an evening together laughing. Many a weekend doing nothing but binge. Many Friday nights feeling the same sense of numbing sadness when we realise that this is all our lives have come to.

From the moment I bought it, tried to carry it home myself and then gave up and ordered a taxi, I knew my TV and I would get along.

There’ve only been a handful of times to date where we’ve had a falling out. The first was during an episode of Game of Thrones when a storm interrupted my signal just as the thing everyone would be talking about the next day was about to happen.
The next came during Euro 2016 when England let Harry Kane take set pieces. Actually, that accounts for the next 5 or 6. Fucking Harry Kane.

The latest incident came last night, and it was more aggressive than any that had gone before. It was a Saturday, and just like most Saturdays I was sitting with a Sports Direct mug of tea and spending some good quality time improving the arse imprint on my sofa. Life was good.

I was watching The X Factor and struggling to tell the difference between Louis Walsh and Sharon Osbourne, when suddenly something awful happened – an ad break came on and rage came flooding from every orifice. I spewed rage all over my lap. I sneezed rage into my hands. Rage leaked out from my ears, my eyes and my sweat pores. I pissed a huge puddle of rage onto my floor. I hadn’t felt such anger since the previous Wednesday, and the force was so strong that I questioned whether I could ever make it though.

Here’s why it happened:

Click that link. I dare you. Click it an open yourself up to emotions you didn’t think you were capable of feeling. Click it and let hatred flood into your otherwise loving heart and overwhelm you with an urge to kill. Click it. Click it. CLICK IT.

For those of you who didn’t click it, I’ll elaborate. The link will take you to an ad aired by Nationwide during one of the most expensive ad slots on British TV. It features a poet called Hollie.

She’s telling us, using poetry, about the joy, despair, excitement, depression, loneliness and delight that comes with having kids. She mentions other emotions too, she’s got loads of them. For two minutes she goes on, telling us a nice story about the things having a kid can make you feel.

And for almost two minutes, I was interested. My initial reaction was one of pleasant surprise. This didn’t feel like a normal TV commercial. This felt special, interesting, edgy. I wanted to follow the story. I wanted to engage with it. I wanted to write a tweet about it and had the app open on my phone ready to say something like, “Wow, great charity ad just aired during the X Factor. Proper moving.”

But then the two minutes began to wind down, and the hatred hit me. This moving piece about raising a child wasn’t an ad for a charity, or an awareness campaign for an illness, or any kind of campaign for any kind of brand that might actually care about anything.

No. It was an advert for a bank.

A corporate, cold, conglomerate bank that isn’t capable of feeling actual human emotions because all it cares about are interest rates and loans. A giant, multi-billion pound bank that doesn’t care about your child unless you open a savings account for them and put a regular deposit into it. A faceless, heartless bank that wants you to have more kids so you’ll go further into your overdraft and pay it even more interest.

That’s when the anger boiled over inside me. That’s when I told my TV to fuck off. This moving, emotionally charged poem had been jumped on by a company in an attempt to make people think it gives a shit. This wonderfully written, beautifully crafted piece of art had been dressed in a suit and forced to wear a name badge by a corporation that just wants to trick people into thinking it has a heart.

So huge were the emotions that were being played upon here that it was only at the very end of the ad that you realised who it was even for. The final 16 seconds were purely dedicated to the brand message. There was no mention of it anywhere else, no hint at what the poem was leading to, so they shoved it all on at the end as if to say, “Ooh by the way, we’re a financial services institution. Don’t forget that bit.”

It’s like Nationwide had seen the poem and loved it, but fed back saying, “WHERE IS THE BRAND? WE NEED TO PUT THE BRAND IN THERE. WILL PEOPLE BE SO EMOTIONALLY BROKEN BY NOW THAT WE CAN FORCE THE BRAND INTO THEIR EYES FOR 16 WHOLE SECONDS?”

In a way you have to applaud them. They’ve made something so far removed from the products they offer than you don’t have a clue what it’s for. They’ve made something so contrived that you doubt you actually know what feelings are anymore. They’ve made something that unbelievably cringy, that sickeningly heart-string pulling, that obviously ‘brand values’ that they’ll be talked about for weeks, either for the very right or very wrong reasons.

Fitting, then, that it should be played during The X Factor. A show that is built around moderate talent being sandwiched between sob stories. A show that finds something alright and turns it into something memorable by giving its mum cancer.

Nationwide could audition and even Simon Cowell would pretend to cry.

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