A recent Carphone Warehouse media campaign proclaiming itself ‘pro-choice’ has raised the ire of a large number of Irish social media commentators.  The advert is below.


There are a few things to say about the campaign.

First is an apparent failure to understand what ‘pro-choice’ means to people.  This is best considered a form of tone-deafness.  When people say ‘pro-choice’ they mean one thing which is readily and absolutely understood by the majority of people. For a company to take on the phrase with a twist, they need to be absolutely clear that their message chimes correctly. This one does not chooch, because it’s not actually saying what it initially seems to. It’s trying to be coy and provoke an ‘ahhh’, but it’s too clumsy to do that. The use of pink and denim is 1980s and it leaves the viewer feeling hollow or angry.

Second, in Ireland, the pro-choice message is taken seriously.  This is a country which denies women the right to bodily autonomy and restricts their lives to an extent many feel is in violation of human rights and liberties. You don’t piss about with messaging around that area, partially because many activists are humorless and partially because even the witty ones aren’t joking about overturning the state (and male) monopoly on personal freedom. The campaign to overturn the 8th amendment to the Irish constitution is real and very serious.

Third, no button campaign should say ‘we’, because a button is a personal item. The campaign feels just as contrived as it is.

This isn’t the first time a marketing campaign has just felt stupid.  The ridiculous Smirnoff ‘we’re open’ ads were different, because they absolutely were an attempt to virtue-signal and associate themselves with right-on values.  They didn’t chime to me because they were also an attempt to noose market share from Absolut, which has been associated with support for LGBT causes for donkeys’ years.

The humorless virtue-signalling* of the twitterati on the subject of this plainly ineffective campaign is painful to watch, but entirely 100% self inflicted by Carphone for not being wittier or more on the money.  Nobody expects a High Street brand like Carphone to join the pro-choice campaign, even on the bandwagon.

But equally, nobody believes that it’s big or clever to abuse a phrase in common parlance for the purpose of selling a mobile handset. The best thing Carphone could have done was to use the phrase “We’re for choice” and run the rest of the campaign as is. Inoffensive, playful and doesn’t scare the horses. By appropriating the phrase ‘pro-choice’ they’ve made a silly mistake and removed the prospect of claiming honest misunderstanding.

*@betaburns on twitter queries this.  I don’t think there’s anything wrong with virtue-signalling. We all do it every day.  Also, the ‘humorless’ is crossed out because it’s not particularly fair.