I noticed this poster on my way to work today and it made me double-take. Not least because there was a bloke up a ladder in the middle of Leicester’s current sub-arctic conditions. More substantially however, I double-took because that is exactly what the advertising agency who were employed to put together this campaign wanted me to do. The strapline is designed to provoke strong reactions and to get people talking. These ads are actually designed to show that outdoor advertising can still have an impact and I reckon that this one will do just that. The associated social media rant-fest www.britainthinks.com probably won’t take off, but the owners of billboards will have made their point.
What really interests me however is the way that the idea of career is being used to provoke that kind of strong reaction. In the poster, career is being used a morally dubious activity. Career in this sense is seen as a primarily selfish activity, something that you do for yourself and which you potentially off set against your family responsibilities. Career is not something through which you pursue noble, social or family ends, but rather something through which you move yourself into a better position creating destruction all round you.
Obviously I don’t buy into this notion of career, but I suspect that it does have some traction amongst the general public. For me career is a much wider concept about how you decide to spend you life, how you balance work, fun, family and learning. It shouldn’t just be seen as getting ahead and winning over others. The question is really whether we can get the general public to understand this wider notion of career or whether we need a new word.