Always outnumbered. Generally overdresssed.

Sunday, December 07, 2008

Doing Bird

For complex and intriguing reasons that I have no intention of sharing with you I found myself HMP Wandsworth for a few hours on Thursday night. Wandsworth is a lowering, sullen-looking prison in South London that The Department for Justice likes to keep packed with villains of all kinds. Two sociopaths to every cell, arranged around a series of mezzanines, a layout familiar to me from agencies all over London.

Prison is weird, for obvious reasons. It’s also weird for at least one less obvious reason, which is that there is not a shred of advertising in the entire place. Not normal media, fancy media, no brands whatsoever. A complete brand vacuum.

To be unbranded is to be beyond the pale, it is the last rebel position.

All the prisoners wear these really plain sweatshirts and jeans – that in their unbranded, understated way are ever so slightly like American Apparel stuff. The similarity made me wonder again at the dastardly ingenuity of Dov Charney for hiving off so many deeply transgressive elements into a brand that just sells coloured t-shirts and poorly constructed lurex bodystockings. That’s porn, paedophilia (no link, just slander) and prison couture at last count – that you can only do without shareholders.

No-one wants to advertise to prisoners because they have no money and aren’t allowed to buy anything. Doesn’t that make them like a really interesting test group for planners or something? I think most planners would benefit from a trip anyway. Maybe they could take a flip chart, hand out a load of biros and then begin a discussion about drill-down. Just to see how that works out for them.

If you’re looking for a Christmas present that is both edgy and genteel (a line I try to walk at all times), some of these cushions are great.

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