Saturday, 5 June 2010

A reply from Nationwide

    There it was when I returned home yesterday, a reply to my Little Britain letter to the Nationwide Building Society.
    As I expected, it has the feel of a boilerplate form letter. Here is the main paragraph:
I am very sorry to read that you find the television advertisements offensive. The characters in "Little Britain" are some of the most popular on British television, and using them for our new advertising campaign was not intended in any way to be discriminatory. We chose to work with David Walliams and Matt Lucas and the "Little Britain" concept because we believe that they can bring their highly successful brand to our advertising. However, we do appreciate that the advertisments are open to interpretation and personal taste, and we would like to apologise if any offence has been caused.
     I'm sure I would write something similar, were I a divisional director of corporate affairs at a building society whose profits have nosedived.
     Looking a little wider, I am disappointed to see that Dru Marland's open letter to David Walliams seems to have suddenly become significantly less visible in the search engines than other comparable posts of hers. A quick comparison: search on the open letter vs. search on another post. The former search returns only pages that link to the post, the latter returns the post itself. Such manipulation of content visibility either by practitioners of a very specialist niche within the search engine optimisation world or by direct approach via legal channels to the search engine itself is something I am not unfamiliar with by virtue of the work I do for a living. That I see it here indicates that the point being made has reached its target and steps are being taken to limit any damage to the Little Britain brand. It strikes me that any such damage is self-inflicted.

EDIT: Sometime later on Saturday 5th of June, as if by magic Dru's open letter post reappeared at the top of the search on its title (See comment below). Google searches do not rearrange themselves in this way over these timescales without editorial intervention. It would thus be tempting to claim success as a 1337 search engine h4xx0r but that might be a bit presumptuous. Google doesn't change things for simple bloggers. However it would be extremely interesting from a tech perspective to know what the story was behind the post's disappearance and subsequent revival. I guess I'll never know.


  1. yup, same letter as mine. So much for constructive engagement... would you mind if I Tweeted this post?

  2. So in summary:

    Blah, blah, token appology, ignore your comments.



  3. @Dru: once something's on the www it's out there, so tweet away.

    As I said, I didn't really expect much more.

  4. The "Little Britain " brand has already dameged itself in broadcasting media circles, with the BBC unwilling to even discuss touching the third series, after having to order huge cuts on offensive material in the second.

    That was why Lucas et al took the show to the US, as equality and anti-hate laws over there are much more lax thsn Europe.

    I think the next step, should a new set of adverts crop up, might be a report to the police. Regardless of the chances of bringing it to a successful conclusion, the police are required by law to carry out an investigation.

    That WILL hurt the Nationwide, even if it's only the embarrassment and hassle of having to deal with their people being interviewed about the matter. Legal costs, lost vtime and bad publicity are what will wear them down.

    Attrition works, folks, escpially if one side olky has to pay for stamps and the odd phone call.


  5. At keast you people got replies...

    Despite being extremely polite and not resorting to any of my usual vitriol, they haven't deigned to respond to me yet,


  6. Hey, it's reappeared! Well done, and thank you!

  7. Note to self: next time take a screenshot.

  8. Lisa in Raleigh6 June 2010 at 14:35

    Do not underestimate the power of your letters, the fact that they constructed a form letter to deal with this specific topic indicates that they have taken major flak and are responding to minimize the damage. Getting the attention of a company is the first step in driving change. In the future, if you want to ensure your letter does get seen, send it Fed Ex / DHL overnight addressed to the CEO (simple Google business search to find). Now that person will never read the letter, but it will be read and you will get a response, usually a customized form letter and signed by some executive. The amount of time/effort/money you invest into insuring your message is delivered is directly proportion to the impact it will have. As they will see you are taking the topic seriously and will be concerned over your next action, if they do not answer; such as directly writing members of their board of directors.

  9. What I don't get is how come Matt Lucas, being a gay man himself, doesn't seem to have taken on board how his and Walliams' 'Laydees' are so ill-conceived?

    BTW I did see your reply to my comment on your first Nationwide post - duh! Laydees, of course, not Lesbians ;-)

    Constructing a form letter to deal with flak on this one - yeah, that sounds about right. Thanks to Lisa in Raleigh, I have a better idea about how to direct letters myself now.

  10. I'm guessing he would point to his "only gayer in the village" sketch. Do gay men get taunted in the street with that one?

    The casual racism of Sacha Baron-Cohen's portrayals of Ali G or Borat is an analogue, I've heard an argument that they can't be racist because he's Jewish. The old adage: if it looks like racism and smells like racism...