Yesterday when I climbed into the car to begin the day's long list of errands, I turned on the radio. It was tuned to Radio 74, the only station anywhere near here broadcasting in English. Not that I can't stand to listen to the French stations. In fact, Radio 74 is deeply annoying on many levels. They have some extremely conservative religious programming that makes my brain hurt. Also, the announcer (the only one they have) is a bit of a right-wing conspiracy nut. He finally bugged me enough to write in when he jumped on the "Obama was born in Kenya" bandwagon full of sour grapes. Enough already!
But somehow, even all this is not enough to drive me away completely. Sometimes hearing a bit of English is soothing. And they play nice Christmas music in December. And for a while there was even the very entertaining Doctor Laura Show. They yanked it back off the air pretty quickly, though. I think she wasn't conservative enough to suit the station.
Anyway, there I was, listening to some nice Christmas carols, when suddenly there was a publicity spot for language courses- apparently from the "brutal truth" school of advertising. While some ads try to flatter us (Because you're worth it) or blatantly appeal to patriotism (Keep America Rolling!), here was a shameless ploy to take advantage of insecurity, alienation and unhappiness.
A severe British schoolteacher voice asked impatiently: "Tired of being a monolingual simpleton?"
I have to admit, it kind of grabs one's attention. And I imagine if one actually is an anglophone monolingual (let's not say simpleton, shall we?) person living in France or Switzerland and feeling a bit isolated, the ad is even more riveting. It's the kind of ad that comes after the weak, going for the throats of the caribou at the back of the herd -the spindly ones with low self-esteem and few language skills.
This fun and easy advertising concept is easily applied to other businesses, of course:
"Sick of being an unattractive eyesore?" (plastic surgery)
"Had enough of being an uneducated cretin?" (higher education)
"Fed up with being an illiterate moron?" (bookstores)
"Entirely ashamed of being a tiresome, manipulative wanker?" (psychological help for people involved in the advertising business...)