This afternoon, on BBC2’s Jeremy Vine radio programme, I heard an alarming story about a UK police force considering sponsorship in order to raise funds.
On the surface, I thought the story sounded a little contrived, as if the evidently cash-strapped police force were hoping a deliberately outrageous comment would gather some press coverage (*) and lead to an increase in support and momentum for their financial plight.
But it did occur to me that someone, somewhere must actually have thought that advertising on uniforms and equipment was a viable option for a police force. If they thought it had no viability, then, surely, during any planning stage, the police would have considered the risk of the statement sounding totally silly, the consequent loss of credibility, and thereafter canceled the idea. But they didn’t.
Jeremy Vine and callers produced a list of situations in which an advertising company would not wish to be associated with the vital, but often unglamorous work of the constabulary (murder investigations, vehicle accident recoveries etc). Whilst there are other facets to Police work, the nature of the job means an officer cannot change uniform depending on the situation to suit the public sensibilities or the advertisers needs.
The idea doesn’t seem to have considered the “value” and mutual benefit the proposed advertising would need to have for any advertisers. They don’t appear to realise that advertisers spend money in the hope and expectation of a positive return (financial or reputational). Would the police allow advertisers to re-post images of police work on social media, or give advance notice of arrests?
I think the police have exposed a fairly fundamental lack of commercial awareness within their thinking.
The logic behind their statement appears to be: If advertising raises money in some instances (and clearly it does), then advertising is a viable option for all organisations trying to raise money.
There’s probably some impressive name for this fallacy (but I don’t know what it is – if noone else has thought of a name, then I’d like to propose the name BIBARLE fallacy – which stands for Britain Is Bad At Real Life Education – (*)
This situation made me think of the parallels with career-planning. The UK system for initial job application and first job career-planning suffers from a significant BIRBARLE fallacy. For example, it is assumed that because employers have used academic credentials to filter job-applicants through time, then academic credentials must be a reliable means of identifying the right individual for a job vacancy. Utterly wrong, but pervasive and unfair to young people.
The amount of time young people invest in their academic credentials, without a wider appreciation of the actual skills and knowledge they need once employed, is alarming to us. Until there’s a greater awareness of how the real-world works, we’ll continue to see young people waste their precious time at this critical junction in their lives.
(* – We’re all at it…….. using deliberately outrageous comments in the hope of gaining publicity!)