British charity advertising's often very good. It gives creatives something nice to work on and it wins prizes. It gets the agency noticed and it might even get it on a commercially important shortlist. It's a lovely virtuous circle.
But it usually isn't on TV because TV's tremendously expensive and unselective. Charities have a very clear idea of their target markets now – and where to find them. And commercial broadcasters don't usually give them free airtime.
By contrast, the Christian Aid Week appeal is on television, but the commercial's completely awful. I'd love to be wrong; I'd love to think it's got a hidden hook that extracts money every time, because it's asking you to fill these envelopes they put through the door and collect the following week.
It's got the look of mark-1 Nicorette advertising. A young man in a Seventies room – not fashionable retro, just rather brown – experiences inner turbulence as he looks at the Christian Aid envelope on the mantelpiece. Doubt and apathy creep in, symbolised by fuzzy ghosts who mutter about charities not really making any difference.
The voiceover is long and fanciful and unfocused. It doesn't sound like a pro' writing job at all, though it's read by one of the Fast Show team.
And the action's completely idiotic. The fuzzy ghosts lark about, steal the potential donor's wallet, throw him on to the sofa and sit on him, making disgusting belching noises. They've got him down, but this school hall morality play has the answer: beehives.
"But if you knew that £10 spent on beehives could provide enough income to send 30 African children to school for a year, you'd defeat anything that stopped you giving to Christian Aid this week."
This thought galvanises the young man, who looks rather like Neil Morrissey at 17 in an orange T-shirt. He's on his feet bashing up the ghosts and putting his money in the envelope.
It's every bit as bad as it sounds – dated, clunky, literal-minded. Please tell me there's something I've missed here? Some tie-up with a new computer game I've never seen. A reference to a Seventies TV series I've forgotten, a sort of Randall & Hopkirk (Deceased). Anything. My heart's in the right place, you know.Reuse content