I've never had a proper job and I've never visited a Job Shop. Who are the Job Centres' customers? How do you present them in TV advertising, to themselves and the world?
The new Jobseekers Direct ad has to work round this one, presumably under the watchful eye of the politicians, with all that implies in terms of compliance with multiple requirements. Must make Government look good. Must make Government look as if it's doing something. Must seem realistic and not extravagant, likely to tick all the effectiveness boxes.
And, of course, must be politically correct. Must be rainbow nation, must take account of regionality. Which is why a simple attractive message, that the Jobseekers service is now available over the phone, is padded out into a rather whimsical 40-second ad that reflects the Westminster think-tank world view, not the jobseeker's one.
There's lots of swirly traffic and lots of red buses (cue London) and a trudging middle-aged man, a weary jobseeker making a long pilgrimage from the depressed margins to the Centre. As you might expect, he's a bit brown, sort of non-specific UK Asian, with a trim grey beard. And he's dressed as the respectable poor, which is to say in a washed-out grey anorak (no lurid sportswear for the deserving) with an old-fashioned patterned jersey underneath - the kind that might catch the attention of Blur's Damon Albarn.
He looks very like Haile Selassie, Emperor of Ethiopia and Lord of Jah People, but down on his uppers.
So when he talks to camera it's a bit surprising at first that he sounds like an older member of the EastEnders cast. Remember when EastEnders started and all the characters came straight out of the BBC social studies department? It's that kind of voice.
It's not easy, he says: he's been out of work for a while now, and to get to the Centre he has to get the number 12 bus and change to the 26. He can't help thinking the man in front has got the job first. Wouldn't it be great if you could do it all by phone?
"Well, now you can," says a soothing Scottish lady voiceover. "There is an easier way into work, a wider range of jobs in your area." Then they've got the number up on a nice background of Schiaparelli shocking pink.
Simple enough message, but along the way there's a lot of business. A canal, for instance, with an empty factory on its far side. A young white man with a Northern sitcom accent, fishing unsuccessfully in it. Shots of listless folk at bus shelters. Lots of big thoughts about what it's like to be unemployed in post-industrial Britain. This message could be delivered perfectly well with saturation bombing in 10-second spots.Reuse content