Just as you can age trees by their rings, so we can be aged, no less accurately, by the adverts we remember. I’m old enough (just) to know that happiness was once “a cigar called Hamlet” and that one brand of cigarettes was “cool as a mountain stream” (though I can’t recall which). But I’m also young enough to know that advertising is subject to regulation and aware enough of what it says to ask whether an interminable cinema advert for Spanish beer (again, I forget which brand) really meets all the Advertising Standards Agency requirements not to use social success and celebrity as come-ons in promoting alcohol.
Probably, it was borderline. These were basically kids having fun, on beaches and boats. What is not borderline to my mind, by any manner of means, is some of the latest advertising for online gambling. One question is whether online casinos should be legal at all – and my regretful answer is that it probably has to be because otherwise it will flourish underground. Let the Government take its cut (and do a far better job of stopping the gaming industry from avoiding tax).
Whether it should be legal to advertise online gambling other than online, though, is a separate question. Such TV and radio promotions were legalised in 2007 in another example of the Blair government’s reluctance to save people from themselves. Legalisation came with supposedly tough safeguards, similar to those applied to alcohol – no celebs, sex or promises of windfalls.
Well, I challenge you to watch some of the new ads, with their corseted croupiers tempting you to taste a life of glamour, without concluding, first, that a jewel-encrusted stretch limo is being driven through the regulations, and, second, that all broadcast advertising for online casinos should be banned forthwith.
Most people are facing quite enough claims on their cash already, without having to resist seductive calls to try their luck between the football and the news. Anyone with the slightest taste for gambling online will find the virtual casinos soon enough.
Cabbie, you’ll make me latté
In a hurry to get to a breakfast meeting that started at an ungodly hour, I was thrilled to encounter a cab with its light on not 50 yards from my front door. The driver rolled down the window; I told him where I wanted to go, got in, and off we went. Until the next corner but one, when he suddenly indicated to the left and said he was going to get himself a coffee “if that’s all right with you”. Sensing, perhaps, a certain froideur from the passenger seat, he said that if the queue was too long, he’d give it a miss.
Now I’ve had good and bad experiences with cabbies. The good – 5* even – when I was on crutches, and they would cross three lanes of traffic to reach me. The bad, when they treat me like a lost tourist and substitute a mystery tour for the 10-minute drive from the station to my flat. Anyway, I said – to his evident surprise – that it really wasn’t all right with me. I had somewhere to get to, and I hadn’t taken a cab to be taken on a coffee detour. So I got out – idly wondering, as I waited for another cab, whether he would have tried the same if the passenger had been a man. I rather thought not.