herald

Friday 28 November 2014

Terry Prone: Just what we need as we're scraping for pennies - the muppet that caused it all, making a bundle out of acting the eejit

IF you asked me to do PR around the issue of Bertie in the cupboard, I'd think about it.

For at least three seconds.

But once you've got past his own line that "it's just a bit of craic," once you've suggested to the nation that it should not take itself too seriously or get too po-faced about former Taoisigh, where would a PR effort go?

In the old days, it would be easy.

We all felt warm to nice, ordinary, Bass-drinking Bert.

Back then, if he'd done such an ad, it would be like the time he appeared with world leaders in a suit of bright yellow linen that looked as if he had slept in it.

LAUGHED

We laughed affectionately at the pictures.

Good oul Bertie. Man of the people.

One of our own.

Finger on the pulse of where ordinary people were at.

Right now, The Bert slot in the public mind is very different.

We're skint. He isn't.

The fact that we're skint is being blamed on him, at least partly.

And now he's sitting in a kitchen press beside the carrots and the onions saying: "I never thought I'd end up here."

The implication being that in some way his status has been reduced and circumstances beyond his control have forced him to live between the instant coffee and the packets of marrowfat peas.

COMPUTE

It doesn't compute.

Many of the people outraged about the ad showing Bertie in the cupboard spend every free minute doing arithmetic in their head in order to work out how they'll pay their bills this week while also spending money on luxuries.

Luxuries like food.

And electricity.

They don't find it endearing to encounter Bertie popping up in a cupboard like an exceedingly well-dressed Bosco.

The other side to the hostility is the sense that the ad brings the office he formerly held, and the nation he formerly led, into international disrepute.

"Please tell me this ad isn't available internationally," one person begged me yesterday, knowing that nobody could tell him that.

YouTube will bring it to the world, and -- now that Jay Leno's had a go at the current Taoiseach -- there has to be a fear that he'll revisit risible Ireland.

With some skit along the lines of "From drunken morons to cupboard mites."

MUPPETS

Now, if we take a dispassionate view, the truth is that it doesn't really matter that much if Ireland is held up to international derision by virtue of former prime ministers making like muppets beside yellow and green peppers.

Our reputation is too shot for this ad to do it more significant damage.

Bertie himself would probably say that if he hadn't had to give up his ministerial pension, he wouldn't be reduced to this kind of embarrassing self-promotion.

But if he's even thinking of saying that, someone should tell him to stick a sock in it, right now.

Because it suggests that only a handsome pension prevents former Ministers and Taoisigh from grovelling in presses for payment over and above what they get for writing a sports column.

INFURIATE

It may be true that they value their previous office so lightly, but it would infuriate people even further.

It sounds paradoxical, but the fact is that the Bertie ad was a stroke of genius on the part of the advertising agency responsible.

Living genius, whatever creative person dreamed it up, because they undoubtedly worked out that the "secondary media hit" would be ginormous.

Most ads sell directly to viewers.

This ad uses the internet, TV and radio programmes and other newspapers to sell to everybody, because of the outrage it has caused.

It also copper-fastens Bertie's new role as a sports columnist.

Which is good for The Bert.

The only thing it's not good for is his aspiration to a higher office.

As an audition for the Presidency, this one bombs.

Big time.

And permanently.

tprone@herald.ie

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