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Falklands hero Simon Weston
"How do you do that? I'm not sure I could"
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Marketing consultant Hamish Pringe
"The street violence images in particular are quite harrowing"
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Wednesday, 30 August, 2000, 15:58 GMT 16:58 UK
Police ads: An expert's verdict
Could you deal with football thugs?
Is the new police recruitment campaign any good? Hamish Pringle, a top advertising and marketing expert, gives his verdict.

The Government's 7m ad campaign to cut falling police numbers has received a ringing endorsement from a leading marketing consultant.

Hamish Pringle, of Brand Beliefs Ltd and the Institute of Practitioners in Advertising, says the campaign is striking and carefully constructed.

Home Secretary Jack Straw hopes the campaign will boost police numbers and improve the force's public image.

Falklands hero Simon Weston
If Simon Weston can't face the tough tasks, then who can?
One ad features Falklands hero Simon Weston, the former Welsh Guard who was badly burned when the Argentinean Air Force bombed his landing ship, Sir Galahad.

He says: "People say I'm brave but going round to someone's house, people I've never met before, to tell a man that his wife and child have been killed in a car crash ... I'm not sure I could do that."

Former EastEnders star Patsy Palmer and the former England international footballer John Barnes also feature in the ads, which asks the question: Could you rise to these challenges?

Mr Pringle says: "The ads are based on an interesting approach, which is to ask a question that forces the viewer to self-select themselves either into or out of this advertisement - and therefore into or out of the potential of being a recruit."

A similar campaign for the army improved the calibre of applicants, saving 16.4m in recruitment costs.

The campaign also takes into account the fact that an individual's career choice is influenced by the opinions of friends and family, he says.

Thugs in the police ad
Could you calm drunk football hooligans?
"It creates an image around the idea of being a police officer which is quite positive.

"It's putting up the idea that you are going to have to talk to complete strangers about bereavement; rise to the challenge of violence on the streets; and get involved in difficult areas such as drugs and drug abuse."

He says that filming the celebrities in a chair, which they vacate at the end of the ad, prompts the viewer to mentally put themselves in the hot seat.

Could this approach backfire - surely if Simon Weston can't face the challenges of the job, how will Joe Public cope?

"It's based on the idea that relatively few people are going to be able to say 'yes' to that question, and those will be absolutely the right people for the job. So it's going to a much more efficient way of recruiting."

Shrewd move

The choice of people fronting the ads is also a shrewd move, says Mr Pringle.

The campaign subliminally addresses the need to recruit more ethnic minorities and women by featuring a black footballer and a female actress.

Footballer John Barnes
Footballer John Barnes: In the hot seat
The personalities chosen also reflect key concerns for both the police and the public.

"Simon Weston has been through hell and high water and survived - so it's extremely poignant that he's talking about how one of the important roles of the police is to help people through very difficult situations," Mr Pringle says.

"And there's a very clever counterpoint between one of the most upright, law-abiding, fair-play footballers of great standing who will have had to confront the reality of violence in football."

The striking scenes of rampaging football thugs which intercut Barnes' monologue play to the public's desire for more bobbies on the beat to fight crime, Mr Pringle says.

Pay up

The ads also need to be backed with recruitment materials in job centres and police stations, he says.

"But no matter how good the advertising campaign, if there's anything fundamentally wrong with the pay and conditions, it's going to be very hard to marketing alone to overcome that."

An award-winning campaign to recruit more nurses failed to attract sufficient numbers because the pay was seen as too low, Mr Pringle says.

"If the Government isn't putting its money where its mouth is, then you might have a very successful advertising campaign that doesn't actually work in practise."

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See also:

30 Aug 00 | UK
Who would be a PC?
19 Jul 00 | UK Politics
Straw promises 4,000 more police
18 Jul 00 | UK Politics
Big rise in violent crime
30 Aug 00 | Talking Point
Why aren't people joining the police?
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