We have said it before – it’s definitely possible to be over-media trained. The results of a corporate spokesperson being too on-message can be cringeworthy. For some reason, the supermarkets often seem to get it wrong. Last night on BBC1, in an investigation imported from BBC3 into the way supermarkets expand the nation’s waistlines by over-promoting fatty foods at the expense of healthy ones, the man from Morrisons was made to look – frankly – a bit of a corporate plonker. Reporter Becca Wilcox pointed up the way he would only allow himself to be filmed in front of the fresh fruit aisle (all supermarket PRs tend to make this sort of stipulation) – well out of the way of all the dump bins groaning with buy-one-get-one-free offers on sugar-filled chocolate bars and fatty crisps. Ms Wilcox can do ditzy blonde, but being the daughter of Esther Rantzen and documentary maker Desmond Wilcox, she was not going to let him get away with anything. So his attempts to get the ‘company message’ into every other answer were laid bare – “why do you keep saying “fresh food at affordable prices?” she asked, cutting together a string of examples which made him sound like an android. It brought to mind foodie Hugh Fearnley-Whittingstall’s run-in with the lady from Tesco’s over their promotion of battery chickens a year or two back. A highly intelligent woman, she was nonetheless so terrified of going off-message that she simply couldn’t engage.
The problem here is never being able to admit to a scintilla of blame or error on the company’s part, simply repeating the mantra instead, in increasing desperation. It would have cost the Morrisons man nothing to accept the obvious truth that it does promote a lot of unhealthy foods, and commit the company to at least looking at the promotional balance compared with healthier alternatives. Then they might come across as at least appearing willing to listen to the arguments, instead of sticking fingers in both ears.