Opinion: Don’t blame Centra for highlighting a truth
“Two Centra shops in Dublin have been criticised for distributing a leaflet with Children’s Allowance Day deals which include special offers for crates of beer” reported TheJournal.ie this morning. As the internet rounded up a bout of its signature rage, the chain apologised for the ads and said they were withdrawing the leaflets amid claims of them being “totally irresponsible” from Alcohol Action Ireland and “stupid” from Retail Excellence Ireland.
But let’s just wait a fury-filled second here.
To claim that this is an irresponsible move that will affect children is to assume that any parent will act on it. If you don’t already spend your Children’s Allowance on boxes of Miller, you’re not about to start. If you do, it’s certainly not because a rogue branch of Centra thinks you should. Hands up who wants to give Centra that much credit?
And if it’s the children we’re so concerned about, were we not further bothered by the rest of these ‘Children’s Allowance Day Deals’? Are Jaffa Cakes, Fig Rolls, pizza, Tangle Twisters and crisps what we should be supplying to our children, or are we just worried that they might have a drunk parent but not so concerned that we’re leading them down the diabetes and childhood obesity garden path?
If we’re going to be indignant, let’s at least be well-rounded and not merely piqued by the opportunity to seize on an advertising blunder because it allows us to please think of the children while ragging on irresponsible drunk parents – the existence of whom we are largely presuming will be buoyed up by a maildrop leaflet. Indeed.
Let’s at least figure out what we’re supposed to be indignant about. “Children’s allowance is to help feed and clothe kids. It’s insulting to parents at the current time who are struggling to buy basics for the kids,” commented Fianna Fail senator Averil Power in the same Journal article.
Let’s be honest here, the type of parent who’s targeted with a ‘Children’s Allowance Day Deals’ promotion is the type of parent who, unfortunately for them, waits around for Children’s Allowance Day for a much needed financial bump in the month. The type of parent who is probably spending the Children’s Allowance on the mortgage, petrol, and food for all the family. The type of parent who, let’s face it, probably went short themselves in the past few weeks to pay for a school tour and could in all likelihood do with a drink if only they could actually make €140 stretch that far.
The thing about Child Benefit is that it’s a universal allowance. You get it just for giving birth. It doesn’t matter if you’re unemployed and living in rented State accommodation or the MD of a multi-national currently residing in your stately pile in leafy Ballsbridge. The problem with these Centra ads is not that they were telling people what to buy. Advertising always tells people what to buy. At Christmas it encourages parents to fork out on expensive toys. It encourages us all to splash out on smart phones and stupidly high shoes. The problem is that these ads identified a very obvious social group and instead of doing what advertising usually does and trying to make us think we can afford things and that some shiny purchase will make us a better person, it dropped to the lowest common denominator, agreed that we can’t afford anything, and asked if we’d like a drink?
So what the hell are we blaming Centra for? Why are we stopping short of opening up the conversation about the kind of poverty children are living in and how a €15 quid on Miller is making precious little difference to their lives? It’s not the ad that’s disgusting, it’s the very idea of Children’s Allowance Day Deal that’s disgusting, because what’s worse than living paycheque to paycheque is living handout to handout. You can be sure that if such a deal was for a new Tiffany necklace because southside mummies don’t need their extra bit of State cash and just use it for a splurge, the rage would direct itself toward means testing – so why not from the flipside of the coin? Why aren’t we talking about those who need more in the same way we’d have immediately jumped on those who have too much?
Centra – for the way we live today indeed.