Ken Livingstone weeps salty crocodile tears at his ad agency’s script

I can’t say I shared the emotions of London mayoral candidate Ken Livingstone when I first saw his his three-minute campaign film.

While Livingstone wept openly, only to be given a reassuring squeeze on the shoulder by Ed Miliband, I just thought it wasn’t very good.

Aside from questions about the veracity of some of the claims, to me it’s mawkish and full of cheap sentiment – but you can make up your own mind by watching it.

The ad was created by BETC, which has worked with Livingstone for the past few months. Billed by his team as a “political broadcast on behalf of ordinary Londoners” it has subsequently emerged  that the Londoners weren’t exactly that.

No, they were street-cast for the role then given expenses to read a script that BETC had largely written for them (although the agency claims some words were spontaneous) and for which, presumably, Livingstone had earlier given approval.

His apparently spontaneous lachrymose outburst looks rather more cynical to those who were stupid enough to fall for it on the first place.

BETC, which had initially been rather proud of its part, has subsequently appeared to be put on the back foot. But it’s now come out fighting – BETC’s Matthew Charlton has put out a statement saying: “For anybody to claim that the people featured in the Ken Livingstone broadcast are not valid voices in the debate is nothing short of a disgrace.

“The reason the film works is because it actually represents real truth. These are not actors but peoples’ mums and dads, brothers and sisters”. And lots of other words that can be interpreted as weasel ones.

Need he have bothered? After all who is actually surprised that an ad agency came up with the campaign and gave generally false sentiments to people who were being remunerated to voice them?

And equally, who is genuinely surprised that a politician then sobbed crocodile tears at the script that he had commissioned to get him elected?

In which case, BETC’s response looks like a massive over-reaction.

The claims from this selected band of Londoners weren’t “real truths” – they were simply advertising.

  • Christmas Clarke

    But if you’re nice and do rubbish work does changing to being nasty improve it?

  • Liam Tate

    Most sane individuals don’t tolerate nasty people in their personal lives, and rightly so:

    it’s not good for our mental well being.

    So why should the work environment be any different?

    Here’s my take on it:

    Friendships are based on shared values, fun, empathy etc.

    Work, however, is based on creation.

    If you have a desire to produce the best work you can, it quickly
    becomes apparent that the pursuit of this ideal will cause friction and
    disagreements with co-workers/clients etc.

    Most people don’t like confrontation, but a creator realizes that it is a
    necessary part of the process to make great work. If you want the
    juice, be prepared to squeeze.

    That doesn’t mean those confrontations ‘have’ to be venomous, that’s entirely down to the individual.

    Your astute observation [to paraphrase] “you are allowed to be nasty, as long as you make great work” is
    (unfortunately) true, so if this situation is unavoidable how can we
    learn to tolerate those Nasty Creators?

    You hope any great creator feels some kind of regret/remorse for ‘having’ to upset people in the pursuit of brilliant work. Why? Because if you are the recipient of a ‘creators nastiness’ you can get
    over those confrontations because you realise they are not personal
    attacks; just a byproduct of a desire for greatness.
    Unfortunately some people/creators ‘get off’ on the power trip of being nasty to others and no amount of mental gymnastics can make you feel better in that situation. Except taking comfort in the fact they probably don’t have many friends 😀

    So the lesson? If your have to be a dick, do it for the right reasons.

  • Dave Trott

    Hi Liam,
    Yup, that all makes sense.
    For me it’s a simple split, work is about work, leisure is about leisure.
    So for leisure it’s fun first.
    For work it’s work first.
    For leisure, all my friends are people whose company I enjoy, and I don’t care about how good they are at their job.
    For work, I like to be around people who can help me do my job better, get better work in my book or reel, and how nice they are is secondary to that.
    IMHO you prioritise the result you want and go for people who deliver that.
    If I was sick I’d want a doctor who did a great job first, not one who was a nice guy first.
    But if I was going for a pint, I’d obviously go with the nice guy.

  • Hugh Salmon
  • Matthew Charlton

    Jeremy, how odd you think that we as an ad agency can persuade ordinary people to give false sentiments on film and that my words are misplaced in defending them. You work in the industry so you know that people are just not that shallow as to be mis represented by an ad agency and also that we will, quite rightly, defend our work and the people in it. 

  • Sara Kimberley

    Since when did 20 people represent the whole of London? The ad doesn’t necessarily give false sentiment to be the people involved in the film but perhaps the rest of the capital.

  • keith bolton

    am I the only one that recognises one of the ‘cast’ as a production company member-not unusual and not unacceptable if he was reading lines which conveyed the sentiment of Londoners-it’s just when Ken cried it made it unacceptable in my mind

  • James Vigar

    I’m curious to know why the comment facility for the film has been disabled on YouTube. Doesn’t that rather undermine the whole premise of the film and the campaign? Livingstone is very keen to position himself as the voice of the people. Just not many of them. Roughly one, in fact.

  • Nick Wells

    I guess the proof is in the pudding, be interesting to see how the week pans out…

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