News Darragh McManus

Wednesday 17 September 2014

'It's refreshing to hear someone talk in real English, not robotic mantras of corporate-speak' - Darragh McManus on Mary Curtis' gaffe re UTV Ireland viewers

Published 29/08/2014 | 11:13

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UTV Ireland is set to launch in 2015
UTV Ireland is set to launch in 2015

It was, at the same time, very funny and eye-openingly surprising. UTV Ireland boss Mary Curtis has essentially said that her own customers would be boring, uncool people who needed to get life.

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Addressing a group of young reporters, she described their target demographic as “mainly housewives with a few kids under their belt. I don’t think any of you guys will be watching, because you actually have lives. We’ll be going after people who have no choice but to stay at home.”

This type of loose-lipped gaffe is common enough in business, actually: Gerald Ratner the jeweller famously cut his own throat by calling the product “total crap”, Michael O’Leary said Ryanair passengers were “idiots”, Newcastle United bosses labelled female fans “dogs” and sneered at the chumps paying £50 for a replica shirt made for buttons.

But you don’t expect it from someone in media: they’d be more used to playing the game, you’d think.

Curtis’ comments were admirably candid (though you’d imagine they’ve driven the station’s marketing peeps into a state of high doh). It’s refreshing to hear someone talk in real English, not the smooth, robotic mantras of corporate-speak.

Still, she’s not only said that hip, exciting youngsters – that coveted audience for advertisers – won’t be tuning in, she’s implied that the only reason anyone will be watching is because they’ve no other option. Not a wonderful recommendation for the standard of programming, it must be said.

Just imagine the marketing slogans: “Watch UTV – because you’ve literally nothing else to do. No, that’s not a depressing thought.” “As a dull-witted housewife tired out by the kids, you’re incapable of reading a book – why not give UTV a go instead.” “Ulster says NO…there isn’t much else on really. Watch UTV.”

I jest, of course. The slogan’s much more likely to be something along the lines of “Watch UTV: it’s pretty much like TV3, only with more of a twang.”

The funny thing is that hip ‘n’ trendy media types actually do watch a lot of mainstream TV. (This is based on my Twitter feed which, given my job, is heavy with journos and broadcasters.)

They seem to reference telly much more than literature, art cinema, galleries, clubs, fine dining or anything else on a higher cultural plane. So Mary Curtis might be right about her theoretical viewers having nothing better to do – but it’s not just the poor housewives who are in need of getting a life.

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