Monday, October 23, 2006
In praise of Australian copywriting
... because I used to be a copywriter and I know how difficult it is. And the copywriting on Australian public signs is nothing short of brilliant.
What makes it distinctive to a person used to the circumlocution and indirect language of English signs - which are aiming to be polite - is that there's an energetic directness of phrasing combined with a kind of 'don't blame me, mate, it was your mistake' shrug. Signs threaten you from all directions, usually with fines - but they don't tell you you're liable to a fine, they tell you that you'll get fined. Rather than giving you the neutral information that you might want to think about, they say flat out that if you do something stupid, then it's your own lookout. Really, the icon for 'public service announcement' in Sydney ought to be a down-to-earth little stickman pointing and laughing. Two particularly good examples:
1. On ferries, trains and other places worried about terrorism:
If you see something, say something.
It goes on to say report suspicious packages or persons, but in terms of being both general and common-sensical, it's terrific.
2. My absolute favourite, posted on the walkway above the crocodile enclosure in the Sydney aquarium (best place in the world, go there, go go go), and pretty self explanatory:
Do not enter.
If the fall does not kill you, the crocodile will.
Anyone else have favourite signs or slogans?
It is alleged to be a warning label stuck on to a certain brand of chainsaw. I've never seen one with my own eyes though; it may be an urban legend. (I just enjoy imagining possible trivial chainsaw accidents: stubbing your toe on one when it's switched off, for example.)
'Beware of tsunami when you feel the earthquake' Along the seafront in Kamakura.
And, on more mundane lines: 'Dispose of refuse in this bin' which always makes me feel like I should be taking rubbish out of the bin and throwing it away.
I always used to wonder about 'Keep Britain Tidy', which lends each individual bin a kind of epic quality, like a John Buchan novel written by an OCD sufferer.
Regional variations are interesting too. Although Scotland is a part of Britain they have their own slogan, 'Keep Scotland Beautiful', which rather ups the stakes. 'TIDY Northern Island' sounds like it should have 'or you won't get your pocket money!' after it.
Yes, local variations are interesting. I remember noticing as a child that in England, road signs said 'Give Way', whereas in Ireland, they said 'Yield right of way', which, like much Irish speech in comparison with English, was more amiably verbose.
I worked with a guy who once reported to me that he saw a Kentucky Fried Chicken sign that said:Post a Comment
Extra Tender Crispy
(Mmmm... tastes like chicken.)
I had friends who bought a 6-man raft for whitewater rafting. The instructions said, "Do not eat raft."
July 2006 August 2006 September 2006 October 2006 November 2006 December 2006 January 2007 February 2007 March 2007 April 2007 May 2007 June 2007 July 2007 August 2007 September 2007 October 2007 November 2007 December 2007 January 2008 February 2008 March 2008 April 2008 May 2008 June 2008 July 2008 August 2008 September 2008 October 2008 November 2008 December 2008 January 2009 February 2009 March 2009 April 2009 May 2009 June 2009 July 2009 August 2009 September 2009 October 2009 November 2009 December 2009 January 2010 February 2010 March 2010 April 2010 June 2010 July 2010 August 2010 September 2010 October 2010 November 2010 December 2010 January 2011 February 2011 March 2011 April 2011 May 2011 June 2011 July 2011 August 2011 September 2011 October 2011 November 2011 December 2011 January 2012 February 2012 March 2012 April 2012 May 2012 June 2012 July 2012 August 2012 September 2012 October 2012 November 2012 December 2012 January 2013 February 2013 March 2013 April 2013 May 2013 June 2013