B.C. Government Anti-Hipster Ads Get a Failing Grade

Aiming for irony in its new ad campaign, the B.C. Ministry of Jobs, Tourism and Skills Training has laid a whopper of an egg.

As the Toronto Star reported recently, their “anti-hipster” billboards are getting a lot of flack from their target audience: young people. A select sample of some of the slogans:

  • “Hipster is not a real job.”
  • “Oh sure, you’ll definitely win the lottery.”
  • “Because marrying rich may not pan out.”

Patronizing, tone-deaf and off-target are a few words that spring to mind; blind to the needs of its audience are a few more.

Now you can argue that this campaign has achieved a great deal of controversial – and therefore successful – publicity. That’s certainly the Frog Hammer mantra in the second season of Slings and Arrows (a truly inspired Canadian creation):

But I’m not buying it. Many students work incredibly hard to fund their education and feel increasingly dispirited about the job market. To suggest that they just need to wake up and ditch a venal dream is condescending at best, brain-dead at worst.

Before approving the message, the B.C. government might have done better to look at a classic job campaign from 1961 (courtesy of the Ad Council):

Peace Corps Poster

Graced with the slogan, “The Toughest Job You’ll Ever Love,” the Peace Corps campaign had an immediate effect:

  • In 1962, more than 30,000 people applied to the Peace Corps.
  • By 1965, more than a thousand people a week were mailing coupons from the ads.

There’s no marketing rule that says you can’t challenge an audience; there is one that says you can’t treat them like idiots.

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