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The London Eye

Chris Neill ponders why anyone would go into advertising as he visits the Battersea Dogs Home

Published on January 10th 2012.

The London Eye

WHY advertising is ever seen as a glamorous world in which to work is always going to be beyond me. It might be puffed up with swishy actors and beautiful photography and soundtracks, but anything that boils down to Buy This And Don't Buy That is inherently lumpen. 

After enormous deliberation it seemed to boil down to this: a dog would offer unswerving devotion whereas a boyfriend, with any luck, wouldn't need me to bag up and dispose of his faeces for him.

At bus stops and on hoardings across London right now, Battersea Dogs Home is attempting to make water flow uphill with its latest advert which tells us “Staffies. They're Softer Than You Think.” Although these few words spare us some of the frothier and wilder realms of toss so-called 'creatives' can chuck our way, the campaign still bothers me, less so for being annoying but more so because it verges on the tragic instead. 

I don't know anything at all about the psychology of advertising, but a pitch which boils down to: “We've got loads of something you thought was really horrible but actually is quite nice so why don't you change your mind?” doesn't strike me as having a high chance of working. For the sake of Battersea Dogs Home, which is a splendid organisation, I hope I'm wrong.

About this time last year I was thinking about getting a dog. Actually, let me correct that. I was thinking of getting a boyfriend but then changed my mind. My previous long-term relationship (with a human, not a pooch) had finished over a year before and I was feeling ready to move on. 


A new boyfriend might be nice but then it occurred to me a dog might be nicer still. Obviously nothing is clear cut and both had their pros and cons.  After enormous deliberation it seemed to boil down to this: a dog would offer unswerving devotion whereas a boyfriend, with any luck, wouldn't need me to bag up and dispose of his faeces for him.

Maybe if I got both the boyfriend could deal with the poo and I could still be on the receiving end of the devotion. Sentiments like that probably go some way to explain why I'm single. A dog it was. 

Before I went to Battersea, I couldn't shift from my mind the idea that the place was going to be a kind of canine department store. Different breeds enticingly populating the numerous floors and maybe someone with a John Lewis-style green sash emblazoned with the word 'Information' to greet you as you enter. 

“Can I help you, sir?”

“Thank you. I'm looking for a poodle or a schnauzer.”

“Just those two breeds, sir?”

“I'm afraid so; it's the allergies, you see.”

“I understand. Floor four for hypoallergenic dogs, sir. Just before curtain fabrics and to the right of the toy department.”

It's is not actually like that. Instead, it's a hundred or so Staffordshire Bull Terriers and some cats. Terrified cats, I should imagine. That these alarming-looking dogs are often called by the most ludicrous names – Elsie, Lance and Dolly are three I remember – does little to help. 

Discovering that Tyson, Bullet or Brutus has a soft side might come as nice surprise whereas finding out that  Mabel or Buttercup are capable of tearing you limb from limb can really mess with your head. To say nothing of your carpets.

My search for a dog and, in fact, my even less enthusiastic hunt for a bit of romance is the subject of forty minutes or so of new stand-up which I'll be trying out at the Hen and Chickens Theatre in Highbury on Monday 16 January. It's a double-bill with the brilliantly funny comedian Jen Brister who is previewing her new show before she takes it to Adelaide and Edinburgh.

If you'd like to come along that would be excellent. If you have a dog or a boyfriend for me that would be almost as nice but frankly I'd rather you bought a ticket. For our show. Not someone else's. Buy This And Don't Buy That. Madison Avenue, here I come.


Chris Neill is a comedian and broadcaster and native Londoner. You can make him feel more popular than he actually is by following him at @chrisneill on Twitter.

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