The power of context
By Samantha Anderson
By now, I’m sure we’ve all heard the clip from Rishi Sunak’s interview on the 6th October - the one surrounding creative jobs. If you haven’t seen it, you can read a transcript of it here. As expected, the younger generations cried in outrage. Gen Z and Millennials took away one message from this interview – they needed a new job that wasn’t creative.
But it wasn’t just Gen Z and Millennials that were outraged - celebrities were weighing in too. Comments like ‘without music, where would the UK be?’ and ‘We’re the home of Shakespeare, what if he wasn’t allowed to create?’ were being shared across every social media possible. Singers, artists, authors and illustrators nationwide were speaking up and having their voices heard.
Shortly after, the government responded by creating a microsite that would suggest a new career for you based on your skills and experience. Yet, they were met with more anger.
Then next day, we all woke up to Fatima’s Fiasco. Within 24 hours, every social media channel was filled with the same digital ad featuring a ballerina and a message about her retraining into cyber.
It came from Cyber First, an organisation created in 2016 as a part of GCHQ to encourage younger generations into a career in cyber. They began as a programme of opportunities helping young people explore their passion for tech by introducing them to the world of cyber security. Now, they had branched out to offering bursaries and training for soon-to-be students entering cyber based degrees.
In 2019, they released a campaign encouraging people of all ages to retrain and to join cyber. Images of bakers and manual labourers, shop keepers and ballet dancers were shared with a message of their next job being in cyber, but they didn’t know it yet.
But, being backed by the government and having a tag line of ‘Rethink. Reskill. Reboot.’ did not work in their favour. The younger generations got creative and made their own versions, they even dissected the ad to show how creative industries made which aspect of it. The images went viral, and celebrities shared their opinions.
As a copywriter, it was fascinating to watch. I saw friends and family, old classmates and even celebrities sharing the ad and their opinions. And they all agreed - it was terrible and an insult.
Having recently worked on a tech-focused episode of our FactHack series, where we delve deep into some of the top industries, I’d already been exposed to the lack of diversity in cyber. I knew that only 19% of the UK tech workforce were female, and only 15% were PoC. So, when I looked at Fatima’s ad, and the whole campaign itself, I saw a solution. Granted, it was released a year ago, so they were unable to predict what would happen, but their message was clear: a cyber career is accessible and achievable to all.
And yet, once the context had changed - moving from a safe economy and stable job to this pandemic world we live in – the message was flipped on its head. All of a sudden it appeared to be saying to people that ballet, and many other creative industries, weren’t stable and people should quit. Neither Cyber First, nor their agency, could have predicted that a year on we’d be in the midst of a pandemic, and three quarters of a million people would have lost their jobs. Nobody could have.
It was interesting to watch a message that was most likely written with care and precision a year ago bring read and interpreted in a whole new way. A playful tagline was now being unfairly given a sinister tone.
One of the biggest factors for this was that people were sharing without researching. I saw countless celebrities on my Instagram sharing the images, but not reading into the context. One share from a famous person meant thousands of people were now exposed and agreeing with that opinion.
We’re all guilty of being influenced by celebrities and the people around us – it’s natural to listen to other people’s opinions. There’s a reason influencers are called influencers. Jackie Grisdale, our Youth Marketing Specialist, recently shared a series of blogs discussing the different influencers we have in our lives, and how best to talk to them.
If there’s one thing I’m taking away from this, it’s that context has a lot of power in how people receive what we create. That, and now I know who Cyber First are.