Thursday 19 April 2012

Human Housewives

I've been on a crusade for years to make the word "consumer" taboo. Sometime in the 90s, I addressed the Saatchi P&G team and clients with a plea to erase the word from their vocabularies. "The consumer", for me, conjures images of a passive, bovine creature, chewing contentedly on whatever it's fed.

Despite the efforts of countless others with the same view - see, for example, Leo Burnett's philosophy Humankind - "the consumer" persists. And my main argument against the word is that if you label a human being - or more usually a group of human beings - as "the consumer", you cannot possibly empathise with them. And it doesn't take a history lesson to show how wrong that can be.

Sometimes I wonder if the situation has got worse. "The consumer" doesn't just consume food and drink these days, but everything from whole retail chains to complex financial services and hi-tech kit, which is bizarre if you think about it long enough.

When I very first started working, some of my older colleagues didn't talk about "the consumer". They talked about "housewives". OK, OK, dreadful from the emancipation point of view but at least the word has homely and human connotations. A housewife is a living, breathing human being with talents and failings, dreams and regrets.

I'd rather be described as a housewife than a consumer any day. Housewife is one of my many roles. And maybe it's no co-incidence that housewifery seems to be enjoying a revival these days - with a post-modern irony and a self-depreciating twinkle of the eye.

Now, who's for watching Desperate Consumers?

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