I’m currently reading Dave Gorman’s ‘Too Much Information… or Can Everyone Just Shut Up For A Moment, Some Of Us Are Trying To Think’. If you’re not aware of Dave Gorman then I suggest you look him up, because he’s a very funny man. If you are aware of Dave Gorman then you may well have seen his show on Dave, ‘Modern Life is Goodish’, and this book is written in a similar vein to the ‘Goodish’ shows.
I actually came across this book in a charity shop, along with several other gems, all of which I purchased for the modest sum of £9.00:
I come across a lot of these kinds of books in charity shops; books that can really only be read once, because once you’ve digested the facts and laughed at the jokes, it’s not quite the same the second time around. But I’m glad I came across this one, because if I hadn’t then I would not now know that Barry Scott is not a real person.
You know who Barry Scott is, right? The wooden, unconvincing star of the Cillit Bang ads, whose acting is so awful that you’re instantly convinced that he must be the inventor and insisted, against his marketing department’s advice, on being in the ads because he is the guy with the brains and the money and you do as he says or he’ll fire you .
But no! This is not the case at all! According to Mr Gorman, Barry Scott is actually Neil Burgess, an actor who has also appeared as ‘Male Paramedic’ in Waking The Dead and ‘Removals Man’ in Life Begins.
Why does this matter? Well… it doesn’t. But it does go to prove the point that Mr Gorman is trying to make in his book: that we’re so bombarded with information these days ‘that we’ve taught ourselves not to pay too much attention’, let alone pause to question what we’re seeing.
Or maybe it’s just me that’s astounded at the lie Cillit Bang have been peddling for years (it is true that I don’t get out much). Type ‘Barry Scott’ into Google and the very first result is a website excerpt informing you that Barry Scott is played by actor Neil Burgess. The headline of the article is ‘Some fun facts about Cillit Bang’s cult ambassador Barry Scott following his advertising exit’, which is just the kind of click bait nonsense Mr Gorman berates in his book. So instead of just breezing past it, I’ve clicked on the link and here are the ‘fun facts’ presented:
1. Barry Scott is actually portrayed by... yeah yeah, I’ve covered that. I’m not sure how this is ‘fun’ though. Personally, I’m still mildly irritated at being deceived so easily by a household cleaning product, but never mind. On to fact two…
2. Scott’s first demonstrative campaigns began to appear in 2005 featuring the catchphrase “Bang! And the dirt is gone!” OK. It’s a fact, but is it ‘fun’ though?
3. A hardcore dance track was added to a remix of a Barry Scott ad – it has had nearly 1.5m hits on YouTube at the time of writing. Interesting, if you’re into hardcore dance. If I stretch my imagination I might be able to muster some mild amusement.
4. After being ‘rested’ the character of Scott returned in 2013, although the first campaign was then banned by the Advertising Standards Authority due to exaggerating claims that the cleaning product Cillit Bang Limescale & Shine with Turbo Power removed stains instantly. Nope. Still not a twitch on the fun-o-meter.
5. In 2014, a student website called Oxygen.IE reported the death of Scott. Now I’m confused. Did they report the death of a fictional character, knowing he was fictional, or did they report the death of Barry Scott, thinking Neil Burgess the actor was dead, but not knowing he was Neil Burgess the actor, or did they think Neil Burgess was dead? Or did they just not think at all?
6. The report received so many views that the editor, Simon Griffin wrote a tongue-in-cheek open letter to Scott to discuss his success and congregate Scott on becoming a public figure. To this day it is not thought that the letter has received a response from either the character or the brand. Now this is cheating. Not only is it not a new fact, being an extension of the previous one, but it’s also not fun. It’s also very badly written and pretty poor journalism. A guy wrote a letter. ‘It is not thought that’ the letter received a reply. Who is it doing the not-thinking? The author of the article? The public in general? (And if I’m anything to go by, some of us don’t even know he isn’t real, let alone if he’s dead or not!) So it’s not a fact at all, it’s an extension of a fact with a little ambiguity tagged on the end.
7. Scott’s enthusiastic presenting style was parodied in Peter Sarafinowicz’s BBC2 comedy show in a sketch dubbed ‘Kitchen Gun’. Finally, some fun! Except the author of the article (Stephen Lepitak, editor of The Drum, no less) couldn’t even be bothered to get Peter’s surname right, despite having had eighteen months since the article was published to correct it.
And that is the end of ‘Some fun facts about Cillit Bang’s cult ambassador Barry Scott’, of which there were six, not seven, and none were what I would call amusing.
With Mr Gorman’s book still fresh in my mind, I arrived at my work desk this morning determined to look at the web with a critical eye. Not that I should’ve been looking at the web but with everything that’s happened in Manchester recently, I wanted to see what the latest was (threat level ‘critical’, troops on the streets of Britain – a thing I never hoped to see in my lifetime). Eventually I scrolled down the page to other news, and in the ‘Health’ section of Google News there were two articles, one atop the other:
Just half a glass of wine a day may increase breast cancer risk
Six bars of chocolate a week could cut risk of common heart condition
Now I’m not in the habit of believing everything I read (although I am in the habit of believing cleaning product hawkers when they say they’re Barry Scott) and I know to take these kinds of stories with a large pinch of salt, to the point of being utterly apathetic about them. What worries me is that there are people out there — probably lots of them — that take this shit seriously. There will be people out there who are forcing themselves to eat six chocolate bars a week (the little martyrs, them) without actually clicking through to the article and reading the facts, which are far more in depth than a headline will allow (like women only need to eat one portion to get the benefits, not six, and a ‘portion’ is 30g, not the 850g whopper that my teenage self once got through in one sitting.)
And what of those who have vowed to never drink red wine again on the basis of one sensationalistic headline? Click through to the article and you will find that:
Further evidence has emerged of the link between alcohol consumption in women and an increased risk of breast cancer.
According to a report from the World Cancer Research Fund, half a glass of wine or a small beer a day increases the risk of breast cancer.
It also backs up research showing that regular intensive exercise can reduce the risk of the disease.
But is it really that simple?
Breast cancer is by far the most common cancer in women in the UK with one in eight women developing the disease during their lifetime.
But scientists say they can’t explain why the cancer occurs in some people and not in others.
There are numerous causes and lots of factors to take into account, including lifestyle, hormone levels and other medical conditions.
Basically, it’s a complex picture and there’s no point focusing on one factor only.
Read that last line again. Now pour yourself a glass of wine, grab yourself a square or three of chocolate, and relax in the knowledge that we’re all going to die of something some day, so let’s just enjoy life whilst we can. If this week has reminded us of anything, it’s that life is precious and we should cherish every second, not spend it worrying over infinite details.
Like the fact that Barry Scott is not really Barry Scott.