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Wednesday, 3 December 2014

Why Are Panto Posters So Terrible?

It's that time of year where you see in the press, on Twitter, all around town and city centres, millions of truly terrible Panto posters.  And I ask myself, how did this come about?
I mean, if it were any other product we would run a fucking mile from them.  We wouldn't countenance spending money on something which is sold in such a shoddy manner.  And yet, we do.
The Panto poster template is simple.
Step 1: photograph members of the cast six months in advance in front of a blank background in a dodgy hired costume/the stock costume you have set aside every year.  Depending on the Panto these cast members will either be: minor celebrities/nameless models who look cute.
Step 2:  Photoshop said photos to death, adding a colourful (see eye blindingly painful) background and AS MANY SPARKLY EFFECTS as your computer will allow.
Step 3:  Chose a swirly, unreadable font and make it even more unreadable by covering it in AS MANY SPARKLY EFFECTS as your computer will allow.
Step 4:  Cry.

And it's not that I'm against glittery posters, or happy smiling pretty plastic people.  It's that it never ends - it's the laziness of it all - it's that it's the same poster EVERY YEAR, reproduced across dozens of different Pantos across the WHOLE COUNTRY.
Now, it isn't just that Pantos are often produced centrally by a few big companies - who favour a template and a straightforward marketing package, this is understandable - it's that everyone does it.  Even theatres with long histories of making Pantomime and who have a little more time to think of a slightly more original marketing strategy.
So why do it?  Because it works.  So why bother changing it?
It is assumed that children like glitter, so everything must be glittery.  And they're probably right.

But there is, I suspect, another reason.  Pantos tend to sell themselves.  People just book to see Pantos, like animals migrating to spawn at the same spot every mating season.  They don't know why, it's just expected.  So long as you do a basic job of putting out posters, doing some press, getting the right star name - then there isn't a great creative job that's needed to sell it.  Do the same thing every year, with the odd twist, because it's not going to swing sales more than a few percent.  And that includes the poster.

But... but... but... is that an excuse?  Is that really enough of an excuse for filling public space with acres and acres of migraine inducing imagery that doesn't just offend the eye, but actively burns the retina?  Come on, people of Britain, we can do better!  We can create something less plastic, more human, more alive then these never ending walls of glittery laziness.
We just probably won't.

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