A few days ago the Consumers Defence Association (SOS) sent a complaint to the Czech Advertising Standards Council about the chain store Tesco using the slogan “Tesco is helping at the time of crisis” in its advertising campaign. The association maintains that Tesco is raising its customers’ fear of crisis and abusing it to increase its revenues. It is allegedly “unethical and in contradiction to good manners”. Of course, the chain says the opposite: It is allegedly serious about helping.

The fact, that the crisis has been moving from newspaper headlines, where it is discussed from all possible angles, to advertising, only proves that it is a real media hit. Bigger than the bird flu or the baby boom. The adjective “financial” is omitted in most cases, so that it has more impact. The bare crisis is sinister, dramatic, and it increases our heart rate – and that is what’s important for selling. Till it begins to fade. The unpleasant sound of the word is the more frightening the less we are able to envision its effects.

We can face fear in various ways – for example through entertainment. It is known that in Berlin of 1923, when inflation was at its peak and university professors were selling shoelaces on the street, only cabarets, bars and brothels prospered. Possibly also cinemas. Or we can grab a book and read what it is we are actually threatened with.

Let us take for example the publication Krize: Psychologický a socilogický fenomén (Crisis: Psychological and sociological phenomenon) by Naděžda Špatenková published in 2004 by Grada. The author writes, for example, that crisis must not be mistaken for a depression. Crisis is a dramatic change and the accompanying negative connotations are a purely subjective matter. In other words: “A crisis is a situation that we consider to be a crisis.” We can also look at the Holmes-Rahe scale of stress situations based on the basis of long-term clinical experience. “A change in a financial situation” is only in 16th place, that is far below the death of spouse, divorce, marital separation or a jail sentence, which are in the top four positions of the scale. And just for your orientation: A change in sleeping habits is at the 32nd position and Christmas ranks 35th.


Translated with permission by the Prague Daily Monitor.