Friday 8 April 2016

Transport for London's vision of the future

'Enzo's goal is to expand his pizza restaurant into a new area. The Northern Line extension will create a larger community with thousands of new customers.'

I can't show you a picture of Enzo, so let's carry on.

'Hanna's ambition is to lead on one of London's largest engineering projects'.

Here's Hanna:

© Transport for London

'Romanne dreams of singing to a sold out [sic] Olympic Stadium. And when she does, we'll help her fans to get to Stratford in under 30 minutes on the Elizabeth Line'.

Here's Romanne:

© Transport for London

Transport for London's current campaign ('Transporting Londoners into the Future') appears on large posters throughout the Underground system. Each poster features an image of two Enzos, or Hannas, or Romannes.  The younger (and we assume contemporary) version holds a photograph of themselves later in life, when - we are invited to suppose - they have achieved their respective goal, ambition or dream, all thanks to Tf:L's investment in the capital's rail infrastructure. 

Enzo, Hanna and Romanne are not real Londoners. The choice of models is thoughtful - young Enzo in his t-shirt is a good-looking Italian guy (Italians make pizza, you see - it's what they do), and his future self is a sharp-suited successful entrepreneur; Hanna clearly has a bit of 'attitude' (her hair is dyed the colour of Ribena, her off-the-shoulder top suggests a certain sloppy combativeness), but the link between the slightly wild Hanna of today and the future Hanna is confirmed by the colour of their respective outfits, both in high-visibility orange. And Romanne? A very attractive black girl in her early teens, wearing the same colour purple as her hypothetical stadium-filling adult counterpart (they are linked further by the smile, the tilt of the head, the camera angle, bracelets and - slightly unsettling this - what appears to be exactly the same photoshopped hair. Romanne's future incarnation looks more like a successful businesswoman than the type of singer who can fill  a huge auditorium - the opposite of, say, Rhianna (whose name is close enough in sound and stress to imply a cultural linkage with Romanne). Perhaps in the future girl singers will be less lewd. Perhaps in the future people will have dreams that exceed the imagination of copywriters. Perhaps in the futire Enzo could be an engineer, Hanna a restauranter: and Romanne . . .  well, let's take a closer look at our three Londoners.

Ever alert on your behalf for instances of dubious writing I note, for what it's worth, that while Enzo has a goal and Hanna has an ambition, Romanne has a dream (and I'm sure any reference to Martin Luther King's great speech is purely coincidental). Romanne's dream is not a modest one. She wants to fill a stadium with fans who will pay to hear her sing. Not a gig at Ronnie Scotts on her way up or down but straight in at the top, a giddy elevation of the type popularised by telly talent shows. She wants to be a celebrity - and who doesn't? Show business is always a good career choice for an impressionable teenager, and these days as risk-free as engineering and catering. Perhaps Hanna in particular should train to be an actress so she has something to fall back on if her engineering career doesn't take off. I'm delighted to see Transport for London's copywriters endorsing Romanne's dream, despite the heartbreaking distance between her dream, Hanna's ambition and Enzo's goal. Dreams cannot be criticised, or evaluated and assessed, or form a plausible part of a CV; nor can they be realised through recognised training and vocational qualifications. The choice of a child to represent Romanne in the TfL campaign is because children have dreams while grown ups are expected to have  objectively assessable ambitions and goals, are  focussed on the future, are 'target-oriented'.

Life soon knocks the dreams out of us. Most Londoners using the Northern Line extension or the Elizabeth Line (formerly known as Crossrail) will be working stiffs like myself, barely able to afford their season tickets. We won't bump into Enzo, Hanna and Romanne on the tube to Tottenham Court Road.

Images and text © Transport for London

1 comment:

  1. Hi there,

    I came across this blog post whilst searching for a copy of this campaign poster for an article in a magazine.

    I can tell you that the people in this advertisement are not actors. How do I know this? I am one of them.

    I am Hanna and I work for TfL as a Civil Engineer. I also met Enzo during my photo shoot for the campaign and he is actually a restaurant owner.

    TfL specifically chose real people in their adverts and I appreciate that the glossy advert photographs may make it seem as if we aren't as described but I can assure you that we are.

    If you'd like to discuss this further then please reply to my comment.

    - Hanna