Ian Chambers discusses three videos showing different approaches to hard sell.
These three videos target the growing Advanced GNVQ business market, particularly Unit 1: Business in the Economy (The Holiday Resort); Unit 2: Business Organisations and Systems (Business Systems); and Unit 3: Marketing (The Magazine). The documentary style, in which the main characters do the talking and there is limited commentary, makes the videos potentially useful as sources of evidence for GNVQ assignment work.
The Holiday Resort features Broadstairs on the Isle of Thanet in Kent and contrasts the heyday of the late Fifties and early Sixties with the tougher trading conditions of the Nineties.
This is a well-constructed programme, which shows how the town has sought to sell itself - with its summer folk festival, the Dickens connection (Bleak House was written there), and European language students. It also presents short case studies of some small businesses - a museum, a theatre, a hotel and a restaurant - adapting to the economic recession in the area.
A useful comparison is made with two other Thanet resorts - Ramsgate and Margate - which appear to be in greater decline than Broadstairs. This will help students to develop some critical and contrasting views and could also be used with Intermediate or GCSE students.
The same cannot be said about the other two videos. Both have been designed to be hard-hitting and attention-grabbing, and both include bad language (with bleeps) and highly sexist attitudes (without bleeps). They encourage a critical view of their subject matter, which is to be welcomed, but they would need to be used carefully with students to avoid reinforcing stereotypes rather than challenging them.
The Magazine is the more successful of the two; it presents a case study of Loaded, which is now the largest selling male magazine, thanks to its concentration on the lifestyles of 18 to 30-year-old lads. The case study well illustrates the marketing strategy used by the publishing company IPC in launching and sustaining Loaded. The sexist, materialistic views of the journalists are set against some opposing attitudes, but overall the programme tends to celebrate a magazine that one critical journalist has described as a "worrying influence on the publicity world".
The Business Systems video begins as a clear illustration of how three important systems work in a business - invoicing, electronic mail and a customer database - then turns into a soap-style drama as conflict emerges between an aggressive male sales manager and a female information systems manager with a more consultative approach.
It is the sales manager (surely a Loaded reader) who wins out in the end, and the video appears to give the message that his style is the successful one. By this time we have rather lost sight of the business systems.
Each video has extensive support material, including discussion topics, stop-the-tape tests, assignments, role plays, a copy of the script and background information. The package is an excellent potential resource for GNVQ, but the style and content of The Magazine and Business Systems will make some teachers question their use in schools and colleges.
Ian Chambers is general adviser, vocational and careers education, Tameside local education authority