back to article Government wastes £4.6m on mobile telly nonsense

A £5m gov-backed mobile-video series designed to promote condom use among da yoof has met with a limp reception - in the two months since its launch the internet-based campaign has only managed 554 MySpace friends and 15 fans on Facebook. The project, entitled Thmbnls and with the strap line "Want Respect? Use a condom", is …


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  1. Random Noise

    4.6 million quid?

    So basically they've put together some videos (lets say a couple hundred thousand quid as a generous amount) put it on some internet sites (free, barring the time it takes some staffer to do it) and running the service for mobiles (no idea of cost, but cant be more than another couple hundred thou maximum.

    Where the f**K has this money gone? All into the hands of some PR firm!

    I think where public money is being spent there should be 100% transparency i.e we should be able to see all invoices etc. Where mad amounts of cash are being splodged we should have the right to demand that these companies are never used for govt work again.

    The gravy train must be derailed!

  2. chris
    Thumb Down

    Should be as cheap as a bag of balloons

    At the risk of sounding like a Speak your branes-er, why is it never suggested that Durex bear some of the cost of teen pregnancies?

    Everyone knows you should use condoms but given that it's impossible to get hold of the things for a reasonable price(*) it's no wonder folk try and get away without using them. It's like there's some kind of cartel arrangement. £8 for a pack of 12!? And the small packs are relatively more expensive too.

    In civilised places (anarchist-run squats, for example) you get the things given away, but in shiny land it's more important to make money than keep folk happy, healthy and non-pregnant. Bah.

    (*) - I mean how much can they cost to manufacture per unit (snigger)? About 5p?

  3. Dabooka

    It's almost as if they don't know what they're doing.

    But that can't be right, why we give a wheelbarrow full fo cash to such an outfit?

    And as for El Reg, shame on you. You can't go around asking questions of that sort, you'll only embarrass them. Show some repsect....

  4. Pie Eater
    Paris Hilton

    Perhaps not the best phrase to use in this context?

    "they expressed concern about the penetration of video-capable phones"

    I'm not sure I like the imagery...

    Paris - because she'd like to be associated with this campaign

  5. Juan Inamillion
    Thumb Up

    Should have called it...

    "Something for the weekend sir?" Mind you, todays typically hirsute yoof probably don't know what a barber is, let alone go to one on Friday (really showing my age now).

    Very good article even managing to get 'limp' and 'penetration' into it in non-sexual references - still a Fnarr Factor though. Oh and 'Web2.0-twattery' is truly inspired.

    Ultimate paragraph really says it all. "Trebles all round".

    Well done A*

  6. Anonymous Coward

    4.6 million quid? !!

    feedback received has been "very positive" and that "many young people are engaging with the interactive elements"

    so who is providing this feedback, and who are the people "engaging" with the "interactive elements".

    we are "not hopeful that we'll have such specific information readily available"

    Lies, damn lies and some mate of a politician who couldn't be given their kickback through a knighthood and large pension plan.

  7. Anonymous Coward

    Meanwhile, on BBC Radio 2

    They're afraid to tell listeners on the Chris Evans show yesterday what beat combo U2's latest disk, called "Get on Your Boots", actually refers to, even though it seems entirely relevant here.

    Hint: boots, made of rubber. what else is commonly made of rubber? Shocking! You should see how they've reacted at that well known yoof magazine the Torygraph:

  8. Cameron Colley

    So, who got the back-hander?

    Which government minister or civil servant earned a kick-back for awarding this contract?

  9. tony72


    When will they learn. The "yoof" will not be told what is cool, or how to behave, by government information videos, or otherwise packaged messages. In fact for every rare person who actually pays the slightest attention to one of these messages, there are probably several who intentionally do exactly the opposite.

    Now if you were to film a series of hardcore porn videos with condoms used, with a safe sex message after the money shot, then you might actually get young men to watch them. Whether they'd respond to the message, as opposed to just enjoying the videos and whacking off, is another matter. Anyone want to propose this to the government?

  10. Wize

    Not seen them and have no interest in finding them

    If they want to use viral marketing to promote prevention of spreading anything viral, they need to make clips/sites that people will want to tell their friends about. Nothing spreads faster than something that's genuinely funny and not a public information film.

  11. M A Walters
    Paris Hilton

    What PR?

    Mostly @Random Noise

    What PR? If no one's heard of the campaign, like the article says, PR was not that great.

    That is, of course, discounting the fact that the yoofs (or is that yobs) that the campaign is aimed that wouldn't bother watching it to begin with and even if you were to hand them out with a personalised DVD they will just stick it in where the sun don't shine.

    Sounds like waste of public money... Yet again!

  12. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    "concern about the penetration of video-capable phones"

    I don't think a condom would be required for that, although I do agree it's still cause for concern.

  13. Graham Allsop

    B*tch-sl*pp*ng every UK tax payer

    Excellent, more hours of all of our time spent working to pay the tax that funds this sort of sh*t. The UK government is a shambles, the UK civil service is a shambles, fire the lot of them and start again.

  14. Anonymous Coward
    Thumb Down

    no figures

    A PR company, which is not far from marketing yet cannot provide any stats on a running campaign..... that sounds like they are either fibbing or so used to not actually delivering anything they stopped counting things.

    Really would the like of Nokia or Nike be happy enough to have no stats on a LIVE campaign???

    also @random noise

    Absolutely, publicly accountable when it comes to these things has to be the way to go.

    I don't have enough money for government to be wasting it for me.

  15. Anonymous Coward

    @ 4.6 million quid?

    Why not try submitting an FoI request to see some accountability of how this money has been spent?

    I know it's a long shot, but it could be fun trying and seeing how the people involved react! :-)

  16. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    15 facebook fans...

    That's bad - that's really bad! Hitler probably has more!

  17. Chris C


    OK, I know the kids of today are stupid, but are they really so stupid that they don't know you have to practice safe sex? Put another way -- is it really education that's lacking, or is it common sense? A lot of people know they should practice safe sex, but for one reason or another, fail to do so. The problem is not that people are not educated. The problem is that many of them think "it won't happen to me", and so they decide to risk it. No amount of education will change that.

  18. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    I have to say...

    While probably not the main target for this kind of thing but still being within the age range (18), I haven't even HEARD of this ad campaign before now...

    when will the government stop wasting money?

  19. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward


    They're called WHAT?????

    Thmbnls? What the fuck is THAT? It's not even pronounceable!!

  20. Jonathan

    Embarrassing is the only word...

    These videos and in fact, all the government sponsored sex education is mildly embarrassing at best and horrendously cringe-making at worst. The dancing dad analogy sums things up as well as I can manage. If anything these kinds of campaigns tend to have the opposite effect, trying too hard to imitate real life 'cool street talk' of whatever these sheltered advertising types with absolutely zero life experience want to call it.

    Hell, I'm a rational 23 year old and even I'm tempted to throw away my stash of condoms and start a baby-factory, just to help bugger their statistics up.

    Mines the one with the pre-pinpricked durex in the pockets.

  21. Anonymous Coward

    if only they kept records of some sort...

    Sounds like a nice soft target for a FOI request. I can't imagine any reason why they could legitimately deny it, apart from encouraging people to think that government should be transparent and accountable in its spending. Oh, wait...

  22. Flugal
    Paris Hilton


    The government seem far more intent on trying to draw out attention to their groundless attempts to retrieve the government-approved pension of the RBS boss because they think it will strike a cord with the public, whereas many times that amount of our cash is squandered on unaccountable audit-trail-free, albeit well meaning, projects such as this.

    Job for the fuckin' PR boys.

    Paris - because she gives sex tips for nowt.

  23. Nick Ryan Silver badge

    Re: 4.6 million quid?

    "I think where public money is being spent there should be 100% transparency i.e we should be able to see all invoices etc. Where mad amounts of cash are being splodged we should have the right to demand that these companies are never used for govt work again.

    The gravy train must be derailed!"

    Ah, but following on from our beloved dictator's previous statements... unfortunately that kind of thing would cause the downfall of democracy. Or something like that, but more likely reveal irrefutable proof of dodgy dealings, illegal practices, corruption and just blatant arse covering.

  24. Anonymous Coward
    Paris Hilton

    Hey Beavis, he said 'penetration'...

    > though they expressed concern about the penetration of video-capable phones

    Perhaps one of the six friends could cover this in their next video?

    \Paris 'cos she knows all about video capable phones.

  25. Ian

    Nathan Barley Ahoy!

    Youtube that bitch to escape velocity.

  26. Anonymous Coward

    Think of all the.,...

    Abortions that 4.6M could fund.

    I'm off to hull now.

  27. Chris Lovell
    Thumb Up

    You're forgetting the radio angle

    I believe a reasonable amount of this has gone on radio advertising - I hear the ads here on one of the local stations and have to say that they're actually quite good. Yes, total waste for the video malarky, but I do believe som positive angles have come out of it.

  28. CockKnocker


    @ Chris C - After speaking to my 18 year old cousin the other day I have decided that yeah, they are all that stupid!!

    @ Tony72 - Brilliant idea mate, when you start production keep me in mind as the "oil boy", cheers

    Alternately you could just show em pics of skanky STD's (you know, when they look terminal, and they probly are lol), scare em into wearing em!

  29. Simon
    Paris Hilton

    Erm.... GA?

    Why don't they just log onto their Google Analytics account and see how many hits the site has had. It's GA number 14 on their list of sites in case they can't figure out which domain it is.

    Honestly if you are going to say that you may not be able to get the stats at least take the GA code OFF the pages before you try bullshi**ing your way out of it!

  30. Christopher Rogers


    How do i get a job with those guys on the govt. gravy train.....

    As long as there's government and new media, there'll be tax payers getting shafted. New media. It's like having a degree in being vague.

  31. Adam Foxton

    @thmbnls? AC

    I think it's supposed to be "Thumbnails". Like B%X would be BOLOX -> bollocks.

    Pretty much it's a load of shit designed to make it seem a little cooler.

    I agree with the poster further up who suggested hardcore pron with heavy use of condoms, maybe getting an appropriate "actress" to point out that even SHE uses them- and she's a professional. So if you're an amateur, you seriously should!

    Durex really should create some sort of penis-enlarging condom. That way, loads of people would want them AND they'd only need the one size as, well, who the hell would go for the smallest option?

  32. Andrew Culpeck
    Black Helicopters

    Lies Damed lies and Statistics

    Is it me or is it contradiction to say feedback is "very positive", so you know its going well and then say when asked for specifics, we are "not hopeful that we'll have such specific information readily available". So do they know or dont they. If not as has been pointed out here why are we employing these numpies. They could of course mean poeple are posatively against it ?

    Sounds to me like the same old govenment lies. I am invoved with a pressure group and we haveing the same trouble getting a staight answer from Westminster council regarding there experimental parking order that forces bikers to pay up to £1.50p a day to park in Wesminster. Still we are working hard to put an end to that TAX!

  33. Steve


    Actually condoms are quite labour-intensive to make. LRC have these large frames each with 20-30 moulded erect penises on them, which they dip vertically into liquid latex. After being lifted out and allowed to dry they are sprayed with lubricant. Then the expesnsive bit, there's a gang of people (mostly women, from the video I saw) who spend their entire day on the production line rolling the new condoms off the moulds and feeding them into the machine that puts the foil packets on. Hope they keep their nails well trimmed.

    I can only imagine that it must be a bit like working in a chocolate factory. Amusing for the first week, but after a while "oh God no, not another one, please". Must make weekends boring...

  34. David Hicks

    4.6 million quid

    Right. 4.6 milsion.

    Jesus jumped up christ, this is where our taxes go.

    And people moan that cutting taxes would mean having to cut essential services.... Can someone GUT the goddamned government please? This is our money going on this crap.

  35. peter

    How about

    A free "lottery" scratchcard with 2 plays, put HIV into a special bous box so avoid giving the wrong impression.

    The STD game "ironic win" would be odds similar to real life so 1/3 for genital herpes , and the second play would be for a condom voucher sponsered by Durex or whoever. Surely they want to get brand loyalty early and increased sales.

    The DVLA are giving away free cars from SEAT if you do the car tax online and they say it's legit because it's no cost to them and promotes a low CO2 model which coincides with their aims.

  36. Random Noise


    I've put in a FOI request here

    I presumed that Bill Ray had already attempted similar by the tone of his article, but it can't hurt to ask again.

  37. Bill Ray (Written by Reg staff)

    Re: @thmbnls? AC

    You're right about Thumbnails, but B%X is supposed to be "books" 'cos he's the clever one who reads and stuff.

    Not that the characters are in any way one-dimensional stereotypes.... oh, no, hang on..., yes they are.


  38. Andy

    I've long thought

    ...that the money spent on schemes like this would be better used to subsidise condom prices - or even create a competing, low-cost brand - and to encourage more good condom adverts on tv to further brands and try to decrease the stigma of buying them. Those Durex condom animal ads were awesome.

  39. Anonymous Coward

    Is this what The reg thinks of its' readers

    'and if you aren't watching it then one has to wonder who is.'

    I see. What do we do all day but watch sex education aimed at teenagers. Yes that's right, I do, exactly. And the things I've learned...

  40. Sarah Bee (Written by Reg staff)

    Re: Is this what The reg thinks of its' readers

    Well, if the cap fits. Or the condom.

  41. Anonymous Coward

    "penetration of video-capable phones"

    I suspect that video would get more hits.

  42. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    You're all soooo -ve!!!

    £4.6 mill is about 30-60 youf years of ef-fort.

    ANYTHING, ANYTHING! that reduces unwanted pregnancies amongst young people has to be applauded and the Government would be failing in it's duty of care to the young, their parents, social services and, last but not least, the taxpayer if it did not Sqaunder/Spend cash to do so immediately and in full measure. How can you possibly judge that the Civil Servant in charge had an "arse from elbow" identification moment?

    What I want to see is the "Business Case" for this madness and I shall be asking my MP to get it.

    Seriously had it not happened I would have called the whole thing preposterous but then I'm a neutered old fart. Who looks at videos on mobile phones? Certainly not sex obsessed YP, FFS.

    FFS = For Fred's Sake (as in Fred "the Shred" Goodwin) because we have been F'd by him!

  43. Anonymous Coward


    How much does it cost to stick a couple of short video clips on u-face?

    Doesn't sound like good value for money even if it were a success. I wonder who's nephew runs the company?

  44. n
    Thumb Up

    Who needs condoms in IT anyway?... ultra high powered wifi network combined with 10 years use of wifi enabled laptops on my crotch has rendered me sterile.

    BONUS !

  45. Xander

    @ 15 Facebook Fans

    Oddly enough, he does.

    I had to dig a little to find the page that was just for "Pro-Hitler" (the top group result was for discussion, not necessarily promotion) and it's here:

    With 26 supporters.

    £4.6 million = Less popular than Hitler.

    Also: el Reg needs to add a "Despair" icon

  46. N

    Only £4.6 million?

    Bargain, compared to the billions wasted on the bankers...

    After all Mr Clown spent just a year at university doing maths & by his own admission 'wasnt very good at it'

    So how can we expect the rest of his dorks to work out theyve been shafted?

  47. Anonymous Coward

    Fundamentals of YouTube

    What they should have done was put a video of someone falling off a bike or something equally hilarious on YouTube, making sure some tits are in shot too, and at the end put up a message like, "The cyclist has since died of AIDS due to unsafe sex." That would have been seen by plenty of people.

  48. Anonymous Coward
    Paris Hilton


    "though they expressed concern about the penetration of video-capable phones. Perhaps the youth they work with aren't middle-class enough."

    I don't know where you live, but round here it's the chav kids that have the latest phones. Maybe they've stolen them from the middle class kids.

    Paris. With this story there are just too many reasons.

  49. Joe
    Thumb Up

    Well done Bill Ray

    I love this sort of journalism, this sort of misuse of government funds needs to be exposed. Do you moonlight for Private Eye at all?

    Did they get three quotes and pick the cheapest, I wonder?

  50. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward


    As you can buy condoms for 42p each (36 for £14), that means they could have given 22 million kids a free shag for the same money.

    And probably double or treble that if they brought wholesale.

    Just how many "kids" are there in their target audience?


  51. Anonymous Coward

    Get ready to be shafted by jakki

    "No doubt you've been avidly following the adventures of Billy, jakki, mundy, b%ks, lupe & gripper, after all; 4.6 million quid of your money is being spent to make the video series about the six friends and the importance they attach to condom use, and if you aren't watching it then one has to wonder who is."

    Don't worry - whether the public see this campaign or not, we are all going to get shafted by Jakki anyway as she gets to spend £5.6 billion on the ID card scheme.

    I'll get my coat - mine's the one made out of Teflon.

  52. Ian Johnston Silver badge
    Paris Hilton


    Eight quid for 12? Fourteen quid for 36? Who the hell pays for the damn things? Every NHS doctor or family planning clinic in the country gives them away, free. My own doctor's surgery has a bucket full for the taking.

    Paris, for obvious reasons

  53. Paul

    Social Despair

    Just thinking about anything this government does is contraceptive enough - I couldn't feel less like sex afterwards.

    Not a v tech-related point but there's also a wider debate about the usefulness of sex education as a whole, now that the social-science wonks are finally realising that Jade, Trish, Shaz, Tracey et al know all about the birds and the bees and are not averse to pregnancy since they weren't planning to head up to St Hilda's anyway, and can't wait for their own beautiful prince/princess daughters/sons so that they can feel their meaningless life has a noble purpose in the creation of other meaningless lives.

    So maybe teen pregnancy isn't actually a problem, but a case of people exercising a self-determined right. (I'm talking about those legally old enough to have sex here.) If you do want to save The Treasury money, then cut the attendant benefits. If they still want to exercise that right, and fund parenthood themselves, then that's up to them.

  54. chris

    @Ian Johnston

    True. But Teenagers don't go to doctors or family planning clinics. Teenagers go to schools and .off licenses.

    They're potentially free in supermarkets, too, but I don't expect the thmbnls folk are enough down with the kids to make videos advocating that ............

  55. Anonymous Coward


    It looks to me like they've got all the right pieces for a very successful campaign, just put together wrong: "condoms", "penetration", "video-capable phones", "many young people engaging with the interactive elements", "Web2.0-twattery" and "4.6 million quid". Why not simply ask the yoof to record videos featureing condom use on their camera phones and send them in? Then they could offer prizes for the best vids. I'm sure the results would be much "cooler" and more popular than anything "the decidedly new-age 20:20 London" could make.

  56. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    re Andrew Culpeck

    can't whingeing 2 wheeled people be banned?

  57. robbie

    @AC 19:04

    I recall seeing a couple of TV ads over Christmas with this very message, so I'm inclined to think £4.6M might be on the money. IMHO they were rubbish, and more likely to encourage teenage sex than anything else.

    Question: "Want some respect"?

    Answer: "Earn it".

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