You might have seen this story; it was all over the press and social media this month. Here’s the ad that caused all the trouble (published 12 May, page 14, Camden New Journal):


Putting aside the fact that a £5.2billion organisation wants a local artist to paint their Camden canteen for nothing, the copy is appalling.

I had planned to list all the errors, but it’s SO bad, I almost lost the will to live. Here are just a few:

  • Inconsistency between ‘Sainsbury’s are’ and ‘Sainsbury’s is’
  • No need for ‘an’ in line two
  • ‘Scopes’ should be singular
  • ‘All genders’ (Erm, how many genders are there?)
  • ‘No qualifications or experience is required’ should be ‘…are required’
  • US spelling for ’emphasize’

The ad in the paper.

And the biggest error – it’s all ‘top down’, not ‘bottom up’. It doesn’t answer ‘what’s in it for me’ from the point of view of the reader, which is what all marketing and advertising is about (as you will know if you have read any of my blogs or attended any of my training courses).

It’s not just sole traders, entrepreneurs and small businesses who need a bit of help with their copy. Even big brands get it wrong.

The reputational damage is immeasurable.

After the #PayArtists hashtag trended in the UK, the story was all over the BBC and national press.

The Sainsbury’s Twitter account was flooded with apologies: “We’re discussing this with our store in Camden. The advert was placed in the local paper following a colleague discussion around ways to improve the canteen and offer an opportunity to the local community. It is not our policy to hire volunteers and we are sorry for this error of judgement.

Anonymous artists responded with their own ad. Maybe this should be painted on the wall of the Camden canteen:






Bob Lang · May 27, 2016 at 12:14 pm

Whoops: “emphasize” is absolutely correct BRITISH English – it says so in the OED and that’s good enough for me.

This is what the OED online has to say about it:

1 The form -ize has been in use in English since the 16th century; although it is widely used in American English, it is not an Americanism. The alternative spelling -ise (reflecting a French influence) is in common use, especially in British English. It is obligatory in certain cases: first, where it forms part of a larger word element, such as -mise (= sending) in compromise, and -prise (= taking) in surprise; and second, in verbs corresponding to nouns with -s- in the stem, such as advertise and televise.

Jackie · May 27, 2016 at 12:28 pm

I would say use -ize if you are writing to a US/international audience, and -ise if you are writing to a UK audience, as in this case.

Comments are closed.

Skip to content