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Shock tactics used to publicise Y2K threat

Action 2000 to put the frightners on

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A government advertising campaign is being planned to frighten people into believing the Millennium Bug will affect their lives. Action 2000’s latest plans mirror suggestions from a leading psychologist, who says using the threat of Y2K deaths might be necessary to convince people the Millennium Bug is dangerous. Elizabeth Allen, responsible for Action 2000 publicity, said: “We have been told we are frightening people. But I say we have not frightened them enough. We will use shock tactics.” The agency was given £50 million last year with most spent on advertising. Allen said this year's campaign depended on the level of funding. Last year the Cabinet Office moved quickly to stop a wave of panic buying among the public after Gwynneth Flower, head of Action 2000, told people stock up with long-life milk, tinned food and biscuits. She said people should buy “the sort of common-sense provisions you would automatically do to ensure against any potential emergency.” Dr Mark Griffiths, of Nottingham Trent University, said any government publicity should show “real life” deaths because it will be more successful in driving the message home. He said impending death and disaster affecting ordinary people would be blamed on large organisations and the public would then force those organisations to fix their Millennium Bug problems. Griffiths, author of Technological Addictions, suggested an advert of a woman dying from cervical cancer was a good example of Millennium Bug failure. In the advert he describes, the woman would die from cancer because NHS computer failure meant a reminder letter about a cancer scan was not sent out. Another suggested advertisement would show an elderly couple stripped of their pensions because a finance company collapsed. He said: “People will only take steps to address a problem if it is likely to disturb their own lives.” The brutal advertising campaign would snap the public out of a feeling of Millennium Bug denial similar to that which greeted early HIV/AIDS awareness campaigns. ®

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