Yorkshire Water ad ridiculed over clips of Herefordshire and Russian bar

11 months ago 29

The advert for Yorkshire Water made what appeared to be Yorkshire look wonderful: beautiful, sweeping countryside and smiling, friendly locals, some in a car and others enjoying their downtime in a pub.

But it was not very Yorkshire. The countryside was not the Dales but the Malvern Hills. The car was left-hand drive and in Ukraine. The chances of getting a pint of Landlord from the pub would seem remote given it is a bar called Eskimos located several thousand miles away in a Russian ski resort near the Black Sea.

The now withdrawn video was a teaser for a social media campaign by the company to encourage people in Yorkshire to share tips on saving water. Viewers soon noticed and ridiculed the use of off-the-shelf stock footage, identifying the countryside as probably Herefordshire and linking other footage to Ukraine and Russia.

If it had been another company, the backlash may not have been so fierce. Last summer, Yorkshire Water was fined £1.6m for “reckless” sewage discharges in Bradford. In May this year, the company wrote to customers to apologise for high levels of sewage being discharged into rivers and seas. It said that by March 2025 it would have spent £180m to build more capacity to store wastewater.

The same month, the chief executive, Nicola Shaw, said she had declined her bonus in an acknowledgment of public anger. Four Yorkshire rivers – the Calder, the Aire, the Ouse and the Wharfe – featured in a top 20 of sewage spillage into rivers in England and Wales in 2022.

The environmental campaigner and former Undertones frontman Feargal Sharkey said the advert opened up questions about competency levels at Yorkshire Water.

He told BBC Breakfast: “It underlines the most serious point, once we get past the mild amusement of it all, and that is this laissez-faire, almost casual, indifference that water companies like Yorkshire Water use and show towards their customers. I personally think it was a most ridiculous thing for them to do and it calls into question, in my mind, who within the company actually approved it.”

Sharkey, once patron of the Live in Barnsley music festival, said he knew the people of Yorkshire to be a “staunchly proud, very closely knit community”.

A Yorkshire Water spokesperson said: “We recently shared a short teaser video for our new ‘word of mouth’ social media campaign to promote water saving. Unfortunately, it was shared before we’d had chance to do our normal checks on it and the stock footage that had been used didn’t capture the spirit of Yorkshire.

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“Once we were aware of the mistake we immediately took the video down. The ‘word of mouth’ video series all contain Yorkshire residents talking about their water saving tips, and footage of our wonderful county.”

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