Why on earth did the Katona pay-day loan ad get banned?

"Fast cash for fast lives" comes under ASA's watchful gaze.

Ex Atomic Kitten star Kerry Katona recently made headlines once again for being a minor celebrity without much cash. This time, the Advertising Standards Agency (ASA) has banned payday loan company Cash Lady’s advert starring Katona, as it could be seen as "irresponsible".

Payday loan companies, such as Cash Lady or Wonga, offer high interest loans intended to be paid back on the day of your next pay check. Cash Lady offers loans of up to £300 a month with an annual percentage rate of 2,760. For example, if you borrow £200 from Cash Lady for 28 days you will pay back £258 on payday.

It’s no secret that payday loans are often seen as a slippery slope; borrowing £200 and paying back over 125 per cent of that can’t exactly be seen as responsible money management. However, it is also true that sometimes payday loans may be, to those who use them, the only way out of a sticky situation.

Why did the ASA ban the advert, I hear you cry. Everyone knows the sky high nature of payday loan interest rates and that Kerry Katona has herself had money problems (she was declared bankrupt in 2008 for failing to pay her tax bill). Cash Lady claimed they chose Katona because the public could relate to her, making her a face a beacon of hope.

However, the problem the ASA had with the advertisement featuring Katona wasn’t so much a problem with the “star” but with the branding of Cash Lady. The advert stated that the payday loan company provides "fast cash for fast lives", which may purport to the public that the payday loan option isn’t only for emergencies but also can be used to fund a "fast life," like that of Katona’s.

Advertising is often sexy, it’s often weird and quirky, and it needs to be eye catching but most of all it needs to appeal to the audience. "Fast cash for fast lives" certainly appeals to those who need money to quickly sort out their problems – however, with the face of a celebrity one can see how the ASA could see it as problematic to allow an advert that showed a short term solution to what is sometimes a more long term problem with celebrity endorsement.

I doubt it will be long until payday loan companies are asked to attach a warning to their adverts akin to those on alcohol adverts. After all, payday loans can become an addiction. 

Kerry Katona. Photograph: Getty Images

Katy Maydon is a journalist for Retail Banker International

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A swimming pool and a bleeding toe put my medical competency in doubt

Doctors are used to contending with Google. Sometimes the search engine wins. 

The brutal heatwave affecting southern Europe this summer has become known among locals as “Lucifer”. Having just returned from Italy, I fully understand the nickname. An early excursion caused the beginnings of sunstroke, so we abandoned plans to explore the cultural heritage of the Amalfi region and strayed no further than five metres from the hotel pool for the rest of the week.

The children were delighted, particularly my 12-year-old stepdaughter, Gracie, who proceeded to spend hours at a time playing in the water. Towelling herself after one long session, she noticed something odd.

“What’s happened there?” she asked, holding her foot aloft in front of my face.

I inspected the proffered appendage: on the underside of her big toe was an oblong area of glistening red flesh that looked like a chunk of raw steak.

“Did you injure it?”

She shook her head. “It doesn’t hurt at all.”

I shrugged and said she must have grazed it. She wasn’t convinced, pointing out that she would remember if she had done that. She has great faith in plasters, though, and once it was dressed she forgot all about it. I dismissed it, too, assuming it was one of those things.

By the end of the next day, the pulp on the underside of all of her toes looked the same. As the doctor in the family, I felt under some pressure to come up with an explanation. I made up something about burns from the hot paving slabs around the pool. Gracie didn’t say as much, but her look suggested a dawning scepticism over my claims to hold a medical degree.

The next day, Gracie and her new-found holiday playmate, Eve, abruptly terminated a marathon piggy-in-the-middle session in the pool with Eve’s dad. “Our feet are bleeding,” they announced, somewhat incredulously. Sure enough, bright-red blood was flowing, apparently painlessly, from the bottoms of their big toes.

Doctors are used to contending with Google. Often, what patients discover on the internet causes them undue alarm, and our role is to provide context and reassurance. But not infrequently, people come across information that outstrips our knowledge. On my return from our room with fresh supplies of plasters, my wife looked up from her sun lounger with an air of quiet amusement.

“It’s called ‘pool toe’,” she said, handing me her iPhone. The page she had tracked down described the girls’ situation exactly: friction burns, most commonly seen in children, caused by repetitive hopping about on the abrasive floors of swimming pools. Doctors practising in hot countries must see it all the time. I doubt it presents often to British GPs.

I remained puzzled about the lack of pain. The injuries looked bad, but neither Gracie nor Eve was particularly bothered. Here the internet drew a blank, but I suspect it has to do with the “pruning” of our skin that we’re all familiar with after a soak in the bath. This only occurs over the pulps of our fingers and toes. It was once thought to be caused by water diffusing into skin cells, making them swell, but the truth is far more fascinating.

The wrinkling is an active process, triggered by immersion, in which the blood supply to the pulp regions is switched off, causing the skin there to shrink and pucker. This creates the biological equivalent of tyre treads on our fingers and toes and markedly improves our grip – of great evolutionary advantage when grasping slippery fish in a river, or if trying to maintain balance on slick wet rocks.

The flip side of this is much greater friction, leading to abrasion of the skin through repeated micro-trauma. And the lack of blood flow causes nerves to shut down, depriving us of the pain that would otherwise alert us to the ongoing tissue damage. An adaptation that helped our ancestors hunt in rivers proves considerably less use on a modern summer holiday.

I may not have seen much of the local heritage, but the trip to Italy taught me something new all the same. 

This article first appeared in the 17 August 2017 issue of the New Statesman, Trump goes nuclear