Phil Lynagh is regional managing director at Tag: Worldwide JLT
I’ve just had the misfortune of seeing the recent campaign produced by DDB London for Harvey Nichols and what a shocker, literally. Now, I’m old enough to remember some Benetton ads that caused quite a stir back in 1991 and I am as equally disgusted now as I was then. It amazes me that both agency and brand could so easily and readily forget their roles in the circle of marketing life. For me, this recent ‘wet’ effort both lacks class and substance. To show incontinence as a sign of uncontrollable excitement is childish beyond belief and flies in the face of the ‘don’t treat you’re customer like an idiot’ scenario, in fact this approach panders to simple-minded moronic attitudes. How can Harvey Nichols honestly believe this piece of lurid, crass amoebic imagery captures the brand equities and the soul of this 19th century born, world leading international luxury fashion destination? Buggered if I can figure it out. The agency itself isn’t to blame and shouldn’t be dragged through Covent Garden behind a cart, but the creative team responsible for this base toilet humour so badly dressed up as stylish advertising, should be.
I’m all for power, I’m all for suspense and I’m definitely all in for humour, but peeing yourself in anticipation of a sale? Please. What next? We show people having a poo in the run up to the new iPhone launch, a beautifully shot line-up of teenagers projectile vomiting in celebration of the new Justin Bieber Alcopop? What we do is hard, it’s hard because we need to tell a story and engage with an audience powerfully enough to make them buy while protecting brand equity. It’s hard because there are lines we won’t or better shouldn’t cross. We can’t directly slag off a competitive brand and we cant use foul language, but its fine to show adults peeing their pants to visually ‘describe’ excitement. It’s infantile, extremely poor and in the words of the revered Bill Bernbach “Don’t confuse good taste with the absence of taste.” Such a shame the staff at the agency he co-founded didn’t read his wise words.