BACKBITE

I used to enjoy Howell Henry Chaldecott Lury’s advertising for the high street retailer, Bhs. It used to run long commercials, hosted by a frontman called Sylvester, about Bhs ‘fashion events visiting your town’. They were relevant and catchy with a gentle sense of humour. They made me aware of the huge changes that had taken place since I was dragged there to buy my school basics each September.

I used to enjoy Howell Henry Chaldecott Lury’s advertising for the high

street retailer, Bhs. It used to run long commercials, hosted by a

frontman called Sylvester, about Bhs ‘fashion events visiting your

town’. They were relevant and catchy with a gentle sense of humour. They

made me aware of the huge changes that had taken place since I was

dragged there to buy my school basics each September.



Then something happened. The marketing director departed, the account

went into review, Saatchi and Saatchi won and last week I saw the

results. Sylvester has been spiked, the commercials have been reduced in

length, the humour removed. An irritatingly slow cover version of I’m

Every Woman is imposed over the top of a weird scene showing a number of

women semi-walking, semi-floating past a gormless Mr Ordinary commuter.

It is odd, but at first I dismissed it as just another example of a

client-inspired ‘rethink’.



Then I remembered what people assume to be the cause, although not the

reason. Bhs apparently decided that Sylvester, who happens to be black,

was not right for the brand’s thirtysomething female target customer.

The result is a new campaign that is as forgettable as it is unworthy of

Saatchis.



Why does this happen? Possibly for sinister reasons, probably because

clients, especially new ones, are too close to their work to perceive

the dire consequences of their actions. It reminds me of a story I read

once in Campaign about the client who whined at his agency for keeping

an ad on air long after what he considered to be its sell-by date. ‘I’m

bored with it,’ he said. ‘How about making a new one?’ The agency

pointed out that while the client was bored with it, the public was

unlikely to be - the spot had not yet been on TV.



If you can, take another look at Howell Henry’s work for Bhs and compare

it with Saatchis’ effort. I bet you agree with me.



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1 Job description: Digital marketing executive

Digital marketing executives oversee the online marketing strategy for their organisation. They plan and execute digital (including email) marketing campaigns and design, maintain and supply content for the organisation's website(s).