The menacing eyes of Freddie "The Undertaker" Foreman and Tony
Lambrianou are unsettling enough just staring out at you from a poster.
Heaven knows what effect they must have had on a bit-part crook about to
be fitted with a pair of concrete shoes.
Advertising was always likely to be a natural progression for the
ex-Kray gang members who have learned to trade profitably on their lurid
past, writing memoirs and appearing on chat shows to satisfy an enduring
public fascination with the criminal underworld.
Now they have accepted an "undisclosed fee" to appear in an M&C Saatchi
campaign for the upmarket shirtmaker Thomas Pink, which sees "geezer
chic" as the best way of cutting through the clutter of male fashion
ads. The powerful and stunningly photographed images may well do that,
but it's the ironic description of Foreman as "armed robber (retired)"
that ought to set alarm bells ringing.
Advertising's reputation can only be tarnished if it trivialises
The passing of time and a diet of crime-related TV has perpetuated the
myth that the Krays were Robin Hoods of the post-war East End, who only
killed their own kind and were good to their mum.
This is a travesty of the truth. Gangs such as the Krays extorted
protection money, bribed police and extracted bloody revenge when they
Not for nothing did Foreman and Lambrianou serve 33 years in jail
between them. Foreman has since admitted two murders for which he had
earlier been acquitted.
Of course, there's a case for saying that ex-convicts, having paid their
debt to society, are better employed shooting ads than other people.
Moreover, Thomas Pink can argue that the use of the pair isn't
gratuitous and in keeping with the "hard men" campaign strategy.
But while this advertising just about falls within acceptable confines,
it opens a can of worms. Employing an ex-villian to sell shirts is one
thing. But how long will it be before a client, seeking maximum
publicity for his budget, fronts an ad with a violent yob icon, has it
banned and gives the media a field day?
At present, advertisers are not bound by the codes that prevent
newspapers from allowing criminals to profit from their misdeeds. Maybe
the time is coming for the issue to be confronted.