EDITORIAL: Making crime pay stains advertising

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

crime.



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

felt wronged.



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.



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