OPINION: MILLS ON BUSINESS

If, as Dr Johnson said, patriotism is the last refuge of the scoundrel (and the events in Marseille dem-onstrate how right he was), the inappropriate use of sex in advertising must be the last refuge of creative directors bereft of any fresh ideas and clients hamstrung by a small budget. The Citroen Xsara ads starring Claudia Schiffer prove the former point, I think.

If, as Dr Johnson said, patriotism is the last refuge of the

scoundrel (and the events in Marseille dem-onstrate how right he was),

the inappropriate use of sex in advertising must be the last refuge of

creative directors bereft of any fresh ideas and clients hamstrung by a

small budget. The Citroen Xsara ads starring Claudia Schiffer prove the

former point, I think.



And that is how I felt about the British Vegetarian Society’s ’hot

dinners’ cinema ad, which is so risque that last week the censors gave

it an over-15 rating (and thus an extra free helping of publicity).



In the ad we see (beautifully shot, I’ll grant you) apricots, sinuous

pasta, melons that look like breasts and the, well, heavy petting of a

pea pod. The messages are clear: vegetarianism improves our sex life

(whereas meat kills us) and vegetarians are sensuous, interesting

people, not tree huggers.



Perhaps they are right. But it’s confusing since the Meat and Livestock

Commission’s charming and subtle ’recipe for love’ ad also suggests meat

is good for your sex life.



They may both be right, although my experience is that chopping

vegetables is much too much like hard work to be considered sexy.



This is where I part company with the vegetarians. In their

understandable desire to polish their image, they are stretching the

truth beyond the point of credibility.



They’ve also missed the point. Food is sexy, but preparing your own

isn’t. Eating out or in an expensive restaurant where somebody else does

all the hard work is. Anyway, if chefs are the new sex symbols (Gary

Rhodes, Raymond Blanc etc), name me one famous vegetarian chef.



Self-effacing to the last, WPP has typically allowed one of the more

important events in its recent history to go largely unremarked.



This was its elevation to the ranks of the FTSE 100 index. Although

membership is decided by market capitalisation, the FTSE 100 is

nonetheless an exclusive club. Members of it - and by definition they

can get thrown out of it too - usually acquire the automatic prefix of

blue-chip whenever journalists write about them ... thus ’blue-chip ad

giant WPP today blah blah blah’.



Perhaps more importantly, the move marks the rehabilitation of WPP in

the stock market’s eyes. It was only in 1991-92 that it was regarded by

investors as a near basket case. Its revival can only be good news for

other advertising or media buying stocks whose credibility (AMV apart)

with investors has always been thin. If I say that the last advertising

agency to make the FTSE 100 was Saatchi & Saatchi (in its hey-day, not

recently) you probably understand what I mean.



There is one other benefit to entry into the index, at least to those

WPP employees who have stakes in the company (not to mention Martin

Sorrell and his chunky share-performance pay deal). Since a lot of

investment funds automatically buy FTSE 100 funds in order to replicate

the performance of the index, a certain minimum level of demand for WPP

shares is guaranteed - which tends to keep the price up.



Some guys have all the luck.



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