It was Euripides who said: 'Those whom the Gods wish to destroy
they first make mad.' I hesitate to call Trevor Beattie and the fcuk
crew mad, but people who call a press conference (right in the middle of
foot and mouth/the Selby crash/the Mandelson affair) to denounce the
BACC for 'banning' their ad strike me as being on the verge of losing
touch with reality.
Yeah, like this was news the world was gagging for. This was followed a
few days later with full-page ads in Metro and the Evening Standard
'apologising' for the fact that you couldn't see the ad on TV. When I
say apologising, boasting would be a better word.
They didn't invite me to their press conference but I have this vision
of how it went. Trevor and the fcuk boss, Stephen Marks, sit at a
rickety wooden table on a raised platform. They are wearing Balaclavas
and fatigues (Provo chic is all the rage, I hear). They are flanked by
Armalite-toting account directors from TBWA/London. 'We, the fcuk
advertising liberation army,' Trevor intoned, 'wish to condemn the taste
dictators of the BACC for their high-handed and authoritarian
censorship. By this single action, they have destroyed trust in the
advertising process and removed the right to free speech.' And with
clenched fist salutes they were gone.
As I said, that's how I imagined our self-appointed stormtroopers
battering down the gates of conventional morality. The reality is that
the press conference took place at Soho House. Fcuk people outnumbered
Trevor read a poem. Journalists were gobsmacked. Bit of a damp squib,
You might think from all this that I am not a big fan of either Trevor
or fcuk advertising. Au contraire. I am a huge fan of both. I did not
subscribe to the David Abbott view. I've defended fcuk in these very
pages. I loved the print work from the very beginning.
I thought the first TV ad absolutely charming. I love the way the
advertising and the retail experience are as one. And I took note of the
effect of the advertising on a stellar commercial performance by fcuk,
which doesn't seem to have been dimmed by the malaise affecting other
high-street retailers. Last week, fcuk reported profits up 19 per cent
on sales up 24 per cent, and Marks again paid tribute to the influence
of its advertising.
So why do I feel so uneasy now? It's not the ad itself (which,
incidentally, was rejected, not banned: a big difference).
Although it's quite fun, it's undeniably raunchy and over-laden with
sexual innuendo. How anybody ever thought it would get past the BACC is
entirely beyond me.
And that, of course, is the point. Did they ever intend to get it past
the BACC? I doubt it. Indeed, a colleague says she saw the 'sorry' ads
at fcuk's offices back in January - which suggests they'd prepared them
in full anticipation of having the TV ad rejected. Which means that the
press conference and the accompanying outrage were false and contrived.
It's nasty, cynical and low-rent. Just like Benetton, it leaves a foul
taste in the mouth.
Two things puzzle me. One, why does fcuk feel the need to do this? It's
not a down-at-heel advertiser with no budget and desperate for
It had a brilliant advertising idea and, self-evidently, it was working.
It didn't need to push the idea to extremes. So why go through an
utterly pointless exercise in faux outrage?
Second, if your whole strategy is based around shock - and, therefore,
the chance of getting your ads banned - where does fcuk go from
By the living-on-the-edge standards fcuk has set itself, ads that don't
get banned can't be much good. That may be inverted logic, but then
we're in Euripides territory here.
Dead cert for a Pencil? Fat chance unless kosher.
Will it work? File carefully under kack.
What would the chairman's wife say? Fatuous concept usefully kebabed.