OPINION: Newland on ... French Connection

As links go, it's a tenuous one, but I'll use it anyway. Writing from my rural French retreat, I'll now opine on TBWA\London's long-running French Connection work.

The latest work was in no small part inspired by Ben Stiller's Zoolander movie. It takes an ironic poke at how seriously the fashion world takes itself. I think it's a great theme for a fashion campaign, not least because it's an obvious idea and often the obvious ones are the best.

Young French Connection shoppers will appreciate being told they are outsmarting the whims of fashion; that in entering a French Connection store they are showing the kind of independence of mind that they long to display. It's an elegant con.

There's one pitfall, however. If consumers see any of the executions in isolation, they might not get the joke. One DPS has the requisite model in sepia on one side and the word "It" and the fcuk logo on the other.

It's a good ad, but only if readers understand it, which they would only if they'd already seen one of the more obvious executions such as: "Pout, model's own."

The chances are, however, that consumers will either have seen or see other aspects of the campaign pretty quickly because French Connection delivers on the mantra to which so many advertisers only pay a reverential lip service. A consistent fcuk brand talks to its potential and existing customers at every possible point of contact. You will therefore see some of the executions emblazoning shopping bags, some posters, plenty of point of sale, lots of press, some postcards around London Fashion Week and the new lines embellishing the chests of wearers of its latest T-shirts.

French Connection believes in the power of advertising and has had a consistent presence for several years, even stumping up the cash for television campaigns from time to time. This distinguishes it from many of its rivals, who appear to dabble with rather than commit to advertising. The thoroughness and creativity of French Connection's media strategy means that we've all seen that fcuk logo over and over again.

This is, in fact, the fourteenth fcuk campaign, which by my calculations means it has been running for about seven years. Over that time French Connection has been a big success story in the retail sector, boasting impressive results every six months and never, ever forgetting to credit the advertising for the role it has played in the company's financial success.

But no matter how successful, there will come a time when the joke gets boring. I'd be surprised if teenagers weren't already a little tired of the play on words. In the foul-mouthed age that we live in, there's something perceptibly wet about not saying fuck, especially to a supposedly rebellious audience.

In the new campaign the fcuk in most instances is reduced to logo status in the bottom right-hand corner, it's not integral like in "fcukiki beach" or "fcuking kinky bugger", so perhaps its phasing out is being considered.

Timing is everything. The line must be dropped before it is perceived as lame, even if it's still bringing in the customers.

Axing such a successful advertising idea would take courage from both the agency, which would have to dream up an equally brilliant successor, and the client, who risks losing the fantastic upswing the campaign has lent its financials.

In fact, it would take the same kind of courage that led the partnership to introduce the campaign in the first place.

Dead cert for a Pencil? Not this time.

File under ... R for retirement.

What would the chairman's wife say? "What attractive models."

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