I used to enjoy Howell Henry Chaldecott Lury’s advertising for the high
street retailer, Bhs. It used to run long commercials, hosted by a
frontman called Sylvester, about Bhs ‘fashion events visiting your
town’. They were relevant and catchy with a gentle sense of humour. They
made me aware of the huge changes that had taken place since I was
dragged there to buy my school basics each September.
Then something happened. The marketing director departed, the account
went into review, Saatchi and Saatchi won and last week I saw the
results. Sylvester has been spiked, the commercials have been reduced in
length, the humour removed. An irritatingly slow cover version of I’m
Every Woman is imposed over the top of a weird scene showing a number of
women semi-walking, semi-floating past a gormless Mr Ordinary commuter.
It is odd, but at first I dismissed it as just another example of a
Then I remembered what people assume to be the cause, although not the
reason. Bhs apparently decided that Sylvester, who happens to be black,
was not right for the brand’s thirtysomething female target customer.
The result is a new campaign that is as forgettable as it is unworthy of
Why does this happen? Possibly for sinister reasons, probably because
clients, especially new ones, are too close to their work to perceive
the dire consequences of their actions. It reminds me of a story I read
once in Campaign about the client who whined at his agency for keeping
an ad on air long after what he considered to be its sell-by date. ‘I’m
bored with it,’ he said. ‘How about making a new one?’ The agency
pointed out that while the client was bored with it, the public was
unlikely to be - the spot had not yet been on TV.
If you can, take another look at Howell Henry’s work for Bhs and compare
it with Saatchis’ effort. I bet you agree with me.