LIVE ISSUE/ACCURIST CAMPAIGN: Are the Accurist ad’s ’shock tactics’ unsuitable? - It’s contentious, but is the image insensitive? Mairi Clark canvasses opinion

The evidence against the advertising industry for elevating the status of skinny women would seem insurmountable. When Omega pulled its advertising from Vogue last year in indignation at an editorial shoot featuring a skeletal model, the media trumpeted the demise of such role models.

The evidence against the advertising industry for elevating the

status of skinny women would seem insurmountable. When Omega pulled its

advertising from Vogue last year in indignation at an editorial shoot

featuring a skeletal model, the media trumpeted the demise of such role


Admittedly, Omega’s marketing director, Giles Rees, was left red-faced

as his superior promptly ordered advertising in Vogue to be resumed. But

the seed of doubt had been planted about the legitimate use of overly

thin models.

More than a year later, Accurist has unveiled a new execution in its

’solid silver’ campaign that consists of the startling image of a skinny

woman with a solid silver watch around her upperarm (Campaign, last


While some may dismiss both events as meaningless and cynical stunts,

the issue that is being addressed - eating disorders - seems too

sensitive to be handled by the advertising industry.

Accurist and its agency, TBWA Simons Palmer, insist the image was used

to explain that Accurist watches are solid silver and, therefore, very

heavy. The two also insist they are in no way condoning the use of

painfully thin models.

If anything, they contend, they are making a stand against it. But what

is the industry’s opinion? Was Accurist irresponsible in the way it

treated a serious subject?


The object of the exercise was not to create controversy. Of course we

wanted to be noticed, but unless you come out with dull wallpaper ads

all the time, you are going to be noticed.

We have invested about 40 per cent of our annual budget in this campaign

so it’s not a stunt. That would be too much of a gamble. It has to work

for the brand and it does. The first thing someone does is hold a watch

to see how heavy it is. I liked the relevance to the product. I thought

the line, ’put some weight on’, was relevant and I liked the idea of a

controversial image getting the ad noticed.

Accurist is well known but I wanted to instil personality and make it a

brand that people will buy. We have to stand out and make ourselves

heard, while finding a way of communicating with a new generation of

watch buyers.

Everything influences people. I’m sure my son was influenced by the

filthy language he heard at the football. I’m not a psychiatrist, I’m a


The use of the skinny model wasn’t gratuitous, there was a reasoning

behind it.

We’re poking fun at the exploitation of very thin models, not eating

disorders. If anything, the ad is saying, ’put some weight on’.

Andrew Loftus is the managing director of Accurist watches


My first impression of this ad was of a glamorised picture of a woman

who looks as if she has a serious disease, like anorexia. The picture

overwhelms the product.

The ad is selling a silver Accurist watch which has a great product


(Cheap watches are usually light.) There must be millions of ways to say

this; the team have chosen to tap into an unfortunate trend among young


Today’s fashion models are 23 per cent thinner than they were 20 years

ago and weigh 8 per cent less. Even anorexic patients are thinner than

they were a decade ago.

The agency may argue it is highlighting this issue but this is a fashion

ad to be shown in fashion titles, therefore perpetrating the myth that

bony is trendy. The headline is a gag and the issue isn’t funny.

Advertising is a powerful tool, so we have to be responsible. It’s not

OK to use others people’s suffering and hide behind irony to shift


Kiki Kendrick is an art director at Euro RSCG Wnek Gosper and gave an

IPA lecture, ’Obsession for women. Why do women want to be thin?’, in

January. This is her personal opinion and does not reflect the views of

the agency


It is important you start with the premise that the model is

’anorexic-looking’ not anorexic. Looking at it from a man’s point of

view, thin women are not particularly sexy. I haven’t seen the ad, but

it sounds as if it comes from the school of Toscani’s Benetton work. How

do you get people to buy woolly jumpers? Show a dying Aids victim.

Traditionally, watch advertising is not controversial.

Accurist is trying to break out of the mould. The ad will spark another

debate about good and bad taste through a stunt based on a news


The argument’s not new. Accurist is saying, ’We appreciate that this is

an issue.’ The debate comes down to anorexia and whether these images of

women are healthy.

I think advertising and the media in general do influence people,

although I’m not suggesting for a moment you’d become anorexic from

looking at an ad or a picture of a thin woman. The ’fcuk’ ad for French

Connection said to me that it’s OK to swear. It is saying, ’This is the

norm.’ I’m not going to go as far as to say that media has a

responsibility not to show these images, as that would be Draconian, but

I do think we are purveyors of what is and is not fashionable.

Peter Howarth is editor of Esquire


The creative team that worked on the ad, Ben Walker and Matt Gooden, are

slightly bemused about the rumpus surrounding the image. Walker says:

’Our brief was to sell solid silver watches. By using the image of a

very thin woman we wanted to say they weighed a lot. It’s not saying,

’Be like this,’ it’s saying, ’Be what you want to be.’’

Walker admits the image is ’startling’ but insists ’you have to do that

to make people interested in your ad’. Gooden agrees, adding: ’The idea

had to come across strong.’ Although the ad is shot so you can clearly

see the model’s ribs, the team believe the treatment was right. Gooden

says: ’You couldn’t have shot it any other way. We did try other angles

but they never looked right.

She looked like a normal model but we wanted to get the idea of weight

across. If anything, we’re saying that skinny is not acceptable.’ Walker

says: ’I think she’s happy being like that and I don’t think there’s

anything people can say. Yes, the advertising industry has a lot to

answer for in the way it portrays women, but we mean this in a positive

way. As a fat person, I’d never go up to a woman and say, you should be

heavier or lighter. It’s about being happy with yourself.’ Walker and

Gooden insist they used the shock imagery to benefit the brand rather

than for PR.

Ben Walker, a copywriter, and Matt Gooden, an art director, work at TBWA

Simons Palmer


It’s the eternal debate. Women like to look at other women. Models are

thin because that’s the way it is. We are carrying the ad in Options and

Marie Claire but I don’t think readers would think, ’Gosh, I must look

like that.’ The ad is open to interpretation and I interpret it in the

way that she’s too thin. I don’t think readers are stupid enough to say,

’I want to be like that.’ Marie Claire tries to use models because they

are attractive. There are a certain amount of British women who are not

thin but we don’t get letters saying ’please don’t use that thin model

again’. Quite the opposite, in fact.

The increase of anorexia in young men suggests it is society that is

demanding perfection. Anorexia is more convoluted than just seeing

images of thinness.

You need to take into context the maturity and the intelligence of the

reader. Yes, she is very thin, but the strapline, ’put some weight on’,

needs to be considered. It all comes back to the original point. Women

won’t look at the ad and say, ’I want to be like her.’ Accurist is using

the image almost to condemn thin models.

Justine Southall is the advertising director for Marie Claire, Options,

Woman’s Journal and Marie Claire Health & Beauty.

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