Media: A Moment with Marquis

The editor's decision is final. Quite right too; the buck has to stop somewhere. But the decision of Ross Brown, the editor of FHM, to turn down an ad for Lucozade (Campaign, 4 November) featuring a sassy but undeniably older woman flanked by a couple of hunks is puzzling.

Is the treatment so very out of keeping with the style of FHM, so very off-putting to its readers? To my mind, it is actually slightly racier than the new ad, shot specially for FHM featuring an older man adorned by two young women in their undies, and "racy" - I'd have thought - was something of an FHM brand value.

But then I'm not the editor, Mr Brown is, and making judgments about ads is rightly his prerogative as much as is his choice of columnists or cover shots.

The thing is, that judgment, particularly in the case of advertisements booked into the magazine, should be used very circumspectly and extremely sparingly.

Why? Well, not for the reason you might think, namely that it could piss off a major advertiser (GlaxoSmithKline in this instance) to have its copy rejected. Indeed, it was heartening to read that Andrew Morley, FHM's commercial director, had defended the decision in public, even if privately he was having kittens about it. It's no big deal for GSK or its agency and I'm sure no noses are out of joint.

But I can't help but think it was unnecessary to make the fuss. No-one doubts that editors have the best fix on reader tastes and attitudes, but ad agencies have a pretty good sense of them too. One assumes that in this case, both creative and media agencies gave proper consideration to FHM as the appropriate environment in which the older woman treatment should appear. And readers aren't daft; they surely don't hold the editor personally responsible for the content of all the ads in a magazine.

Even if FHM readers would rather see scantily clad women than hunks (doubtless the case), what harm would have been perpetrated if the original ad had run? Who knows, the slight disconnect, the small tension created by it may have intrigued the reader and persuaded him, subconsciously perhaps, of something positive both about Lucozade and FHM?

Many of the greatest ads have benefited from ever-so-slightly incongruous media placements. Readers notice them; engage with them more.

And I'm sure Mr Brown wouldn't argue with that.


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