OPINION: Mills on ... fcuk

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,

I'd say.

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.