OPINION: Mills on ... Gossard G-strings

OK, readers - see if you spot a trend in the last three ads reviewed in this column: Army, BT broadband and Thomas Pink shirts. Easy. I've been sub-consciously picking bloke-type things to review.

Thus you might think that the subject of this week's column, Gossard G-strings, was part of that continuum, women's underwear (or, as a shop sign I saw recently has it, "Intimate apparel") being the sort of thing that us blokes are dead interested in.

But not any longer, apparently. I say "apparently" because according to the Gossard marketing supremo, one Shaeren McKenzie (of whom more later), this advertising campaign is deliberately aimed at women and not at men.

On current form therefore I shouldn't be interested in it at all. However, some of my Campaign colleagues (guess which) don't see the ads quite that way, and think I should, professionally speaking, cast my eye over them.

A little background first. In July, the Gossard business was suddenly hoiked out of what many would consider the natural home for an account of this type, TBWA/London. Yet its stay there had been all too brief.

Not very subtly, Gossard let it be known that it was looking for something less tits-and-ass sexist.

This is the same Gossard, remember, whose previous ads included such non-sexist lines about women "finding their own G-spots" and the fnarr, fnarr juxtaposition of the words "pleasure" and "soft".

In August, the account moved to the eccentrically named WARL Change Behaviour (sic) agency where, an ecstatic Ms McKenzie pronounced, her radical vision of non-sexist lingerie advertising could be achieved. What a relief: in its relentless search for non-sexist lingerie ads, Gossard had been through no less than three agencies in the previous 12 months.

So, have our questing marketing director and her agency found utopia?

Alas, they've found the gutter. In a TV ad, as a woman pulls her jeans over her G-string, she "accidentally" shows a distinctly unsubtle amount of butt cleavage. She then tips a load of objects into her handbag, including a phallic pair of hair curling tongs, before opining to the camera that "Gossard do things my way", which is as vacuous a line as I've heard in a long time.

I've seen less wooden performances from trees. In the Sex and the City idiom, our heroine is supposed to be sassy and empowered. Instead she's more Edwina Currie than Carrie. TV ads for G-strings should be classy, stylish, high-production numbers. Indeed, it looks like it's been shot in some tacky East End photographer's studio.

The print ads feature a different model clad only in her diamante G-string, with plenty of flesh and butt cleavage on view. The line "This is just for men" is amended to "This is just for me" by a dash of lipstick scrawled through the last letter in a way that is meant to make us think that, far from being exploited, she's the exploitee. So why then, you wonder, is she posing, lips slightly parted, head half turned, like a Page 3 girl? Or is she doing it in some ironic, non-sexist, double-bluff way that is too subtle for the average male to understand?

I suspect the truth is that Gossard has fallen into a trap of its own making. In trying to escape the Law of Wonderbra (which states that all lingerie ads will henceforth be unfavourably compared to "hello boys"), it has tried to do something different. Cynically, it has tried to claim the moral high ground, when all along it wanted to have its cake and eat it too.

If you still don't believe me, ask yourself this: if Gossard really wanted to target women, why does its media schedule include 48- and 96-sheet posters?

Dead cert for a Pencil? Is that a lead-in-pencil pun, then?

File under ... H for hypocritical.

What would the chairman's wife say? "I wear mine for you and you only,

darling."

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