A few years ago, Collett Dickenson Pearce lost the Cinzano account
because it was said that the agency’s Joan Collins and Leonard Rossiter
campaign might well have been for Martini. This was rubbish, of course -
the result of ’using’ research to prove a pet theory. But isn’t it
amazing how often people say things like ’I really like the Kenco ad
starring Trevor Eve’s wife and the yuppie bloke’ or ’my favourite car ad
is the Professionals rip-off, for the Honda Civic’ - when, as far as
advertising professionals are concerned, these commercials are superb
branding exercises for Gold Blend and the Nissan Almera.
Perhaps those people have a valid point. I keep noticing ads, not
because of their powerful commercial messages - precisely the opposite,
in fact. An interesting example is the current Selfridges print campaign
through its recently appointed agency, Bartle Bogle Hegarty.
As Campaign published a story that preceded the launch of the ads, I
probably should have said something at the time, but it wasn’t until the
ads had been up for a couple of days that I realised I had been driving
past them, as well as seeing them on bus-sides, without paying them a
blind bit of notice.
Some of the problem is the colour: from a distance they look like Yellow
Pages ads. Some of it is the irrelevant line, ’It’s worth living in
Selfridges’ - we already know that London fashion, eating and lifestyle
are In because squillionaires like Demi and Bruce are hard at work
house-hunting here. Above all, though, there is nothing that unites the
ads with Selfridges, nothing that inextricably links the message with
the advertiser. (Since writing this, BBH has taken the unprecedented
step of recommending the ads for inclusion in Private View, so I can
safely assume that the agency does not agree with any of the above.)
The interesting thing is not that the Selfridges marketing director is
an ex-BBH man, although Nick Cross did used to work there. Nor is it
that BBH created the ads, for there’s no need to tell you how brilliant
the Kingly Street lot are at their best. It’s that Selfridges is one of
the few bits of the Sears Group that has been performing.
This campaign belies the fact that Selfridges is one of the few major
London retailers that has genuinely improved its offering.
Any advertising connected with Sears needs to stand up to close scrutiny
because Liam Strong, the chief executive, is fighting to survive as the
group’s performance and share price conspicuously fail to keep pace with
those of its rivals. So, in view of the flak Strong’s been fielding
lately, advertising ought to be more of a priority than this campaign
suggests. Then again, when was the last time a troubled company bought