MARKETING MIX: HOBBY HORSE; Demon ad debate goes against the spirit of peerage

I’d like to apologise this week to readers in the south-east of England, who may have suffered rather a surfeit of me. Like anyone else with a plausible manner and half an opinion about advertising, I found myself hauled before cameras and microphones to talk about Those Ads and That Peerage.

I’d like to apologise this week to readers in the south-east of England,

who may have suffered rather a surfeit of me. Like anyone else with a

plausible manner and half an opinion about advertising, I found myself

hauled before cameras and microphones to talk about Those Ads and That

Peerage.



For those just back from a jungle- trekking holiday in Borneo, I’m

talking about M&C Saatchi’s Demon Eyes campaign for the Conservative

Party.



First came the referral of the ads to the Advertising Standards

Authority, reported in Marketing on August 15, on the intriguing grounds

that permission should be sought from the victim before a personality is

vilified. I don’t seem to remember that high moral tone getting in the

way of the ‘Thatcher, Thatcher, Milk Snatcher’ school of campaigning,

but I can’t say I think that these new ads are terribly clever, either.

Acting like school children with marker pens in their hands doesn’t seem

to me to be the behaviour of a party confident in its own abilities.



Then, just as the fuss was dying down, up popped Scott Woods, the actor

whose eyes had been photographed for the ads, complaining that he hadn’t

known they were going to be used in this way. Cue renewed media interest

in the offending advertising, and another round of Tory-bashing from

delighted Labour spokespersons.



Now, were I an actor famous for my evil eyes, offered pounds 250 for a

quick photo-shoot with M&C Saatchi for an ad for the Tory Party, who

then discovered the photographer concentrating on the area between the

bridge of my nose and my forehead, I think I might just twig that they

didn’t want me for my winning smile.



In the event, Woods’s eyes were turned upside down and coloured red,

which rather leaves me to ponder why they couldn’t just have drawn them

in Photoshop in the first place.



So far, all this is grist to advertising’s mill, in that it neatly

proves that mass advertising still has the power to spark national

debate. It was unfortunate, then, that the announcement of Maurice

Saatchi’s peerage should have come quite so soon after the Demon Eyes

deb‰cle.



Stuck in the middle of the silly season, just back from a day out

talking to people like me about The Ads, the news about Maurice came as

manna from heaven for hard-pressed hacks. Here, the day after all those

‘and finallys’ about Demon Eyes, is the man who ‘thought up the ad’

getting a leg-up from the people who paid for them.



I suppose these things are governed by some complex Royal protocol and

arranged months in advance, but as an example of how not to make an

important announcement, this one deserves a place in every PR text book.



Advertising’s contribution to British business is streets ahead of many

other industries which have barons by the bucketful. It’s one of the few

genuine export success stories of recent years, and Maurice Saatchi,

like it or not, is a living symbol of British advertising.



He deserves his peerage, and so does the advertising industry. That’s

why it’s so unfortunate that it has been hijacked in the cause of a

short-term political spat about some rather silly posters.



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