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
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
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
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.