My biggest gaffe: naked surfers

Hope&Glory PR managing partner James Gordon-MacIntosh explains why sending four chaps to parade naked on a Scottish island was a bad idea...

James Gordon-MacIntosh: Managing partner at Hope&Glory
James Gordon-MacIntosh: Managing partner at Hope&Glory

My biggest gaffe was the dubious act, while running the VisitScotland account at 77PR, of sending four likely lads - who didn't mind getting their kit off - to the Scottish Island of Barra to promote it as an outdoor adventure playground in what was termed "a viral".

The boys surfed, cycled and adventured in their birthday suits. The intention was to stick a clip out as a tongue-in-cheek ad (with an end line involving being "shameless when it comes to showing off our natural beauty") that the client was planning to run but had, in the end, pulled.

Unfortunately, myself and then colleague Alan Twigg had reckoned without the offices of the parish priest and the fact that the beach doubled as the island's runway. The faces in the office became more anguished as calls came first from the Aberdeen Press and Journal and then The Guardian and The Daily Telegraph.

In a moment of post-modern narrative - or parody - the client announced it was pulling the film, which was only being made so we could announce we had pulled it. Needless to say, it was not a relationship that lasted much longer.

And the lesson in the story? First of all, the phrase "you couldn't make it up" has never been better applied. Second, it is wise to have a firm view of a client's true appetite for risk - even after they've signed off on an idea.

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