’Fcuk fashion’ is the copy line for the French Connection ad
And it isn’t a misprint - although some might call it a mistake. Acres
of mock-enraged press coverage was, no doubt, the aim. When launched
recently, the campaign was described as ’deliberately provocative’ and -
rather a give-away - included the unveiling of a 140-foot poster to the
press in central London.
Advertising has discovered that press coverage can magnify a media spend
enormously. But as 40 rapt members of the IPR Marketing Communications
Group heard two weeks ago, this volatile integration of two disciplines
is difficult to control. It can even happen unintentionally, as in the
case of Club 18-30.
French Connection joins Wonderbra, Benetton, Club 18-30 and probably
Demon Eyes, as campaigns that seek to generate the PR-ad spend
multiplier that comes from integration.
With French Connection, all the integration ingredients are there. A
poster campaign for impact and low cost; a press unveiling to generate
concern on the lines of ’We believe you will share our outrage etc’ -
while, of course, ensuring that lots of newspapers are sold, as well as
lots of clothes.
The latest media relations-ad campaigns created to generate media
coverage tend to share a similar character. To grab attention they must
By contrast, the very best campaigns to become media stars are original,
brave and intrinsically amusing.
Consider another recent ’shock’ campaign, for Gossard. The poster
campaign carrying the legend ’Who said that a woman can’t get pleasure
from something soft’ attracted a record number of complaints to the
But is this really quality integrated marketing? In my opinion, no.
In some respects shock campaigns are the media equivalent of a smash and
grab raid. A short-term gamble, probably resulting in long term
You might say they have got little to do with PR. Let’s spell that out
PR as in Public Relations: the business discipline which creates
favourable attitudes and behaviour towards a company and its products.
Integration is right at home with this approach.
One might ask what shock media relations campaigns do for a company’s
reputation; what return they deliver on years of investment in public
relations, advertising and marketing? What effect they have on
shareholders; financial institutions; employees, the local
More crucially, what do they say about brand, or corporate values? Might
they not even backfire, as the Conservative Party’s Demon Eyes and
Helmut’s Dummy posters seem to have done by creating sympathy for Mr
To put this into a wider context, I detect increasing concern about the
tone of communications; it is similar to the concern over TV and cinema
violence, low standards of public behaviour, the gutter press. And
people generally are voicing that concern. This month, for example, the
ASA said that complaints about sexism in advertising had doubled.
I freely agree that a well-orchestrated campaign dovetailing direct
advertising and media relations can produce extraordinarily
That, after all, is what integration strives for.
The strategy, surely, must be to create short-term impact with long-term
benefit: positive attitudes which endure; continuously favourable
Not a short, sharp shock or do I mean schlock?
Eugene Bacot is a director of PR agency Oakes:Bacot.