Adrian Holmes, the chairman of Lowe Howard-Spink, delivered a blistering attack on the decline in moral standards and the rise of “new yobbishness” in advertising, last week.
In a speech to the TV95 conference in Monte Carlo, Holmes, showed a reel of five TV commercials that had been entered for the British Television Advertising Awards, including a Holsten Pils commercial, an ad for BK sports shoes and an ad for Warr’s Harley Davidson. All ads had run on commercially-owned broadcast media after receiving clearance from appropirate regulatory bodies.
He said BK’s commercial for sports shoes, by Leagas Shafron Davis Ayer, which showed a lovingly assembled matchstick model being crushed suggested it was OK to be yobbish.
An ad for Warr’s Harley Davidson, through Butterfield Day Devito Hockney, in which a pensioner complains that his son bought a Harley Davidson instead of buying him a wheelchair suggested that it was “OK to laugh at impoverished pensioners on Zimmer frames”.
And a Gold Greenlees Trott Holsten Pils ad with Denis Leary throwing bottles, with the endline “No Shit” suggests “it must be OK to walk around throwing lager bottles and swearing”.
Holmes also criticised Saatchi & Saatchi’s campaign for Club 18-30. He said the ad campaign may be well targeted and effective, with plenty of media leverage from press reactions, but just because it is selling well does not mean that it is right. “It’s the others walking past I am worried about. Imagine your little girl saying, `What’s Beaver Espana mean. Daddy?'” He also pointed to the recent Disclosure posters.
His main attack was on advertising which offends, uses bad language, degrades people or promotes aggression. “There is a new desire to shock the audience into taking notice by whatever means,” he said. “Precisely because they’re commercials, in a commercial break, with a logo on the end, all professionally crafted and beautifully lit, they somehow give an official legitimation to what is going on.”
He added that advertising does not simply reflect society, it shapes it as well. “This advertising machine we’re all in charge of has a huge influence. Commercials don’t just sell products they sell attitudes and behaviour with the same targeted efficiency.”
He added: “I urge the regulators to stamp on this sort of thing, and be a little less petty in other areas.” Where such work gets past the regulators he urged media owners to ban it.
Steve Grime, the creative director of Leagas Shafron which created the BK ads, responded to Holmes’ criticism: “I didn’t think the ads would harm a fly,” he says. “Creatively you continually have to go to the edge. But if you don’t try that then all you end up with is rather mediocre.”