A floored advertising strategy

Attempting to analyse an ad which uses a naked woman to sell carpets is stretching the bounds of verbal analysis

It’s usually a mistake to attempt verbal analysis of things sensual. The exception is wine, but only because the buffs have grown immune to mockery. For all other persons, especially those not used to expressing themselves in public, words are bound to fail.

Michael Brinton, for example, is head of a family firm of carpet makers and chairman of the newly-formed Carpet Foundation, which last week made a satisfyingly small splash with the launch of a generic campaign.

In an attempt to seize the initiative from wooden and stone floors, the trendy preference of the style-setters of Notting Hill, the foundation reached for the oldest, most trusty, and, given the temper of the times, the most surprisingly potent, weapon of them all – female nudity.

The ads show Danish model Helle Maested tastefully disporting her nakedness in a carpet context. She is variously depicted sitting on folds of Axminster, sandwiching herself between rolls of Wilton (it looks as though the lift doors are closing on her a little too early) and, most fetchingly, emerging like an exultant liberated tunneller from a coil of something emerald.

There is not a lot to be said about any of this, though those of a certain political persuasion might ask why the chosen model, though undoubtedly slender, charming and lissome, is Danish. This is taking European integration further than necessary at a difficult time when all eyes are on the euro and our future place in the European Union remains far from clear. Surely the UK has a plenitude of delightful home-grown women prepared to cast off political correctness and clothing alike and wriggle demurely out of a roll of woollen floor covering?

If the ad is to be analysed at all, which is doubtful, the most that may be safely said is that it emphasises the comfort and tactile quality of carpet. Brinton, however, unwisely went further. “You would not,” he said, “want to be a naked woman sitting on a wooden or stone floor.”

The logic of that cannot be faulted (unless the naked woman was either extremely hot, perhaps as a result of over-exertion in extricating herself from an especially close-woven twill, or a masochist), but it is logic based on an unlikely premise.

From a male perspective, it would undoubtedly be preferable to stir with one’s virile member a cup of lukewarm rather than boiling hot tea, but that begs the question: why should one do it at all? Assuming one is a woman and happens to be naked, there is no obvious need to sit on the floor, be it wooden, stone, carpet or mud.

Of course, there are those who will say I am being naive in missing the Carpet Foundation’s true message – that carpet is more copulation-friendly than York stone. But that is an unlikely sales pitch. As far as I know, there are no reliable figures concerning the incidence of floor fornication – but even if the practice were widespread, its devotees would choose their floors according to personal preference and would not need the Carpet Foundation to remind them of the relative bounce of the materials on offer.

Another example of verbal analysis where none would have been advisable is to be found in Michael Grade’s memoirs, serialised last week in the Daily Mail. In an endearingly Pooteresque apologia pro vita sua, the author reveals much about television and about his own passive and unconscious absorption of modish media values.

He tells us he hated being dubbed Pornographer-in-Chief by the Mail’s Paul Johnson. “I suppose I personified everything detested by the white, middle-class, reactionary constituency the Mail served,” he says. Having identified the enemy, Grade goes on to say that, as head of Channel 4, he was obliged by the Broadcasting Act to cater for minorities.

He does not question Johnson’s list of Channel 4’s minorities as exemplified in the programme The Word: “Lesbians, homosexuals and sex perverts, necrophiliacs, fanatical anti-papists, students of scatology and animal cruelty, people who like watching others being grossly humiliated and abused…”

For Grade and others in television, those were indeed the minorities whose preferences they felt compelled by requirement of statute law to address. It is difficult to think of a better example of the narrowness and stupidity of fashionable liberal-left opinion led and shaped by the most clamorous minorities.

Everyone knows – not only the despised white, middle-class reactionaries – that there are hundreds of minority groups in the UK whose interests, though no doubt fascinating, are not trumpeted in the media, nor, more importantly, have the propensity to shock.

Grade says – again a trendy broadcasting mantra – that he was compelled to explore the boundaries of taste. Why? By whom?

“I freely admit,” he says, “that I have wilfully transmitted material… that would disgust and offend a human being… yet the transmission of such pictures can be justified to introduce viewers to new thinking or increase their awareness of the raw nature of the world…”

Or, of course, simply to draw attention to oneself. Grade was nothing so grand as a pornographer-in-chief, merely a flasher-in-ordinary.

Latest from Marketing Week

NOT REGISTERED? IT'S FREE, QUICK AND EASY!

Access Marketing Week’s wealth of insight, analysis and opinion that will help you do your job better.

Register and receive the best content from the only UK title 100% dedicated to serving marketers' needs.

We’ll ask you just a few questions about what you do and where you work. The more we know about our visitors, the better and more relevant content we can provide for them. And, yes, knowing our audience better helps us find commercial partners too. Don't worry, we won't share your information with other parties, unless you give us permission to do so.

Register now

THE BEST CONTENT

Our award winning editorial team (PPA Digital Brand of the Year) ask the big questions about the biggest issues on everything from strategy through to execution to help you navigate the fast moving modern marketing landscape.

THE BIGGEST ISSUES

From the opportunities and challenges of emerging technology to the need for greater effectiveness, from the challenge of measurement to building a marketing team fit for the future, we are your guide.

PERSONAL AND PROFESSIONAL DEVELOPMENT

Information, inspiration and advice from the marketing world and beyond that will help you develop as a marketer and as a leader.

Having problems?

Contact us on +44 (0)20 7292 3711 or email subscriptions@marketingweek.com

If you are looking for our Jobs site, please click here