Iain Murray: CK man must go before things turn really ugly

The ad industry’s predilection for pretty boys and muscle men is inflicting untold damage on the fragile self-esteem of poor old Mr Average

Look upon the photograph at the head of this column. Impossible though it may seem, you may one day need it, or something like it, if such can be found.

It is, I think you will agree, a face that has been lived in. A face etched with grim experience. A face trampled beneath the hooves of fleeting time. A face that bears the scars and bruises of assaults by many men, all of whom, curiously, are known by name to the victim: Theakston, Watney, Whitbread, Adnam, Shepherd and his dastardly accomplice Neame, all these and more have put the boot in and sneaked away, their pockets full.

The face you see before you is, in short, no thing of beauty. And that is the point. You of the advertising and marketing fraternity – and of course sorority – persist in applying your craft through the use of male models of a form and perfection so chiselled as to excite the envy of an Adonis and Narcissus combined. It simply won’t do.

Since, measured against a spectrum that extends from Tom Cruise at one extreme to the picture at the head of this column at the other, most of the male population are to be found closer to the latter than the former, much advertising is the source of untold misery. Untold, that is, until recently, when the findings of a study by Guildhall University were published.

These showed that tall, good-looking men do better and earn more than squat specimens whose battered noses and cauliflower ears betray their calling as the sparring partners of life. The researchers, not content to merely record their findings, call for action. “There is an urgent need for business and the Government to review the equal opportunities policy to address this issue.”

Urgent, no less. Without prompt action to redress the bias against those to whom Nature has dealt a hand comprising an outsize hooter, beetle brows, a wall eye and jug ears, a monstrous injustice will persist uncorrected, to the shame of us all.

Lest you doubt the seriousness of the matter, a London School of Economics lecturer has interviewed a collection of hapless young men, all of whom declared the frustration and anger they felt at the inadequacy of their bodies. Worse, they said that however hard they worked out, they could never achieve a physique like the men in the underwear ads.

Social injustice and victimhood mix explosively in a climate infested by political correctness and stalked by venal lawyers, and unless the advertising industry addresses the problem it will blow up in its face. In the absence of a self-denying ordinance by the underpants industry, it cannot be long before a pigeon-chested youth is helped wheezing into the witness box to testify that his life has been ruined, his self-esteem shattered, his employment prospects ground to dust by gazing upon the toned stomach muscles of the man who fills the Calvin Klein pants with such stupendous and unlikely propensity. Given the grotesque unfairness of it all, m’learned friends would deem damages of the order of &£1m to be not unreasonable.

The solution is obvious, if unappealing. To avoid costly encounters with the compensation industry, agencies and their clients must shake off the urge to use pretty boys in ads and turn instead to the likes of us who have ears like taxicab doors and whose pants, even when occupied, still leave room for a couple of good-sized ferrets to do battle in.

Women, of course, are made of more resourceful and resilient stuff. Take young Jenna Franklin, coming up to sweet sixteen and dissatisfied with the modestly-sized breasts with which providence has endowed her. But does she fret, does she bleat? Well, yes. But she also does the practical thing and puts a pair of implants at the top of her birthday list. And, having a mind as yet unformed as her bosom, she gives her reasons: “You’ve got to have boobs to be successful. Every other person on TV has had implants. You just know Emma Noble, Pamela Anderson, Melinda Messenger and Demi Moore have had them done and they’re so famous. If I want to be successful I need to have them, too.”

Never has the key to worldly glory been more succinctly expressed. Success equals fame, and fame equals a bust you can stand a pint pot on.

Nothing daunts the resolute female of the species. A recent study shows that British women are among the fattest in Europe, second only to the Greeks, the proud, if inadequate, inheritors of the legacy of Aphrodite. But do our women fret, do they bleat? No, they buckle down and diet and exercise like mad.

Vanessa Feltz, for example, has shed six stones. Now, since it is a law of physics that matter can neither be created nor destroyed, it follows that six stones of unattached Feltz are somewhere at large, unrestrained and unaccounted for. It is a disturbing thought of a kind liable to drive a frail and helpless male to seek refuge in the arms of those two unforgiving thugs Bass and Charrington.

Latest from Marketing Week

PLEASE SIGN IN OR REGISTER. IT'S FREE, QUICK AND EASY!

Access Marketing Week’s wealth of insight, analysis and inspiration that will help you develop as a marketer and leader.

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

We’ll ask you just a few questions about what you do and where you work, so we can make Marketing Week more relevant to you.

Register now

THE BEST CONTENT

Our award winning editorial team and columnists will ask the biggest 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 will be 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.

Dedicated to developing your skills and helping you achieve marketing excellence. Find guidance on leadership, professional development and the latest industry jobs.

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