Everything not hunky-dory as crisp advertisements accused of being sexist

Wed, Apr 28, 2010, 01:00

AN ADVERTISING campaign for Hunky Dory crisps which features women in revealing tops playing rugby under straplines such as “Are you staring at my crisps?” and “Tackle these” has attracted a large number of complaints to the advertising watchdog since it was launched on Monday.

The Largo Foods campaign, which cost €500,000, has been branded sexist and depressing, while the Irish Rugby Football Union (IRFU) said it had sent the company a solicitor’s letter demanding the campaign be pulled because of a reference to the crisps as a “proud sponsor of Irish rugby”.

Susan McKay of the National Women’s Council said it was “really tiresome to see companies resorting to this kind of old style sexism when the world is full of so many imaginative possibilities”. She described it as “depressing” not least because the “company will get masses of publicity for this”.

IRFU marketing director Pádraig Power said the ads were “in very bad taste” and he described the campaign’s “blatant exploitation of women” as “tasteless and base, and quite simply unacceptable”.

He said the sponsorship claim “implies that the company is a significant sponsor of the game in this country. . . This is absolutely untrue and a cynical ploy in an attempt to capitalise on the popularity of the game.”

There was a huge volume of criticism of the campaign on Twitter and the Advertising Authority for Ireland received over a dozen complaints in writing about the ads yesterday alone.

The authority’s committee meets every two months to discuss complaints but it can take interim action to have a campaign withdrawn.

Raymond Coyle, chief executive of Largo Foods expressed surprise at the negative reaction and said the feedback he had received personally had been very positive. “I don’t think the ads are at all sexist but if people do think that then I apologise to them,” he said. “Everything is so serious and gloomy now and we want to inject a little bit of fun into things.”

Mr Coyle claimed that the reference to Irish rugby alluded to the fact that Largo Foods sponsors the Navan rugby team.

Shock often a product’s best promoter

HUNKY DORY ads may not be funny or clever but, in just 72 hours, they’ve got more headlines for the crisp maker than it could have hoped for and it’s unlikely the palaver was greeted with anything less than unbridled glee in Largo Foods’ Ashbourne boardroom.

Whether the campaign will generate extra crisp sales remains to be seen, but Richard Delevan, deputy managing director at McConnnelsIntegrated, says it has achieved its first aim of positioning the brand at the forefront of the public consciousness. “For a brand like Hunky Dory, any slice of attention, anything that creates a buzz can be worthwhile. The fact that we’re talking about it means the campaign’s done its job.”

The master of the fabricated advertising controversy is Ryanair. Some ads have landed it in court, others have seen it hauled before advertising standards authorities but all have got people talking. It once had its knuckles rapped for an ad with a Britney Spears-style schoolgirl beside the tag-line “Hottest back-to-school fares”, and has mercilessly lampooned Bertie Ahern, Mary O’Rourke, the pope and European heads of state.

In 1991, Budget Travel found itself it hot water over a bus shelter poster campaign featuring the barely clad bottom of a woman under the catchphrase, “Get your seat to the sun”. There was shock and awe among the public and masses of free publicity for the company.

The advertising watchdog demanded the ad be pulled. Instead, Budget cheekily used a sticker which read “Don’t get left behind” to cover the woman’s modesty, something which enraged people further and earned Budget more publicity.

The Wonderbra was invented in 1935 but sales were flat until a campaign in 1994 featured model Eva Herzigová gazing wistfully at her breasts under the caption “Hello Boys”.

It grew into one of the most famous ads of the modern era, and sales of the push-up bra received an incredible and sustained uplift.

In 2005, Paddy Power had a flutter on Jesus and the Apostles gambling at the Last Supper. It didn’t pay off, and the bookmaker was forced to pull the ad after complaints. The posters tweaked Leonardo da Vinci’s painting and had Jesus and the Apostles playing cards and roulette. Paddy Power expressed disappointment and said “Some people just take this stuff too seriously.”

An ad for Yves Saint Laurent’s Opium perfume, featuring a naked Sophie Dahl posing suggestively, attracted a record 730 complaints to the British Advertising Standards Authority (ASA). The ASA said the posters were sexually suggestive and likely to cause “serious or widespread offence”.

They did not, however, do any harm to the sales of the perfume, the Yves Saint Laurent brand or Dahl’s career.