Harvey Nichols summer sale ad with models who wet themselves

Harvey Nichols pushes summer sale with incontinent models

Advertising never fails to surprise.

Often as a result of marketing and advertising professionals desire to be “different”.

Sometimes with ground breaking results, from brave, bold insightful clients partnering with strategically driven, experienced creatives.

And sometimes quite the opposite, as we see in the campaign from Harvey Nichols.

I believe a lot of this desire to be different is too introspective. Does it really put the consumer first and show any true insight about who they are selling to and how best they should do it?

I imagine (totally cynically of course), the process to be something along the lines of… client and agency discuss the consumers as “irrational, hand-bag wielding crazies” at the prospect of the sale at Harvey Nichols.

A bed-head, 30 something year old creative in ripped jeans and sullen attitude suggests that the poor punter might even “wet themselves” at the prospect of a bargain in the hallowed halls of Harveys!

Amidst the giggles and guffaw the idea becomes “irreverent” and “break-through” and here is the result. An actual campaign (a lot of direct mail money was spent on this…), around consumers wetting themselves in anticipation of the sale.

Julia Bowe, group press and marketing director, at Harvey Nichols said: “In the past we’ve experienced everything from customers camping outside the store overnight to be at the front of the queue, to fierce tussles between over-zealous bargain-hunters on the shop floor.

“In humorous reaction to the often-irrational excitement sale time engenders, we have developed this campaign to capture this near-fanatical spirit.”

Jeremy Craigen, executive creative director at DDB UK, said: “I wet myself when I saw this idea. That says it all really.”

It certainly does. Both client and agency are pretty far removed from their consumer.

The controversial campaign comes after the company narrowly avoided a ban from the Advertising Standards Authority for its notorious “Walk of Shame” advert, which ran on TV last December. A deeply disturbing effort at advertising.

This is a symptom of the “anything goes” prevailing advertising attitude. Or it might be more accurate to say “anything can be sold” attitude with respect to the client…

This campaign, although claiming to be tongue-in-cheek, (which has become the most often used term for poor taste in a tepid idea), mocks the consumer and devalues a premium brand.

What does the person in the street think? Particularly the aspirationally premium target? I doubt many share the same sense of irreverent humour about their excitement in the sale or relate to the image and see themselves as losing bowel control for the chance to grab a bargain. Advertising can no longer hide from their consumers who in this case have taken to twitter on receipt of the flyers with the images as reported:

  • One user said: “Really, Harvey Nicks? Really? They’re certainly pushing the boundaries.”
  • Another woman tweeted: “That absolutely does not make me the slightest bit inclined to shop there!”
  • And another wrote: “We received this in the post, hideous! It makes me think of their sale goods as being soiled :(”, while one poster merely said: “Oh how the mighty have fallen!”

This campaign suggests the client doesn’t exactly put their punter on a pedestal in terms of premium perceptions, or even understand who their customer is?

I tend to think these ideas are lazy and exist in the absence of any strategically inspired creative idea that is truly relevant, interesting and motivating to the punter and potentially drives sales.

A lot of the PR generated by the campaign tends to agree. The “accident” is all Harvey Nichols, not their consumer’s…

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