Luxury department store Harvey Nichols found itself in hot water last week thanks to its recent advertising campaign for its upcoming summer sale.
Landing on thousands of potential customers’ doormats were mail outs displaying an image of a model wetting herself accompanied by the slogan ‘The Harvey Nichols sale… try to contain your excitement’… charming!
If people didn’t laugh when they saw it, it was instead met with sheer disgust and branded “crass”. As always Twitter was awash with comments such as ‘how did it make it to print?’ and ‘take a look at the worst advertising ever’. One London based stylist tweeted, ‘love something a bit controversial – good or bad taste though?’
Up to 70 per cent off designer brands is, I suppose, quite exciting but unlikely to make me lose full control of my bladder. Who would of thought a luxury department store would resort to using toilet humour to promote its latest sale.
Quite frankly the model in the image doesn’t look too excited about the sale herself. Personally I would have liked to have been a fly on the wall the moment the campaign’s stylist said, “hold on one minute love, we’ve got to splash water on your crotch first, the sink’s just over here.”
Shoppers receive tonnes of junk mail everyday so getting our attention is, of course, tough. This campaign, which is made up of four images including one of an incontinent male, has certainly caught people’s eye and sparked the debate of whether the store has lost sense of who its customer is, after all Harvey Nichols is a name associated with high end luxury.
Apparently the idea was inspired by Julia Roberts’ famous quote “it was so good, I almost peed my pants” from Pretty Woman. It’s a common expression and who hasn’t uttered those words at some point?
I can see where they were coming from, it is a humorous nod to the often irrational excitement that sale time brings as the masses fight their way through the doors and start grabbing every item in sight. However, the execution was poor and tasteless.
A spokeswoman for the store has said: “We developed the campaign to promote our summer sale and capture this excitement in a light-hearted, humorous way. The images were designed to be a visual representation of a well-known phrase.
“During the production of the campaign we researched the use of this expression in popular culture and social media, and were satisfied that it is both commonplace and invariably used in a playful, inoffensive manner, which was in-keeping with the tongue in cheek spirit in which we intended our campaign to be taken.”
This isn’t the first time that the store has managed to come under fire either. In December, its ‘Walk of shame’ Christmas advert prompted people to complain to the Advertising Standards Authority suggesting it portrayed negative stereotypes of women. The ad in question featured a number of women looking worse for wear as they stumbled home in party dresses in the early hours. A slogan appears saying ‘avoid the walk of shame this season’ followed by a shot of a well-dressed woman confidently returning home at dawn. Unlike the other women in the ad, she’s wearing a dress from Harvey Nichols.
Complaints to ASA suggested that it was demeaning to women and endorsed casual sex. While the ASA ruled that the depiction of women in that way was unlikely to cause serious or widespread offence, they agreed that some might find it distasteful.
For such a highbrow store to pick distinctly lowbrow ideas is controversial in itself, but after all, in this day and age controversy always sells. However, Harvey Nichols’ ad team need to take a step back and really look at who their target customer is, its certainly one that I’m sure doesn’t expect such an upmarket store to engage with them via toilet humour and one night stands.
In my opinion, I think Harvey Nicks might have taken it a wee bit too far this time.
- – - – - – - – - – - – - – - – - – - – - – - – - – - – - – - – - – - – - – - – - – - – - – - – - – - – - – -
Harvey Nichols’ campaign isn’t the only advert to have ruffled a few feathers, last week the Advertising Standards Authority released its Top 10 most complained about ads of all time to celebrate its 50th anniversary.