Piss off Harvey Nics

In case you’ve been doing something else in the last 24 hours, you can’t fail to have seen the furore erupting around the latest campaign from Harvey Nichols,  featuring models who have wet themselves in excitement at the prospect of a sale.

This campaign is so far off the mark, it’s almost unbelievable.  Here are the three reasons why.

1) I don’t know about you, but when I see an image of someone wetting themselves, I can smell urine.   So all these ads do for me is evoke an idea that, should I ever have the misfortune to visit a Harvey Nichols store, I’ll be greeted with the aroma of stale wee, possibly with some Pine Mountain Fresh Glade air freshener liberally applied to mask the scent.

This is not conducive to making me want to spend any money.

Advertisers need to remember the link that consumers make between the senses (even if they’re not fully synaesthetic).

2) It’s obviously meant to be funny.  If you find piss jokes amusing, you’re probably a teenager.  Teenagers don’t have huge amounts of money to spend in Harvey Nichols.

3) It’s lazy.

Let me repeat that in a big, bold font in case you missed it the first time.


I hate lazy creative.  I hate creative which is obviously designed to get people talking about it through employing fringe humour, sex or shock value.

Anyone can do that shite  (and believe me, I’m pitched enough of it every year).

It’s not insightful.  It’s not clever.  And it’s not really all that funny either.

But you know what the real kicker is?

It’s a PR stunt designed to get people talking.  Until this ad broke, I wasn’t aware that Harvey Nichols was having a sale (not living in London, not having enough cash and being in no way hip enough to shop there).

Sadly, I am now.  As are you, now that you’ve read this post.

So it’s worked.

Damn it.

Neil Hopkins is a Marketing and Branding Theorist at heart, and a Marketing Communications Manager by day. His blog – interacter – is the primary location he shares insight and information relating to marketing, branding and advertising strategy.
You can follow Neil on Twitter, circle him (like an escaped bull) on Google+ or track him down in any number of other ways.


3 thoughts on “Piss off Harvey Nics

  1. Lazy? Yes, but also ‘cheap’. Surely that is one brand value that HN do not want. I am sure the ad agency will have the word ‘viral’ all over their pitch deck. They will no doubt be carefully monitoring media mentions and social network coverage, and will duly ‘prove’ what a success it was.

    It is viral, ‘people are talking about it’.

    And I thought that we had moved on from, ‘no such thing as bad publicity’?

    Didn’t Gerald Ratner prove that this wasn’t true, and that bad advertising can damage brands. An old reference, but a very, very convincing one.

    Maybe the ad agency creatives were too busy skateboarding when this was being covered in the marketing course. There is such a thing as bad publicity.

    Viral success means nothing. It doesn’t change the fact that it is ‘lazy and cheap’. It raises awareness of the sale. It gets the brand in media coverage, but at what cost? Does this increase my respect for HN? No. Does it make me want to shop there? No. Does it make me want to aspire to shop there [which is a critical metric]? No.

    But perhaps I am the target audience.

    So, I asked some of my friends who clearly are because they spend rediculous amounts in the store. Their first reactions, ‘tasteless’, ‘vulgar’ and ‘cheap’.

    As Neil said, good marketing is hard. That is why agencies are paid so much money. So a note to the ad agency – the next time you take the cash, work harder and stop being so lazy. This time the client listened to you. Another client would have fired you.

    • Love it, Gary! Thanks for contributing! I’m still staggered by the simple fact that this cheap, nasty, creative was allowed through.
      And, apparently, HN’s head of creative something or other “wet” himself when he saw the execution. That’s not normally a good sign in my book…

  2. Pingback: 5 advertising and design rules Skegness smashes (and how you can avoid them entirely) « interacter

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