A short cut to advertising

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Indy Lifestyle Online
IF YOU go down to Leicester Square today, you're sure of a big surprise. For in the cinema ad reel, you'll see one of three surreal commercials that represent a funky little Soho hairdresser mounting a courageous charge at all the Nicky Clarkes and Vidal Sassoons of this world.

The ads themselves are strange, hand-held camera jobs with staggeringly high production values. The first focuses on the wizened face of an over- made-up old woman who pouts at her beau, "Darling, I've had a wonderful evening", before getting hauled off into a police van screaming, "but this wasn't it..." The second shows a young clubber being turned away from a fashionable Soho nighterie by a bouncer who says, "If you had a club would you let yourself in?" The final, and most saucy, features a fat old drunk staring at the camera for a few seconds before he says, "Which bit don't you understand? Fuck or off?"

They've been running in central London cinemas in the run-up to London Fashion Week and they'll take a quick break then pop back in front of the kind of films where the audience don't mind hearing words like Fuck or Off. "It's about time someone took on the big boys," says Paul Burfoot, Fish's owner. "All the big hairdresser's nick their ideas from the independent outfits, but we don't have the resources to fight back."

Now Fish is, without doubt, a top Soho snipper. It boasts amongst its clients the likes of Julian Clary, Tim Westwood and Johnny Vaughan. It also takes credit for inventing the Soho Crop and the Oasis cut. It's very successful and it's about to expand. But it just doesn't have the budget for an advertising campaign, so what's going on? Well, it's adland's hot young talent getting all frustrated at the kind of work they have to churn out and looking for something a bit cheeky to get their teeth into.

"I was approached by Paul Surety at an ad agency called Doner Cardwell Hawkins," says Burfoot. "They wanted to enter an ad for an award in the health and beauty category of some awards night and they offered to make the ad for free. We had a full production crew, a bunch of actors and a top ad agency - and they all did it for free haircuts."

"The catchline is Cutting Comments," explains Surety. "It flies in the face of all that fake tan, supermodel stuff. It's just coming up to the awards season right now, with awards like Cannes and D&AD receiving entries, and we're pretty confident."

While this may sound distinctly dodgy, it's actually a top career move for a young turk. A similar ad two years ago for the underground Carnaby Street jewellers The Great Frog - which coincidentally ended with the words "Fuck Off" and heralded a wave of work known as Yobbish Advertising - made the careers of the two unemployed creatives who knocked it up. Both Jo Tanner and Viv Walsh got jobs at Saatchi & Saatchi on the back of the ad and caused such a stink that they are almost as well-known in adland as the brothers M&C themselves.

"I got a great ad," says Burfoot, "everyone involved got to work on something really good, which can't hurt their CVs, and we got to compete with these big hairdressers." So if you see a particularly creative ad for a bizarre product in a low-cost medium like cinema or the style press then please pay attention. A lot of careers are riding on it.

Stephen Armstrong

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