Jeans ads take bad taste to the limit

Diesel's new campaign sets out to shock, writes Colin Blackstock
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The Independent Online
SHOCKING advertisements depicting scenes of human mutilation, a denim-clad Virgin Mary, groping OAPs and a spoof of a soft-porn movie are the latest tasteless tactic by a jeans company to promote its products.

The ads, for Diesel Jeans, to be launched across Britain in March and then throughout continental Europe, are likely to draw gasps from even the most liberal-minded.

However, Jethro Marshall, Diesel UK's marketing manager, said they were never intended to cause controversy and should be judged on their artistic merits.

"I think they are more a kind of visual pun and what at first may seem shocking turns out not to be. Diesel have always tried to poke fun at conventionality. These ads were not produced to shock.

"Diesel ads are aimed at arresting people's attitudes towards advertising. They are not supposed to be horrifying, they are supposed to be a lot warmer."

The tactic of using a shocking image has become a cliche of modern advertising. The most notable example was a series of Benetton ads in the early Nineties, which were attacked for their use of real-life pictures of a man dying from Aids, children working as slave labour, and a bloodied new-born baby with umbilical cord still attached.

Since then organisations such as the RSPCA and the Vegetarian Society have employed such shock tactics in ad campaigns.

While acknowledging that some of the ads may be considered shocking, Mr Marshall insisted that Diesel had not aimed to imitate Benetton.

The Diesel ads will run on buses, poster sites and the London Underground, although the more controversial ones will be confined to magazines.

One of the more extreme offerings, which will feature in style and fashion magazines such as Elle, Sky and The Face, shows a man sawing through a human arm, while what looks like a body wrapped in plastic hangs next to him. The slogan reads: "Our workwear suits labourers, clubbers, murderers or anyone else who needs lots of odd-shaped pockets."

A film ad is awaiting certification. A spoof on a soft-porn movie full of enough moans and groans to warrant the description "quite racy" from Mr Marshall, it may also have a limited showing on television, appearing on Channel 4 in Scotland and Ireland, provided it gains a certificate allowing it to be shown on TV at all.