Martini advert stirs fresh trouble

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The Independent Online
The makers of the "cosmetic surgery" advertisement for Martini have run into another row over the controversial campaign.

Last month the television advertisements, featuring people who had cosmetic surgery to be attractive enough to "drink the beautiful drink", were attacked by a plastic surgeon as offensive to disfigured children.

Now the drinks maker faces a claim that one of the advertisements was copied from Face Facts, an award-winning short film shown three times on Channel 4 in the last three years.

The allegation comes from Linda Hughes, 31, a lecturer at Barnet College, north London, who made Face Facts in the form of a spoof advertisement for "Beauty Inc", a fictitious cosmetics company.

The film, which won a Gold Plaque at the Chicago International Film Festival, features an unattractive man selling the message that you can be happy only if you are cosmetically transformed.

Like one Martini advertisement, her film shows a patient about to undergo surgery, then covered in bandages but fully dressed.

It concludes with the triumphant slogan: "Together we can make the whole world beautiful." Martini's slogan was "With Martini, we can make Britain a more beautiful place."

Ms Hughes said from her London home yesterday: "If the similarity was coincidental, there were quite a lot of coincidences - the subject matter, the smug tone of the fascistic narrator and the final line.

"My films last went out on Channel 4 in May and September last year, while the Martini ad was launched last December."

Ms Hughes was so angered by the apparent connection that she asked a friend to do an "interview" with Alan Young, the copywriter at Howell Henry Chaldecott Lury who came up with the idea, inspired in her case by a promotional staff video for Sainsbury's. "It's fair to say he was quite vague," she said. "My friend said, `It's quite a striking ad, what made you think of it?' and he replied, `That's the eternal question.' "

After consulting a lawyer, she then wrote to Westbay, the Southampton- based company which distributes Martini in the UK. But it refuses to accept any connection.

Christopher Meredith, marketing controller for Martini, wrote back: "Having checked with our advertising agency I have to advise you that the Martini advertising of which you complain was developed without anyone involved having seen your film.

"I regret I am unable to discern any real connection between your film and the Martini advertising, beyond the fact that both explore (in a satirical fashion) the general theme of people being made physically more attractive."

Ms Hughes is fighting back, although not through the courts. She has put her film on the Internet, together with the interview with Mr Young.

"I know advertising has got to take ideas from things which are going on but I didn't make a lot of money from my film, whereas they've spent pounds 5m."

Her film can be viewed on