Let's do lunch

Inside the world of advertising

The most celebrated recluse in advertising, Maurice Saatchi, has been spotted glad-handing journalists from the industry bible Campaign at the grotty Marylebone offices of his year-old agency, M&C Saatchi. This must have been difficult for the old chap: at his former empire, Saatchi & Saatchi, he enjoyed a Howard Hughes-style private suite in Charlotte Street. Not entirely surprising, then, that Mo, brother Chas and the executives they brought with them from Saatchi & Saatchi are said to be looking for something more glamorous in Soho.

Last year, so rumour has it, Guinness bottled out. But Virgin Vodka is more, um, cocksure. Virgin has produced the first British television ad to show a gay couple kissing. This comes a week after Peugeot showed mouth-to-mouth resuscitation on its three-minute ad. Peugeot, and its agency, pointed out that this isn't a gay kiss, but try telling that to the tabloids. Virgin (which didn't involve an external agency) concertinas three hours at a gay and straight nightclub into 30 seconds. Viewers will see a man and woman snogging, then a gay couple touching tongues. Oh, and the odd shot of VV, too.

Great pitch disasters of our time: presenting its thoughts to Segaworld last week, the agency Mustoe Merriman Herring Levy had rather a dim time of it. First, the power at the Covent Garden office broke down, obliging the team to abandon its hi-tech presentation. Then the air conditioning cut out, too. Bound to lose? No: despite everything, Mustoe Merriman won the business.

Which pales into insignificance beside the industry's all-time flop. Pitching to one of the biggest accounts in history two years ago, one of the country's best-known agencies blew it by writing silly notes to each other during the presentation. One fell into the client's hand. It said: "Look out for the c*** in the glasses - he looks like trouble."

The American company Guess - which hasn't made a UK commercial in nine years - has raided Hollywood for its homage to Forties noir. Guess has put together a galaxy of stars, comprising Juliette Lewis, Harry Dean Stanton, the former porn queen Traci Lords, and thirtysomething's Peter Horton. None of them, as a rule, "does adverts", declares the production company Great Guns. So what changed their minds? "The point about this sleazy LA thing is that it's all dressed up with glamour," says the director Andy Morahan. "Everyone's interesting and beautiful but underneath, they're scumbags!"Indeed...

ALEX SOMERSET

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