Stefano Hatfield on advertising
Madonna may be a legend, but she's not a teenage heroine
Monday 12 June 2006
There's something tragic about our need to call Madonna "Madge". It's born of that quintessentially British unease we have with absolute success. She's not the heroic failure or plucky underdog that we are so fond of, she's an out-and-out winner. Somehow or other, we have to take her down a peg. Luckily for us, she married a younger Brit Jack-the-lad director (and son of the wonderful adland character and Hamlet account director John Ritchie), in the process of which she removed multiple layers of mystique herself.
Make no mistake: Madonna (below) is still huge; and her fans are still loyal. But the concept of pop's biggest female superstar hanging out down the pub while Guy sings Irish folk songs (as seen on her recent documentary) is so surreally mundane that even a fan like me saw a crack or two. And then I watched the film Swept Away on Sky!
Her longevity is now one of her selling points. Who else has been so huge for so long - especially now that Michael Jackson's a busted flush? But she is certainly, despite the revealing stage clothes, entering a phase of her image more in keeping with being a 48-year-old mother of two.
So, why on earth is she is to be the next celebrity endorser for H&M? That's even weirder. Not only because, at 32, Madonna's predecessor Kate Moss may have already been too old for the brand's image.
This is endorsement without credibility. I am torn between admiring H&M and Madonna for being willing to endorse such a young brand with such a relatively old body, and asking what on earth is going on - particularly at H&M.
Madonna is old enough to be most H&M shoppers' mother. How will the young female customers really relate to her in the way they would do to, say Moss. Some will not even know who she is.
If Madonna really is to be the new face of H&M, let's hope she doesn't have to wear all the teenage girl clothes the company is known for. Over to you H&M. I love the store and its formal men's shirts like in NY, but there is so much I don't understand about H & Madge.
* ALL THESE years writing about the ad industry all over the globe, and I still marvel at my own naivety. Last week I expressed surprise that Steve Blamer, the worldwide chief executive of FCB appointed only nine months ago after an acrimonious and protracted move from Grey, should depart the newly-merged Draft-FCB after so brief a time in charge. Doh!
Now it emerges that it was partly his plan to merge the "storied" agency brand FCB with the upstart direct marketing firm Draft, led by the dynamic Howard Draft. And, as a result of re-structuring himself out of his lucrative contract, he is estimated to be walking away with some $7m. Stunning - even by IPG's recent standards. Who among us would not join a company that might have a limited future if we knew there was a chance of walking away with a big pay packet following a business restructuring.
* YOU CAN'T accuse Stevie Spring of not being up for a challenge. The former Y & R, GGT and WMGO big-cheese adwoman who became chief executive of Clear Channel Communications in the UK, this week re-emerged as the new chief executive of the magazine publishers Future. The good news was slightly overshadowed by the simultaneous announcement of record losses of some £12m, which led the previous chief executive Greg Ingham to step down. Now, I have no idea what Stevie knows about the wider magazine business, let alone Future's Cross Stitcher magazine. Probably about as much as she knew about outdoor advertising before the Clear Channel role. But what I do know is that she is smart, indomitable and has one of those rare gifts that make for a real leader: people want to do things for her; to use the American turn of phrase, she makes them want to "go the extra mile". Trouble is, at Future, they may have to run marathons for her.
* LAST WEEK, when I wrote about the good and bad World Cup ads on the telly, I hadn't seen Michael Owen's performance dancing through the aisles of Asda to the tune of "Vindaloo". Oh, dear. Possibly the worst of the lot. By the time you read this, we may know if Owen has fared better as Wayne Rooney's replacement leading the England forward line than he did as Asda's World Cup endorser. Let's hope so.
* I HAVE always liked and respected the popular, clever PHD co-founder and occasional Media Week columnist, Jonathan Durden, while puzzling over but secretly admiring his dramatic sartorial conversion to the fashion label Shanghai Tang.
However, Durden's column is a good example of why advertising people should leave the journalism to journalists. They are too matey, circumspect and afraid to come off the fence. The exceptions to this rule are my acerbic and delightfully unreasonable predecessor in this space Mark Wnek, the ineffably wise Jeremy Bullmore, and that perennially original humourist, Gerry Moira.
This week, "a friend" told me that Durden had taken an un-named Independent media section columnist to task in print.
Yes, it was me wot wrote in the Independent about the top headhunter Gay Haines, and ad execs Ben Langdon and Garry Lace. Pausing to note that one of my best friends is a head-hunter, if you're going to write a column, Jonathan, name names. No one's going to think the worse of you for slagging off a journalist anyway, and especially not when it's me. Unless you do make it specific, the anonymous criticism is like being savaged by a dead silkworm.
* AT THE other end of the cowardice spectrum, respect is due to the Leo Burnett planner who came up to me at his agency's pre-Cannes film festival "predictions" screening and introduced himself as the man behind the strategic planning on the agency's new Beck's Beer ad, whose planning I had so damned two weeks ago. Although he probably wanted to punch me out, he was charming, polite and is clearly very clever. The Beck's ad is still lame, though.
E-mail firstname.lastname@example.org with reasons why I am wrong about... well, any of the above, really.
Hatfield's Best In Show: 'Boots'
This is a joy when you see it on television. So what if it plays on an old cliché: the fleeting nature of the British summer? Who cares if this is the umpteenth use of that theme tune from Zorba the Greek?
Unashamedly, this is an ad aimed squarely at Joe Public, ie, potential Boots' consumers and not the luvvies of London's creative community. There is a terrible tyranny of cool that bedevils British advertising that means only one kind of wacky, quirky humour, is deemed acceptable by the Clerkenwell set. It is a mistake to label Mother, the agency behind this observational gem and the Coca-Cola World Cup ad I lauded last week, as being of that set. This, despite the fact it was the agency that helped define Clerkenwell. They are both ads that won't trouble London's awards shows, but Boots will do as good a job for its client as the Coke ad has done for whoever stuck their neck out to commission an animated ad. It is a mystery why playing on cultural clichés is not an acceptable way of promoting household brands. This is what makes watching British commercial telly more bearable.
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