Sun soars away from New Labour's advertising guru after flying pig affair

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The Independent Online

With a puff of red smoke from its Wapping chimney, The Sun announced last week that it had decided to back Tony Blair in the forthcoming general election.

With a puff of red smoke from its Wapping chimney, The Sun announced last week that it had decided to back Tony Blair in the forthcoming general election.

Don't suppose that Rupert Murdoch is back on friendly terms with the entire New Labour establishment, though. For I gather that his "soaraway" red-top has dropped Trevor Beattie from its £20m advertising account.

Beattie - best known for inventing the ubiquitous FCUK slogan of the 1990s - is considered to be Tony Blair's favourite advertising guru and is working on his current election poster campaign.

However, his firm TBWA, was told last month that its contract had been ended, after almost a decade working for The Sun. News International, the newspaper's parent company, is currently interviewing potential successors.

The decision to dispense with Beattie's services follows unwanted press attention earlier this year, when he was responsible for Labour's controversial "Flying Pigs" posters, which were said to be anti-Semitic. At the time, The Sun described them as "disgraceful".

A spokesman for TBWA yesterday admitted that they were no longer working for the newspaper, but denied any falling out. "We won't be re-pitching for the account. We've worked with them for quite a few years now, but there's absolutely not been any sort of falling out: things just move on."

The paper's editor, Rebekah Wade was unavailable for comment, but a spokesman for the newspaper said: "In an extremely competitive tabloid market, it is critical that we deliver the best possible output. We are challenged by new working relationships and ideas."

¿ Tough-guy actor Ray Winston used the launch of the DVD of Scum - perhaps his most famous role - to raise the issue of banning screen "nasties."

"There's a lot of talk about banning violence in films. I say yes, but ban the right sort of violence," he told me. "There are so many films where people are punched and then bounce back to life, and no one thinks about banning that stuff.

"But in films, like Scum, where the violence is right on the money and shows that it hurts, for some reason people have a problem with it. Scum was an educational film. Two of my kids have seen it. I think they should show it in schools."

¿ Woody Allen built his career on films about his native New York, but there are signs that he could be switching his allegiance to our capital city.

With Match Point, his first "London film", due to premiere at next month's Cannes film festival, Allen has announced plans to make a second UK film this summer.

According to the Hollywood newspaper Variety it will once more be set in London, and will commence filming at the end of June.

"Title and plot are being kept under wraps, but the project is written and will be directed by Allen," it reports. "Producers on the new film include Letty Aronson and Helen Robin, with Stephen Tenenbaum exec producing."

Scarlet Johansson, who stars in Match Point, has just been cast in the female lead, so she will also be spending summer in the UK.

That will be good news for Lord Frederick Windsor, the frisky son of Prince and Princess Michael of Kent, who spent much of last year acting as her "walker".

¿ John Humphrys calls and, frankly, he's not happy. Yesterday I reported that journalists seeking to interview him have been required to submit copies of their questions in advance.

Such a demand was indeed made - but by an over-zealous BBC press officer, acting without Mr Humphrys' permission. We have therefore agreed to print the following clarification, written by the great man himself.

"Pandora never thought these words would cross his typewriter, but he feels sorry for Jack Straw. Our brave Foreign Secretary was reduced to a quivering, equivocating wreck by John Humphrys on the Today programme yesterday.

"Next in Humphrys' gun sights was your humble servant. Humphrys tells me that he's never asked for questions and nor would he. He doesn't expect it of interviewees and wouldn't dream of doing it himself. I suggested - wrongly - that he might have reasons to fear unscripted interviews.

"God help the BBC press officer who created that impression. Now there's someone with something to fear. I think if I were her I'd hire my own rottweiler to guard my office door."

¿ Alarums! A full-scale witch-hunt is underway at Hammonds Solicitors, one of Britain's sternest law firms. Ian Forrest, head of the firm's Birmingham office, has sent an uncompromising e-mail to his staff, with regard to "an issue that was thought to have been resolved."

"Unfortunately we still have an individual within the office who is urinating in the footwear of female members of staff," it reads. "I can assure you that when the culprit is caught that person will be subject to disciplinary action. As these disgusting acts constitute gross misconduct, summary dismissal will result."

In the meantime, Forrest will stop at nothing to identify the culprit. "If you observe any individuals hovering by desks or in offices where they have no reason to be, please inform HR, Security or me," he adds.