War of words over new jeans advert

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The Independent Online
A COLLISION between hyper-fashionable advertising and the 80th anniversary of Armistice Day has led to the Royal British Legion condemning a cinema commercial for Diesel jeans that mocks the death of a First World War soldier.

Diesel, the Italian designer label that has won awards for its quirky, ironic advertising, is behind a cinema ad campaign which shows a British soldier in the trenches receiving a package of Diesel jeans.

When he puts the jeans on he is so pleased he marches up and down in them and attracts the attention of a German sniper. When a friend tries to get him to sit down out of the sniper's sights, the friend is shot dead.

The advert ends with German soldiers taking over the trench as the British troops flee in disarray.

The Royal British Legion said that it found the timing of the advertisement particularly insensitive.

Joe Moorhouse, a spokes-man said: "This advert will offend our members at this time of year. We find it distasteful and deplorable to use these images for commercial gain."

However, the advertisement is being shown only alongside the films Velvet Goldmine and Fear and Loathing in Las Vegas and the Advertising Standards Authority says it has had only four complaints about it.

"The advert has not generated a large number of complaints itself," says Caroline Crawford of the authority.

"And although we are sensitive to those who have lost family in any war, we have to judge whether an advert causes serious and widespread offence among those who see it. And this one has not. It may well generate more complaints from people who haven't seen it now that it has been given media coverage."

Before it was released in mid-October, the advertisement had been cleared by the Cinema Advertising Association and the British Board of Film Censorship.

Diesel maintains that it was not the company's intention to cause offence. "We are not about shock advertising," says Paul Poole, Diesel's UK marketing manager.

"The advert was made by our Swedish advertising agency earlier this year for a global campaign.

"In hindsight the timing seems unfortunate, but it is just a humorous ad that has been very selectively targeted. People seeing those films are likely to find it funny. It is meant to be taken in the same light as the Blackadder sketches set during World War One."

However, the spokesman for the Royal British Legion said that there is a qualitative difference between Blackadder, which is an entertainment, and something that mocks war to make money.

Diesel's advertising has caused controversy in the past, and the authority asked for a poster that showed four nuns wearing jeans to be withdrawn.

The company's commercials are seen as highly original in the advertising industry, however, and it was awarded a highly prestigious award at the Cannes advertising festival last year.