Public Relations – Just A Bit Of Fun, Surely?

Another day, another story to make your mouth drop open in astonishment, partly for the right reasons, mostly for the wrong ones. My favourite free paper (that’s London’s super soaraway morning Metro, blog snorkellers mine) ran a smashing piece this morning about a New Year’s ad campaign dreamt up and executed by Cadbury House Hotel (Bristol) Health Club and Spa (yep, slow news day all round).

Simply put, the ad campaign is a picture of an green, bug-eyed alien, stretching out his (her?) long green forefinger, with the copy ‘Advanced Health Warning! When the aliens come, they will eat the fatties first!’ Followed by the usual gubbins about ‘join now get a discount yadayadayadayada’.

Well. It works for me. Bit near the knuckle perhaps, but suitably off the wall and much better than anything I’ve ever seen coming out of a health club (which, frankly, wouldn’t be hard, in fairness). But, of course, it’s fattist, isn’t it. The Metro article quotes an unexplained Vicky Palmer (45) – doesn’t say who she is or what she does, but I’d like to imagine she’s a doughnut taster for Greggs (who doesn’t spit them out) – who thinks the people who came up with the idea deserve a kick up the backside. There’s also a spokesperson for the Beat Eating Disorders association (that’s got to be made up, right – an association for people made ill by food, with the acronym BED).

The serious point, in amongst this silly season japery, is that this is actually quite fun. (Like the Heineken Christmas poster which showed a nativity scene and the caption ‘Congratulations – it’s a girl!’, followed by the payoff  ‘How refreshing, how Heineken’.) OK, if you really, really try, and squint a bit, it might be construed as possessing the tiniest possibility, just a whiff of one, of needling the most sensitive of the overweight. Those, perhaps who are overweight through no fault of their own. And believe that the aliens are on their way. And that they’re aliens with a taste for people.

Which, let’s face it, isn’t very many, is it. Sorry, fatties, most of you are fat because of the pies. Stop eating the pies and things will get less large and wobbly, trust me on this one. And if you’re a fatty and believe in people-eating aliens, I’d stop washing down the pies with Tennents Super, if I were you. (Here’s a topical article.)

That off my chest (it’s a weight off my chest, actually), the point is that just because there are some people who are overweight through no fault of their own, and are unhappy about it, and are trying to do something about it, does that mean that whole field of fat is out of bounds to the communications and marketing industries, when they’re attempting to have a bit of fun to spice up an otherwise deathly dull product proposition? I really don’t think it should be. No more should religion, sexuality, musical taste, hair colour or any other of the great taboos – as long as it’s tongue-in-cheek and quite clearly possessed of no intention to offend or alienate (if you’ll forgive me). (And I know the liberals will tell me that one man’s definition of offense and alienation is another man’s Roy ‘Chubby’ Brown, but could we just be sensible here and agree that there are boundaries and definitions which are reasonably clear to everyone, if they can be bothered to look.)

The good bit, of course, is that the Cadbury House Hotel gets a splendid piece of publicity, and the Metro gets to publish a picture of the fragrant Ms Allyson Wicklen (20) who lost 5st to become the Slimmer Magazine Junior Slimmer of the Year. Well done to her.

Oh, and by the way – fatties? The aliens ARE coming and I can see no reason at all why they would waste such a great resource. They ARE going to eat you.

2 thoughts on “Public Relations – Just A Bit Of Fun, Surely?

  1. Is it perhaps possible that Vicky Palmer is the cousin of Cadbury House Hotel’s marketing manager? A fairly tried and tested way of taking a small local ad campaign to a much wider audience, surely?

    • How refreshingly cynical – and probably absolutely bullseye bang-on the money. I have nothing but admiration for the Cadbury House Hotel – although, as they may soon have to change their name to the Kraft House Hotel, all the reputational benefit they’ve accrued from this may melt away more quickly than anticipated. I hope, however, that it’s not the case. I hope that Vicky Palmer is a professional consumer of fat-laden comestibles and that, without her, the savoury pastry goods industry would not be in the robust and large-boned health that it is currently.

      My point still remains, though. Offense is too easily taken, even where it barely exists, and, with the best will in the world, even the most light-hearted and jocular of stories, while bringing a little light relief to many, can adversely affect reputation because of the thin skin of the few. I blame the Daily Mail, personally. Don’t get me started.

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