Advert using Hoffman death banned

Philip Seymour Hoffman death

%VIRTUAL-SkimlinksPromo%An advert for Alain de Botton's book The News which referred to the death of actor Philip Seymour Hoffman has been banned after the regulator found it was likely to cause serious offence.

The advert, which appeared in London's Evening Standard the day after the actor died, featured the headline: "Philip Seymour Hoffman's drug overdose eclipses interest in sculpture trail."
It concluded with the question: "Why are you more concerned about an actor's death than an arts project that will transform your city's cultural life? Find out in Alain de Botton's new book The News: A User's Manual, because the better you understand your obsession with celebrity, the better you understand yourself."

Text in between read: "You're deeply saddened by the death of this beloved actor. You're quick to point out your love for his performance in Magnolia and Capote. But the dark truth is that your interest in this story doesn't end there: you also crave the gritty details of his demise.

"You're fascinated when you read he was discovered in the bathroom with a needle in his arm...Whilst each revelation horrifies you, they also provide you with relief... Whatever you're dealing with at this moment, at least you haven't suffered the way he did.

"This knowledge is so satisfying that you've barely noticed the article about a proposed sculpture trail in East London."

Three readers complained that the advert was offensive because it used Hoffman's death to promote the book.

The advertising agency Ogilvy and Mather, which responded on behalf of publisher Hamish Hamilton, said they developed the campaign "in alignment" with de Botton, but said the specifics of the ad had not been approved by the author because it had been created in "real time" in response to topical events.

Ogilvy and Mather said one of the book's themes focused on why readers took notice of certain articles that had no direct bearing on their lives over others that did, and the campaign was designed to mirror that thought.

The agency said it was not its intention to offend, and it had stopped any future placements of the advert and altered the campaign on being notified of the complaints.

The Evening Standard said the advert had been subject to careful consideration, adding that no detail in the advertisement copy went beyond what had already been "copiously" published.

The Advertising Standards Authority (ASA) said advertisers were entitled to refer to current news stories in their ads but regulations stated that references to anyone who was dead must be handled with particular care to avoid causing offence or distress.

The ASA said: "We noted that the ad was published the day after Philip Seymour Hoffman had died and included a number of details regarding the circumstances surrounding his death.

"Although we acknowledged that the ad to some extent reflected the nature of the advertised product, we considered that reporting the actor's death in such a manner and in such detail in order to sell a book on modern culture was likely to cause serious offence to some."

It ruled that the advert must not appear again in its current form, adding: "We told Hamish Hamilton to ensure that their future ads did not cause serious or widespread offence by referring to those who were dead."

Politically incorrect: 1950s advertising
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Advert using Hoffman death banned

We begin with breakfast. Or in this case, Post Grape-Nuts. And because this clearly delighted woman has been sticking to her delicious low-fat cereal, she CAN buy the floral summer dress, while the poor, overweight frump in the background looks on with envy and disapproval.

Of course, this sort of advertising still continues in the 21st century, except it's rather more sophisticated these days. Slim and pretty women always sell more clothes than plain or dumpy ones.

What did American advertisers think women wanted in the 1950s? More financial independence? Pay equality with men? A European holiday? Better orgasms or birth control? What they really wanted was a better soap powder.

Tide's got what women want! The crudity of the message, some 60 years on, is breathtaking.

Plenty of other brands, of course, had been busy promoting cleanliness for several decades beforehand. One new soap was Dove, a novel brand back in 1957. "One quarter cleansing cream - ordinary soap dries your skin but Dove creams your skin while you wash."

Predictably women were the target while men were groomed by marketeers to worry about hair (buy XYZ hair tonic for added confidence). Women were also gagging for softer loo roll. "New soft toilet tissue brings comfort women long for".

Men, it seems, couldn't care less how abrasive the experience was (and not a lot seems to have changed).

While detergent and food manufacturers attempted to focus the minds of many females on the home, motor manufacturers were also zeroing in on women, though often only as back seat passengers, as this Ford ad makes clear.

However the Independent Electric Light & Power company had other ideas. Not only were women in the driving seat in this company's futurisistic vision of the future, they had also taken to the air and were piloting their own craft too. But the flight was only to the shopping mall (note the stacked grocery bag) followed by the school run.

At least Independent Electric Light & Power had the presence of mind to predict roof solar heating panels (at least they look like solar water heating panels on the house roof in this depicted ad).

Of course, many women didn't have any kind of life in the week at all, so busy were they with cleaning, cooking and blending in with the ironing board. But every Friday night they had a chance to see LIFE.

"For five days a week," simpered this women's story advert, "she was a housewife; at the weekends a lady of leisure. It was the sort of thing that led to a split personality."

Really? It didn't lead to a bored, frustrated and rebellious personality instead? How much, then, has changed, would you say?


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