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Wednesday, 4 April, 2001, 00:30 GMT 01:30 UK
Time called on FCUK posters
French Connection advertising slogan
French Connection's profits have soared
By the BBC's media correspondent Torin Douglas

Some may be surprised that French Connection UK got away with it for so long.

Plastering an anagram of the f-word across shop windows and giant hoardings has certainly proved profitable for a fashion company which has seen its profile grow massively in the past four years.

Since the first poster appeared in 1997, declaring "fcuk fashion", profits have soared from 6.4m to 19m.

Lennox Lewis
Sponsorship of boxer Lennox Lewis raised the brand's profile
But complaints have soared too and now the Advertising Standards Authority has called time.

In an unusually strongly worded judgment, it said the latest poster, highlighting the name of the clothes chain's new website, combining fcuk, kinky and another swear word, was "irresponsible" and "brought advertising into disrepute".

In future, the watchdogs will pre-vet the company's posters before they can be displayed, which means they will inevitably be tamer.

That may go some way to countering the widespread criticism that advertisers are free to put up offensive posters, gain huge impact from them, and then - when they are ordered down (often after the campaign has run its course) - to notch up even more publicity.

'Sin bin'

This was the case with Yves St Laurent's recent 'Opium' poster featuring the model Sophie Dahl, almost naked.

Huge hoardings showed her wearing only jewellery and high heels, lying on her back, with her legs apart and her head thrown back.

The ASA received 730 complaints - more than any advertisement in the past five years.

Complainants said it was offensive, degrading to women and unsuitable in a public place - and the ASA agreed.

Offence

It ruled that the poster was sexually suggestive and was likely to cause "serious or widespread" offence.

But the watchdog went further. As with French Connection, the ASA ordered Yves St Laurent to submit all future posters for prior approval, effectively telling the company it could not be trusted to keep to the industry's codes.

A dozen poster advertisers are now in the ASA 'sin bin' after breaking the rules on grounds of taste and decency, or social responsibility.

Sophie Dahl
Yves St Laurent's recent poster featuring Sophie Dahl got banned
They include another company that has often prompted complaints, the lingerie manufacturer Gossard.

One of its posters showed a woman reclining in a haystack in bra and pants, under the slogan "Who said a woman can't get pleasure from something soft?"

The ASA rejected more than 300 complaints about that, but took a different attitude to its latest campaign, which used the slogan "Gossard Find Your G Spot".

One poster showed a blurred image of a naked woman lying on a bed, her clothing discarded on the floor, under the headline "If he's late, you can always start without him".

Another featured a woman reaching out her hand, with the caption "Bring him to his knees".

The ASA upheld more than three dozen complaints, including one from a man who claimed they degraded men, portraying them as sex objects.

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See also:

13 Mar 01 | Business
FCUK formula still paying dividends
12 Dec 00 | UK
When rude is too crude
05 Jul 00 | Asia-Pacific
Fcuk slogan 'not funny'
29 Mar 99 | The Company File
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