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A Tattoo For You, Sir?

The Influencers 557 Add to collection

INFLUENCER: Tattooing a logo on someone as part of your creative is probably crossing a line, writes Peter Shuttleworth

A Tattoo For You, Sir?

I’m a production company owner and producer based in the UK. I’ve also worked in the production departments of two of the big agencies. So I hope that I can appreciate how much effort can go into a final script before it pops out. There is a ‘but’ coming, clearly…

A good script shouts possibilities, a bad one limits options. A bad one is out of tune with its own best interests and the cultures it wants to channel - and even help - move forward. In today’s fast-changing online discussion, a bad script or execution may be cut down brutally by the public consciousness (Pepsi’s Kendall Jenner Ad, take a bow). So, surely, we all need to create with ever greater care?

And now, here is the point - Twice now I have received scripts in which a young adult is asked to get a tattoo of the brand. Not a fake one, a real one. Of the brand logo, permanently.

The first time I saw this idea it was for a video game. The participant was asked to make themselves into an avatar to represent a new shoot-em-up gaming experience ‘in the real’. The haircut, the fashion make-over. And the real tattoo with the brand logo incorporated. All for a fee less than the creative director spent on his last mini-break. We didn’t win the pitch, to our great relief. But the film was made. They found a young participant who’d go through with it all. 

The second time I saw this idea it had been set as a ‘challenge’ to win a car. This time I had the balls (or simple decency) I’d lacked before, to question it as an acceptable concept in front of the agency team. 

Really guys, get a tattoo of the product logo to win a car? “Well,” I was told, “not actually to ‘win’ a car... Maybe hire one free, for a few weeks…”

Yesterday I saw this again. Only this time in a film, not a script. The award-bait film I watched had a confident, matey tone describing the overall campaign. Half way through there is a still image in it. Of a tattoo needle hovering over a young man’s calf. On his calf is a very large tattoo of what looks suspiciously like the campaign logo. For real? I have no idea. It looks like it could be, and the sound effect is the real buzzing of a tattoo needle. The accompanying on-screen caption reads ‘We increased brand loyalty’. 

Wow, really? And this image proves that? No mental health issues for the participant to worry about in the future? 

We are most of us personally compromised at times by the work we do, the clients we’ve said yes to. I hereby admit to making a corporate video for a tobacco company (awful film that no one ever saw, thankfully), to making a series of films to promote a drug company with less than miraculous product benefits, and several times of advertising kids snacks that have so much sugar in them they are never in my own shopping basket. 

But surely each of us has a line, and not only that but we must have a clear vision of where that is, right? And surely today we need to chat to that inner cave-person deep inside of us just to check what new nonsense they might be considering? To avoid the British newspaper’s casually racist swap of a footballer’s head with a famous musician because they are both black, or share the same taste in beards? 

Or, if that is too much to ask, do we finally need a written charter? When the deep desire to survive and flourish in our sometimes crazy, wonderful industry takes hold, do we need outside help to remember who we are, or wish we were, beyond the workplace? 

Should we widen our current discussion on sexual tolerance to protect us from ourselves? Or will advertising be the next institution to be rightly targeted for cultural bone-headedness?

Answers on a postcard. Where is your line? And no scripts with Tattoos in them please…

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Hoi Polloi, Fri, 02 Mar 2018 14:36:28 GMT