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CREATIVE STRATEGY: Nudity and drugs? YSL has 'creativity' running in its veins

Do clients need creatives? Proper creatives, I mean. The art director and copywriter who live for the big idea, the awards, and the long lunch.

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After all, some sectors have become so specialised that they are mirrored by equally mono-minded agencies – financial services, fundraising, B2B, pharmaceutical.

The result?  With notable exceptions, the kind of work you’d expect from a village full of inbreds – dull, or strange, and not in a good way.  

The client has what they would call "an idea" and passes it on the agency, whose only task is to dress up and prettify said "idea".  As the creative director in such a scenario will tell you: "You can’t polish a turd, but you can roll it in glitter."

Some clients go further and dispense with agencies altogether. For them, creativity is about a look, a feeling or an emotion, captured in a photograph or a film. Yes, fashion, we are looking at you.  

Perfumes in particular have a long history of "ideas" that seem to have one objective – to get a striking image in the national media. How?  Not with wit and charm. Nope – "controversy" is their weapon of choice.  

In the perfume manufacturer’s ideal world, when a Daily Mail reader sees their ad, they will go more apoplectic than if it turned out David Cameron is an asylum-seeker who eats babies.

Yves Saint Laurent certainly do their best to shock on a regular basis. Do you remember YSL’s poster for Opium featuring the naked Sophie Dahl in a so-called "sexually suggestive" pose? Banned.  

I personally couldn’t see what all the fuss was about. I thought it was more offensive that Ms. Dahl had been given bizarre white skin and red hair.  

But not to be put off by that slap from the Advertising Standards Authority, the makers of Opium have been at it again.  

Their recent commercial has been banned because the ASA "was concerned that the image of the woman running her finger down her inner arm could be interpreted as the injection of opiates into the body.

"The ASA also said it was concerned that the image of the woman moving in a series of short, rapid scenes, before the advert concluded with her body seizing upwards while lying on the floor, could be seen to simulate the effect of drugs on the body."

So, I guess YSL didn’t think there was enough of a clue in the name:  "I am your addiction. I am Belle D'Opium."

How did the advertiser respond to the complaints from viewers? 

They said (I am not making this up) that "the character Belle appeared to be a healthy, vibrant woman expressing her sexuality".

And pointing to her inner elbow and running her finger along the inside of her forearm, represented "the circle of life, the flow of energy in Belle's body and a sense of life being given out of the earth".

Stop tittering at the back.  The YSL ad is certainly a different take on the "circle of life" to Disney’s lions.  It makes you wonder what they’ll come up with next.  Suggestions on a naughty postcard, please...

Simon S Kershaw is a creative consultant and a former creative director at Craik Jones.

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