Dear Shaneby Rebecca Davis / 30.11.2011
An open letter to Maverick’s CEO Shane Harrison
I wanted to drop you a line about the Mavericks ‘Alibis’ billboards, recently causing a bit of a stir here in Cape Town. I believe the latest news is that your company will contest the ASA’s ruling that the billboards be removed. IOL quoted you as saying that “We are a legal business. Why shouldn’t we able to advertise?”
Shane (can I call you Shane?), I’m going to level with you here: I do see your predicament. You’re running a business where – let’s call a spade a spade – women take off their clothes for money and rub their bums in men’s faces. You can’t be advertising that with some discreet, cerebral, conceptual campaign, can you? I mean, you can take a sulphurous, rotting weasel corpse and put a bowtie and a pair of Chucks on it, but it’ll still be a sulphurous, rotting weasel corpse, if you follow me. What you’re selling is tits and ass, and you need to find a way to tell people that they can get tits and ass at your tits-and-ass shop. Understood.
Oh, hold on a sec – the billboards actually aren’t advertising tits and ass per se, Shane, are they? They’re advertising your “upmarket and sophisticated” fragrance range, Alibis. I was intrigued, to be honest, so I checked out your website. I see that your creatives have cunningly paired each scent to the “alibi” they represent. So “I Was Working Late” has “the scent of coffee, wool suits, cigarettes and ink”. Woah, Shane. I’m more of a Hugo Boss girl myself, but I have to ask if the team has really thought this one through. You’re marketing a deodorant that smells like a chainsmoking businessman with coffee-breath who just spilled ink on himself? Sounds like Eau de Fail to me.
I can’t see it jumping off the shelves, but I guess I don’t fall into the demographic of “gentlemen” who frequent your “club”. But we’re getting distracted here. You have these delicate perfumes to sell, and you’re desperate to tell Cape Town about them. So you launch a campaign to do exactly that. Your fragrant little tinctures each have the name of a lie a man might tell his partner to conceal the fact that he’s been down at your tits-and-ass shop, right?
I started thinking about that, Shane, and I must confess my head started hurting a bit. So your whole campaign is predicated on the idea that your establishment is somewhere a man would be too embarrassed to admit to visiting? That’s a bit like a T-shirt company selling little concealing patches that you can sew on top of the logos of the T-shirts you already bought from them. Because you don’t want anyone to know that you’re wearing those T-shirts, because they’re rubbish and shameful. Who you got working on this stuff, a golden labrador? I’m no advertising guru, Shane, but when you start from the admission that your product is a bit of a cringe, it sounds like you might have a problem.
Anyway, so you’ve got your concept, and now you make the billboards. So the team decides that the best way of doing this all would be to print the words of the lies, together with some saucy pictures! I can only imagine the scenes of excitement in the boardroom when this creative breakthrough was made. Dudes high-fiving, spritzing your little colognes on each other, tongue-kissing, the works. So one billboard says “I was working late”, and it features this woman sort of awkwardly spatchcocked on a desk. I got a bit peckish looking at the pic because if you drizzled a bit of vinaigrette over her and rammed a stick up her bumhole, you’ve got yourself a really fresh Mediterranean twist on a kebab. I assume that’s the intention, right? I’m getting quite good at thinking like a gentleman.
The other thing that’s a definite win about this billboard is that the words “I was working late” are really big. Which I imagine is super useful, because there you are in your car, you’ve seen the big kebab, you’re getting your willy out for a “gentleman’s massage”, and it just doesn’t leave you time for messing about with fine print. Got it.
Then there’s the “We Were Out Sailing” one. Honestly, Shane, you and I both know that one’s a bit of a dud in the alibi department. Who’s going to believe that you’ve been out sailing when you stumble home at midnight reeking of rapidly-drying ejaculate? If you’d asked me, I would’ve advised you to make the whole thing: We Were Out Sailing On Silvio Berlusconi’s Yacht, because that makes it slightly more plausible. But never mind. This one features a woman lashed to a mast in conditions that look most unsuitable for boating in. Shane, I hope you’re going to be making a donation to the NSRI for that irresponsible messaging. But you know who is really going to get their rocks off for this ad? Pirates. White woman tied up on a boat? Bet you photos of this shit have gone viral in Somalia. You could have made it even better if you had taken the shot to show her delivering a plea for ransom to the British Foreign Office down a crackly webcam. That’s one for the pirate wankbank right there.
The last one is your “My car broke down” billboard, which shows a sweaty mechanic clutching a big spanner or something. This one I think is spot on, Shane. She’s got a thing for huge tools, so there’s a chance she might get off with a Maverick’s customer.
Anyway, Shane, I’m sure you’re a busy man. After all, you have bottles and bottles to urinate into and then stick an ‘Alibis’ label on. I just wanted to email to express my empathy with your advertising plight. If those buzzkill feminists succeed in having the billboards removed, though, I have a suggestion for an alternative text-only campaign, since it’s the pictures that are the sticking-point. My idea is just one enormous billboard somewhere prominent, like the unfinished flyover, which says “COME TO OUR ASS SHOP WHERE YOU CAN PAY A HUMAN WOMAN FROM A FORMER SOVIET SATELLITE STATE TO SHOW YOU HER BREASTS”. The elegance is in the simplicity: gentlemen dig that.
**Images ripped brazenly from the Mavericks blog.