Ad men will be feeling Hunky Dory tonight

Tuesday, April 27th, 2010

Continuing our series of Business and Sport articles, Emmet Ryan examines the furore created by a new ad campaign created by Hunky Dorys.

The IRFU got played today by a company that makes crisps and it wasn’t the titillation that did it.

The controversial Hunky Dorys ad with the crucial 'Proud sponsors of Irish Rugby' line that drew the IRFU's ire.Now I understand the image isn’t the largest so I’m going to assume some of you are too distracted to spot the offending material, well the part that counts as far as Hunky Dorys and the IRFU are concerned. It’s not that the young lady is wearing a relatively small amount of clothing. It’s the line of text at the bottom that reads Proud sponsors of Irish Rugby.

Two situations could occur here. If the image only shows Kelly (yes I did my research) and no text then the complaints already being received by the Advertising Standards Authority of Ireland (ASAI) would be enough to see the ads pulled within a few weeks* and there would have been some outrage over the sexism but not a terrible amount of media coverage, certainly no guarantee of front page headlines. This style of risque advertising, though given how crude it is as a fan of burlesque shows I find the term overly kind, has been used as an attention grabber so often that the media simply don’t bite once they see some exposed flesh.

*While I know some of our readers may find this excessively punitive and others find it not enough of a punishment, the ASAI has a clear cut standard procedure on ads like these so there’s no doubt what the end result will be on their end.

What Hunky Dorys needed to do to cause more than a ripple was develop the second situation, the one which draws in the big fish. They set the bait with those five offending words and the IRFU bit with an official statement.

The IRFU didn’t have to react but it was always likely, a major sporting body is always going to be over eager to protect its brand. It worked when Fintan Drury and Eamon McLoughlin came up with the plan to put Paddy Power logos on hurleys at the start of the century and sure enough Largo Foods, the owners of Hunky Dorys, sucked in the Rugby brass with this campaign.

Technically Hunky Dorys can claim the language is correct as they sponsor Navan RFC but the IRFU is far from happy as it will have seen Hunky Dorys to be capitalising on their brand. The thing is the crisp firm gained far more in that regard by having the Rugby overlords get involved in the fight.

If it goes to court my limited understanding of fair use in advertising from my days as a commerce student tell me that the IRFU will probably win but not definitely (if there are any lawyers reading feel free to comment). More importantly, Hunky Dorys will have played the odds and seen that there is little to no chance of the IRFU bothering with a costly legal campaign, one which will only draw more attention to the offending ads.

The IRFU could have stood away and it may have been the smarter move. Not responding would have seen the ads disappear due to ASAI action and if they were asked by the media about them a quick non-answer stating they had no involvement would likely have sufficed. There were no definites with this option however and the overwhelming urge to strike back, to aggressively protect what’s theirs was too much to resist. The marketing brains at Largo Foods were banking on this and it will pay off handsomely.

Tomorrow morning the tabloids will be full of creative headlines on the front pages, loaded with pics of Kelly and her pals and creative headlines, much juicier and more puntastic than the one above.

18 Responses to “Ad men will be feeling Hunky Dory tonight”

  1. I would imagine the IRFU would pursue this through the courts as much to protect their existing sponsorships. Surely if they don’t respond their current sponsors will wonder why they are paying however much they are when for whatever sponsoring Navan costs they could dub themselves a sponsor of Irish rugby

  2. I really doubt it’s worth their bother Seamus. All they will do is drag out more attention for Hunky Dorys when the best option is to stop fuelling the fire.

  3. Interesting take on the story. If the IRFU are fighting for womens rights then HD have won. If they are fighting for their brand name, then HD have won. If they are fighting for their pride, then HD have won.

    No matter what happens. This risky advertising campaign has paid off

  4. They should have used Sun Tzu’s logic, often the best route to victory is to not engage the opponent in the first place. Make no mistake, this was opportunism on the part of Hunky Dorys which was heavily reliant on generating a response from the IRFU.

  5. I agree with the general point that all this attention is a victory for Largo Foods. however the IRFU were still in something of a bind – they have to maintain the integrity of their existing sponsorship deals. Maybe granting extra publicity to Hunky Dorys was the lesser of two evils

  6. You’re bang on Seamus, there were no guarantees with any option the IRFU took and they certainly would have felt a need to defend their position.

  7. I saw this at a bus-stop and all I could think was if playing rugby could make me look like that, I would get straight out there. But seriously I think the IRFU had no choice but reply – similar reasoning to Seamus above. If company X pays huge money to sponsor real rugby players to increase their standing with consumers why should HD sponsor a few tiny jerseys for Navan (going on the adverts, they don’t stretch to shorts!) and then get the same level of recognition? Very clever ploy.

  8. PS – not biting on the Offended Feminist Athlete part as she is clearly not an athlete – too much makeup :)

  9. Ah well Hunky Dorys were clearly aiming to get that response as well Niamh and in fairness there’s plenty of justification in that regard which is why I expect the ASAI to bin the ads as soon as they review them.

  10. I’m just glad I don’t work in marketing – I wonder if there were any women on the HD group or was this an All-boys-who-cares-who-we-offend thing? I’d like to think that if there were any women in the group they’d have argued against it. And actually having had my attention directed to the ‘wallpaper’ shots and the full effects of their site, I take back not being offended. Won’t be eating HDs ever again. Would be interesting to see their sales figures after this?

  11. Actually their marketing director is a woman, called Rita Kirwan.

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