Look who’s stalking: cheeky Jaguar campaign uses anonymous letters

According to the BBC last month, luxury car manufacturer Jaguar issued an apology for a direct mail campaign that provoked 37 complaints to the British Advertising Standards Authority. Anonymous letters – arriving in what appeared to be personal, stamped envelopes – contained suggestive messages and the promise of a photograph featuring the recipient’s ‘perfect match’.

“Everyone has their weakness,” read a typed letter. “So, what might drive you wild? Could it be the touch of skin on your fingertips? A long, honed body? Firm sensuous curves? A deep, responsive purr?”

Discerning followers of 108th Street may have guessed that Jaguar was referring to the features of its new XKR model. The ASA, however, felt that the sexual content might potentially put a strain on relationships (if seen by a spouse or partner, presumably) or lead readers to feel that they were being stalked.

This controversial approach brings to mind an earlier text-based campaign for supermarket giant, Sainsbury’s. When advertising job opportunities in a Stockport store during 2002, the firm sent a targeted SMS to 19-23 year-olds, which read “‘I wnt u, I need u, I cnt get enuff of u.” This too provoked an angry response.

The premise that sex sells is undoubtedly still true. But, unsurprisingly, people don’t like it when their privacy is invaded with cryptic and saucy advertising. Particularly when a jealous boyfriend might get the wrong end of the stick.

From a creative viewpoint, this kind of campaign is undoubtedly innovative and fun, but I don’t necessarily subscribe to the view that all publicity is good publicity. In both cases, I suspect the PR impact was largely negative and served to undermine, rather than enhance, the advertising spend. And there’s no bigger turn-off in the business world than wasted money.

© Phil Woodford, 2004. All rights reserved.

Phil Woodford is an advertising creative director and lecturer.


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