French Connection Clothing Company has been a successful European clothing manufacturer for the past decade. Although founded in 1972 it wasn’t until the creation of their 2001 campaign that this company was put on the international map.
In April of the 2001 year, French Connection began branding their clothes with their newest logo “fcuk.” The acronym was used to advertise for their newest campaign aimed at expanding their label past international waters.
When protests against the newest campaign logo surfaced, the company’s PR team immediately insisted that the acronym simply stood for French Connection United Kingdom. The explanation did not comfort audience members who protested that the acronym resembled the “F-word” too closely.
Instead of backtracking and doing damage control for the controversial campaign, French Connection exploited the controversy by creating a line of the original fcuk t-shirts that read “fcuk fashion, fcuk this, hot as fcuk,” and so on. In addition to the creation of the profane shirts, the company decided to hang banners from their first American store in San Francisco that read “San Francisco’s first fcuk.” Not the best way to announce yourself to the American public
After two years of constant complaints from customers, the UK’s Advertising Standards Authority finally banned a number of the French Connections advertisements, deeming them too inappropriate for customers. Since the ban, the company has been required to submit all posters and campaign plans for approval. Can’t imagine having a babysitter hold your hand through your own campaign creations is much fun.
Although I am one for pushing the limits when it comes to any sort of campaign, I do believe that the fcuk campaign is trying too hard to achieve the “shock value” that has worked in previous campaigns such as PETA or Dolce & Gabbana. This campaign came out when I was in 7th grade and I remember wanting one of the fcuk shirts so badly. I begged my moms for weeks to get me one and as far as she was concerned it just wasn’t happening. As more and more teachers began to see the shirts and hear about the controversy in the media, the shirts became a bigger and bigger problem. Soon, all shirts with fcuk affiliation were banned and anyone caught wearing one was immediately suspended.
The fact that campaigns try so hard to shock their audiences can sometimes work and in cases like this just does not. When the shock value of your message is to educate people about some injustice occurring such as the struggles in Darfur or protesting in Egypt, I believe they are caused for. However, when you campaign only to make a pretty penny it’s completely uncalled for.