Within the brotherhood of London department stores, Harvey Nichols plays the role of the rebellious sibling very well. Sat aptly in the heart of Belgravia, the stores windows, buying choices and advertising campaigns tend to demonstrate a stark contrast to the conventionally inoffensive shopping experiences of its neighbors.
Thus, there is no surprise that the new campaign to support the emporiums ‘Harvey Nichols Rewards App’ follows this aesthetic for provocativeness. As far as a campaign goes, the advert is a work of genius. It is stands out from the nonchalant promotional campaigns of its peers, it demands attention and more importantly, is an entertaining watch.
The advert demonstrates a series of CCTV images of shoplifters stealing goods from the store. Their faces are replaced with comic book archetypes of the burglar, clad in black eye masks and the classic woolen hat or balaclava. The characters show whimsical shiftiness in all of their ‘Beano’ comic glory. They are charmingly dippy, and as usual, the hero’s of the story (in this case Harvey Nichols security staff) are given the last laugh as the cartoons are inevitably chased down in true Benny Hill fashion.
As well as black eye masks, the campaign exemplifies some further stereotypes of people that we might expect to be ‘thiefs’ or criminals in the UK. We have the sports thugs. He dons trainers, a hoodie, his sleeve-stripe jacket and of course the quintessential baseball cap. She wears a furry fitted puffa jacket, bright blonde hair and large hoop earrings. Next up, the diamond geezer. His hair is oiled and coiffed. He is quick with his hands, and will even give you a cheeky wave and a wink while he pockets your wedding ring. You know, that old chestnut.
Now. Let’s consider for a minute the realities of shoplifting. Loss prevention staff are trained that every customer that enters the store is by chance a shoplifter. They are taught that the majority of shoplifting happens purely from opportunity. If something looks easy to steal without getting caught, then why not, right? They are also expected to exclude any judgments in regards to race, class, sex, or how someone is dressed when dealing with shoplifters. If they did pass judgment on these factors, rich stay-at-home mothers with babies would be disregarded completely. This of course, would be irresponsible, considering the babies buggy is a known shop lifting technique and scapegoat, as well as the fact that kleptomania is not exclusive to those who cannot afford the goods that are being shoplifted.
So keeping that in mind, why are the cartoons in the advert modeled on fashions we typically relate to the poor working-class?
The use of Wiley’s song ‘What U Call It’ only supports this notion. UK Grime music is a genre of music born and bred by Britain’s lower classes. Fortunately, it is recognized as an original genre of music that is exclusive to their identity. Unfortunately, it is commonly used in the media to dance along to the beat of criminality, violence and wrongdoing. This is no fresh way to represent Britain’s poorest as ‘urban’ degenerates.
Arguably, the song was used to draw in new audiences to Harvey Nichol’s premium sportswear department. Sportswear plays a heavy role in the fashion of grime music, and this reputation has followed and manifested itself ever-since the dawn of the genre. Premium sportswear consumers to listen to grime, and Wiley’s ‘What U Call It’ is a classic after all. But is this just wishful thinking? Is the advert nothing short of an expose of department stores elitist attitude towards it’s desired customer base?
Upon watching the advert all that sprung to mind was the Mitchell Brothers music video for ‘Harvey Nics’. With that in mind, who is the joke really on here?