Hunky Dory boss claims cheeky adverts boosted brand exposure
A businessman whose saucy ads provoked a torrent of complaints to the advertising watchdog, the Advertising Standards Authority for Ireland (ASAI), has said he doesn't understand why people thought they were in bad taste.
The provocative ads, featuring scantily clad models attempting to play Gaelic football to promote his Hunky Dory crisps, got plenty of people talking -- and, according to Meath-based businessman Ray Coyle, they worked.
"It has led to a boost in sales and has led to more exposure for the brand through increased media coverage. The public support we have received has been great. We have already sold over 80,000 calendars for 2012," said Ray Coyle of Largo Foods.
"I don't understand why people may be offended by the ads," said Coyle, who declined to co-operate with the ASAI investigation which found the advertisements in bad taste.
But he did admit that the number of complaints was down on the last time, when his ads featured the same girls playing rugby.
"We're happy with the campaign as a whole," Coyle told the Sunday Independent. "We're not a member [of the ASAI], so we didn't have to respond. We responded to all the support we got from the public which, as I said, has been fantastic."
The National Women's Council of Ireland (NWCI) was one of 82 separate objections to the advertisement. The NWCI's Susan McKay said: "They don't care that they are insulting women. This company has openly boasted that these campaigns have increased sales. This is an aggressive form of marketing and we need the ability to deal with it."
Support group Renew was another to voice its disapproval of the ads, which it feels "commercially exploit females", according to the ASAI report.
The committee of the ASAI concluded that the "advertisements were likely to have caused grave and widespread offence". The committee further suggested that Mr Coyle's company Largo Foods "seems to have deliberately flouted the code with the intention of generating complaints, PR (public relations) and subsequent notoriety".
Despite this, Coyle refused to rule out the possibility of another campaign of a similar nature going ahead. "I don't know really," he said. "We have gone with the idea twice now, but if the opportunity for a third one arose, I'm not really sure what we would do."
Meanwhile, it was revealed last week that, despite a €4m decline in turnover, Largo Foods increased its profitability in 2010. The company's overall turnover fell from €88.2m in 2009 to €84.1m last year. However, its operating profit rose from €9.9m to €10.1m in the same period.
The latest accounts published by the Ashbourne-based company show that a combined €4m reduction in the cost of sales and net operating expenses, coupled with a €1m decline in its exceptional costs, led to the increase in profits.
Mr Coyle has said that halting production of own-label crisps for the UK market was the reason for the decline in turnover. "There was no money in it," he explained "and the company expanded sales by 7 to 8 per cent" during the period.