Ad agency Iris blasted for poking fun at people on benefits
Ad agency Iris, whose clients include Adidas, Domino’s and which also created the London 2012 mascots ‘Wenlock and Mandeville’, has been lambasted online for an internal staff benefits book, which some are arguing pokes fun at disadvantaged sections of society who struggle to make ends meet.
The Iris staff benefit book, ’Iris on Benefits’, is intended to imitate the C4 series, ‘Shameless’, and features its staff dressed up as “rough, alcoholic, lazy, law-avoiding council estate characters” from the comical Manchester-based hit series.
It probably sounded like an amusing idea, but once executed others are easily arguing that it depicts a group of privileged and well paid ad execs mocking the less fortunate.
I’m personally not overly offended as I’m sure that the agency was not intending to belittle the characters that its staff portray, but that is the way that it comes over. What absolutely is clear is that this is a horrible idea.
It might have been intended as a joke, but unlike the comedy series like ‘Shameless’, which looks for the humour in the lives of its characters and delivers it with some fine comedy writing, this doesn’t come across as funny. Instead the images it uses are in part Daily Mailesque inspired media cliches. Most notably the media images of young pregnant working class women smoking.
But maybe the biggest crime here for an ad agency is a dreadful lack of ideas. It is lame. Is that the only way they could think of selling “benefits” that they were offering staff. In an Olympic year, with an agency associated with the games, this kind of booklet should have been about positivity, potential and creativity. That all appears to be lacking.
The story first appeared on Campaign’s diary last week and the first sign that this was not going to do the agency any PR favours came with the first comment:
“ it just looks like middle class meedja types laughing at poor people for the sake of a lazy pun”.
This was exactly the view taken by the Copbot blog, which posted a story with a headline that reads ‘Ad agency laughs at people on benefits’:
“I’m sure this was supposed to come across as light and humorous, but it doesn’t. It comes across as sneering, superior and ignorant. Did I mention that the pregnant lady has a cigarette in her hand in both photos? That’s right, people, if you lose your job and have to claim unemployment benefits, you’ll inevitably get up the duff and smoke through your pregnancy. What is this? Kilroy?”
The post has more than 40 comments most of which are scathing. The agency should pull this staff handbook pronto.
UPDATE - The row between Iris and the blogger who wrote story,
@hollybrocks who works at Albion, has blown up on social media.
The agency has been deleting negative comments on its Facebook as the traffic to the blog has shot up. More than 140 comments have since been left — although some are defending the agency.
Iris co-founder Ian Millner has got involved and has been tweeting with Brocks and mentioning libel. Not sure what is libelous about this. It is certainly mightily embarrassing for Iris, that’s for sure.
— Ian Richard Millner (@IanMillner) September 6, 2012
Iris should know very well that deleting Facebook comments is an absolutely no-no, but they are at it all the same.
@hollybrocks While we do promote freedom of speech, we don’t condone abuse so some comments of this nature have been removed from the page
— iris (@irisworldwide) September 6, 2012
News of the blog written by Brocks was spready by other bloggers and prominent Twitter users such as
‘Chavs’ author Owen Jones.
Easy to just tut at this outright, unapologetic class hatred – but it says a lot about modern Britain copybot.wordpress.com/2012/09/05/ad-…
— Owen Jones (@OwenJones84) September 5, 2012