Tuesday, June 19, 2018

The British police response to Lush's ads is utterly out of order

An advertising campaign by cosmetics firm Lush has drawn condemnation from the home secretary, praise from self-styled progressives, and, in one of its shops, a visit from the police.

Through its new marketing campaign, the 'gourmet' soap company attempted to draw attention to the so-called 'Spy Cops' scandal, in which undercover police officers infiltrated activist groups, sometimes initiating relationships and fathering children with those they were spying on. Several Lush shops displayed posters featuring undercover and uniformed police officers with the message 'Paid to Lie? #Spycops'. Others plastered their shop windows with hazard tape, telling shoppers, 'Police have crossed a line'.

But while it has alienated many, Lush's marketing campaign has successfully targeted, with razor-sharp precision, its desired audience of middle-class, pseudo-radical Corbyn supporters - many of whom have come out in defence of the brand. Corbynistas have suspended their calls to overthrow capitalism in order to gush over Lush, praising the company as 'heroes'. A former Green Party mayoral candidate offered her 'solidarity' to the private limited company. For Owen Jones, anyone who points out that the for-profit firm, which turned over £723 million in 2017, might have 'commercial motives' to run its advertising campaign must be an 'exceptionally smug so-called "centrist"'.

While, for some, the campaign means the Lush brand has become sainted, for others it is now tainted. Twitter and Facebook have been awash with outrage at the suggestion that some police officers may not be entirely upstanding custodians of the law. Current and former officers filmed themselves dumping their bath bombs and body lotions, and called for a boycott of the shop, using the hashtag, #FlushLush. The vice chairman of the Police Federation called the campaign 'offensive, disgusting and insulting'. Tens of thousands of users have given Lush the lowest possible rating on its Facebook page. Even home secretary Sajid Javid took to Twitter to air his fury over the campaign. 'Never thought I would see a mainstream British retailer running a public advertising campaign against our hard-working police', he fumed.

But it is one thing for police officers to vent their spleen about Lush's campaign online - something that no matter how pathetic it may appear, they should have the right to do. It is another to use one's status as a police officer to pressure someone into removing posters, particularly those that are critical of the police. When one officer visited a Lush shop in Peterborough, after a chat with the manager, he succeeded in getting the window display removed. Worse still, the chair of the Cambridge Police Federation tweeted that the removal of the posters showed that some Lush staff 'care about [the police's] feelings after all'. Even, the armed wing of the state now complains of hurt feelings and believes that those feelings should take priority over free expression.


1 comment:

Anonymous said...

it should be said that the officer was off duty and out of uniform, he went and spoke to staff to tell them his own view of the campaign and how misleading it was to show an officer in uniform with the words "paid to lie" under it. The staff agreed and took it down. Lush has subsequently realised the damage the campaign has down to its ability to earn money for ordinary people in the Uk who are generally suppoortive of the police, so have suspended the campaign. The stated in a press release that it was because of intimidation, it sounds more like their profits were being hit.
I have worked for Lush and know that their public face of being radical is backed in private by simple profit and the desire to earn money.
Being a menber of some police forums, I see anger but no desire to take out out on the ordinary staff directly, rather to #flushlush and not to spend any money in their stores