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Harvey Nichols ads stir up controversy in Britain

June 20, 2012|By Shan Li
  • The inspiration for Harvey Nichols' latest ads, including the one above, reportedly came from the 1990 film "Pretty Woman." In the movie, Julia Roberts, playing a hooker with a heart of gold, at one point exclaims, "I'm so excited I could pee my pants!"
The inspiration for Harvey Nichols' latest ads, including the one… (Harvey Nichols )

British luxury department store Harvey Nichols is courting controversy with an ad campaign depicting models peeing in excitement over its summer sale.

One ad features a blond woman sporting orange pants with a wet spot in the crotch, while another shows a male model with a similarly suspicious patch on his gray suit.

The tag line: "The Harvey Nichols sale: Try to contain your excitement."

The ads predictably set off a ruckus online, with comments on Twitter ranging from "Ugh" to "Totally Gross!" to "Apparently people think this is offensive. I think it's hilarious."

Harvey Nichols spokeswoman Julia Bowe told the Telegraph the inspiration for the ad campaign came from the 1990 chick flick "Pretty Woman." In the movie, Julia Roberts, playing a hooker with a heart of gold, at one point exclaims, "I'm so excited I could pee my pants!"

"The images in our advertising were designed to be a visual representation of a well-known phrase," Bowe said. 

"During the production of the campaign, we researched the use of this expression in popular culture and social media and were satisfied that it is both commonplace and invariably used in a playful, inoffensive manner," she said, adding the phrase was in keeping with "the tongue-in-cheek spirit in which we intended our campaign to be taken."

This isn't the first time Harvey Nichols has found itself in hot water for its edgy ads.

Last Christmas, the retailer weathered criticism for its "Walk of Shame" holiday campaign. The ads depicted a number of grimy looking ladies in skintight dresses walking home after one-night stands, followed by a well-coiffed woman sporting a frock from Harvey Nichols. The tag line: "Avoid the walk of shame this season."

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Follow Shan Li on Twitter @ByShanLi

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