Title: Straight Faggs Credit: Chris Banks Features Monday 22nd September 2003 - 12:00pm1064188800 Article: 106 Rights
"Not as Ponsonby as the name suggests" reads the billboard's lead line. Underneath, iconic Kiwi bloke Gary McCormick sits drinking coffee, having a laugh on the phone. "The great straight coffee" declares the tag. You have just witnessed the first round in a new advertising campaign for Fagg's Coffee. Future billboards will feature the likes of Kerre Woodham and other famous New Zealanders. Opinions are divided on it - some gay people find it confrontational but acceptable, some think it's clever and funny, some think it's offensive. The straight media seems to think that those who are offended (and there are a lot of those) should lighten up a little, but quite frankly, who cares what they think? They also have tried to convince middle New Zealand that a "gay sex drug" exists and have scoffed at the notion of straight men cruising toilets - they're living in Fairyland, if you'll pardon the pun. Puns are interesting, are they? No matter how you feel about the new Fagg's ad, you certainly can't deny that there are more than a few double entendres in there. The implication is pretty unmistakable, right? Well, not according to Fagg's marketing manager James Ford, who devised the campaign. "The tagline for Fagg's 'the great straight coffee' is simply that - we are a straightforward, straight up and down coffee - a coffee consumers know they can trust for its quality but also for its simplicity and down to earth approach," he says. OK, fair enough. Far be it from me to invent a new meaning for the word "straight" - it certainly does mean that, in some contexts. What about the lead line then? "The Ponsonby headline is also a reflection of the above logic - Ponsonby is well known as being the cafe capital of NZ but is also known for being sometimes a bit pretentious - we are suggesting that Fagg's coffee is certainly of a quality that you would expect to get at a Ponsonby cafe, yet you can enjoy it in a more relaxed setting - at home or somewhere other than Ponsonby." Hmm. "Not as Ponsonby as the name suggests" when people think of Fagg's Coffee, the first thing that could come to mind is "pretentious"? "Our brand is called Fagg's, and the campaign intent was to portray the brand as being simply about enjoying life with a good straight cup of coffee. In this context, 'straight' is the opposite of 'pretentious'." And Fagg's is a straight coffee, of course - we've established that. Doesn't this advertisement strike you as just a little homophobic? "It is certainly not our intention to cause offence to anyone with this advertising - why on earth would we want to alienate or offend our customers? We do not consider our campaign to be homophobic - it's for everyone - it's not about sexuality but rather about an attitude toward life - don't be too serious or pretentious." But Ponsonby is well known among people, coffee drinkers or not, to have very gay connotations. Linking Ponsonby with a coffee called Fagg's, and then labelling it a "straight" coffee...are we expected to believe this is all just some strange coincidence? "Fagg's is a person's name - Alfred Fagg was the founder of today's coffee brand in Wellington in 1926. Fag may currently be a slang word for a gay person - it is also slang for a cigarette, and according to the Collins dictionary means 'a boring or tiring task'..." Ah yes, so it does. I can't seem to find the word "pretentious" in there though. Oh well, never mind... "...most importantly in this case, I think we need to remember that 'Fagg's' is the brand name of a coffee - one of which we are proud to own and market. The new campaign is designed to both celebrate the heritage that is Fagg's coffee and also reflect the attitude of the brand today (as if it were a person) of being down to earth, good humoured and not taking itself too seriously." I understand now. It is all a bit of laugh after all, isn't it? Listen, there's a candy company in Ohio called Coons Candiesthat have been operating since 1917. They make old-fashioned ice cream. What do you think would happen if they decided to launch their brand in New Zealand with a billboard featuring Leighton Smith, a lead line "Not as Otara as the name suggests" and a tag reading "The great old-fashioned vanilla ice cream"? "Hard to comment on hypothetical examples - as they are just that - hypothetical. What we do know is that our brand is called Fagg's, and the campaign intent was to portray the brand as being simply about enjoying life with a good straight cup of coffee." I guess I'd better switch to tea with the morning toast then. Just as well Vegemite haven't thought up any new campaigns... With genuine thanks to James Ford at Fresh Foods, who took time to answer our questions via email and who we're sure can take this critique with good humour and not too seriously. Chris Banks - 22nd September 2003    
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