“Bonking” Boris – the world’s worst brand ambassador for discreet nookie

You’ve got to admire the chutzpah – if nothing else – of those smart cookies at Ashley Madison. Using Bojo as a pirated pin-up boy for their national advertising campaign targeting the professionally promiscuous looks like a stroke of marcoms genius.

“Affairs Now Guaranteed! No Matter what you look like,” screams the copy. And there opposite it is the seemingly perfect complement, an image of the Tousled Philanderer, whose extramarital indiscretions are a matter of public record.

So, top marks for clear brand identification. Top marks also for effective use of media on a small budget. Like any successful political poster campaign, this one relies on stretching very little money a very long way through maximum media leverage. A so-far-single poster (erected in Camden, London) has neatly achieved national coverage in a matter of hours.

What’s more, Boris has managed to add reinforcing feedback, if entirely involuntarily. As can be readily appreciated, the affronted London Mayor regards this exploitation of his private life with all the relish attending a visit to the dentist for root-canal surgery. But threatening legal action is only going to make matters worse, by directing more attention to the campaign.

Ashley Madison is smugly aware of this; it has done its homework. No one is going to complain to the relevant regulator, the Advertising Standards Authority, for the good reason that AM has not, apparently, transgressed any of its rules. And, as for legal action, AM has an answer for that as well: “If the Mayor exerts the influence of his office to take it [the poster] down, we will proceed with our own legal action for tortuous interference of a business venture,” opines its managing director Noel Biderman on Campaign’s website.

I have just one quibble with this campaign, and it’s not what you might think. On its website the infidelity broker makes great play of one of its key brand attributes: it is, apparently, ‘The world’s leading married dating service for discreet encounters’.

Bojo discreet? Don’t make me laugh. Let’s just remind ourselves of that highly confidential record. Alexander “Bonking” Boris de Pfeffel Johnson was sacked from the shadow cabinet’s front bench in 2004 for lying to then leader Michael Howard about the four-year affair he had been conducting with champagne hack Petronella Wyatt. There is reasonable circumstantial evidence (according to the Daily Mail, at any rate) that he has recently fathered the son of wealthy socialite Helen Macintyre. More recently still, he has muddied already turbulent political waters by appointing his (now-ex) mistress as a fundraiser for the Olympic Park sculpture, shortly after her official partner had contributed £80,000 to the self-same project.

It may well be that the Mayor of London can walk on water. But I would advise clients of Ashley Madison not to think they can do the same.


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