Creating an Atmosphere of Sophistication
The current billboard campaign running in Belfast for ACS originated in Dublin with Synrg Media and features the company's managing director, Ms Halina Ashdown-Shiels as the model. Orla Fitzpatrick talked to account handler Enda Walsh about the campaign and changing attitudes to cosmetic surgery.
OF: Was this the first time that billboards were used to advertise cosmetic surgery in the ROI?
EW: Yes. The company took 50 billboard sites in Dublin, 20 in Cork, and recently expanded the campaign to Belfast. I don't know of any agencies or any clinics that have used outdoor 48 sheets 19.5m squared as we have.
OF: The company's earlier campaigns used professional models, why did this change?
EW: It was purely the decision of the Company's Chairman, to use Halina. He thought because of the amount of surgery she has had over the years that she would be living proof of the merits of the company. (She has had liposculpture, a facelift, cheekbone implants, under-eye lifts, breast implants and lip enhancement). She is more realistic than a young model.
OF: The pose adopted by Halina is reminiscent of several well known paintings, Velazquez's 'The Rokeby Venus' and also echoes the Greek myth of Narcissus - were you conscious of this when you worked with the photographer.
EW: Not at all. We tried out several poses and that was the one Halina was most comfortable with. Initially the idea was to have Halina sitting backwards astride a chair like that famous image of Christine Keeler (1963 photograph by Lewis Morley), but when we got into the studio we changed our minds. I think that photograph has already been re-enacted by other advertisers. We wanted a more original photograph and we also wanted to keep it tasteful.
OF: Could you tell me about the symbolic use of the chess pieces and the mirror?
EW: The chess board and the mirror were used to create an atmosphere of sophistication. We literally hired the floor and the large chess pieces. We wanted the picture to epitomise everything that Halina stood for - sophistication and openness. We did not intend for her to appear self- absorbed in a negative way, rather we wanted to show Halina looking into a mirror reflecting back on herself, on her life and on her achievements with the company.
OF: The copy that accompanied the photograph was simple and straightforward, how was it devised?
EW: Yes, it was very snappy, it simply said 'Halina Ashdown-Shiels, 48, Grandmother and Managing Director of Advanced cosmetic Surgery.'
OF: Figures show that the Irish market for cosmetic surgery is worth 10 million pounds (Irish Examiner 9th October 2000). would you say that the campaign is indicative of a new openness towards cosmetic surgery?
EW: I hope so, as we want to get this product into the open. We have utilised transport advertising which is again in the public domain. We photographed Halina in the classic corporate pose and placed the advertisements on the back of Dublin buses. We hope that the humourous elements to the placing of this image as in 'Halina looks like the back of a bus' is diluted by the pose which is very serious. lt shows her behind her desk giving a consultation prior to an operation.