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French letters made safer by CAP

The Committee of Advertising Practice (CAP) today ordered French Connection to pre-vet all its posters for the next two years after concluding that uses of the clothing retailer's FCUK trade mark would be interpreted as offensive.13 Jul 2004

French Connection adopted the FCUK brand in 1997. According to the company, it was opening a store in Hong Kong at that time and a fax came to the head office headed: "From FCHK to FCUK". The FCUK label was born and, since then, French Connection's profits have soared and its share price has more than doubled.

Predictably, the brand has caused its fair share of controversy - such as last year's ruling against the company's e-mail promotion for FCUK-branded condoms.

CAP is the industry arm of the self-regulatory system for non-broadcast advertising. The latest decision against French Connection follows a ruling by the Advertising Standards Authority (ASA) upholding a complaint against posters for French Connection's radio station, FCUK FM.

The posters stated: "FCUK FM FROM PNUK TO RCOK AND BACK. NON-STOP FNUK. FCUK FM".

The ASA concluded that the posters would cause offence because readers would interpret the FCUK trade mark as its linguistically transposed expletive.

This was the same concern that caused the ASA to rule against the condom promotion, which offered a free pack of condoms to the first 200 people to buy FCUK t-shirts. The e-mail was headed "Fcuk Safely"; the t-shirts carried slogans such as "Practise Safe Sex, Go FCUK Yourself".

All future posters for FCUK-branded merchandise will now need to be approved by the CAP Copy Advice team before poster contractors will accept them for display across the UK. This is the second time that French Connection has been subjected to the poster pre-vet requirement. Its last requirement ended in March 2003.

Roger Wisbey, Secretary of CAP, said:

"French Connection has been warned against using its trade mark in a way that many find offensive. The poster pre-vet procedure was introduced for advertisers who have complaints upheld against their posters on the grounds of taste and decency or social responsibility."

The CAP Code provides that all non-broadcast advertisements, promotions and direct marketing communications should be legal, decent, honest and truthful and should be prepared with a sense of responsibility to consumers and society.