One of the great creative partnerships in brand marketing, U.K. retailer Harvey Nichols and London agency adam&eveDDB, has come to an abrupt and unceremonious end.
But while the 17-year client relationship has drawn to a close, with the brand’s new marketing chief handing the account to TBWA\London, its legacy will endure as one of the most acclaimed and provocative in advertising history.
Based on nothing more scientific than our own subjective judgment, here’s our ranking of Harvey Nichols’ top five campaigns created during the adam&eveDDB era:
5. Same Dress Disaster (2012)
Although often overshadowed by Harvey Nichols’ later Christmas ads, this spot is one of the brand’s most enjoyable pieces of work. It turns a classic moment of awkwardness—finding someone in the same dress at a holiday party—into an eye-laser battle that threatens to destroy the otherwise festive office. The lack of reaction from other partygoers is an inspired element, making you wonder how this “if looks could kill” moment is playing out in real life.
4. Love Thyself (2012)
Both controversial and a bit unnerving in its hyperliteral portrayal of narcissism, the “Love Thyself” campaign promoted a three-story specialty shop in Liverpool called the Harvey Nichols Beauty Bazaar. The U.K. Advertising Standards Authority received several complaints about the ads, with most objecting to what they thought was a lesbian kiss. The brand argued that even if the ads had portrayed a same-sex kiss and not someone kissing a mirror, it still would not have been an offensive campaign. The ASA agreed, noting that “a reference to homosexuality in an ad would be unlikely in itself to cause widespread or serious offence or constitute irresponsible advertising,” according to The Drum.
3. Contain Your Excitement (2012)
Yet another campaign that sparked controversy—to the tune of 105 complaints to the ASA—”Try to Contain Your Excitement” featured images of fashion models in typically austere poses but with a notable wet spot around their crotches. The U.K. regulatory body once again allowed the ads to stand, noting that they were not specifically mocking people with bladder problems but were “nonetheless unusual.”
2. Sorry, I Spent It on Myself (2013)
Unequivocally, the brand and agency’s most celebrated and debated work, “Sorry I Spent It on Myself” was a holiday campaign that gleefully celebrated self-interest. In addition to the spot above, the brand sold a real line of minimalist products such as “Harvey Nichols Paper Clips” that let your loved ones know your shopping money went toward a bigger cause: your own wardrobe. The campaign became one of the most honored in Cannes Lions history, taking home four Grand Prix (Press, Promo and Activation, Integrated, and Film). The work was divisive, with some even jeering it at the Cannes Lions award show in 2014, but the brand and agency undoubtedly set a high bar for how marketers could bridge an advertising concept with the real world of retail.
1. Shoplifters (2015)
Great advertising often subverts your most basic expectations. In this case, Harvey Nichols and adam&eveDDB did the absolutely unthinkable and turned real-life shoplifters into the heroes of its ad campaign. Compiled from lo-fi security camera footage and minimalist animation, backed by a quirky and addictive soundtrack, the “Shoplifters” spot is an iconic piece of advertising. At the Cannes Lions, where it won the Grand Prix in Film, the ad sparked applause even in the jury room. Announcing the win, Cannes juror Ana Balarin of Mother London noted, “Who would have thought that a film with a low budget, without a script, using found footage could be so entertaining and have such a rich narrative?”
While Harvey Nichols likely has plenty more memorable advertising in its future, there’s no denying the brand’s long tenure with adam&eveDDB was bold and disruptive partnership that often raised the creative bar around the world.