Paul Holmes on New Zealand

Paul Holmes is an award-winning Herald columnist

Paul Holmes: No-sex ad shouldn't have made first base

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The unfortunate symbolism of the pink fist driven by Sean Fitzpatrick added another layer of tackiness to this terrible campaign. Photo / Supplied
The unfortunate symbolism of the pink fist driven by Sean Fitzpatrick added another layer of tackiness to this terrible campaign. Photo / Supplied

What's amazing really is that no one at Telecom saw the flak coming. No one at Telecom saw what a stupid, appalling idea the no-sex campaign was.

It was one of the strangest ideas to come out of an advertising agency in living memory and one of the worst.

Let me tell you how bad it was. It was vile. It was disgusting. It was dumb. It was filthy. It was seedy. It was grossly offensive. It was ghastly and rude.

And what was Sean driving? A fist? That was unfortunate too. We learned about fisting from anti-gay nutters during the homosexual law reform debate 30 years ago. The ad wasn't a nice reminder.

Someone messed up seriously. Round at Saatchi & Saatchi there is someone who will be forever remembered as having come up with the ludicrous and disastrous abstinence campaign. Telecom should fire Saatchis anyway after this.

And if you responded to the call to give up sex for the Rugby World Cup, which was an absurd idea anyway, you got a black ring to show you were going along with it. A black rubber ring, for God's sake. It sounded lewd. It sounded like the ring could be used for all kinds of perversions.

Oh, it was awful, and totally and thoroughly incompetent, this abstinence campaign. It reeked of perversion and silly high school locker-room humour. I could not believe the story I read in the New Zealand Herald on Wednesday. It was the kind of story the locker room bully tells you before he flicks you with his towel.

Telecom once again blew it. Big time.

The one thing that intrigued me about it all was that it wasn't funny. It wasn't funny because it wasn't simple. I couldn't see how you explained it in a simple sentence. I'm a great believer that if you can't explain a joke in a sentence then it's not funny.

And I couldn't see how foreigners were going to get it. They didn't, of course - all except the Australians who wondered whether we would apply the same abstinence in our relations with our sheep.

Man, it set us up to be laughed at as a nation. And that's what happened.

People in other countries have wondered what the hell we were thinking. The staff round at Saatchis, coming up with their mad ideas on their whiteboards, add the staff at Telecom who thought this abstinence thing could be a good idea, have made fools of us internationally.

The campaign wasn't funny, that's what was unforgivable. I'll forgive anything if it's funny.

If anyone at the Rugby Union thought it was and didn't object that the idea was putting the good name of the game in jeopardy then they need their heads read too. I have to believe that Martin Snedden and Graham Henry frowned on it. Please tell me you did. Please tell me you thought it as bad as teenage jokes about masturbation.

That was the thing, of course. Most of rugby's fan base would be under 15. They make heroes of players, most mangle the English language and reinforce the New Zealand male idea that it's okay to speak clumsily and strangle words, and to be a stranger to the disciplines of grammar.

Next thing these kids are hearing a coarse and facile campaign about not having sex for a month. What must they have thought of that. So sex is just one big joke? That was the message.

I cannot believe the foolishness of the Telecom management buying this dog. How could they possibly have thought it was funny and would work. It was an immature locker-room snigger. That's all it was.

And how my old mate Sean Fitzpatrick got caught up in it, I've no idea. I'll ask him one day. But I do hear that at least one very important family member was less than pleased.

The other thing was the clumsiness of Sean's script. It was smutty and full of sexual innuendo. The script was awful.

And late in the week, with the hapless Telecom abandoning the ad - God knows what they paid Sean, but I imagine it wouldn't be far south of half a million - it turns out we don't know which of at least two trophies is the Webb Ellis trophy. Which is the original, which is the copy?

All this after adidas were shown to be rip-off boys. Why am I getting a bad feeling about this World Cup?

Listen to Paul Holmes on Newstalk ZB from 9am today.

- NZ Herald

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