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Iris apologises for chav-stereotyping "Iris on benifits" brochure

An internal brochure from Ad agency Iris has stirred up some controversy in the UK. It shows agency staff decked out as chain-smoking, London riot looting, estate-living, binge-drinking chavs whilst talking about the glorious benefits that can be had when you work for Iris. Copy sample:

We're iris, and we're family We're a tight knit bunch, holding ouur own on the mean streets of Southwark. We look out for each other, 'cause what's more important than family? Benefits, that's what. Free stuff. Cheap stuff. Fun stuff. As one of us, you're entitled to it. Have you earned it? Probably not. But listen, if there's free stuff going begging, then you'd be a fool not to grab it, right? We're just saying.

Copybot really dislikes it.

Maybe I just have no sense of humour, but to me, that’s not funny, clever or creative. It’s bloody appalling.
Campaign describes the ethos as “boozing during the day, smoking, watching Jeremy Kyle and racing each other on mobility scooters”, which is just as judgmental. What is the matter with these people? They’re representing a respectable agency and industry magazine and yet they’re talking like Iain Duncan Smith after a bottle of Moet.
I’m sure this was supposed to come across as light and humorous, but it doesn’t. It comes across as sneering, superior and ignorant. Did I mention that the pregnant lady has a cigarette in her hand in both photos? That’s right, people, if you lose your job and have to claim unemployment benefits, you’ll inevitably get up the duff and smoke through your pregnancy. What is this? Kilroy?

Deon Sensky, the AD on the project, uploaded the full Iris On benefits brochure here so that you can check each image out yourself in all its glory. The comments are heated over at copybot's blog, while I fail to muster enough meh to care about a stereotype that was thoroughly mocked in Little Britain already. Vicky Pollard even had Kate Moss rocking the chav style. However, this sarcastic gem in Copybot's comments had me laughing out loud:

“No one forces them to get stupid tattoos, wear stupid clothes and drink stupid amounts of booze.”
-- Who are you talking about, the ‘scum’ or the creatives at the agency?


Iris has issued an apology, sortof at the Drum:

“We’re genuinely sorry for any offence caused by our iris Benefits booklet. It is in no way meant to poke fun at anyone other than ourselves. We parodied the well-loved programme ‘Shameless’ and our staff took part in those roles to raise a bit of internal attention to our great benefits package. But in hindsight, we can see how, if taken out of context, people could have seen it as offensive. If this has annoyed or upset anyone, we're sorry.”

Iris PR-stunt brochure got them a lot of attention, and the best we can hope for is that other ad agencies notice that part of their benefits package is pensions. Oh yes.

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