Thursday, May 15, 2008

The Great Escape

I was interviewed by Radio New Zealand yesterday. They wanted a comment from me about whether advertising had gone too far in two press ads for separate advertisers who had used the same image of a knotted sheet that a prisoner in the gothic Mt Eden Prison had used to escape from the highest turret and over the wall. One ad was from a gym. I didn't get it (apparently an oblique reference to being locked into a membership contract - obviously an arcane thing that gym people would understand) and the other for a manchester (linens) retailer who was offering 30% off flanel sheets.

Neither ad was particularly provocative. I couldn't see how either would offend anyone. My response seem to let the interviewer down. My criticism was of the ads for being ever so slightly boring.

To the respective agencies credit they are at least trying to be topical. In a newspaper you are looking for news, after all. So, I applaud their efforts. Not sure they hit the mark in creative excellence terms. Both ads not only appeared in the same edition of the paper but also used the same photo. The owner of the image must be laughing (and a bit of a bounder - not to have alerted the agencies to the fact that the image had been licensed for use by another advertiser.

What was astonishing was that someone in one of New Zealand's grimmest goals was able to acquire and carefully plait sixty feet of sheets made into rope, carry the (inevitably bulky) rope to a turret, heft if over the span to the outside wall then effect their escape into the night. Even if the prison had the been the Bastille before the Revolution I would have admiration for the gumption of the escapee. But add in modern surveillance and it seems all the more unbelievable. The stuff of legend. I don't know the details of the prisoner but in other times there would be songs sung about him. He would have been a handy man to have around in Colditz (Mt Eden's sister keep).

News Story in NZ Herald

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