This cosmetics chain's ad campaign has been accused of being anti-police

This cosmetics chain's ad campaign has been accused of being anti-police

Every once in a while, a big business will royally screw up their PR. Just think of the fiasco that occurred int the eighties over New Coke; when Coca-Cola made the bone-headed decision to change their iconic formula, to the outrage of their millions of paying customers. Things are arguably even trickier now, in an age where social media and social justice go hand-in-hand, and corporations have to be seen to be politically aware. When we expect companies to make a stand, it's inevitably going to cause some controversy, particularly when it's addressing an already-touchy subject.

British cosmetics retailer Lush has come under fire this week for launching an "anti-spy cops" campaign which targets corrupt undercover policemen, which many people have found distasteful. Lush claims that its SpyCops campaign only targets members of the police who have been "paid to lie", and is supposed to raise awareness of an "ongoing undercover policing scandal" by "highlight[ing] the current lack of progress of the Undercover Policing Inquiry and the granting of anonymity to key police witnesses".

Lush shops have now been decorated with police tape while windows now feature a split image of a man, one half with a police helmet on and another without, along with the tagline "paid to lie".  Lush has stated that the campaign is supposed to urge the British Home Secretary Sajid Javid to come down hard on police officers who are being investigated for poor conduct while undercover.

On Twitter, Che Donald, vice-chairman of the Police Federation of England and Wales, criticised the campaign as: "Very poorly thought out ... @LushLtd & damaging to the overwhelmingly large majority of #police who have nothing to do with this #undercover enquiry. I will now clear my house of any of your products and my family and friends will never use them again [sic]."

Christine Fulton co-founder of the charity Care Of Police Survivors (COPS), stated: "As the widow of a police officer murdered on duty I am appalled at the campaign by @LushLtd the police service should be supported and respected. Who do Lush call when they have a shoplifter, their staff are abused or their stores broken into? Hang your heads in shame."

More than 30 complaints have apparently been submitted to the Advertising Standards Authority. However, ASA has also posted an official statement on the matter in form of a tweet, writing: "We received over 30 complaints about the @LushLtd police campaign. After carefully assessing the complaints, we won't be taking further action as the matter is outside our remit."

Lush has since clarified: "To clear this up, this isn't an anti-police campaign, it's to highlight the abuse that people face when their lives have been infiltrated by undercover police ... This is not an anti-state/anti-police campaign. We are aware that the police forces of the UK are doing an increasingly difficult and dangerous job whilst having their funding slashed. Our campaign is to highlight this small and secretive subset of undercover policing that undermines and threatens the very idea of democracy."

Only time will tell whether the campaign manages to have a positive impact, but it seems to have raised blood pressure more than raised awareness.