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Crown Paints-gate: How the online drama unfolded

Crown Paints Summer 2022

The latest Crown Paints TV ad has certainly had people talking since it landed on our screens at the end of last week, particularly since former Packet of Three star Jennie Eclair took to Twitter to ask her 200k+ followers what could have “possessed” Crown to run the “offensive” ad.

The ad deals, in a musical format, with the story of Hannah and Dave, a young couple who for rhyming purposes met at an “illegal rave.”

It’s a line a little further into the jaunty jingle that has set alarm bells ringing however, when the chorus of tiny people who live on a paint roller reveals that the couple are due to have a baby: “now a baby’s coming and they don’t know what it is,” the song continues. “Hannah’s hoping for a girl, Dave’s just hoping that it’s his.”

Eclair Tweeted that the ad is “massively offensive” and that it suggests Hannah had “conned a man into fatherhood.”

She’s found plenty of support among her followers, although the Tweet actually picked up little traction following the ad’s debut at the end of last week. Those following the story on social media would have found the weekend a little like watching paint dry, but by the beginning of this week the cracks were starting to appear, and things soon went on a roll. By Tuesday afternoon the online battle lines were firmly drawn, and the national press was eagerly reporting the growing furore.

On one side of the divide, Eclair’s supporters claimed the ad was misogynistic and accused its humour, or lack of it, of taking us back to, variously, the seventies or the nineties. Which reference point you choose is presumably largely a question of age.

On the other, commentators dusted off predictable claims of wokeism and pointed out that everyone is too easily offended these days. Intriguingly, many of this side of the debate were also offended by the diverse ethnicities and genders of the roller-dwelling chorus, but nobody ever claimed consistency was a selling point of Twitter.

It should perhaps be noted in the spirit of impartiality that plenty of viewers also took to social media to note that they were more offended by the fact that the ad was simply bad, though that’s probably just as subjective a question as whether or not the ad is offensive. @Nickgoingtechno fell firmly into this camp, saying: “Terrible advert but offensive no. Get over it everyone. Move on.”

Twitter users were also encouraging others to complain to the Advertising Standards Authority, which confirmed on Tuesday afternoon that it had received 215 complaints against Hannah, Dave and their tiny, singing friends. It added that it was still reviewing the complaints and had not yet decided whether an investigation was warranted.

What seems to have been overlooked in the ongoing social media storm is that the Hannah and Dave clip is actually part of a trilogy, which also introduces us to Jen and Luke.

Jen is lesbian whose love life has been rather quiet as she’s been ashamed to bring potential matches back to her scruffy flat. Then she relies on Crown Paints to paint her walls pink and bids farewell to her “relationship drought.”


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Crown Paints – Jen ad, Summer 2022

Luke, meanwhile, is a tattooed, home brew-making 31-year old who we’re told is pierced “down there” and is determined to prove to his mother that her “baby bear” is now all grown up. By painting his flat, naturally.

Crown ad Summer 22 – Luke

What seems clear from all three ads when taken in context as a campaign is that the makers are going for “quirky” here, perhaps even downright weird, but taking comedy back to the seventies? I’m personally not aware of Bernard Manning and co ever placing the normalisation of lesbian relationships, or prolific genital piecing, high on their comedic agendas.

As the most overtly white, hetereosexual couple in the campaign, Hannah and Dave have perhaps become victims of their own tediousness here. The suggestion of infidelity as a selling tool for paint is undoubtedly a strange way to liven them up, but seems misjudged rather than greatly malicious. Whether Jen painting her walls pink proves to be a princess-cliche too far for audiences remains to be seen.

As for embattled Hannah and Dave, both Crown Paints and the agency behind the ad, Cheshire-based driven, have apologised for any offence caused. The emphasis of the couple’s decorating is very much on the arrival of the new baby, not where it’s come from, and driven has assured Prolific North that “Hannah is a strong female character shown to be in a happy relationship with Dave as they prepare for their new arrival. There are no negative connotations intended from any of the lyrics.”

What’s undeniable is that the ad has brought Crown plenty of attention. In that sense its work is surely done. In the interests of fuller critical analysis, however, we bring together the three ads in one place, so you can adopt your best Twitter face.

You can also revisit the original Hannah and Dave ad here.


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