The adverts sparked a storm, being blasted as sexist, offensive and exploitative. But they seem to have done the trick.
Sales of Hunky Dory crisps have soared since a controversial advertising campaign was launched in April.
Largo Food Exports have reported a 17% increase since the images of scantily clad female rugby players in provocative poses were plastered on billboards across Ireland.
The racy campaign created by the Chemistry agency sparked outrage among feminists and the adverts had to be pulled after more than 300 complaints were made to the Advertising Standards Agency for Ireland.
The UK’s Advertising Standards Authority also received around two dozen complaints and the Irish Rugby Federation Union sent a solicitor’s letter over Hunky Dorys’ claims that they were the “Proud Sponsors of Irish Rugby”.
But the fallout made headlines all over the island and the mass publicity has translated into a significant jump in sales for the crisp brand.
And a spokesman for the Meath based company confirmed that the €500,000 pumped into the campaign had been money well spent.
“Hunky Dorys sales have seen a 17% increase in Northern Ireland versus same period last year,” he told the Belfast Telegraph. “This is on impulse (standard crisps) only.
“Multipack sales have increased by 11%. In view of this increase we are delighted with the recent ad campaign.”
Slogans such as “Are you staring at my crisps?”, “Tackle these” and “Which one would you throw out of bed for eating?” were used to accompany the images of pretty women in skimpy rugby strips causing feminists to slate the campaign.
Kellie Turtle, editor of the soisaystoher blog, who is studying for an MA in Gender and Society at Queen’s University, Belfast, described the advertisements as degrading to women.
“We are living in a society that is trying to promote gender equality and these sort of sexist images encourage people to view women as a sum of their body parts,” she said.
“Women deserve to be treated with respect and the international obligations to portray women in the media are not being met.”
In the Republic parts of the ad were ripped from a number of advertising spots.
However Largo Food Exports (LFE) defended its tongue-in-cheek posters saying they reflected the brand’s personality, which was young, fun and vibrant.
The company maintained that was designed to brighten up the dark days of the recession.
Raymond Coyle, chief executive of Largo Foods said: “I don’t think the ads are at all sexist but if people do think that then I apologise to them..”
The Hunky Dorys furore was not the first time Largo Foods had found itself under the spotlight for its adverts. Two earlier campaigns were reported to the Advertising Standards Authority for Ireland and upheld in 2005 and again in 2006.
Julie Anne Bailie, executive creative director with the Belfast based advertising agency, Lyle Bailie, said: “The most successful example of sex selling was the Wonderbra campaign. The reason it was so succesful was that sex was relevant to the product.
“With Hunky Dorys, sex isn’t relevant. Sometimes you see a short term sales increase but it is possible that this has been achieved at the expense of long term alienation of some consumers. While some men may enjoy sexist advertising they can feel a deeper sense of embarrasment at being seen with the product in front of their wife, partner or teenage daughter.
“So it is a two-edged sword — the initial rush in sales could very well fall in the long-term.”