A fall French Connection ad.

LONDON — French Connection’s FCUK logo that raised eyebrows and ire on both sides of the Atlantic and boosted the company’s profits and sales has vanished. The new fall-winter ad campaign, which breaks in the U.S. on Sept. 20, is all...

LONDON — French Connection’s FCUK logo that raised eyebrows and ire on both sides of the Atlantic and boosted the company’s profits and sales has vanished. The new fall-winter ad campaign, which breaks in the U.S. on Sept. 20, is all about innuendo.

The ads, which feature sun-drenched models rambling across a dusty American desert — with and without their Harley-Davidson bikes — have strap lines that read: “Something beginning with F.” and “”Don’t make us say it.”

“We thought we’d come at the campaign from a completely different angle. Why do we have to be obvious? Why can’t we be brave and let the campaign speak for itself?” said Stephen Marks, chairman and chief executive of French Connection, during a recent interview at his offices in South Kensington.

“We also feel very strongly that advertising in the fashion world has become a bit same-y, and we wanted FCUK to stand out from the crowd. This is a major shift for us, and we feel like it will put us ahead of the pack. We think it’s revolutionary: Who else would advertise without using their name?” Marks added.

While French Connection would not reveal how much the new campaign cost, last year, the company spent 3.7 percent of its annual sales on ads and promotions worldwide. Sales in 2003 were $492.9 million.

The campaign was shot by Blaise Reutersward and created by Trevor Beattie of TBWA, who was behind the original FCUK campaign. That campaign was controversial from day one, eliciting a slew of complaints from the public and several probes by the British Advertising Standards Authority. Also, as reported, in 2003 Federated Stores withdrew the FCUK logo in its stores. The issue has since been resolved between Federated and French Connection.

Although the inspiration for the new ads is a bikers’ trip on Route 66 in California, the photos were shot in the Almeira region of Spain. The models, most of whom are clad in denim and halter tops, include Rosie Huntington-Whiteley, Nina Oord, Nicholas Rippey, Chris Brown and Jeremiah Thorne.

In the U.S., the ads will appear on television, buses and on selected college campuses.

This story first appeared in the September 13, 2004 issue of WWD. Subscribe Today.

Meanwhile, in other news, French Connection will open its first continental European showroom in Milan today in a bid to boost growth there. The 4,000-square-foot space on via Nino Bixio, near Porta Venezia, will showcase the French Connection and Nicole Farhi collections. Nicole Farhi is owned by French Connection.

French Connection currently has three shops in continental Europe, but the plan is to grow the brand. Marks said he’d eventually like to see 10 stores in each major European country and two to four stores in smaller markets.