I suppose it was entirely predictable that within a week of
Unilever launching its first corporate TV campaign to promote Wall’s
ice-cream, the wea-ther should turn into winter. Shame about all those
TVRs going down the drain. You’d have thought any media buyer worth its
salt would have checked the weather forecasts first.
More pertinently, however, Easter seems to have brought on a glut of
corporate ad campaigns for fmcg manufacturers. After Unilever came
Fox’s, which is promoting the idea that if only we all dunked our
biscuits together, society would be a better place, even on tower-block
Now, an early candidate for turkey of the year, we have the Nescafe
Coffee, if I understand this ad right, brings world peace. This 90s
version of I’d Like to Teach the World to Sing outdoes the schmaltz of
And there isn’t even a decent tune.
But what are these companies trying to establish? The idea is to convey
a sense of size and importance, the corporate equivalent of puffing up
your chest in a way that says: ’Oi, consumer, you can trust anything
that carries our name.’ Or, less generously, you could look at it
another way and say such umbrella campaigns are a good way of supporting
the weaker brands in an extensive portfolio - in Nescafe’s case, Cap
Colombie and Blend 37.
Either way, there’s something very 80s and self-indulgent about such
advertising. The real danger, however, is that it just becomes a generic
for the sector. The Wall’s ad, for example, just promotes ice-creams,
without telling us why Wall’s is better. Ditto Fox’s and Nescafe. If I
owned rival brands I’d say: ’Thanks. Keep spending.’
As anybody who’s ever seen the English male abroad en masse knows, we
are an embarrassment compared with our well-dressed continental
From the nylon shirts to the socks and sandals, you can spot an
Englishman a mile off. At lunch-times, King Street, Hammersmith, seems
to be peopled by men who make John Major look like, well, an Armani
No wonder, then, that the British Clothing Industry Association wants to
do something about it - and good luck to it. If along the way, shops
such as Marks & Spencer and Selfridges sell a load more clothes, that’s
fine by me.
But they say that the road to hell is paved with good intentions and
there’s something that smacks of the nanny state about this
It’s Cool Britannia by the back door.
So why is the average British male so badly dressed? Some might blame
those very institutions that are trying to change things - the high
street shops - for perpetrating so many fashion crimes. But that is to
misunderstand the psyche of the target audience. British men of a
certain age and type like to dress badly. They regard it as their
inalienable right to wear clothes that do not fit or match. There are
others (like me) whom you could clothe from head-to-toe in designer gear
and we’ll still look scruffy. It’s just the way we’re made.
Nice try, guys, but remember the old saying: ’You can lead a horse to
water but you can’t make it drink.’