Opinion: Newland on ... McCain

One of my colleagues thinks I'm too posh to write about TBWA\London's three-and-a-half-minute film for McCain. He has got a point; I don't eat oven chips and I've never watched Coronation Street (during which the ad appeared on Sunday night). He, however, does both and he loved it.

Nevertheless, although I encountered the ad in the wrong environment (reluctant disc drive in a noisy office), I quite like it too.

There's been a frenzy of PR preparation for the launch of the spot. False ads were taken out in local papers requesting that if anyone has found a lost film from McCain shot in 1979, could they return it. These were followed with editorial pieces claiming the ad had been turned in.

Then Sunday night, bam: 210 seconds of McCain in the Corrie break. You didn't need to have seen any of the PR to understand. The ad opens with Valerie Singleton introducing the film and explaining it was shot in 1979.

It cuts to a reporter in Derby laughing off future predictions that a woman might become prime minister and West Ham would win the FA Cup.

Cut to Singleton, who, now in 70s attire, adds that something much more important is occurring, the end of "fry days" and the launch of the oven chip. She then does a brilliant piece of crystal ball-gazing and says the world in 25 years will have mobile phones, people will drink water from bottles and a Russian billionaire will buy Chelsea. Her predictions reach a crescendo before she declares that even then people will still have McCain oven chips in their kitchens and their hearts and delivers the McCain endline: "Chin up Britain."

This was all followed with more PR on Monday morning; a big piece in The Sun explaining the hoax.

So did McCain get bang for the £1 million-plus that the spot cost to air? About 11 million people were watching Corrie that night, so there's no doubt the film will have been watched. Its length will have given it stand-out; people will have been curious as to what was this thing on their screen.

I'm not sure, however, that the PR was really worth it. I don't think the public likes hoaxes. Who enjoys being duped? And even when the big reveal comes, many will be confused about the whole thing. Unlike people who work in and write about advertising, the man on the street won't commit much attention to understanding the gag.

Still, on its own the film will have earned a lot of recognition. As it unfolded, some people's curiosity as to what the hell it was will have given it fantastic stand-out (although others will have been bored by the end).

Creatively, the film delivers excellent copywriting and just enough pace to keep most people intrigued up to the reveal. Singleton's performance builds nostalgia for the brand, making the ad fit comfortably within McCain's "chin up" positioning.

However, I'm not sure the media strategy was all that; in fact, it whiffs of being one devised by a creative agency. Extending a 30-second peaktime TV spot to 210 seconds is not breakthrough media, even if you do surround it with lots of PR. Yes, it will have got a lot of eyeballs, but for £1 million it should. I just don't think anyone should be claiming they've done anything too clever here.

Dead cert for a Pencil? It deserves an award for persuading a client to

do something very expensive.

File under ... G for gimmick.

What would the chairman's wife say? Nothing. She's too posh to watch

Corrie too.