Adwatch (July 11) Top 20 recall: Yorkie

Chocolate brand has overdone the irony and lost the tongue-in-cheek virility of past ads

Yorkie irony of emasculated character does not live up to brand’s tradition
Yorkie irony of emasculated character does not live up to brand’s tradition

Skip to table

I happen to be writing this on the day that scientists at Cern have confirmed the existence of the Higgs boson particle.

This elusive sub-atomic entity is what gives mass to matter. Without the boson, particles are the empty photons that light our world and turn our grass green without imposing themselves in any substantial way on the equilibrium of the physical universe.

In the art of advertising, as in the science of atoms, the difference between having substance and not having substance is wafer-thin.

Looking down this week's list there is not a great deal to trouble the Collider, but I can't resist Yorkie's return to television advertising.

You didn't have to be a semiotician back in 1976 to make the link between an aggressively geometric and heavy-in-the-hand chocolate bar, and the world of men. Nor did you have to be a conspicuously diagonal thinker to make the leap from manliness to truck drivers.

This gas-guzzling, sleeve-rolling vision of manhood was so unselfconsciously chauvinist that it began, without necessarily intending to, a fine and successful tradition of unreconstructed masculinity.

While all around it brands were bending to the will of gender politics, Yorkie was resolutely incorrect. The brand managers in York were smart enough to know that the product's positioning was figurative; and the clever folk at JWT were smart enough to, er, keep trucking.

When the need to modernise came, it resulted not in capitulation, but in the brilliant 'Not for Girls' campaign. The 2003 spot featuring the clown-faced football fan was an inspired way of refreshing the equity.

This, then, is the context in which I came to view the 'Shopping Bags' ad. Is it still Yorkie? Yes. Does it celebrate the male condition? Yes. Is it distinctive in its category? Yes.

But does it carry the arch assertion that being a bloke is - despite everything - better, and that Yorkie is one of the riches of the charmless sex? Not quite.

There are too many clues pointing to emasculation; there is a look on the wife's face at the end that says 'you don't impress me'; and the whole tableau has the whiff of a male slave who spends his week in a call centre and his weekend in a supermarket.

Irony does come to the rescue, in the shape of a badly drawn action fireball, but it's not enough. If male heroism has been reduced to carrier-bag endurance (and, broadly, I agree that it has), then something inside me needs it to be more amusing. Why do the bags succumb so symmetrically to his outstretched digits? Why no wrestling with the car boot? Why no heart-stopping finger slippage; no polyurethane malfunction?

The boson is there and these are more than mere photons, but I fear they do hold their manhood cheap.

Brand strategy verdict: 7 out of 10

The central fiction has always been that big chunks mean big balls, and as it continues to celebrate the male condition Yorkie must be careful not to emasculate itself.

Adwatch: Top 20 recall (11 July)
Latest Jul-04 Brand Agency/T VBuyer Recall
rank       %
1 9(-) Sensodyne  Grey London/MediaCom 51
2 (-) Asda  Saatchi & Saatchi/Carat 50
3 (-)  Wordley Production,
Hornet Inc/PHD
4 (-) Bupa  WCRS/MEC 39
5 -5 Sky  Brothers & Sisters/
6 (-) British Gas  CHI&Partners/Carat 35
7 (-) Richmond Ham  Quiet Storm/Vizeum 34
8 -3 Argos  CHI&Partners/Mindshare 33
9= (-) Gaviscon  Euro RSCG Worldwide/
9= (-) Everest  MBA/MediaCom 31
11 (-) Morrisons  DLKW Lowe/MEC 30
12 (-) Cathedral City  VCCP/Universal McCann 29
13 (-) Johnson's Baby Oil  Abbott Mead Vickers
14= (-) McDonald's  Leo Burnett/OMD UK 26
14= (-) Boots  Mother/OMD UK 26
14= -17 Tesco  The Red Brick Road/
14= (-) Nestle Yorkie  JWT London/Mindshare 26
18 (-) HSBC  JWT London/Mindshare 25
19 (-) Veet  Euro RSCG Worldwide/
20 (-) UPS  Ogilvy & Mather