Adwatch review: Citroen

LONDON - Tim Duffy, UK group chairman and chief executive of M&C Saatchi, reviews the Citroen TV commercial which had the 16th highest recall with the public in the weekly Adwatch ranking for 25 February.

A car that brings the outside inside' says the cheery voiceover to this ad, as we see a pair of small, apparently angelic children in the back seat of a bright and airy Citroen Picasso.

Miraculously, the two of them are enjoying the beautiful outdoors as if there were no glass or metal between them and the countryside.

The kids play mischievously with nature. They simply reach out and touch it while travelling at 50mph. If asked in a Link Test, I would say that there is lots of glass in the new Picasso. All very on-brief. Happy client. Job done.

As with the real Picasso, however, all is not quite as it seems. You have a nagging feeling there is a deeper truth at work here, a disturbing sub-plot.

There's a darker message. Take another look. What you thought was childish fun is revealed as unpleasant malice. What you actually see is a pair of devil children who take particular pleasure in destruction.

They wreck fences; wilfully vandalise the hard toil of a farmer's harvest; terrify the local wildlife; and nearly drown innocent fishermen. They leave havoc in their wake. All thoroughly unpleasant.

Check out the casting. Those kids are cute, and yet so, so evil.

This dark underbelly rescues the ad from being bland and predictable and exploits an insight, a simple truth: that children turn into violent, delinquent monsters in the back seat of a car.

They hate the countryside and would much rather be shooting people and stealing cars in Grand Theft Auto - and would be doing so if their parents were not complete losers who have deliberately ruined their lives by joining The National Trust and forcing them to go on day trips to rural beauty spots. (I would bet good money that the client signed off a rather different insight for its family-friendly, stylish yet approachable car.)

So this is an ad that works on two levels. We are told that the Picasso is 'a car that brings the outside inside', but we see a different drama - what would happen if you brought the everyday family violence you get inside a car outside? You get a David Lynch type of world.

By the way, we're also told there's no VAT on this Citroen. The Picasso's biggest fan, Uncle Bryn in Gavin & Stacey, would appreciate that.