Adwatch Review: Patak's

Sarah Golding, managing director of CHI & Partners, reviews the Patak's TV commercial that had the third-highest recall with the public in the Adwatch ranking for 11 November.

So, what do we have here? The Hovis of the East. And why not?

If it works for the country's classic bread brand - and it's supermarkets, high-street stores, washing powders and every other brand that has jumped on the retro bandwagon in the past year - why wouldn't it work for the nation's favourite curry-sauce brand?

It clearly has, given Patak's position in this Adwatch table. However, I'm not sure this ad stands up to the same scrutiny as some of the other romps through the ages we have been treated to in recent memory.

First, why is it narrated in a young boy's voice? It's a classic ‘look back to the good old days' style of ad, so unless the narrator, the Mr Patak who currently heads the company, has an amazingly childish voice, it makes little sense to me.

But that's just a small executional oddity. Far greater are some of the strategic questions the ad asks.

I like an authentic curry as much as the next girl from Blackburn, but this idea is based upon an unusual notion of authenticity.

Rather than coming from the inhabitants of the subcontinent, Patak's seems proud to come from the inhabitants of suburbia, looking to ‘do a curry' on the quick, not in the traditional way as it has always been done.

More fundamental to the ad is the claim made at the end, that Patak's is ‘why Britain loves curry'. This is just not believable. Britain loves curry because of Indian restaurants, not because of home-cooked copies of takeaways.

This highlights a key difference between Hovis' ad and Patak's. Hovis recognises that, however grandiose the imagery, the claims made must ring true. Hovis certainly was a part of modern life and, hence, modern history. In contrast, this Patak's ad feels like more of a confection.

I have no doubt about the family history of the brand, but the social history is rather more difficult to take. I'm not sure that the smells of curry cooking in Northern towns in the 1950s were all greeted with the neighbours flocking next door to sample the wonderful exotic cuisine on offer.

The voiceover in the ad actually says, ‘You wouldn't believe how popular we became'. I rather think this is a rose-tinted view that under­mines the truth of the brand, its heritage and its place in the hearts, and cupboards, of Britain.

I applaud Patak's attempts to move away from its competitors' romanticised images of India and its wonderful vistas, colours and aromas. However, if you're going to be a proudly authentic brand, it's import­ant to be exactly that, rather than looking for an equally romanticised alternative.