I used to have a Saturday job in Superdrug. Come Saturday evening, we sweaty shelf-stackers would hit the town and lose our legs.

What we chose to swill as we swayed owed little to advertising. These were the days before alcopops and if there were badge brands to be seen drinking, we didn't know about them. Eyeliner, plastic trousers and purple-black hair and you were probably a Pernod and black girl; bat-wing blouse and ra-ra skirt was usually a Malibu and lemonade. They both worked.

Getting rat-arsed is a much more sophisticated process these days. The brand that rolls off your tongue when a spotty, trainered youth leers "wot you 'avin?" is as defining as what's on your feet. Could even be the clincher for a clinch (if you believe the ads).

Now I've always thought you'd have to be a particularly ridiculous sort of woman to enjoy the taste of Archers on your lip gloss. Not that I've got anything against the brand, just that the TV ads of recent years have been so toe-curlingly embarrassing: a brand for women with nasty VPLs, the sort who never wear tights, and cackle when they laugh, I thought.

Well, the woman with the plucked-turkey legs could be history. Archers is trying to sex up the Aqua brand, go sassy, confident. And there's a new ad campaign.

Which is why you'll have seen some big posters with some rather big boys come-hithering round town.

Archers Aqua operates in one of the toughest drinks markets. The ready to drink category comprises about 300 brands or flavour variants; but six brands account for more than 85 per cent of sales. And more than half the audience falls into that bugger category: 18- to 24-year-olds. Since it launched in 2001, Archers Aqua has joined the market leaders, behind Bacardi Breezer and Smirnoff Ice. But, it's a market fickle with fashion, while rapidly maturing taste buds mean that older drinkers are forever falling out of the market. Aqua's volume was down 19 per cent last year. Time for a stiff drink.

Ah, stiff ... back to those poster boys. The ads feature a series of, well, you might call them hunks. They're all chisel jaws, chests smooth as a choir boy's lip, six pack and lunch box bulging, bottle of Archers erect where you might expect. And, sweet, they're reading books, cuddling kitties, plucking guitars. Handsome and sensitive and bearing liquor: "Something for the ladies."

My favourite is a buffed up Frankenstein's monster: part doctor (nicely warmed stethoscope askew), part woodchopper, big wellies and a lovely bunch of roses. It is, of course, utterly ridiculous, deliberately over-blown, all stylised, air-brushed and over-coloured.

Because it's ironic, you see. A jokey bit of fun. It's by Mother, you know.

The trouble is, it's not really clever enough or funny enough or outrageous enough to get over the fact that it's a chest-hair away from being crass and naff. I suspect they're trying to have their RTDs and drink them ... all post-modern and ironic but, hey, if the girls in the wine bar take it seriously ("Which one do you fancy?"; "Isn't it nice to get our own back?"), that's fine too.

As for the confident, sassy women Archers is looking for, I don't think this will win them over. There's no badge here to complement the Karen Millen hipsters and that off-the-shoulder Zara top. It's simply too girly, too icky and too damn ham-fisted to create the sort of image most of us would want to associate ourselves with at pulling time on a Saturday night. Then again, mine's a Pernod and black.

Dead cert for a Pencil? Ooo, er ... there's plenty of lead here.

File under ... Nice buns, shame about the bottle.

What would the chairman's wife say? "I'll take the one in the


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