Should you ever hear anyone wailing "Where's me Alan Whickers?" in a strong cockney accent, it might be useful to know that said person is minus an important under-garment. On the other hand, if the bloke on the veg stall down the market demands "two Alan Whickers" in exchange for his spuds, it's your wallet rather than your Calvins he's after.

But if I tell you an Alan Whicker is the star of the new Travelocity campaign, that's neither to imply the ad is awful (knickers ... pants) nor that it is the sort of costly (nickers ... pounds), lingeringly lush, utterly indistinctive travel ad that clogs our breaks every January.

No, this Whicker (for everyone under 30 wondering who this craggy old geezer is) is a former icon of world travel: urbane, mind-expanded, not a creased shirt-front or flip-flop in sight. Alan Whicker was the Judith Chalmers of his day (the 70s), without the chins and sarong, and with heaps more taste (Malaga be damned).

Travelocity (for techno-luddites over 40 who might be wondering what this dotcommy thing is) is a website that allows you to scour for the best, cheapest flight/hotels/rental cars and book online. If weeks spent mulling glossy brochures and hours spent in the travel agent is more your thing, then Mr Whicker will be a reassuring presence. Mind you, it has to be said that Whicker is rather diminished since his glory days, a little frailer, muggy-eyed; has someone just taken him out of a cupboard, dusted him down and thrust him, blinking, before the camera?

The opening shot - where Kate, working in her office late at night, pulls open her desk drawer to find Whicker prostrate inside, looking for all the world like a stiff in one of those big drawers they have in the morgue - is rather too disturbing to invoke fantasies of warm azure seas slapping bared brown flesh. And the sight of him in purring Playgirl pose on a conveyor belt in a Sushi restaurant is enough to make you splutter your sake.

Nevertheless Whicker is an excellent choice. He remains an aspirational yet likable spokesman, his dry-witted self-parody endearingly executed.

And the "hello world" strapline suits perfectly.

Travelocity is targeting 25- to 44-year-old frequent fliers in a desperate attempt to stand out, not only from online rivals such as Opodo and Expedia, but from the glut of travel campaigns desperate to seduce us steaming rain-sodden Brits. So Whicker is a real - if dated - differentiator in a market of strange brand names, dizzyingly anonymous exotic locations and naff pan-global creative treatments. And all this from the agency (Miles Calcraft Briginshaw Duffy) that was responsible for one of the worst cases of dotcom advertising ... the impenetrable Breathe commercial. So ghosts have perhaps been buried with this slender, but neat, Travelocity campaign.

Two problems, though. First, I've read more in the press about Travelocity's US campaign (a pastiche on the French movie Amelie, featuring a travelling gnome) than I have about the UK ad - a bit of cack-handed PR, surely. Second, and worse, when I tried (and tried, and tried, and tried again the next day) to get on to the Travelocity site, my poor Mac had repeated cardiacs. And there's nothing more annoying (or likely to damn an online brand) than a crashed computer, especially when it's raining.

Dead cert for a Pencil? Only in the resurrection of old icons category.

File under ... B for burying Breathe.

What would the chairman's wife say? "I thought he was dead."