There's nothing like the humble sperm to grab a viewer's attention,
especially when the tadpole-like little tyke manages to squirm free from
family planning awareness ads and pop up somewhere unexpected. It's not
a sight that you see in many consumer campaigns. And so my heartbeat
picked up when I realised, halfway through the new Peugeot 406 ad, that
I wasn't being shown some new form of fuel injection system.
On one level, a Peugeot ad would be the logical place for sperm to make
its mainstream advertising debut. After all, more babies have been born
in Peugeot spots than in any other advertising vehicle. I never thought,
though, that we'd ever get to see the birds and bees in action. The ads
have always gloried in the effects of testosterone rather than the point
of it. It's a bit like a Bond movie where we get to see the hero
rescuing damsels in distress, but the camera pans away before we get to
the really yucky bits.
There's no sign that this might change in the opening of the new 406
spot. The ad starts out in tried and tested Peugeot fashion. There's the
obligatory Heather Small soundtrack that leaves you wondering when
someone at Euro RSCG Wnek Gosper last went to a record store. There's
the black-and-white image of the kind of bloke you just know is an
absolute bastard to work for but still has the sensitivity to cry at his
There's the series of abstract nouns such as "consideration" and
"generosity" floating around the screen.
Then, suddenly, it's sex education time.
We know that Sammy sperm is the real focus of this ad because Heather
tells us - notching her vocal up a key when he appears and acquiring a
backing rhythm. This is a big moment. It caps Peugeot's five-year
flirtation with fatherhood and begs the question why, after all this
time, is it suddenly getting down to the nitty gritty?
I suspect it's about re-establishing the link with 30-plus men forged by
1996's epic "thoughts" ad - the last time Peugeot pulled off elemental
emotion without getting cheesy. The Dairylea ratio has been rising ever
since and reached a peak with the classroom speech in this year's ad for
the 306 model. All of this time, the 406's share of the declining upper
medium sector has been shrinking. In 1997, with every man who'd ever
hung a jacket in his back seat responding to "thoughts", it was pushing
10 per cent. This year it will be down to 6 per cent, with new car
registrations struggling to get near 30,000.
Peugeot needs to cut through its own pop music formula and remind men
that it knows what makes them tick if it's to prop up demand for what is
now a fairly old model. Little Sammy is a refreshingly direct way of
doing just that. He gallantly attempts to prevent the ad floating off
into macho dreamland by reminding us what blokes are really there for.
It's the closest a Peugeot spot will get to poking fun at itself.
It's difficult to say whether this succeeds or not - mainly because
there are two versions of the new 20-second ad. In one, Sammy is just
part of a series of unconnected images. In the other, he comes in
between a confused bloke remembering to put the toilet seat down and a
sprinter crossing a finishing line. The runner feels like a Naked
Gun-style visual gag celebrating conception - and our greying hero seems
to be wryly looking back on the domestic compromises that laid the
foundations for his family.
Maybe I'm reading too much into it, but that way this ad feels like it's
Otherwise it's just another reason why M-People should never reform.
Dead cert for a Pencil? Not until there's one for "middle of the road"
File this ad under? R for recycling.
What would the chairman's wife say? So this is why you traded in the