Opinion: Newland on ... Barclaycard

As the tape from Bartle Bogle Hegarty arrived, the hacks at Campaign gathered eagerly around the video player. We were keen to see what BBH had done with Barclaycard, and how successfully Jennifer Aniston had been cast as its new frontwoman.

Sixty-seconds later and several eyes were rolling, there was lots of sighing and plenty of derisive comments that used the word "crap". But while all this was going on, I was keeping quiet. There was a secret part of me that liked the ad. I couldn't quite articulate it yet, but the feeling was definitely there.

I've concluded that this was down to the ad's ability to communicate to women: it might have got my cynical journo hackles up, but it simultaneously appealed to my feminine side.

Aniston is easy to watch. She delivers her lines in her unique casual way that belies any "I'm married to Brad Pitt" arrogance. Even when she's cross with the men for coming on to her, she avoids getting high and mighty, her speech is littered with humble "hey", "er" "oh" and "ow" utterances.

She's not all glammed up, sporting T-shirts and jeans throughout, and there's little make-up in evidence.

The girl-next-door performance is engaging, and prevents her, as the frontwoman for Barclaycard, from being loathed. But the ad does more than avoid being detestable. It makes the idea of borrowing seem safe.

In Jennifer world there is soft music. The sun is shining, we can read Proust in the original French and can spot handsome surfers on a tropical beach. The ad has cast more than just Aniston, it has cast America and all the white picket fence security associated with it. In this world there's no place for the spectre of rising interest rates, and the head of the Bank of England doesn't proffer warnings about borrowing.

It couldn't be further away than BBH's gritty "fluent in finance" campaign for Barclays, for which Donald Sutherland and Gary Oldman will make their debut later this summer.

The endline says: "Open doors with Barclaycard. The key." Credit to Barclaycard and BBH for resisting showing Aniston on a Bond Street shopping spree. Instead, she spends her kerzillions on bee keeping, pottery classes and DIY. It's a slightly nauseous way to use your plastic, and also a little implausible, but, hey, we're in Jennifer world.

Strategically, the ad occupies the same territory as its rivals: Barclaycard offers you freedom. American Express' "long live dreams" and Mastercard's "for everything else there's Mastercard" bang the same drum. This leaves Aniston with a big role to play; the brand's stand-out relies on her.

Although the Aniston campaign is firmly targeted at women, male viewers won't hate it. They'll enjoy the repeated close-ups of her denim-clad bum as she crawls through tight spaces, but it certainly won't persuade them to throw out their American Express cards just yet. This is a new direction for Barclaycard.

Previous work has targeted all spenders, but there's been a definite leaning towards men.

The former Barclaycard faces Alan Whicker, Dudley Moore and Angus Deyton all nodded in the direction that it tends to be the man who gets out the card to pay for dinner. Casting Aniston signalled a strategic evolution for credit card advertising: women use them too.

But BBH shouldn't be too chuffed with itself for producing this campaign.

It's not a patch on the "Latham" series of old, mainly because it doesn't entertain. It's light on substance and therefore unlikely to have enough appeal to sustain a long-running popular campaign.

Aniston's performance is great but without her, the ad is nothing.

Dead cert for a Pencil? Too shallow for that.

File under ... G for girlie.

What would the chairman's wife say? "I wonder who does her hair?"