Television used to be a form of escapism. Slump into the sofa, put
your feet up and forget about the world and its woes. But this hasn't
really been the case for some time now. The heady 80s when
Champagne-filled dreams came true were succeeded by the cautious 90s,
where real life was central to, well, real life. Think EastEnders and
Animal Hospital rather than Dynasty or Dallas.
This movement is perhaps most clearly demonstrated by the rise of
fly-on-the-wall documentaries. Whatever filled the airwaves before the
likes of Airport, 999, The Cruise, Children's Hospital and Temptation
These programmes were, and still are, popular because they make good
viewing. It's fascinating nosing into other people's privacy. But
they've become so commonplace they've lost their edge. Good programmers
are coming up with new genres to move things forward - take Big Brother,
The best ads are undergoing the same makeover. Reality scripts are all
over the place. There are fewer rosy cheeks, fewer size-eight figures,
and next to no perfect smiles. Instead we have ordinary folk going about
their ordinary lives eating Maltesers, drinking Coca-Cola and washing
their hair with Organics. The Gold Blend couple has been replaced with
the bickering, young married couple cast in the AA's online insurance
campaign. And as with fly-on-the-wall documentaries, the reason there
are so many of these realistic commercials is they are good. People like
them, people respond to them. But the really savvy advertisers and
agencies are moving on. Real life has become a generic and, in order to
stand out, a new kind of reality is needed.
Mother's West Side Story spoof for Super Noodles attempts this. Instead
of being a straightforward real-life observation of what goes on between
a product and a consumer, it says the consumer is the product. "You are
what you eat" is the strapline and it's also the strategy. Fat,
unhealthy blokes are defined as Super Noodles. "Brave" is the word that
leaps to mind. The Super Noodles client, Richard Kingsbury, already
showed his mettle in the recent ad for Vindaloo Super Noodles that
pointed out that consumers would get diarrhoea from eating the product.
He's confident because Mother's ads have been working.
Between 1998 and 2000, Super Noodles' market share by value has grown by
more than 30 per cent, according to Mintel. And the girth of the Super
Noodles fat bloke is unlikely to turn away viewers, even those who eat
brown rice and rocket.
Everyone wants to be in his clan, not with the poncey good dancers.
The commercial has almost universal appeal. Although Super Noodles
primarily needs to talk to young men, this commercial will appeal to men
and women of all ages for one simple reason; it's really funny. The ad
entertains and somehow feels like a break within the ad break - it's
neither an ad nor a programme. And that gives it standout that
advertisers would kill for. There is one flaw, however: the spot
requires its audience to know what West Side Story is. And to many of
the young consumers that Super Noodles needs to talk to, Maria, Tony,
the Jets and the Sharks will mean nothing.
It's not the end of the world, though. The ad is funny regardless and
the triumph of Super Noodles and his mates over Brown Rice and his gang
tells a story of its own. The director, Fredrik Bond, deserves credit
for nominating himself as choreographer as well as director, owing to
his affection for musicals. The resultant dance routine, even that of
the more polished ponces, has a friendly clunkiness that is helping to
position Super Noodles at the centre of larders around Britain.