PERSPECTIVE: Why O&M should be applauded for gay Impulse spot

The latest instalment of the current industry obsession with social context in advertising comes in the shape of two tasty gay men who appear in Ogilvy & Mather’s new Impulse commercial. As you wiggle your buns in anticipation of this entertaining Jeff Stark-directed spot, allow me to note the significance of the ad for the client, Unilever-owned Elida Faberge, and its agency, O&M.

The latest instalment of the current industry obsession with social

context in advertising comes in the shape of two tasty gay men who

appear in Ogilvy & Mather’s new Impulse commercial. As you wiggle your

buns in anticipation of this entertaining Jeff Stark-directed spot,

allow me to note the significance of the ad for the client,

Unilever-owned Elida Faberge, and its agency, O&M.



This commercial features a young woman who believes she is making Mr

Right act on Impulse until he walks away with his own Mr Right. She

doesn’t quite understand why, until a series of visual clues - including

a delightful cameo from Quentin Crisp - helps the penny to drop.



The ad was conceived after Elida Faberge commissioned ’extensive

research into young women’s views on romance and relationships in the

90s’. From this came the blinding truth that ’not all chance encounters

will lead to life-long romance’ and the idea that hearts-and-flowers

cliches are a turn-off. (Although whether being accosted in the street

by a flower-wielding stranger, as Still Price Lintas’s original Impulse

ads showed, is romantic or really rather scary in a axe-murderer sort of

way is another matter altogether.)



There is, of course, nothing new in gay imagery in advertising. Britvic

had pretty boys in posing pouches and the endline, ’Somehow we manage to

cram in 12 oranges’, on posters five years ago. It’s an easy way for a

brand to attract some welcome notoriety and free newspaper column

inches.



What is truly noteworthy is the mass-market nature of the brand. Elida

Faberge has taken the plunge on behalf, as it were, of all other

mainstream advertisers. It hasn’t just slipped it out during Channel 4

pink triangle programming either; it’s on ITV, Channel 4, Channel 5 and

satellite.



O&M deserves a hearty ’well done’ for managing to make the first

mainstream gay commercial. It may contain only personable and

squeaky-clean gay characters. It may be more ’gay lite’ than

full-strength gay. It may even be a tad reminiscent of the Norwegian

Solo soft drink commercial which did so well at Cannes three years ago,

but it’s still an achievement.



Three years ago, it was cries of ’poor bastards’ as we watched O&M

flailing around amid the Guinness gay ad fiasco. (You may remember Rob

MacNevin, Guinness’s then marketing director, denying the existence of

the ’gay kiss’ script, shortly before Campaign obtained a copy of the

finished film.)



But the achievement lies not merely in getting a gay ad on air. It’s

filmed with a lightness of touch and is bang on Impulse’s strategy. So

much so that if you were unaware of its iconoclastic status you would

just think ’what a nice Impulse ad’.



And surely that is the real point.



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