As a nation we're far too ironic to be seen to pride ourselves on anything much except, ironically, our capacity for irony. This we revel in to such an extent that we think we're the only people who have it.

As a nation we're far too ironic to be seen to pride ourselves on anything much except, ironically, our capacity for irony. This we revel in to such an extent that we think we're the only people who have it.

Americans are famously dismissed as possessing none at all, despite the damning evidence to the contrary: Seinfeld, Letterman, Heller, Frasier, Parker, Wilder, South Park and so on. But is it irony? Or is it cynicism that now plays the same role as Victorian reserve once did in masking the true emotions we find it so uncomfortable to express? You'd be amazed what this week's campaigns tell us about ourselves.

Our confused attitude to sex is exemplified by the Pretty Polly ads.

While there's a single red corpuscle still chasing through your veins it would be hard to dislike the pictures - beautiful young women in scraps of underwear playing with themselves - and the men and women of WCRS generally approved. Nice endline, too: 'The touchy feely undie.' Then you realise that the grubby fingerprints pawing at the page are part of the ad. Why? It's as if we can't just have sex, we have to have it accompanied by a Sid James cackle to show we don't really mean it.

Even eating sweets isn't the simple, joyous experience it used to be. In the Mars Celebrations ad we see a vindictive mum sending her children and their friends to scour the garden for the chocolates she's hidden. Only she hasn't bothered. She's going to scoff the lot with the other parents while the kids starve. It's nicely cast and directed but, even in this Golden Age of Cynicism, is it really a convincing premise?

The only thing ironic about the Bisodol ads, which regurgitate and rearrange a couple of lunches for our delectation, is that they're more likely to induce nausea than prevent it.

Which rising bile brings us nicely to the vexed modern issue of celebrity.

Two of these campaigns invest heavily in the risible D-list of fame. Not because they couldn't afford someone big and famous, but because we don't like admitting that we're in thrall to such people. Hence the whole industry that has sprung up around being a twat. The more repellent and idiotic you are, the more likely you are to be rehabilitated and chuckled at.

How else do you explain the continued media existence of Michael Winner, Tony Blackburn, Vanessa Feltz or Edwina Currie? So Woolworths' strong retail idea, 'You'll forget what you went in for', is tainted for Christmas by the inclusion of Messers Whiteley, Wisdom and McCaskill, who serve as reminders to the forgetful public. As they are all hanging menacingly in a Woolworths doorway, it could prove the most compelling reason yet devised to nip into Debenhams.

Even heavier treatment is meted out to the stars of Virgin Money's campaign.

Three demi-gods from the 80s, Buster Bloodvessel, David Van Day (of Dollar) and Geoffrey Hayes from Rainbow are shown having fallen from their vertiginous position in a nation's hearts into crap jobs. All because they didn't make the most of their money. Perfectly well done, just too caught up in ironic celebrity mock worship syndrome.

And finally, a very American ad for Capital FM. Ditching anything cynical or understated, it shows the whole city nodding along to the soundtrack of their day, the local radio station. To make it even more gung-ho, DJs tell us: 'Whatever you're doing, it's your capital.' The fact that the capital in question isn't Austin, Texas, but London, England is, ironically I suppose, very ironic indeed.


Project: Touchy Feely Undie

Client: Sharon Harrison, managing director

Brief: Launch Pretty Polly''s seamless lingerie collection

Agency: TBWA/London

Writer: Alasdair Graham

Art director: Frazer Jellyman

Typographer: Richard Kennedy

Photographer: Willy Camden

Exposure: Cosmopolitan, Marie Claire


Project: Bisodol

Clients: Joanne Gray, brand manager

Brief: Promote Bisodol as a fast, effective solution to indigestion

problems caused by over-indulgence

Agency: Publicis

Writers: Paul Quarry, James Betts

Art director: Jamie Colonna

Photographer: Dave Gill

Typographers: Paul Beer, Paul Martin

Exposure: National press and posters


Project: Capital FM

Client: Susan Byrne, marketing manager

Brief: Launch new corporate identity and strapline

Agency: Mustoe Merriman Herring Levy

Writer: Rosie Elston

Art director: Mary Sue Lawrence

Director: Terence Marek

Production company: Garretts

Exposure: TV and cinema


Project: Woolworths Christmas brand campaign

Client: Ken Lewis, marketing director

Brief: Fuse the ''don''t forget'' campaign with a sense of warmth

associated with Woolworths at Christmas

Agency: Bates UK

Writer: Neil Pavitt

Art director: Andy Rott

Director: Martin Jones

Production co.: TTO2

Exposure: National and satellite TV


Project: Mars Celebrations

Clients: Graham Hunter, franchise brand manager, Vanessa Andrews, brand


Brief: Promote the sharing usage of Celebrations

Agency: Abbott Mead Vickers BBDO

Writer: Cameron Mitchell

Art director: Cameron Blackley

Director: David Hartley

Production co.: Brave Films

Exposure: National TV



Clients: Peter Ballard, managing director, Tom Wood, acquisition and CRM


Brief: Launch as the place to go to know your stuff

about money

Agency: Rainey Kelly Campbell Roalfe/Y&R

Writer: Brian Cooper

Art director: Jason Stewart

Director: Paul Gay

Production co.: Outsider

Exposure: National TV

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