Archive for the ‘TV Reviews’ Category

The concept of being flogged something, either through a visual or aural medium, is not a modern invention, with both the Roman Empire and Egyptian Civilisation making crude wall doodles and papyrus scrawls to promote their wants of the day. Whether they knew that their early trailblazing would pave the way for advertising behemoths such as Pharrell and McDonalds, Beyonce and Armani, and Shane Richie and Daz, is debatable.

As a kid, I was indifferent to the ad-break, with most features being laughably ill-thought out or playfully amusing. However today’s adverts frequently border on the pathological, the product of scientific calculations designed to establish how best to wedge their product into the viewer’s cognitive chamber. Think about the cheery whistle signalling the end of the McDonalds advert – a breezy, catchy and childlike number designed to promote feelings of innocence that will override the adult viewer’s natural fear of chronic obesity. Staying on McDonalds, the brand of childlike happiness is a constant: the Happy Meal, for goodness sake; the logo – an upside down smile; the bright and playful red-yellow colour scheme, now cynically supported by a blatant green ‘eco’ branding.

Do you need a bag today?

Serial offenders of appalling adverts include supermarket chains at both ends of the spectrum. With its upmarket packaging, M&S wants you to believe you are solid middle-class stock by buying so much as a bag of waxy pig sweets from its store. This image was elaborated on in the continued ‘not just any…’ campaign, where the camera slowly moved across zoomed images of bits of food tumbling about the screen, while a woman crooned about the produce, as if auditioning for a sex line. While M&S panders to foodie broadsheet readers, Tesco reaches out to the lower classes, its strapline ‘every little helps’ a barely-disguised pitch for those of breadline existence. The theme is reinforced by the plodding music and northern tones of Jane Horrocks, who many will remember as the equally annoying Bubble from the otherwise excellent Absolutely Fabulous.

I am often amused by the discussions that supermarket status promotes, with many friends openly fawning at the imminent opening of Waitrose in my hometown and extolling the virtues of Sainsburys, while thoughtlessly denouncing Tesco. Such views are testament to the power of advertisement, with the Observer Food Monthly taster pages sometimes giving M&S produce 1 star with the Tesco/Asda alternative receiving excellent reviews. The idea that Tesco is some kind of corporate Yorkshire Ripper is also far from the mark: if you think Tesco is a rampant pillager of all things local, then what tag should one affix to Sainsburys, M&S, Waitrose et al. Are they thinking of the community when they snatch local land and construct their monstrous complexes? Of course, such a simple accusation has missed the point: companies exist to make money for shareholders, if they are permitted by law to do this to the apparent detriment of local communities and businesses, then that is the responsibility of the lawmakers. The end.

Anyway, I digress. This blog post was never meant to occur. The offending adverts to which we shall soon consider came, lingered like an undetected puddle of cat wee beneath the family sofa, before evaporating into the recesses of the memory bank, never to be seen again. I could turn on the TV, safe in the knowledge that my general equilibrium would no longer be tested by those 30 seconds of unmitigated horror. Or so I thought. Last week, I was innocently minded my own business behind the ironing board, when I heard the sinister rallying cry – “Haaalifaaaax”.


The Halifax advertisement campaign of 2010 and 2011 will be familiar to many: a bunch of jokers dressed in Halifax uniform pretend to host a radio show with ‘hilarious’ consequences. The charge sheet against those involved in these nuggets of televisual leprosy are numerous and may they forever be haunted by their collective aberrations.

Perhaps the most recognised advert is the ‘ISA ISA’ offering, where a gormless woman (perceptively described by a female friend of mine as “a lobotomised Count Dracula”) forges a link between a popular fiscal instrument and a frozen cube of water. Rapturous with her discovery, she nods her head repeatedly, her bug eyes overcome with delirium, before playing Vanilla Ice’s seminal 90s hit, ‘Ice Ice Baby’. Truly, she is my nemesis, someone for whom the word ‘ISA’ is akin to the meaning of life, the Holy Grail dangled in front of her vampirian features.

However, the clincher is the loose head movement circa 0:18 (see link below) as if she’s got a little bit carried away and decided to throw in some ‘what-you-looking-at-sister’ shit, or is alternatively deep-threatening thin air. After spending some time reviewing all 30 seconds of this affront to humanity, one starts to notice extra items of horror. Check-out the dude in the background from 0:15 onwards (link below). Look at the concern on his face as he squints at Count Von Count and the-poor man’s lurch, going so far as to pretend that he’s attempting to twiddle some dials to stop the horror show. Is he intended to be a narrative conscience seeking to redress the balance between omnipotent corporate juggernaut and poor consumer who has to sit back and swallow this kack? It pains me to say it, but I can imagine a corporate suit saying on first play that the advert’s too white, hence the inclusion of the background gent. Cynical? Possibly, although I recall my old law firm including a black businessman in its trainee prospectus when they didn’t have any ethnic minority staff amongst their 400 or so employees. Shocking.

Can I motorboat your grandma?

I can do no better than offer up an alternative dialogue:


Bell-end1: You know people think this advert’s piss-poor and that I’m a bit of a wanker. Are they right?

Voice: Yeh-yeh-yeah.

Bell-end1: That’s a bit strong. I mean, I appreciate that it might not be to everyone’s taste, but a complete tosser?

Voice: Yeh-yeh-yeah.

Bell-end1: People can be so mean. I put hours of training into my ‘keys in the air routine’.

Voice: Yeh-yeh-yeah.

Bell-end1: Do you just say the same thing over and over again?

Voice: yeh-yeh-yeah.

Bell-end1: So if I say yeh-yeh-yeah to you, you’ll just say…

Voice: …yeh-yeh-yeah.

Bellend1: Wow! This is cool!

Voice: Yeh-yeh-yeah.

Bellend1: Yeh-yeh-yeah!!

Voice: Yeh-yeh-yeah.

Bellend1: Yeh-yeh-yeah!!

Voice: Yeh-yeh-yeah.”

And so it continues on loop until the ISA vampire crashes through the glass window and ruptures bellend1’s jonson during a savage, forced blowjob. Amen.

Bullet Time

Those familiar with The Matrix will understand the phrase ‘bullet time’. This was a tag used to describe the stylised slowing of an action sequence, with the camera circling an almost stationary object, while another object would pass by it, seemingly defying gravity. The effect was undeniably cool, and still is in the right circumstances. No doubt inspired by the antics of Keanu Reeves and Lawrence Fishburne, Halifax’s marketing team thought they would ramp their campaign up a notch and deliver their own brand of bullet time to the masses. Check out the slow nod at 0:13 – blink and you’ll miss it.

It’s hard to establish whether bullet-girl is worse than the ISA vampire, a little bit like arguing for Fred West at the exclusion of Josef Fritzl, however while the gormless knob twiddling is undeniably offensive, the head-shaking of the Count secures the win.

Whereas ISA saw only one member of backroom staff, on this occasion he’s joined by an invariable posse. Rather sadly, it seems as if he’s dropped the pretence of sabotage (or been coerced into conformity) and can instead be seen larking around for no particular reason. In terms of the rhythm of the performance, the blonde lady makes a fist of patenting a sort of shoulder shuffle, however she fails to make the beat which is a poor show considering the offering is light indie fare in the form of the Lightning Seeds rather than an Aphex Twin B-side.

Helpful wanking

The problem with these types of adverts, of which Halifax is only a prominent example, is that while the corporate suits know its cack, they also know full well that the masses will buy into it, which in itself is a damning indictment of society. Among the key ingredients to such a campaign is an equal mix of the bland and the low-brow, with the sinister end-goal of befriending the viewer through familiarity. This allows the consumer to identify with the brand so that when he sees a Halifax sign, he’ll think ‘they’re OK’ when of course he doesn’t have the first clue about their corporate governance or ethical policy. Particularly galling are the attempts of banks to promote themselves as run by ordinary Joes (NatWest, say), which is about as convincing as The Daily Mail sponsoring a gay rights protest.

Much better, of course, are those adverts that don’t take themselves seriously, and are capable of tickling the ribs. My favourite advert of all time remains a Lockets advert from circa 1998, when some ruddy faced podger bleats about the merits of the upper class. The acting is exemplary and the lines magnificent. It was a sensation all around our sixth form, where a muted cry of “Daddy gave me this land” could invariably be found at the back of the classroom. Luuuuuuvely soft fillie.

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