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20 May 2019

Ad Break - Gogglebox 17th May.

by Jason Stone


The first commercial break in Friday night's broadcast of Gogglebox on Channel 4 is bit of teacher's pet in the world of advertising. DAVID doesn't know what it is about its 2.5 million viewers that's so appealing but it's regularly used to launch new campaigns and has - on several occasions - provided the first TV sighting of the John Lewis Christmas extravaganza. So, it's not exactly a typical ad break. But it feels like the right one to choose for the first in a new feature at DAVID where we take a look at commercials in their natural habitat.

In keeping with this reputation as a canvas for significant debuts, Gogglebox was chosen as the platform for the latest big budget Warburtons ad. Having previously had Sylvester Stallone, Peter Kay and Kermit the Frog presenting their ideas to Jonathan Warburton, it was entirely in keeping with this campaign's ambition that they turned to Robert De Niro to make his case.

Seeing one of the icons of American cinema in a British TV commercial provokes a feeling similar to the one generated when the Dutch footballer Ruud Gullit became a player in the English Premiership. Sure, we all knew he'd only done it for the money, but there was still something stirring about the sight of a global superstar doing his thing over here.

De Niro gives it his all. By which we mean he unleashes all the goofy faces he reserves for his comedy performances. Stuart Heritage writing in The Guardian claims that De Niro's performance in this ad represents "his best work in living memory". To borrow from the pun-laden vernacular of the ad itself, it's hard to believe this was a perspective formed without significant amount of dough changing hands, but it's certainly true that the beautifully chaotic delivery from seasoned comedy director Declan Lowney jumps around too quickly for De Niro's overblown comic sensibility to derail it. It also sells bagels. It really sells bagels. And lest we forget, that's the point of the exercise.

The whole thing is a grand piece of theatre. Merely getting De Niro on board was a magnificent achievement, and neither the script nor the delivery squanders the opportunity... making it a hard act to follow.

Something has to though and in this ad break the task falls to Ford's grandiloquent campaign for their Transit van. It feels like a Super Bowl ad - not one of those that wins water cooler attention, so much as one which forgettably tunes in to the event's inherent jingoism.

In an era where 'white van man' has come to represent blinkered bigotry, Ford has to decide whether to pander to the trope or resist it. This testosterone-soaked affair leaves no doubt which way they decided to jump as they portray Britain as the man's, man's, man's world imagined by James Brown with barely a glimpse of a woman's face to break up the male hegemony.

Queen's 'We Will Rock You' could be considered a subversive track to provide the musical accompaniment given that the much-missed Freddie Mercury's fondness for this kind of macho energy was of an altogether different hue. But as it's the band's most anthemic track, and it's already been repurposed as a rabble-rousing sports stadium standard, it's hard to see it as anything other than the safest of safe choices.

These two lengthy ads only left room for one more commercial in this break, and McDonald's stepped into the breach with a film pushing their latest coffee-based drink. Over the past few years, the fast food chain has brilliantly positioned itself as an alternative to the myriad of pretentious cafés littering our high streets with their complex caffeine offerings. It's created a lovely vein of advertising which must also have gained McDonald's some real traction in this market.

The latest iteration cleverly allows McDonald's to advertise their iced latte using sexy over-the-top imagery while claiming that that's not what they're doing, and because they've already established the motif of anti-pretentiousness, it works.

With Burger King's excellent new work out of BBH indicating that McDonald's most direct competitor has suddenly remembered that advertising is a worthwhile investment, McDonald's are going to have to rise to a new challenge. The UK advertising for the brand by Leo Burnett London has been consistently excellent and we suspect they will be relishing the coming battle.

Speaking of battles, next week's Ad Break column will examine the commercials which appear during Sky Atlantic's broadcast of the last ever episode of 'Game of Thrones'. Let's hope the programme's notoriously fussy devotees like what they see, or they'll be angrily demanding rewrites like a dysfunctional ECD.

David Reviews is hand-crafted by Lovely Lenzie Ltd, 7 Seven Sisters, Lenzie, Glasgow, G66 3AW. Editor: Jason Stone. Phone: 0141 776 7766. E-mail: jason@davidreviews.com.