Commercial Break

by Quinn

I love terrible adverts. One of my favourites recently has been for Bonjela, I think. It features a bloke underneath a sort of clear plastic sheeting dome which he punches while shrieking in an effort to be the personification of a mouth ulcer. I’d just love to imagine how you carry this off with any dignity. I can’t help but imagine the scene as he gets home after the shoot…

“Good day at work, love?”
“Great, I played a mouth ulcer who was obliterated by antiseptic gel.”
“Ooh, things are looking up. Better than being in The Bill.”

I know acting is a precarious profession, and actors are probably just happy for any work to come their way, but if you pass the audition and are chosen to play an ulcer, do you have a skip in your step for a few days, wondering if this could be your big break? What would you think are the chances of a director from the RSC seeing the advert and thinking, “That’s the fellow! We’ve just found our next Iago”? I would have thought being obscured behind plastic sheeting in this case could be a benefit, so no one associates you with such an advert. Wither the Shake and Vac lady, who probably did all right for herself by appearing in that infamous ad, but who ruled herself out of any other acting job, ever. You couldn’t really see her subsequently popping up in an episode of Cracker, could you?

But my current favourite advert features no such unfortunate actor. The “At Home with Beefy and Lamby” ads for meat are astonishing. If you haven’t seen them (and if you haven’t, you can watch them here) they feature computer animations of Ian “Beefy” Botham and Allan “Lamby” Lamb…well, eating beef and lamb. Inspired.

You can see the thinking behind them; presumably advertising execs were having a brainstorm, probably considered using Ian Botham first because of his Beefy nickname (I would be amazed if it happened the other way round) and perhaps wanted another person to play alongside him whose name or nickname also had some sort of butchery theme. The probably asked themselves if there was a John Pork, or a Mike Chicken, perhaps even a Fred Slow-Roast, when suddenly.

“I’ve got it! Allan Lamb! There’s an Allan Lamb! And he was a cricketer too! They even played for England together!”
“It’s perfect. It cannot fail. Eureka!”

High fives all round. But in all the heady enthusiasm I wonder if they forgot to ask themselves just what demographic such ads would be aiming for. I like cricket, but I would have thought the vast majority of the population have no interest in it at all. Even among cricket lovers, there is probably an entire generation who have no idea who Allan Lamb is, and certainly won’t be able to associate with the CGI version of him. More people will of course know Ian Botham, if only because of his Shredded Wheat ads, but how many youngsters will know him as Beefy, and will recognise his animated caricature? And as for one advert where Beefy and Lamby bash out the “Soul Limbo” tune on the pots and pans, won’t there be a huge number of people who won’t get the reference, having been introduced to cricket via Channel 4 and Sky? It must be years since the BBC used that tune to introduce the Test Matches; although I guess “Mambo #5” is probably a bit more difficult to replicate on household percussion.

No, I am convinced that this advertising campaign is a grave mistake; which can only guarantee that it will be a huge success. It will win a string of awards, sales of Lamb and Beef will rocket as a result, and I will have found yet another career for which I am wholly unsuited.