It’s a Saturday night, a full stop at the end of a long working week. The best I can do by way of entertainment is to collapse in front of a movie on the TV. The movie itself doesn’t matter, but the channel is one of those at the lower reaches of Freeview, so the longer the movie goes on, the more frequent the ad-breaks become. And – I’m sure, although I don’t count – the greater the number of ads per break.
Other than suggesting I might actually exist in a parallel Universe, TV advertising does little for me. They rarely grab my attention. It’s the usual story tonight. The full range of human insecurity is being probed and exploited in order to sell a variety of commodities and services. And I just wish we could get back to the movie.
But then my attention is grabbed. Onto the screen comes a very well-groomed John Cleese, in an advert for a legal firm specialising in mis-sold PPI claims. There’s nothing inherently wrong with the ad. It’s not especially funny or exciting, but then ads for this type of service rarely are. Some of them are excruciating, which this at least manages to avoid being.
Now don’t get me wrong – I have no issue with people who’ve been ripped off getting their due, nor with solicitors and lawyers practising their trade (well, actually…). And John Cleese has every right to appear in whichever ads he chooses, and to make a few quid in the process if he’s able. He’s a pro, after all. But something about what I’m seeing sits uncomfortably with me.
And I think it’s this: iconic creative geniuses endorsing the mundane. Particularly those with a little panache about them, or an off-the-wall take on the world. These are, after all, the very people who make us laugh, cry, dream, catch our breath. The ones who make our lives worth living. So why is Harvey Keitel doing adverts for Direct Line? Iggy Pop and car insurance? What next? Patti Smith advertising Rennies?
It got me thinking about what would be the most inappropriate or unlikely celebrity endorsement. And who is the well-known personality most in demand, the global icon the ad agencies would fight to the death to sign up?
Yes, that’s where my thinking ended up – what would Jesus advertise?