Ad­ver­tise­ments re­place my anx­i­eties about death with im­pulses to buy stuff. Here are my favourites

The Irish Times - Friday - The Ticket - - TICKET STUBS -


In this ad­ver­tise­ment we see scenes from a cou­ple’s life sound-tracked to the strains of

You and Me by Penny and the Quar­ters. Then we cut to the present day where we see the same ac­tress, ap­par­ently now el­derly, sit­ting on a couch with a child, nos­tal­gi­cally pe­rus­ing pho­to­graphs of her ab­sent hus­band. There’s a whole sub­genre of ads in which peo­ple age a life­time in a minute. The mes­sage in this one is, I think, “My hus­band is dead but at least I have flat-pack fur­ni­ture.”

Or he may not be dead. I may have it all wrong. It may be a story about a wo­man whose hus­band has left her be­cause she won’t stop dress­ing as an old lady us­ing the­atri­cal make-up. Ei­ther way, the key point is “at least I have flat-pack fur­ni­ture” and it made me want to go to Ikea where, iron­i­cally, my own mar­riage then dis­in­te­grated in the lamps sec­tion just be­fore the rugs.


“My hus­band was in such pain he could barely move. Now he’s back to his old self,” says the “wife”. He is, as she speaks, strut­ting his stuff rather danger­ously on the dance floor thanks to Volterol gel. I can’t get enough of “wife” and “hus­band” be­cause I think I can in­tuit some pretty dark un­der­cur­rents in their re­la­tion­ship.

“Wife” seems pretty am­biva­lent about “hus­band’s” re­cov­ery and it’s clear to even the most naive viewer that a fu­ture of Mun­chausen by proxy syn­drome is on the cards for “wife.” Fu­ture ads in the series (well, the ones I pitched) were con­sid­ered “too dark” and didn’t fo­cus enough on the reen­er­gis­ing prop­er­ties of Voltarol gel.


A hap­less young pro­fes­sional babysits his three nieces and is as­sisted in this task by a holo­graphic Richard Bran­son. This is, sadly, not the pitch for a new sit­com but an ad­vert for look­ing things up on the in­ter­net. The sub­text is that, no longer con­tent with just float­ing through clouds, Bran­son the bil­lion­aire bal­loon­ist has up­loaded his con­scious­ness to the cloud. He is now a fully net­worked holo­gram, which, let’s have no doubt, was al­ways his ul­ti­mate aim.

Cur­rently the Bran­son holo­gram is con­tent to “help”, but over time he will tire of our hu­man lim­i­ta­tions and will be­gin act­ing like the com­puter

in Har­lan El­li­son’s I Have No

Mouth, and I Must Scream. This is also the tagline for the next Vir­gin Me­dia cam­paign and the name of my forth­com­ing opin­ion col­umn.

Al­lads­for smells

They are black and white or Tech­ni­color or sepia and they fea­ture lithe male tor­sos and/or co­quet­tish young women hid­ing be­hind gos­samer while peo­ple with apha­sia speak words de­signed by the Mil­i­tary-Per­fumery-Com­plex to evoke smelli­ness. My favourite one is the one where a hunk at a press con­fer­ence says: “I’m not go­ing to be the per­son I’m ex­pected to be any more” which causes the glass walls of the cube in which he gives press con­fer­ences to col­lapse.

“I bet he smells good,” I thought and vowed to buy some smell-good fluid. I drove to the near­est garage and bought an air-fresh­ener, which I still wear to this day.

Eir­com re­brands as Eir

For ages there were two kinds of broad­band ads. There were the dystopian ones that de­picted the nu­clear fam­ily dis­in­te­grat­ing into atom­ised in­di­vid­u­al­ism. And there were the ones that showed hav­ing an in­ter­net con­nec­tion as a qausi-re­li­gious ex­pe­ri­ence.

Eir re­cently went for the lat­ter ap­proach. Here are some things the peo­ple at Eir would like you to think about when choos­ing your broad­band provider: the GAA; moun­tains; chil­dren; Ir­ish tra­di­tional mu­sic; flocks of birds at sunset; the mir­a­cle of child­birth and the sea.“Come with us,” says a warm voice. “Live life on Eir.” Which, I gather from the afore-de­scribed ad­vert, is a new strain of heroin.

HuaweiP9(a phone) ad­vert with Scar­lett Jo­hann son

Scar­lett Jo­hans­son and Henry Cav­ill wan­der around film sets and ex­otic markets send­ing each other arty pho­to­graphs us­ing state-of-the-art tele­phones. The mes­sage of this ad is that Jo­hans­son and Cav­ill are bet­ter than you. I mean, look at the state of you. Now look at Jo­hans­son and Cav­ill. If it ever comes up, you should sac­ri­fice your­self so that they may live. In the mean­time, look at your phone, which is an old ro­tary dial land­line with a Po­laroid glued to it. Yes, get­ting a new phone will fix that hor­ri­ble gnaw­ing feel­ing in your gut.


It’s my favourite. A man digs some soil from the ground, which is Ir­ish ground, agreed to be the best kind of ground. Then he has lunch with his Ger­man girl­friend and his mother, an Ir­ish mother, agreed to be the best kind of mother. “At least we can get Ker­ry­gold in Ber­lin,” says the man’s pleas­ant girl­friend.

“Ah sure we ex­port all our best stuff,” says the man’s mother look­ing at her with dis­dain, for she has no­tions (be­ing Ger­man).

Cut to them catch­ing a bus out of town. “He’ll be born in Ger­many,” says the man in voiceover darkly as his wife/ girl­friend speaks Ger­man. “But he’ll set foot on Ir­ish soil first.”

In my fan fic­tion about this ad, the child is now 15 and op­pressed by the er­satz Ir­ish iden­tity foisted on him by his di­vorced fa­ther. The boy’s mother fled years be­fore, em­bit­tered by years fail­ing to emu­late an ide­alised no­tion of ru­ral Ir­ish moth­er­hood. The boy won­ders sadly why, if his grand­mother was so won­der­ful, they never re­turn to Ire­land. His fa­ther eats Ker­ry­gold with a spoon and weeps, think­ing of his youth while gaz­ing at the Fernse­hturm.

The Voda­fone ads with the pig

Voda­fone’s series of ad­ver­tise­ments for their TV and broad­band ser­vice were sweet when they were about an ec­cen­tric bach­e­lor and his only friend, a small pig he found on the road. But soon he was us­ing it to lure a much younger wo­man into the home. Be­fore long, Sue, the pas­sive ag­gres­sive pig, is ig­nored, as the young wo­man be­comes fas­ci­nated by the pause func­tion on the man’s tele­vi­sion re­mote. This is like witch­craft to her and he knows that now she will be for­ever in his thrall and will care for him in his dotage. This ad is based, of course, on the Ir­ish folk­tale The Lofty Pig Man and his Child Wife.

“I bet he smells good,” I thought and vowed to buy some smell-good fluid. I drove to the near­est garage and bought an air­fresh­ener, which I still wear to this day

Voda­fone’s TV ad: star­ring Sue, the pas­sive ag­gres­sive pig

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