Tag Archives: adverts

Adverts Explained: Anglia Ruskin University

I saw this poster on the tube on the other day. It couldn’t help but catch my eye. These are the happiest, most excited and fulfilled people I’ve ever seen! My future starts here, you say? I had to go in for a closer inspection.

ruskin1. Joy: Those beaming faces say more about the results of education than any prospectus ever could. Strength through learning! And the excellent teeth displayed by all the students tell us that the fees at Anglia Ruskin are not so prohibitive you’d have to forget about cosmetic dentistry for three years.

2. I have in my hand a piece of paper: But what does it say? Perhaps these students share a house and have just used university facilities to print out copies of their cleaning rota.  Perhaps they have been photocopying their arses. Perhaps they are applying to go on Deal Or No Deal. We will quite literally never know. Note however that the paper is held in the right hand for women, and the left hand for men.

3. Dress code: Women may wear any shoes at Anglia Ruskin, but otherwise a strict dress code of blue jeans and a scoop neck top should be observed. It’s not clear whether chinos and a checked shirt are as rigid a uniform for men, as we can only see one guy, but it would make good practical sense.

4. Jan 2013 Starts APPLY NOW: The thing is, when you’re buying media space, they’ll offer you all sorts. A free week here, a month’s run-on for half price there… Before you commit to anything, take a good hard look at your ad and ask yourself if anything on it would look silly if it stayed up for a couple of extra months. There.

5. Leaping: Clearly, the higher the leap the greater the joy. There are various levels of elevation on show here, from tentative to fully airborne. The most enthusiastic is the unseen fifth student – ah yes, had you noticed her*? All we see is a foot on one side of the lead student and an arm on the other, like a botched attempt at B*Witched’s Rollercoaster dance routine. Yet this shadowy figure is the one most stimulated by her degree prospects. Who IS she? (*Yes obviously it’s a woman, as the paper is held in the right hand.)

6. YOUR FUTURE STARTS HERE: It’s great to look at a poster and know that your life has changed with immediate effect. Even if you don’t apply to Anglia Ruskin University, your destiny will now take a different course, subtly or otherwise. We’ve all seen Sliding Doors. And look at me. Last week I could never have imagined myself sat here making things up about an out-of-date university poster. No actually I could.

7. Psalm 16: Intriguing. The makers of the poster couldn’t have known that someone would write “Psalm 16” on it at Upper Holloway, and yet here it is. Authorial intent aside, anyone seeing the poster will, like me, see the addendum too and then find it linked with Anglia Ruskin University in their mind. So what’s the significance of this psalm?

Well it’s a psalm of David, that’s a good start. “Keep me safe my God, for in you I have refuge,” it opens. “You are my Lord, apart from you I have no good thing.” To be honest that puts a bit of a downer on the rest of the poster. Perhaps you’ve got this far down and are already thinking how happy you’ll be starting, say, a foundation degree in Equine Science with Rehabilitation Therapies. Then Psalm 16 comes along and points out that nothing matters except God – it may as well walk into your house and shit in your bath.

“Those who run after other gods will suffer more and more,” it hectors, clearly singling out the students on the poster as they race down that corridor, hellbound. “You make known to me the path of life, you will fill me with joy in your presence” – so we can forget everything we’ve just learned about education being the path to joy. It ends “…with eternal pleasures at your right hand.” And we know what that means – a female student with a cleaning rota.

2012: A review in subtitling disasters

In my similar round-up last year I explained that our telly automatically turns subtitles on when muted, which often then get stuck when we change channels. With hilarious consequences!

The year began with a nasty cold snap, and the BBC Weather Department started to get frustrated at the public's apathy

The year began with a nasty cold snap, and the BBC Weather Department was getting increasingly frustrated at the public’s apathy

And it was a year of austerity measures, with stern advice given daily on the news

And it was a year of austerity measures, with stern advice given daily on the news

Columbo had one last question for Underdog

Columbo had one last question for Underdog

June brought the Diamond Jubilee celebrations, and Fiona Bruce got carried away with some of the terminology

June brought the Diamond Jubilee celebrations, and Fiona Bruce got carried away with some of the terminology

On the Enterprise-D, Beverley was furious that Picard's special nickname for her had become common knowledge

On the Enterprise-D, Beverley was furious that Picard’s special nickname for her had become common knowledge

The Olympics! And Gary Lineker was spoiling for a fight

The Olympics! And Gary Lineker was spoiling for a fight

But it was the achievements of Team GB that really made the nation proud

But it was the achievements of Team GB that really made the nation proud

Over on the X Factor, one advertiser spotted a celebrity sponsorship opportunity during the early stages

Over on the X Factor, one advertiser spotted a celebrity sponsorship opportunity during the early stages

And as the weather turned cold again, one forecaster lost the plot altogether

And as the weather turned cold again, one forecaster lost the plot altogether

Never, Fiona. Never.

Never, Fiona. Never.

5 things I learned from The Snowmen


john lewis doctor who snowman

First, Steven Moffat introduced the Weeping Angels – creatures that can only move when not observed – to Doctor Who. Then, John Lewis took this principle and applied it to snowmen in their terrifying Christmas advert. Now, Doctor Who counters with horrific snowmen who DO move about, and snarl with gnashing fangs, and eat people, with the explanation that they’re made of “memory snow”.

The logical conclusion of all of this – with Doctor Who’s 50th anniversary next year and John Lewis’s 150th the year after – will be a forthcoming crossover spectacular in which the Doctor saves a branch of John Lewis from sentient carnivorous versions of those “memory foam” mattresses that are so popular nowadays. It would not be a big leap for a programme that once made an evil plastic armchair the monster of the week.


memory worm

Among all the funny lines that Strax hogged were mentions of automated laser monkeys, scalpel mines and projectile acid fish. And there’s a video game I’d happily play for hours. He also hopes for a “full frontal assault.” (Is this the first Doctor Who story to use the phrase “full frontal”? In the same episode that has someone say “enter by the back door”?!) But the must-have toy for 2013 will be the Torchwood-tinged “memory worm”. Especially if it actually lets you wipe an hour’s worth of memory. It would come in handy if you’ve just accidentally sat through the live episode of The Only Way Is Essex or something.

3. He can’t sulk in his box forever


There was a lot of gorgeous imagery in The Snowmen, with the TARDIS sitting on a cloud at the top of an impossible spiral staircase the obvious centrepiece. But to a childhood fan like me it was the revamped title sequence and TARDIS control room that had me all a-quiver. I think they’re the perfect mix of old and new.


Practically Perfect

The governess and her two young charges caught up in impossible goings-on is a nicely familiar set-up. The children terrified of the late former governess comes to us via The Turn of the Screw, but thankfully Clara doesn’t. With her cleverness, wonder and Gladstone bag she’s clearly Mary Poppins. She even gets a scene in which she ascends cheekily into the air while holding an umbrella. And as for her wild stories…



In Doctor Who terms, the most easily reached answer to Clara’s existential mystery is that she’s splintered in time like City of Death‘s Scaroth. Her claim (one of her “definitely true stories”) that she was born behind the clock face of Big Ben sounds like a nice symbolic lead-in to that sort of thing. But somehow I can’t see her recreating the most iconic cliffhanger of my childhood by pulling off a rubber mask to reveal what my sister and I always called “The Twiglet Monster”. And this is Steven Moffat we’re talking about. Previous climactic revelations have centred around Rivers and Ponds, preferably by the side of a lake. So watch out for Clara’s claim that she “invented fish”.

Adverts explained: John Lewis – Never Knowingly Undersold


Gosh I bet society’s changed a lot since your day, I’m not sure we could ever make it work!


Why are you shouting by the way?


Stop what?


Culture has changed so much since your day! We won’t have any common reference points!




It’s Paloma Faith covering INXS. It encapsulates the cuteness of how our time-crossed lovers’ feelings are different but the same.


It wouldn’t wash with the Mumsnet crowd. But you’ve got Doop to look forward to in 70 years!


Like Gary and Phoebe in Goodnight Sweetheart maybe? Unless Gary ever checked on Phoebe’s gravestone in the present day. I don’t think he did. Oh! Or like Gideon and Edith in The Invisibles!


I’m not sure about that babes. Hang on I’ll check if there was something in Torchwood.


Oh no you’re dumping me aren’t you.


Adverts explained: Olympic tie-ins part 2

‘This is the big one!’ blurts Boris Johnson’s recorded message wherever you go on London’s transport network at the moment. And with the Games upon us, many more Olympic-themed adverts have appeared since my first round-up. Have they got any better at reflecting the core Olympic values of excellence, friendship and respect?

TAMPAX – “no tampax no glory”

EXCELLENCE: Tampax Pearl offers body-fit expansion and ‘leak upgrade’. It’s all very well but everyday sanitary protection is one of the most mundane activities yet to have an Olympic sheen forced upon it. 3/5

FRIENDSHIP: Friendship between nations is sorely tested here, as our plucky British high-jumper faces off against an American Mother Nature. 0/5

RESPECT: Mother Nature never gets to deliver that little red gift she’s holding, which I’m going to go out on a limb and say represents menstruation. In which case are Tampax claiming they can stop periods from starting altogether? Confusing. 2/5

Total: 5/15 [link]


EXCELLENCE: Yes, it’s another boring everyday product. But this one’s got flag-bearer Chris Hoy, who’s a 3x gold medallist and a Sir, as the ad’s eager to remind us. 4/5

FRIENDSHIP: Hard to evoke team spirit in the solitary world of shaving. And so they don’t. 0/5

RESPECT: Chris Hoy’s got a very square face, hasn’t he. The subliminal message here is ‘A smooth shave even if you’ve got a head shaped like an occasional table!’ Good work. 4/5

8/15 [link]


EXCELLENCE: I liked this advert because it was a good example of a brand that’s not actually affiliated with the Olympics carefully getting around the rules by featuring British athletes and avoiding 2012 buzzwords.  5/5

FRIENDSHIP: The ad featured some pretty awful banter between Anthony Ogogo and Holly Bleasdale about whether to have jalapenos on their sandwiches or not. But still, good-natured. 3/5

RESPECT: Sadly we’re now in a ‘blackout period’ which means the ad’s been taken down – Olympic competitors can’t be seen promoting anything non-sponsored while the Games are on. Still, I happened to have some pictures of Anthony lying around so all’s not lost. 3/5

Total: 11/15


EXCELLENCE: ‘London Calling‘? Really? Lyrics about war, and truncheons, and the underworld? Not to mention ‘phoney Beatlemania’, a pretty savage indictment of a tourist’s view of England if ever I heard one. Best of all, in an ad promoting air travel: ‘Engines stop running, but I have no fear.’ They haven’t thought this through. 0/5

FRIENDSHIP: As the plane trundles around on the busy streets of London we can only imagine the horrible consequences. Not shown: that milkman getting sucked into the jet engine like the man in the first episode of Lost. Or Westminster bridge collapsing under the plane’s weight, sending everyone plummeting to their deaths. SADFACE 0/5

RESPECT: The tagline is ‘Don’t Fly. Support Team GB.’ British Airways are basically saying they’re making so much money out of people travelling to the Olympics that they don’t need us any more. What a massive fuck-you.  0/5

Total: 0/15 [link]


EXCELLENCE: This house of broadband-guzzling students has been the biggest bane on the ad break since, well since the last godawful BT ‘family’. I can’t verify if BT fibreoptic speeds are any good these days, what with having switched providers years ago because they were so shit, but the ad does make it look impressive. 1/5

FRIENDSHIP: Global understanding be damned. Latina girls are all tricksy vixens, laying on their feminine wiles to get free internet. And British boys have only two things on their minds – sex and custard creams. Actually that last bit’s fair. 2.5/5

RESPECT: They actually use the BT hub as a metaphor for cock. 0/5

Total: 3.5/15 [link]


  • Bronze: Gillette
  • Silver: Tampax
  • Gold: Subway (This blog endorses wily underdogs. And nice arms.)

Adverts explained: Olympic tie-ins

The Olympics are coming to Britain! Oh have you heard already? Either way they’re about to become impossible to ignore. Advertisers have been clambering over each other to get an Olympic endorsement and the results of their efforts are starting to take over screens now. So how are Britain’s ads shoehorning in reflecting the core Olympic values of excellence, friendship and respect?


EXCELLENCE: Holiday Inn are helping to run the athletes’ village at London 2012 and Shanaze Reade is 4x World BMX Champion, so that’s all fair enough. 4/5

FRIENDSHIP: Shanaze appears very much as a lone wolf in this ad. We don’t see any evidence of teamwork or global understanding. 0/5

RESPECT: Is Shanaze showing respect to Holiday Inn when she rides her bike through the corridors? Or “sneaks thirds at breakfast”? No, no she clearly isn’t. 0/5

Total: 4/15 [link]

VISA: “Flow Faster”

EXCELLENCE: Well you can’t accuse them of just jumping on the bandwagon. They’ve been on this campaign for over a year and with the main event getting closer the latest ad is an hysterical overload of London landmarks and British athletes (Usain Bolt’s been imported as the star, but we also see Louis Smith, Shanaze Reade (again), Khalid Yafai, Phillips Idowu, Aaron Cook and Stefanie Reid). Equating one of the fastest men in the world with the convenience of Visa’s new contactless card system is fair enough I suppose, but “paying for things” isn’t exactly an Olympian ideal. 3/5

FRIENDSHIP: Lots of athletes hanging out together – on the bus, at the barber’s – is a decent way of conveying “team spirit”. Sadly though, Britain’s welcome to Usain Bolt appears frosty at best: the man he races across London takes perverse glee in outsmarting him at every turn. 2/5

RESPECT: Respect for the rules and regulations of the Games is openly flouted here as Usain and the starter pistol man both turn up at the track with seconds to spare. It boggles the mind how many pre-race processes have been skipped or overlooked. If it’s any comfort, a Bolt victory in these circumstances would presumably be ruled void. 0/5

5/15 [link]


EXCELLENCE: Adidas have never made a bad advert so there’s nothing to take the piss out of here. And their product is the most relevant of all. 5/5

FRIENDSHIP: Another ad in which you can’t move for stars hanging out together, whether sporting, musical or Keith Lemon. 4/5

RESPECT: Wretch 32’s rap is all about making something of yourself. This zero-to-hero narrative is only slightly undercut when he brings millonaire’s daughter Stella McCartney into it. 3/5

Total: 12/15 [link]


EXCELLENCE: A classy piece of advertising which refrains from using the word Olympics or any athletic imagery or stars. The focus is on how BA will bring the world to London in 2012, with the commentary soundtrack left to evoke the big event. 4/5

FRIENDSHIP: Nice use of flags to suggest a closeknit global community coming together. 3/5

RESPECT: Yes, it – oh sorry I’ve dozed off. 3/5

Total: 10/15 [link]

OLAY: “Challenge what’s possible”

EXCELLENCE: On the one hand Jessica Ennis is a world champion heptathlete with an MBE for her troubles. On the other hand moisturiser is as unsporty and unachievey a product as you can imagine, despite some guff on the voiceover about how “daily discipline” is important to both. Actually I’m secretly impressed with how they’ve done that. Anyway on this evidence, the change from ‘Ulay’ to ‘Olay’ a decade ago now just seems like a cynical advance move to make their brandname sound marginally more Olympic. 2/5

FRIENDSHIP: Jessica is seen training alone in an empty stadium and only reacting to other people when the camera bulbs are flashing towards her lovely moisturised face at an evening do. 0/5

RESPECT: Well, moisturising shows some respect for your body I suppose. And, as for some reason the only video of this ad I can find is an adjunct to a Mail Online article about Jessica, if you do click through you can read for instance how Jessica confesses that she always ensures her skin is clean and moisturised, and insists that she never leaves the house without mascara and eye liner on. 2/5

Total: 4/15 [link]


  • Bronze: Visa
  • Silver: British Airways
  • Gold: Adidas

Adverts explained: Philadelphia

Philadelphia have lost it! Everyone knows you can’t make a Thai green curry with cream cheese. Plus, it looks disgusting. But can they convince us otherwise?

Don't be frightened! It's NOT Cthulhu. It's simply a Thai green curry. Apparently.

In the 90s, Philadelphia’s ads featured Sara Crowe and Ann Bryson in a series of hilarious cheese-related escapades. The campaign ran for the best part of ten years, before viewers were shocked to see the ditsy, dairy-loving pair ripped apart by wild dogs in a blood-soaked finale being phased out. It was the snack (and lighter meal option!) of choice for everyone struggling to escape the crushing horror of office life with broad humour and a dollop of cheesy goo.

But in 2012 Philadelphia is more, much more than that. It’s the magical meal ingredient that can bind any dish – and any family! – together. “My biggest challenge is trying to find something easy that everyone enjoys eating,” says Mum, and we hear from the kids that one of them doesn’t like vegetables and one of them doesn’t like curry. Mum’s deliciously cruel solution to this conundrum is to serve a CURRY full of VEGETABLES. You have to applaud her ingenuity.

Of course, we’re led to believe that Philadelphia will make this concoction creamy and appetising, but if you’ve made it past the terrifying picture at the top of this post you’ve seen the truth of that for yourself. So what makes this family so perverse? The artfully messy room is supposed to make them seem normal and approachable but look at that pile of board games. I grew up in a board game family myself and there’s a particular frame of mind that goes with it: you learn to be sociable and competitive, but hanging over it all is a crushing awareness of the cruelty of fate. The dice roll and we find that in games, as in life, most of us end up losers.

And they’re playing Cluedo. Cluedo! The most evil, laborious, badly-structured and mind-numbing game of all time. And they’re all moving their pieces at the same time! It’s like they want to punish themselves.

I have to conclude that this family has got everything it deserves. Including their disgusting curry. If Philadelphia was once the condiment of choice for comedy secretaries, it’s now the magic ingredient for the white family who’re happy to have a jar of green Thai paste in the house but who’d find buying and opening a tin of coconut milk just that little bit too ethnic.

Celebrity Families: The Collinses

There’s a party atmosphere at the Collins house as son Marcus opens the door with a grin, resplendent in a startling pair of pomegranate trousers. “Hiya!” says mum Michelle in an accent that roves briefly across ten distinct counties and two Mediterranean ex-pat communities. Meanwhile dad Phil hands me a glass of champagne. It’s the eve of the launch of Marcus’s debut single and the family are understandably excited.

“It’s a cover of the White Stripes’ Seven Nation Army,” beams Marcus with a dazzling flash of teeth. “But in an easy listening style!” That sounds like a great idea, I say.

“Has it got an ‘orn section?” asks Phil. Marcus nods happily. “Good! You can’t beat proper instruments. Makes it authentic.” Phil occasionally plays drums in a local weddings band, it turns out. “But don’t tell the taxman!” he cackles.

I ask Michelle what she does for a living. She confides that she’s an accent coach. “So if you wanted to sound like you were from South Glamorgan, for example,” – she begins – “I could teach you!” she concludes in a perfect Bangladeshi twang.

Just then, fashionable grandma Joan totters in and flings a dozen carrier bags to the floor. “Closing down sale at Peacocks!” she gasps ecstatically before thrusting a handful of receipts at Phil. “See what you can do about claiming back the tax, darling.”

I ask Joan what she thinks of her grandson’s burgeoning music career. “Well I always hoped Marcus would go to private school, have the opportunities his mother and father never did,” she says impeccably.

“But it turns out he didn’t want to go up the Eton road!” guffaws Phil. Michelle and Joan glance at one another.

Then, oddly, Joan produces a Snickers bar from her pocket and takes a huge bite with her otherwise perfect teeth. I look around to see Phil has pulled out a Dairy Milk and is heading for his home drum kit in the corner while pulling on a gorilla outfit.

I worry that some sort of chocolate sponsorship is going to spoil the integrity of my interview. I turn to Michelle. “Cup of tea, luv?” she asks Marcus brightly in a faultless Easter Island accent.

“Brew? No. Mars!” smiles Marcus. I can’t help feeling that I’ve missed something.

(continued on page 118)

Favourite albums of 2011

20. Ghostpoet – Peanut Butter Blues & Melancholy Jam

19. Lupe Fiasco – Lasers

18. Lady Gaga – Born This Way

17. Rihanna – Talk That Talk

16. Theophilus London – Timez Are Weird These Days

15. Drake – Take Care

14. Anna Calvi – Anna Calvi

13. Jamie Woon – Mirrorwriting

12. Lil B – I’m Gay (I’m Happy)

11. Selena Gomez & The Scene – When The Sun Goes Down

10. CocknBullKid – Adulthood

9. araabMUZIK – Electronic Dream

8. Cher Lloyd – Sticks + Stones

7. Riz MC – MICroscope

6. Beyoncé – 4

5. The Sound of Arrows – Voyage

4. Toddla T – Watch Me Dance

3. Britney Spears – Femme Fatale

Britney’s people have told her that every song on her album Femme Fatale is inspired by a different femme fatale from history, myth or fiction. Poor Britney just can’t work it out though! Can YOU match the lyrics from the album to the  foxy ladies in question? Answers below.

2. The Weeknd – House of Balloons

Poor Abel Tesfaye has just got the artwork for his epically miserable comedown album back from the designers, but it looks like they’ve strayed from his original vision! Can YOU spot the five subtle differences hidden in the new cover?

If you are having trouble spotting all five differences here are some hints!

  • I wonder who else was at those debauched parties he sings about?
  • There’s a subtle theme running through the album but we’ve “inflated” it
  • “Well doesn’t that put the cherry on top”
  • Track titles ‘MAY’ not ‘ALWAYS’ be correct!
  • A dog’s face

1. Katy B – On A Mission

Here are Katy’s missions explained track-by-track:


Attributes: Slowly unfolding; sweeping musical vista; quite long. Mission: 1986 film THE MISSION. (From the IMDB plot synopsis: “Initially, the Guarani warriors prepare to kill him, but after Gabriel plays an unforgettable solo on his oboe, they allow him to live”. And we’ve all had days like that.)


Attributes: Bold, purposeful, brill. Mission: KATY’S MISSION STATEMENT


Attributes: Elegant; structured; accomplished. Mission: MISSION REVIVAL ARCHITECTURE.


Attributes: Startling; Bleepy; Full of twists and turns that leave you feeling dislocated. Mission: Doctor Who‘s 1965 MISSION TO THE UNKNOWN episode with its imagination-gone-mad monsters and lack of regular cast.


Attributes: Propulsive; No nonsense; Designed to make you move. Mission: A SEARCH AND DESTROY MISSION.


Attributes: Dignified; Luxurious; Satisfying. Mission: The DIPLOMATIC MISSION where the Ferrero Rocher-stuffed Ambassador’s Receptions are held.


Attributes: Solid; A bit old-fashioned; Cheery. Mission: THE GLAD TIDINGS MISSION FROM 60s CORONATION STREET, over which Ena Sharples presided; a handy refuge in case of a gas leak on the Street.


Attributes: Bright; Bouncy; Pretty. Mission: MISSION BELL (the flower, stupid.)


Attributes: Passing the torch from one generation of singer to the next; Shiny; Confident. Mission: THE CONTINUING MISSION of Star Trek: The Next Generation‘s Enterprise-D.


Attributes: Fun; In your face; Sassy with the fanfares. Mission: The original series of MISSION: IMPOSSIBLE.


Attributes: Romantic; Irresistible; Destined to help Magnetic Man be warmly remembered even though most people shrugged at their album proper. Mission: A RESCUE MISSION.


Attributes: Charming; Laidback; Basking in the glow of all that’s come before. MISSION ACCOMPLISHED.

Best Subtitling Disasters of 2011

Let me explain. We’ve got a telly that automatically turns on subtitles when we hit Mute. And we hit Mute a lot: to play something exciting that’s just popped up on the internet, to leave the telly on while doing something else (because brightly lit moving wallpaper is brilliant), or when one of those adverts with babies in it comes on.

Poor J-Lo :-(

So it’s a very clever and helpful feature, but the subtitles do tend to get stuck if we’ve changed channels since the last time we muted. Like in these examples. The first one got a warm reception when I tweeted it back in July so I’ve been saving them up since then. Just for you.

Some of Gary's X Factor judgements were a bit harsh this year

No, that's Gail's actual hair

Yet another quirky video treatment from Will Young

Alan Carr and Tulisa consider how different things might have been

Diana Vickers has an AMAZING secret to share with us