Andrew Mickel’s Big Idea: Asda

Whitehouse. Wood. Wright. Walters. Wartime tuneage. Asda enters the post-celebrity age with a hint of the goosestep...

Supermarket adverts have become something of a law unto themselves of late. While Sainsburys stuck with Jamie and his increasingly fowl mood, Tesco and Morrisons took part in the Unconvincing Battle of Celebrity Shoppers. Still, anyone daft enough to think Victoria Beckham has done her own shopping in the last five years is probably daft enough to decide where to buy their food from on the basis of such daft adverts.

Poor Asda must have thought they were scraping the barrel of unconvincing celebrity endorsements with their roll call of everymen to be fake staff members. While Paul Whitehouse would arse about with a little truck of Findus Crispy Pancakes and Alphabites, the real staff looked on in a mix of awkward awe and nervousness that their boss would come and yell at them for not working hard enough. Ian Wright broke several basic health and safety rules in the fish department (I used to do that same job, you get told off if you yell at customers). Victoria Wood, the patron saint of northern homeliness, did a lovely job in the bakery – but was obviously working at about a third of the required supermarket speed.

Christmas was easily the worse, as Julie Walters set about destroying her genial image while flogging Asda’s non-food products. Her whole series of adverts saw her consistently stand several feet away from the actual workers, making notional efforts to recapture the days when engaging with the great unwashed (sorry, great NORTHERN unwashed) was second nature to her. The point when she and her co-workers start decorating what appears to be convention dining hall meant that in the relevance stakes, considering we were no longer watching normal Asda staff nor normal Asda work, we may as well have been watching Myleene Klass lead a welding class.

So you can’t blame Asda for deciding to park up their army of celebs (I like to imagine them being wheeled into a little trolley shelter) and go back to their old standard of price cuts. Visually, they’re nifty little ads – the lowest prices of its competitors are shown on screen, before being thumped out of view by the sheer scale of Asda’s. Fair enough, seeing as the supermarket is never going to be able to take the food porn tack that most others go for (although god bless Iceland for thinking they could give it a shot).

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What’s confusing is the music. There’s a trumpet going in a real knees-high, eighties Madness style. It sounds familiar, it’s a jazzed up version of something. Cue lots of chin-tapping, before you realise that it’s… the theme tune of Dad’s Army.

Is this the start of an aggressive expansionist policy by Asda? Are we to expect that a weekly shop at Tesco Metro will be interrupted by heavy fire from Walters, Wood and Whitehouse? Or perhaps it’s a nod to Asda’s insistence on hiring old codgers, and that we’re supposed to find their inability to do their jobs properly a well-intended joke rather than a widespread failure of their hiring policy.

Or, of course, they know that the tune will hit our deep-seated nationalist button without draping themselves in the Union Jack – that means pulling in the Daily Star crowd without alienating the norms. Still, next time I’m browsing the hummus selection down Sainsburys, I’ll be keeping an eye out for George-enrobed D-listers on manoeuvres.

Andrew has a new Big Idea every week at Den of Geek. Read his last column here.