It’s an oft-quoted fact about London that you are never more than ten metres from people discussing that gorilla ad by Cadbury’s.
Reading that intro you would think that this column had been held in the deep freeze for the past six months, but with the recent spate of ‘year in reviews’ everywhere, it’s actually become quite accurate once again.
For a long time I’ve had a problem with Cadbury’s advertising. And Bisto’s. And Tetley Tea. And, indeed, any company that stylises themselves solely on the fact that they aren’t from the south east of England, consisting entirely of family dinners in terraced houses, adorable northern moppet children and the straight-talking homeliness that in Ad-land is only attainable by being born north of the Watford Gap.
No-one comes out of these sorts of ads well. Southerners, by contrast, must be a heartless bunch of commuting financial workers, who would sell their gran to get entry into the latest club that Noel Fielding has been photographed in by the London Lite. So what exactly does that make northerners? Well, they’re unencumbered by a world of cappuccinos, Twitter and All Bar One. They are virtuous; they know what’s important and authentic, beyond our civilised training. By god: they are the noble savage.
The what? I hear you, who didn’t sneak through two or three first-year undergrad philosophy lectures at Cardiff borderline-polytechnic, mutter. Well, the noble savage isn’t fettered by our contemporary notions of civilisation, such as indoor toilets and contraceptives; no, it blusters on, with a mug or milky tea in one hand a pint of Boddingtons in the other. Because it knows what is authentic. It knows what matters. In effect, it is Rousseau’s noble savage.
It lives in harmony with its red-brick surroundings and autobuses. It is full of moral belief, making a stand for family dinners once a week (pshwoar) and the truth, should the truth involve sub-par beer, innate wisdom and at least three-parts Bisto in the bloodstream.
And thus there was a beautifully precise split therefore existed between southern bastards and northern stawlwarts until the gorilla came along. Now, full credit to the beast, it wasn’t pouring gravy over a roast dinner or settling down to a nice brew in front of Corrie. But there is still something familiar about it. It’s in civilised surroundings, but it’s just been put there, expressing some real semblance of emotion for its (largely southern) audience to gawp and comment at. And the end results are much the same as what we reached with Coronation Street itself fifty years ago, or Shameless these days. It’s like having our own pet noble savages –or working class, for they are effectively interchangeable for this metaphor – to judge.
And what are we judging exactly? How hilarious it is, yes. But underneath that, we too are gawping at how noble it is, despite being imprisoned by that bastard Phil Collins in a recording studio. Let’s face it; we sourthern softies still think of northerners as something earthy; something we can normally – often hereditarily if we don’t have any Celtic blood to spare – relate to as something a bit more authentic than that with which we trudge along with in our own veins during the daily rat race.
Give it a couple of years and the gorilla will inevitably be worshipping an atomic bomb in an inevitable series of these damned adverts. The only option is to start worshipping your average commuter of a morning. Think that sounds ridiculous? Well, my Mum’s northern, so my blood is half-Bisto. So don’t blame me. Blame the ape.
Read Andrew’s musings about Curry’s and its advertising here…