A bird in an ad's worth two in the bush

PETER YORK ON ADS: No 160: FAMOUS GROUSE
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The Independent Culture
No 160: FAMOUS GROUSE

It's nice to see some white space in a TV ad, something a bit graphic, instead of a screen so busy it gives you RSI just looking. The new Famous Grouse series is very graphic indeed; it looks like a series of magazine layouts. It manages cleverly to be both highly unoriginal in its components - grouse and familiar drinkers' phrases - yet striking in its overall effects. In fact it's about as good as Christmassy drink advertising can get.

The main elements of each of the four treatments I've seen couldn't be simpler: a grouse filmed in an interestingly funny way; white space; a drinking quip in black type; and a pack shot. Plus a plinky-plonky xylophoney soundtrack. But it looks very good: the grouse are lit to look like burnished russet and shot to seem positively intelligent.

One treatment has a monstrous grouse banging across the screen like King Kong, followed by a tiny scurrying pair. The line is "a large one and a couple of small ones". Another has a confused-looking grouse on a rock, watching a pair of brilliant yellow fish swim past its head, then breathing a couple of air bubbles. This is "with water". Yet another - "a swift one" - features a grouse in Farnborough fly-past mode, a few feathers scattering.

The best - "make that a double" - uses what looks like the simplest-possible mirror-trick: a grouse looking quizzically at its doppeleganger, going through a series of symmetrical poses, and taking on the elegant shapes of an 1890s illustration.

It all seems like a no-brainer, using the brand's central image and a mild lunchtime-radio-style series of quips of the kind we've seen for cigarettes, Perrier et al. It works well, however, because they've resisted the urge to elaborate, and because grouse are more animated than bottles of mineral water. The whole thing has the feeling of the best Seventies ads; I sense that some young creatives have been watching a lot of the best stuff from that period, in reaction to Nineties New Age and Hypertech.

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