ARTS ETCETERA : PETER YORK ON ADS

No 105: PLAYSTATION
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The Independent Culture
THERE'S an actor making a fortune playing the same role in a range of commercials. He's thirtysomething, skinny, wimpy, bespectacled and disapproving. He's the all-purpose Negative Role Model Nerd. He sniffs at the new, the youthful and the fun-loving. He's currently in the Vauxhall Tigra ad (ironing his jeans) and in a coffee ad (rejecting free Penguin biscuits). I can't remember a time when he or his elder brother didn't turn up to warn the hot-blooded youth of Britain against legitimate pleasure. And he must be coining it from Sony Playstation. In the Sony ad, though, he's assumed an American accent, a deeper cultural subtext and he's surrounded by a lot more effects.

But it's the same basic deal. He plays the American spokesman for a pressure group called SAPs (Society Against Playstations) warning the "citizens of Europe" against the fiendish power of the Sony Playstation - a form of computer game - to sap the minds of European youth.

So far, so familiar. The subtext comes in the art direction - echoes of John Waters' cod-suburban Fifties (Hairspray, etc); nuances of the Sixties TV Batman in the Rotten Gotham backgrounds; touches of Fifties sci-fi in the viewing of Playstation under controlled laboratory conditions; and, throughout, hints of fundamentalists and McCarthyites against practically everything.

The whole point is "do not underestimate the power of Playstation", a game so powerful it blows you right across the room and requires our man to wear riot gear and strange rubber gauntlets when he goes near it.

Those in the market for this youthful amusement will have heard through the PR that it's USP is its power, an alleged quantum leap in bytes. But the glimpses we get don't look anything special - perhaps it's difficult to present the real product-difference on TV - so they've gone for a very conventional framework, an acronym and a high-spend burst to work over British youth.

! Video supplied by Tellex Commercials.

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