Arts: Peter York On Ads: Cider: it's not an obvious drink for a cool Yule

No 204: STRONGBOW
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The Independent Culture
Is cider a Christmas tipple? Bailey's, certainly, and Cockburn's and Bristol Cream - but cider? It must be, though, because I saw eight new commercials for it before I stopped counting. So who's it for now, apart from those worried 14-year-olds with heavy-metal insignia on their denim jackets?

The great effort recently has been to segment the cider market, and bring out a range of new products with unciderish brands, bottles and advertising - ice ciders, near-beers and near-wines. They're trying everything. There's a Gallo-like rural commercial that turns the vineyard into an apple orchard for Bulmer's Original. There's a completely idiotic film involving Adrian Edmonson and Joanna Lumley as space people for Olde English. There's also a rather charming but overwrought piece of surrealism for a brand I can't identify - Ice something? White Something? - so it clearly doesn't work. Cider brings out the worst in creative folk.

The strongest cider commercial is Strongbow, of course. Strongbow plugs away year after year with reworked versions of the theme it has been peddling forever. The current commercials have a distinctly Seventies feel to them. But there's no mistaking the branding or the message - Strongbow is for men with great balls of fire.

It's beyond parody, opening on to a desert, with those unmistakable heavy- rock guitar riffs, leading to a squirming black snake in the sand as the percussion kicks in, and thence to the fizzy amber liquid in a glass which is then penetrated and shot to pieces by arrows. The symbolism is so obvious, the most eager of cultural studies lecturers wouldn't bother interpreting its meaning. But the question remains: how exactly is it drunk at Christmas? Is it swigged at home defiantly by latter-day Adrian Moles, or in some alternative location where you can play Dungeons and Dragons with your mates?

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