From knights of the road to brains of Britain

PETER YORK ON ADS: No 176: RAC
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The Independent Culture
Angels, filters, Twin Peaksy music, footage of modern buildings and alienated crowds slightly slo-mo-ed; we are into The Future. We are also into Policy Wonk Heaven; never has so large a dose of Big Thought been laid on by such a legion of `ologists in a regular network TV commercial as the RAC's current epic.

We're used to some of this in commercials now, but not the full monty displayed here, the burden of which appears to be that the RAC's a cleverness organisation, thinking like crazy all the most Millennial thoughts that agonised motorists with interesting European cars costing over pounds 30,000 think all the time. The ethical questions raised by new technologies, for instance, or the ability of the individual to impact on social policy and the environment. Stuff like that (with just a hint of transport policy sub-text).

It all looks quite delicious in an abstractified kind of way that makes footage of, say, a 1970s circular multi-storey car park shot from a helicopter seem massively portentous, laden with meanings. A blasted tree and a scrapyard illustrate the big mobilising ideas of the 20th century that turned out hollow; a Tokyo streetscape suggests the sheer accessibility of new experiences in modern life.

There are pundits who you know are real: men who've spent 10 years in open-neck shirts; men with beards; people with those intonations that grow only on American campuses; eccentric dental configurations. These are men and women with good hearts, good degrees and a future-facing internationalist approach (so where is Geoff "Tintin" Mulgan?) and they chant a composite mantra of all the right words: solutions, partnership, complexity, collaboration, dynamic, flexible, interrelated (some, indeed, of my own favourites) and, of course, creativity. It's fascinating and innovative.

But I'm honour bound to say that it all seems a long way from the previous "Knights of the Road" campaign, and from the plutocratic Edwardian glories of the RAC Club in Pall Mall.

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