Jane Asher: the thinking man's biscuit

PETER YORK ON ADS; No 134: MCVITIE'S DIGESTIVE BISCUITS
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The Independent Culture
The last Gerald Scarfe cartoon I saw had John Major mounted on a mad cow using it to fire explosive excreta at Johnny Foreigner. But nothing like that goes on in Scarfe's wife's kitchen when she's doing her McVitie's ads. Scientific research has shown, beyond doubt, that Jane Asher is the nicest person in Britain. She's a staple of TV Aga sagas; a joy-bringer as the Novelty Iced-Cake Lady; and all mature men want to marry her. She's seen everything and stayed sweet. I could do several thousand words on the phenomenology of Jane Asher.

Her latest McVitie's ad draws on two elements: her extraordinarily compelling niceness and a very traditional recipe. A nice spokeslady in a pleasant kitchen explains the specific benefits of a small packaged foodstuff using a mild humorous device and a cute child. The initial pitch is done straight to camera with no messing: "So you can enjoy your golden crumbly daily digestive as close to fresh- baked as possible, McVitie's have developed a way of keeping them fresher even when you've opened the pack." The camera homes in on the easy undoing of the plastic film which holds the tasty cylinder together.

And then comes the funny bit that the "straight" piece has set up. Jane stumbles over the description of the key product benefit, "easily resealable"; indeed she Spoonerises it no fewer than three times. This allows the little girl to describe it a fourth time, in simple language: "It's got a sticky thing that makes it stay shut." This ensures total recall.

Then to compound this note of genteel subversiveness Jane produces "a pack I opened earlier". "Still deliciously cresh and frumbly," she says, taking a little bite. And the kid goofs.

Then the brand sign-off line - something about the baking of better biscuits - arrives, along with the brand logo: something representing sweetmeats across the globe. It's one of the most archaic, formulaic, big-budget campaign still running. And it's also quite brilliant commercially: securely anchoring Asher to the brand; making the point four times; and clearly not caring about winning any Creative Circle prizes.

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