McQueen's ghost in the machine

PETER YORK ON ADS: No 184: THE FORD PUMA
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The Independent Culture
A lot of famous people are dead, but that's no reason they shouldn't be working. Once it was just merchandising for James and Marilyn - but now the new technologies offer more exciting opportunities to exploit iconic characters through Ghostboosters. A recent example was the Chanel No5 ad where that model morphed into Monroe, glowing and gorgeous. It was very hard to see the join.

The Ford Puma launch ad uses the same device to give us Steve McQueen, and adds in other references to his films, character, mythic vehicles and so on. Most of it comes from Bullitt, a film of Modern Classic perfection, from a period and style that's now enormously fashionable (1968) directed by an Englishman (Peter Yates). It uses title devices, graphics and music from the genre - and very fresh and smart they seem too - and gives the Puma a ready-made provenance and associations.

Basically it's all about McQueen, presumably lifted wholesale from Bullitt, driving a silver Puma over the hilly streets of San Francisco, the camera lingering on the car's Chinese-eyed headlamps and its rounded tail between the shots of McQueen and glorious panoramas. And the music is the music of those films, the fizzing cymbal and drums, the cool jazz.

Up and down those hills they go, under dappled leaves and arty patterns of flyover ceilings, and on, eventually, to a truly funky garage - an opportunity to demonstrate the Puma's lock and taut, muscular etc steering qualities - observed by a wonderful girl in a hat and shades.

In the garage the references multiply: it's a positive Planet Dead Hollywood of McQueen-ism because there's the black Mustang and the Great Escape bike. And that means McQueen can do his loving consideration of machinery, pat the Puma - endorsement - and exit right through a sunlit door. Heaven can't wait.

In the next generation of these ads the dead will be delivering the sponsor's message.

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