PETER YORK ON ADS

No 95: CHICKEN TONIGHT
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The Independent Culture
D'YOU remember "The Birdie Song", central to the early-Eighties Spanish-holiday experience? There was a little wing-flapping dance action to go with it. It's not unlike the routine people go through in the Chicken Tonight commercial - when they think of chicken soused in glop from a jar. Cute kids, traffic cops, executive ladies and girl bikers all seem to share in the cultural experience of the natural successor to Colman's Cook-in sauces. But it's actually an American experience. These are American commercials, somewhat cut about and re-voiceovered but very American in their style and theme. This chicken isn't funky.

The style is that of the opening credits of an American daytime sitcom where you meet the cast of characters; a Wasp-y seven-year-old boy who dances round a kitchen; a headmasterly-looking old black man; an Italian- looking traffic cop with a moustache; some executive ladies in Donna- Karan-ish outfits; a thoughtful-looking woman jogger with a message T-shirt and long fruzzled hair; a cute girl biker, also with fruzzled hair; a winsome light-black girl of about eight with a bow in her hair; a thick-set Wall St office man ... All human life is there, all ages, races and classes flapping their arms - Good Evening America. This commercial form of PCness is all about universality. The notion that pluralist America is in on the joke is typical of a whole raft of programming and commercials - most don't make it over here- which seem to have social cohesion as a secondary objective. The real US demographic market-profile of spoon-over sauces made to flavour up cheap cuts of chicken (the ad shows breast, turned golden, simmering away in a cast- iron pot ) is likely to be more ... particular.

But it's a simple, memorable proposition that works in any culture; I confidently expect to see one of our shameless MPs singing "I feel like Chicken Tonight" soon, flapping his arms as he demonstrates his family unity and grasp of popular culture.

! Video supplied by Tellex Commercials.

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