PETER YORK ON ADS: Antoine flaunts a bit of lip and a lot of lolly

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The Independent Culture
Is Antoine De Caunes actually famous in France, or is he our very own Frenchman, a token Euro in the Jonathan Ross orange-shirt set? He's certainly an Anglophile, just like his Eurotrash friend Jean- Paul Gaultier.

He's doing a lot of commercials here. The latest is lollies; the Eurotrash style translates readily to the Saturday-morning sub-teen market. In a post-modern garden, Antoine introduces a new, intensely fruity lolly. It's a lurid multi-coloured cylinder, apparently made from Rowntree's wine gums, fruit pastilles or similar. He says it's too intense, too fruity, too fashionable to be English (shades of that Right Said Fred song).

But the lolly is redeemed, anglicised, says Antoine, by its little wooden stick, "so plain, so pedestrian, so boring ... so British!" This is what we pay French mountebanks for: to display aesthetic arrogance and restart the war against Our Historic Enemy. Franco-British relations, replayed as farce for children, are a big collective-unconscious theme for advertisers now (cf Blackcurrant Tango).

In other versions of the ad, de Caunes - and shouldn't he be promoting Mr Whippy with a name like that? - goes through a variety of "Can they mean us?" routines. He does the one about the British saying sorry for practically everything except for the things we should apologise for - cricket, string vests and Morris dancers. In another, he compares a British lollipop lady with the French lollipop gentleman. And - bonjour, voila! - he calls us his little British chums.

This commercial's all over the place, but in quite an interesting way. The branding, for instance, is utterly tortuous - it's Nestle as owners/ endorsers of Lyons Maid, using Rowntrees' - also owned by Nestle - fruity flavours. But the viewer take-out - ie what you'd actually ask for at Bob Patel's - is wholly mysterious. So is the question of whether live sub-teens will find the product or its presenter remotely interesting. Good for Retarded of N1, though.