Peter York On Ads: He's got specs, he must be a designer

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The Independent Culture
W hat does DFS stand for? Well, Defiantly Fat Spenders for a start; they're never off the TV. The whole thing started about seven years ago with - I can't have imagined this - Michael Aspel ushering in an age of high-spending sofa specialists. Now they're everywhere, those sofa ads: Sofa Company, World of Sofas, Sofa Studio filling the medium- grade colour supplements with their big multi-cushioned sofas; they're clearly positioned as being for more than watching TV or eating chocolate finger biscuits. Sofa ads show women in inviting, expectant, sprawly positions. Sofas are Get a Life.

With more households being formed every minute, the sofa must be the first symbolic big buy after the bed - or even as the bed. And sofas are clearly on a medium-fast fashion cycle too, so you chuck them after a few years. Otherwise you couldn't possibly get this huge advertising-driven trade. Something's going on.

But DFS seems to be the big one. Its ads are big, bland, price-led and usually set in their retail park warehouse outlets, with middle-aged actor- and actressy-type presenters. They're very like staple American commercials. They're naff in a nothing kind of way - ie, nothing truly trad working- class like Brucie's Courts ads, or OTT like the real regional American thing.

But now DFS is breaking out in a modest fashion. They're focusing on the customers - all women, of course - suggesting their sofas as havens of fantasy, self-expression and sexiness. They're even implying they're stylish, a bit designery (for DFS's take on "designer", think Brookside). Anyway they've got a designer type in the commercial. You know he's a designer because he's got specs, stubble and a ponytail, and a buttoned- up shirt with no tie. He's dreamt up a baroque galleon affair in "wine" and there's a Minnie Driver type sprawling about on that ("pounds 599 was pounds 1,059"). Then there's a cream leather number - Denise's Fashion Statement - reduced to pounds 499, with an Emma Noble lookalike squirming around on it. Finally there's a prim girl with a bun, executive specs and a grey suit with a laptop (sitcom for Managerial Woman). Delightful Finance Schemes. But in a second she's got her hair down and her legs up in one of those tilt- back squashy leather chairs.

DFS are Definitely For Sidcup; they also have branches in Croydon, New Malden and Enfield.