PETER YORK ON ADS; No 110: SEKONDA

ADVERTISING is increasingly in the business of yoking big, windy themes to small, particular things. Pre-Christmas is when the watches appear, usually in ads of stunning banality - but this year Sekonda's got a Big Theme.

It's a big theme that, by un- happy coincidence, it shares with AT&T's current corporate advertising (see Review, 29 Oct) - that of life's too short. But - and this is either a masterstroke or a terrible mistake - Sekonda's expression of this poignant generality focuses on a very particular figure in 20th- century English cultural history, and on a very particular thought: John Betjeman saying that he regretted not having enough sex.

This very real and specific focus is unusual for a commercial. More unusual still is the use of the clip from the 1970s documentary where he says it.

Against a bright turquoise sky, we see Betjeman being wheelchaired around what looks like a West Country bay, a genial old bundle. It's an absolutely classic old-style television arts biography, and it's culturally and aesthetically a million miles away from the brand values we associate with shiny new Japanese watches, usually tuned to the display instincts of young men.

But the final line - and the final frame - may give a clue to the strategy. "It doesn't have to be expensive," they say, and the last shot shows a rather handsome, plain, traditional enamel-faced watch - the kind you could style into a Ralph Lauren picture-shoot. No chronographs, no Rolex- derived flash. Are Sekonda going after a quality and restraint positioning? Are they aiming to be the serious-minded brand for people with grounded values? Are they aiming to be the watch for couth people who know who Betjeman was? Or did the copywriter just store away that wonderful remark, intending, whatever happened, to use it sooner or later?

! Video supplied by Tellex Commercials.

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