PETER YORK ON ADS No 119: BRITISH AIRWAYS

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The Independent Culture
BRITISH AIRWAYS' transformation into BA was one of the miracles of the Eighties. Its outward and visible symbol was the advertising: huge, expensive and triumphalist, it was part of the post-Falklands mood. The late-Nineties attitude is supposed to be very different. Conventional wisdom says it's all more inner-directed - no more the Club Class flaunt- it City sociopath. The role model's allegedly someone looking for peace and self-knowledge.

Certainly the new BA ads mark a massive change, because they're all concerned with the inner man, the man with the child in his eyes.

Some very intense blue curtains open up on the Club Class compartment of a night-flight Jumbo after lights out. The camera creeps forward and focuses on a fat middle-aged man with a dubious moustache, asleep beneath his tartan rug. He's clearly found inner peace (signalled by some fatuous half smiles).

"What does it feel like," asks an authoritative but soothing woman's voice, "in the new Club Class cradle seat?" Gradually our man's head is boxed in a blue border and moves to top a tiny, nappied baby's body. He's in his mother's arms in a 1940s nursery.

I can see how they got there. Research directed at the inner man will have shown that long-haul flights reduce grown men to a kind of enforced babyhood which they secretly rather enjoy. Inside Laptop Man is someone who likes padding around in nylon slipperettes and having firm-but-fair female cabin staff tuck him up.

So far, so good. We all know, in these sophisticated times, that respectable professional men pay equally professional women to spank them or throw custard and jelly at their defenceless bodies. However, they're not usually keen to make this private pleasure a subject of boardroom conversation. By externalising interesting research findings in a somewhat too literal- minded way, BA may just have made a big mistake. What if uptight foreign business travellers less sympathetic to the teddy-bear world view associate these images with nappy changing, and their wives start to think they're on the turn?

! Video supplied by Tellex Commercials

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