Peter York on ads No 146 Superdrug: How to sell drugs to teenagers

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The Independent Culture
THE life and times of a family bathroom is an engaging subject; happy teenage girls in pine-and-poster- decorated bedrooms is another. They both feature in the new Superdrug campaign, which reproduces, with considerable success, the look of BBC2's Video Nation shorts in the service of a discount-toiletries multiple.

In this series - four screened so far - nice teenagers from nice ordinary families talk confidently but artlessly to the camera about their grooming regimes in real-looking settings.

A plump girl in elaborate make-up tells us she's taking trouble because she's meeting her friend Tanya "who always looks perfect". There follows the first of a number of short interludes with 1928-style jazz, during which equally artless-looking white writing appears on-screen: "Superdrug can help you look as good as Tanya." The teenage odalisque confides to camera: she's going to try again with the lip pencil. Then she exits the frame in that very video diary way: "We're good on lips," it says on- screen. We continue through nails to the punchline: "Superdrug, the real beauty is in the price."

The other treatments include two more teenage girls, both on their beds in convincing rooms. One talks about strawberry lip balm and gives her tip for avoiding chapped lips: "Try not to snog too often." The next squirts mousse into her hand in a rather rude way, and says the desired effect is to leave her looking like Cindy Crawford.

The final treatment has a mother telling the camera that her son's been in the bathroom for about an hour: "It obviously means a lot to him, this disco." Then we see an anguished discussion with the lad - 13 at most - about his hair needing mousse and his body gel. ("Superdrug have everything for the man about town.")

Superdrug is positioning itself as the people's champion, the retailer who knows real teenage bedrooms. It's very different from the OTT supermodel epics from the branded cosmetics' houses, and it will be copied.