Peter York on ads: No 158 Amarula Cream: Sticky fingers in the heart of darkness

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The Independent Culture
Christmas brings out a range of advertisers you don't see for the rest of the year and styles of direction you haven't seen for 20 years. Amarula Cream is a typical Christmas Commercial in category terms - a novelty sticky drink, probably an alternative to Baileys or Bristol Cream - but they haven't gone for a typical Christmas package of roaring gas logs and Ultra Mild humour; rather they've adopted a set of cliches quite beyond parody. Amarula Cream is African.

Now, Africa is a source of many wonderful things, but it doesn't really have what marketeers call source authority for sticky drinks. Source authority for stickies comes from Catholic Europe: monks, vines, secret recipes, etc. So a strongly African positioning looks a trifle eccentric.

Add to that the appearance of having been shot on the 1960s ITC principle using stock footage, every laborious cliche in the book, and a pack featuring an elephant, and you have something very singular.

We open on an overhead Golden Shot of watery African plains pierced by lightning. It's gorgeous, familiar: half opening credits for White Mischief, half David Attenborough. It's followed by a gravy-dark voiceover so ludicrous you couldn't run it for Stanley Baxter's 1978 Christmas Special.

"Africa ... [long pause] ... Home of the legendary amarula tree, bearer of the succulent amarula fruit. The fruit is gathered - its spirit is captured - and expertly blended to create Amarula Cream, a drink as exotic as Africa itself. Amarula Cream - taste the wild fruit of Africa."

The footage that accompanies this Gateway-to-the-South stuff shows elephants frolicking in water shot through a full-strength golden filter; a reflective menswear-catalogue man in a khaki safari waistcoat and T-shirt; caring hands harvesting the amarula, which looks like a small unripe apricot; a safari picnic under an awning; and a pack with a gold-embossed label, a line drawing of an elephant and 1930s history-film calligraphy.

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