Peter York on Ads: No 212: L'Oreal Recital - So will my hair go violet too?

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The Independent Culture
L'OREAL'S "because I'm worth it" is one of the great lines of American womanism, fit to rank alongside "If I only have one life, let me live it as a blonde." It features in a number of L'Oreal commercials, and I imagine they'll be using it for a while yet, so accurately does it reflect the mood of the world's largest hair-colourant market - somewhere between Oprah, therapy and Goldiggers of 1933. American women have been told they have an interesting package of rights.

The Recital hair-colouring commercial is extremely formulaic. It has every tick-the-box element you'd ever see in a Madison Avenue advertising- strategy checklist circa 1968: the tumbled-hair-from-the-back shot, the 360-degree hair-swing shot, the two pack shots, and the constant repetition of the product USP, its fade-resistance.

The presenterine is a perfect American toughie with hair as bright a molten gold as Brad Pitt had in Seven Years in Tibet. She produces the copy-points very fast and hard. "I refuse to let my hair-colour fade into the background ..." She talks like someone pitching a personal investment strategy.

As with a lot of big-budget New York advertising work, you can't help admiring the unshakeable focus of it, the annoying freedom from irony and ellipsis - and the look of it.

It looks wonderful because the old formula has been combined with the newest, smartest possible art-direction - a combination of modish 20th-century design classics like Arne Jacobsen's Egg Chair, and a brilliant signature colour, a kind of violent violet on everything. Combined with that copy-line, it's as arresting a dose of American illusionism as the special effects in Titanic.