Peter York on ads No: 240: BT: Embarrassment of elephantine proportions

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Why do we have to look at elephants copulating? Well, we don't. Viewers watching the new "tell someone about it" BT commercial only see a family group watching this courtship and consummation. It's apparently shot from behind the TV screen in a modest house, looking at a large family audience: Mum, Dad, Gran, late-teen sister, and an early-teen brother, sitting on the floor, arm in a sling.

TV research says this kind of traditional audience is increasingly rare. Teenagers watch videos in their own rooms, and Gran's in sheltered accommodation. But it makes for a nice picture and an excellent set-up, because what we're watching is the delicious onset of intergenerational embarrassment and what we're wondering is, how do elephants do it? Loudly is one answer, because there's some altogether frantic trumpeting. As for the rest, we have to take our cues from the family audience.

And this bit is beautifully done. They display a range of astonishment and embarrassment in the subtlest possible ways. The boy on the floor doesn't know where to put his hands, they move around in tentative ways. The women in the back row shift and draw apart imperceptibly. Legs are crossed, arms become more defensive. Gran remains resolutely asleep throughout. I suspect one inspiration for this commercial was that famous research project where real viewing behaviour was filmed from behind the screen and the results are a bit like closed-circuit spy video, edited to compress the action. But the choreography and editing are so good we know how they feel from just 20 seconds of expert underplaying.

The pay-off is that it's good to tell someone about it just to share the embarrassment (another treatment features a young man telling his girlfriend how he'd slipped on something nasty in the street and fallen flat on his back). "Embarrassing Day," blushes in red letters on-screen, over that hokey old "we can help" tune, rendered on the electric organ while the teenage daughter tells her friend all about it. Embarrassment remains a perennial British theme and the series is ripe with promise. I can't wait.