Peter York On Ads No 244: Brylcreem

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The Independent Culture
Will we ever forgive David Beckham? I say "we" in the vaguest of ways, of course, since although I want England to win anything going, I have no substantive interest in football (I'm the last middle-class person left alive who doesn't support a team).

But will his World Cup lapse affect his other career - the one in which even I've heard of him - as a celebrity, product endorser and consort to Victoria Spice? Will it, for instance, cast a shadow over his ability to add value to Brylcreem?

Brylcreem, once the unguent of choice for an older generation of endorsing sportsman like the oleaginous polymath Dennis Compton, became so much a dads' - and even grandads' - brand in the 1960s and 1970s that the only way was up in the later 1980s. When a variety of wet and sticky looks re-entered the repertoire, retro Brylcreem was ready for a period of cultural revival and a hefty dose of Lynne Franks, who made it the sponsor of smart events and very music-oriented.

But sportsmen, in an ideal world, are better, wider, more inclusive. And a good-looking World Cup Essex boy must have looked just the ticket.

The new Brylcreem commercial is utterly formulaic, directly in line from Dennis. You can almost imagine it saying something like: "Relaxing from his successful life as a Manchester and England player, David Beckham likes nothing so much as a quiet night in one of modern Manchester's exclusive Continental restaurants. And when he's going out, Brylcreem gives him that air of confidence that comes from immaculate grooming with the world's finest oils and waxes."

In fact, we get Beckham shooting into the net, Beckham the boy at 12 or so - already a wizard with a ball - in Dad's home movies, and Beckham the lad ready for a night on the town. All his life, we are assured, he has had a football at his feet and Brylcreem on his head.

Two things strike you. First, that Mr Beckham has the sort of floppy cowlick that people don't usually apply anything to; and second, that although he is very good looking, he is also amazingly anonymous. In the pretty-boy world of models and pop starlets, a lot of people look just like him. Which rather reduces his value to Brylcreem one would have thought. They never had that problem with Saint Gary, or Dark Eric.

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