Peter York on ads - No 246: Heineken

How refreshing, how Heineken, to see a well-made, traditional, narrative commercial again. I'm not saying only Heineken has this effect, but the crafted playlet with the unities of time and space observed, proper dialogue and a strong pay-off line is much rarer now. (The current McCain Oven Chips with the deceitful boyfriend is another survivor into the age of special effects, directors' tone poems and other, faster things.)

Heineken seems to have been off the screen for ages but now they're back with a typical, topical familiar-seeming piece. (I wonder who they're targeting now?)

It's about digging holes in the road, clearly an expense of spirit in a waste of shame because the roads are constantly being re-done to accommodate different competing tubes, pipes, fibres and information highways installed by Jobsworths and bloody-minded workmen who positively enjoy stopping traffic and messing things up.

But in Heineken country things proceed differently. In a big hole in a city-centre street, hard-hats are banging away. All human life is there, there's the atmosphere of The Bill or Casualty, our remaining illusions of a cohesive national life. Decent working blokes of various kinds and colours. A lorry driver stops alongside and suggests "while you've got that open we could lay our new gas main."

Long pause with the site foreman in medium shot, his face furrowed (and us expecting a profound cursing-out)... But no, in delicious cod press release - like a police sergeant making a statement - he says what a good idea, saving time and public inconvenience.

Others step in with requests to stick in a cable or a telephone line. Soon a claque, a positive coven of profoundly co-operative, caring British working men has gathered to devise optimal uses for holes in the road. The rear blind of the lorry behind them descends, revealing the force behind this positive turn-up for the book - a huge glass of beer with the legend, "how refreshing, how Heineken".

In a jaded world, when you do these stately set-pieces you have to get them very right - memorable situations, good casting, high production values - because they're a threatened species. On this evidence, it looks as if Heineken can still do that.

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