Peter York on ads: Not potty enough

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The Independent Culture
I'm worried about Tango. What are they aiming for with the new Tango-is-tea campaign? It's not exactly Typhoo, but there are some dangerously interlocking co-ordinates. It is one thing to have a comic fat Englishman defying the Frog at Dover for blackcurrant Tango - that was great - but cosy, comic everything-stops-for-tea references are quite different.

The campaign has had daft moments before, and like a thoroughly Post- Modern brand they've made them part of the dialogue with the Tango constituency. (Tango is heavily followed in media studies departments.) But now there is another Tango-in-the-teapot treatment and I think it is going to be difficult to explain away.

It is set in a comprehensive school staffroom with a very late-Sixties steel-and-glass feel. And of course the room is painted saturated orange with fluorescent tube lighting, so it is more promising than a front parlour. There is a silly young teacher in a blue T-shirt doing a funny walk to amuse the other staff. He settles down with the Tango pot and pours it from a great height. "I really enjoy these afternoon Tango breaks," he says blithely. He leans over to the stereotype cynical older master - and here we really are in John Alderton/Please Sir country - who is in tweed jacket and check shirt, and asks, "Are you taking 10G?" This is clearly a St Trinian's, Bash Street Kids sort of reference. The gentleman's outfitter customer - think Hugh Lloyd - goes ape and they struggle excitedly for the Tango mug. The oldie is triumphant, the younger man wet, cowed and thoroughly strange. There follows an odd moment which, if not full- on homoerotic, is certainly charged with something. Hugh strokes humbled Mr Jones while they stare at each other and Mr Jones makes a funny little animal noise.

But the animated final sequence - a bouncing teapot over a map of Britain with a Brian Sewell voice-over "We drink Tango, dontcha know" - loses the oddness, the momentum, the attitude. It is an interesting conceit to present Tango as the national drink and it could be consistent with the brand. But there is a real danger of confusion when you co-opt themes and directorial cliches from another product advertising tradition, itself already well beyond parody: Tango needs to be much madder to make sense.