PETER YORK ON ADS; To Corfu with Smith's and four Lyndhursts

No 144: WH SMITH
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The Independent Culture
NOW how do they do that in the new WH Smith ad, meaning not only having four Nicholas Lyndhursts side by side on a plane, but having them apparently touching? It can't be the old split-screen trick. And how did they shrink him? How did they make a miniature nine-year-old Lyndhurst?

Lyndhurst first presents as a family at the airport, checking-in in descending order of height: Dad (basic Lyndhurst), Mum (long brown wig), teenage daughter (hat with Quant daisy and fair wig), kid brother (red baseball cap). Poor Dick Emery and Benny Hill - the antecedents of this particularly English form of fun - never had this technology.

It's a brilliant stroke because Lynd-hurst, in his quiet way, has become just about the best-known ordinary Englishman there is. He's been around for nearly 20 years, starting out as Wendy Craig's teenage son in Butterflies, working through Only Fools and Horses to his star vehicle Goodnight Sweetheart. Patient, undramatic, he looks and sounds like every Local Government Officer, every clearing-bank bloke, every youngish Dad on the High Street.

And it's the High Street he's updating, since the message is that Smith's is the place for family fun - for books, records and magazines. "WHatever you're into, get into WH Smith." It's not a new message, but it's presented in a determinedly mainstream way that moves Smith's on from the suburban Parade to the 1990s shopping centre.

In the boredom of the plane to Corfu, Mum Lyndhurst hands out a selection from the purple Smith's bag (there's a move on from the old brown and orange livery!). Dad gets Ken Follett; the daughter gets Big magazine; the son gets a pop-up; she keeps George Michael's Older for herself. "Oh wicked," says the son.

There's a lot in this ad's favour, but the most delicious moment by far is Tiny Nick asking, in that most particular British runt pronunciation, "Will we see elephants on hollyday?"