The Critics-Peter York On Ads: Lost in Piccadilly with WPC Barking

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The Independent Culture
Shock news. A cool kraut car, humpy, bumpy, a bit Ka-shaped, actually, is seen tooling around Piccadilly Circus. And it's caught on CCTV. It's behaving in a thoroughly undignified, un-luxury-brand way, skidding to a halt and hooting its horn. Not very Vorsprung, not very Ultimate Driving Machine, not very Master of the Universe.

And there it engages with Carry-On London and Ealing comedy. To be precise, it engages with a policewoman, for directional purposes. Not just any policewoman, mind you; not your sensible weather girl, We're with the Woolwich kind of policewoman. Rather, she's one born of genetic splicing between the early Joan Sims and the mid-period Joan Greenwood. A policewoman with shoulder-length Sixties yellow hair, bags of make-up and an actressy jolly-hockey-sticks voice. The policewoman you'd naturally put on tourist- management duties.

And when she goes over to the car, whom does she find holding the map but Mika Hakkinen? "Oh, I expect you'd like to get to Silverstone, wouldn't you?" she gushes. "No, Wimbledon," says Boris Becker (Boris Becker, interesting cultural conundrum, clue to modern Germany, discuss).

And we start to see where she's at. "Oh, Mr Becker, hello, nice shorts," she says, and there follows a passage of inspired battiness, a bit of London guide book, cod German, a bit of Sloane: "The Thames, yah, we're awfully proud of it".

The crowd gathers, of course, and a pneumatic drill starts up. We're choreographed for hysteria. "It's a huge bridge ... it's massive, just like your serve.... I'm perfectly happy to come with you." And then they start closing it all out, shutting the window, shutting out the racket, the tourists, enclosing them in a comfortable high-tech Europod. And she's still yelling, "Boris, I want to have your babies."

And here comes the science bit. "Spare your nerves," it says . "The Mercedes A-class, also with optional Auto-Pilot system." "Mercedes-Benz, the future of the automobile" is the next message. Are we ready?

The A-class is an awfully big adventure for the Mercedes brand.