Very French, very music hall, and very green

No 182: PPP

With every passing month TV advertising directors trawl more cultural corners for novelties. The new PPP healthcare commercial has two, though to what communication goal they are tethered I'm not sure.

Novelty number one is the lovely little Franco-retro song "Boom Boom", sung in the original French. Piaf aside, there hasn't been very much of this stuff in advertising, since our boys prefer the American archive.

This kind of music suggests a kind of pre-war French film that derives almost from music-hall. And the PPP ad opens with that kind of atmosphere. An extremely French-looking fellow stands against a very obviously paint-and-canvas brick wall. He is tapped on the shoulder by a shadow (from an early Maurice Chevalier film, perhaps), and then positively shoved towards a glass screen and a woman doctor.

Behind the screen lies the second novelty - a completely different set of tricks. It's the x-ray movie, shot in florescent green. Pierre and the doctor become walking skeletons. He is put through routine health- check paces: running on the spot wired-up; touching his toes; sticking out his tongue, and other indices of middle-management assessment.

It's actually deadly dull - but diverting in green. It's nicely syncopated - a boom-boom chorus synched to the knee-jerk test for instance - and simply shot.

The theoretical objection to skeletons - advertising clients are always deeply nervous of them - is overcome here because the whole thing's so very animated and so very familiar. Given the memorable novelties, the branding and service claims are correspondingly modest (PPP: there to support you).

This is a distinctive extension of the supportive-shadow theme of earlier PPP ads, and if the IT manager starts singing "Boom Boom" to the Strategic Planning Assistant around the sixth-floor photocopier, this commercial should pay back its costs.

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