Wright's ad for One-to-One is right on

PETER YORK ON ADS NO 249: ONE-2-ONE
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The Independent Culture
The Ian Wright One-to-One commercial is something of a milestone. You've probably seen it, because it's been running for ages. And it has utterly unexceptional, clearly PC sentiments, and you may have your doubts about that kind of thing in advertising - Benetton and Body Shop and that whole debate. But there are other considerations. Ian Wright is a footballer and we know what footballers normally do in TV commercials - they're funny or they toss their locks. This is different.

And Ian Wright is black; so opting for a one-to-one with Martin Luther King has rather more meaning (the other choices in this series that I've seen have no political dimension at all; Wright could perfectly well have chosen a footballer).

Wright makes his choice in a football dressing room. He's shot in black and white as a portrait bust, showing his bare shoulders. This leads to old footage - also black and white - of Martin Luther King saying he wants to do God's will. And then to a perfectly acceptable re-creation of that key bus incident of 1955, with the white redneck looking very unlikeable as he tries to turf Rosa Parks out of her seat. "I'd ask him if there was one incident which drove him to become part of the Civil Rights movement" says Wright in another moody pose with his shirt off.

Wright's remarks are interwoven with a combination of re-creation - in the next shot we see Wright himself at the back of the bus observing the incident - and real footage. At some points you're not absolutely sure which is which. The protest group of blacks parading with placards saying "I am a man" looks like re-creation, as does a shot of an eight-year old white boy screaming hate. But I don't know.

"Most of all", says Wright, "I'd ask him how he maintained his peaceful protest in the face of such provocation".

Now this really is a live one. The history of black footballers in England is one of constant provocation. Wright's been around long enough - he's now 34 - to know what it's like. And you can imagine just how easy it could be to lose your rag in that situation.

Despite the trite sign-off - "our mobile phone service gets people talking" - and despite the problem I have with footballers as spokespeople, I think this really is one from the heart. And since the pilot of his chat show, It'll Be All Right On The Night, went down well (he's been signed up for two more years), Wright may end up a significant TV figure, the first big working class black TV presenter/anchorman.

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