YORK ON ADS / No 13: Typhoo

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The Independent Culture
ONE DAY there'll be a marketing company - a brand owner - called British Empire plc. Through its wholly owned subsidiaries like the Royal Warrant Corporation, Whitehall Style plc and Village Green plc, it will own and exploit the rights to, say, reproduce the Foreign Office in composition stone in Peking. I often think about this issue when I'm travelling to Windsor, where signs point to an exhibition called 'Royalty and Empire'.

I also think about it every time I see Typhoo's new 'relaunch' advertising, where this ancient packaged goods brand - the kind you see in Victorian enamelled signs - almost literally wraps itself in the flag.

As an emotional male voice recites the 'this sceptred isle' speech from Richard II, every possible British Empire image is paraded before us, from Guardsmen with nodding plumes to sailors in yellow oilskins, via churches set in rolling hills, a family picnic on what looks like the Cornish coastline, and village green cricket. It ends with Sally Gunnell's victory lap, wrapped in the flag.

It's most compellingly done, even though it reminds one of the Dulux and dogfood epics which have also featured these sorts of images. More worryingly, however, it reminds me of an earlier American commercial - one of the 'America's favourite whatever' variety - which celebrated all the analagous American themes. We're supposed to know who we are; it's Americans who have to keep reminding themselves.

I'd love to see the strategy document for this one; what's the betting it just says 'heritage'? Peter York

Videotapes supplied by Tellex Commercials.

(Photograph omitted)