York on ads No 19: Today

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The Independent Culture
NEWSPAPERS are advertising themselves frantically now. Commercial breaks are jam-packed with them - Sunday Mirror, Mail on Sunday, News of the World, Daily Express - but they're almost always cheaply made video billboards for that week's big story or competition. It's basic stuff (though the Mail on Sunday's ' pounds 50,000 a year tax free for life' game will hit a nerve). Only very rarely do they try anything more ambitious.

So Today's dramatic new collage is startling stuff. A group of Seventies-style backing singers croak 'Tooooday', while worrying but cleverly chosen footage of the 'terrible old world, innit' variety unfolds: Arafat and Rabin shaking hands ('Today, 1 in 3 marriages fails', says a subtitle); BNP skinheads on the march ('Today, the 90s look more like the 30s'); a dancing puppet cavorts ('Today, politicians do what they weren't elected to do'); Terry Venables goes for a walk ('Today is the first day of the rest of your life'); and Michael Jackson clutches his crotch ('Fame today, infamy tomorrow'). It's a well-constructed catalogue of current pub cynicism with its own bit of pokerwork: 'Today, life is what happens to you while you're making plans for the future.'

Today is a curious animal: in the late Eighties it sold itself as a sort of downmarket, younger Daily Mail for a more nakedly ambitious kind of upper- working-class person, Romford rather than Surbiton. Instead of Paul Johnson's why-oh-whys it had how-to-get-ons. Now it seems to be developing a new Nineties theme - taking the thoughtful mantle of the Daily Mirror Sixties 'Shock Issues' and adding a bit of Neighbourhood Watch. Peter York

Videotapes supplied by Tellex Commercials.