York on ads: The director who parodied himself - literally: No 35: Volkswagen

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The Independent Culture
NICHOLAS BARKER'S BBC documentaries on people's rooms, Sign of the Times, were widely and badly parodied in advertising. The new Volkswagen commercials appear to be lifted whole from Barker's more recent, more popular A to B of Modern Motoring, but this time the copy is razor-sharp, the people well-observed, the landscapes just right.

This is because Barker is parodying himself, working with BMP DDB Needham to exploit the A to B idea to yield a gallery of types to cover Volkswagen's range of models. Two have run so far - 'Sloane' and 'Rep]'. 'Sloane' has a credible girl - voice and hair not too exaggerated - prattling away about shared flats and men met at polo matches while the stucco world of Stagnant Gardens SW7 rolls convincingly by. The gestures - raised eyebrows at a bicyclist's lurid Lycra rear; a shrug at the man who got away - are nicely done, faithful to the original. 'Sloane' sells the Sloane runaround, the Polo Match.

'Rep' (above) has a fat Northern sales rep, jacket hung from a hook, explaining how the Golf Match has solved the acute problem of 'ten measly grand for a company car'. It's distinctive and high-spec - even a CD player as standard - and he's gone up a notch as a result. The status concerns of reps and their minute calibration in terms of car makes, models and those crucial

numbers above the bumper made the most striking A to B programme and they allow Barker and the BMP copywriter Paul Burke to fashion another effective 'solution' for a target market, incorporating it with Volkswagen's long-running reliability claim.

Barker's recent work has been all about the gap between people's desires and their realisation and, explicitly and implicitly, about advertising and its effects, so the move into advertising makes sense. But it's a precedent and it's interesting to ponder what might happen to other BBC programme-makers if they consciously set up for the same outcome. Imagine David Attenborough, for instance. Peter York

Videos supplied by Tellex Commercials.

(Photograph omitted)