York on Ads: The likes of which you never knew you wanted: No 42: Wait'n'see

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The Independent Culture
IT'S EVERYWHERE, the omnipotent Mystery Product. It's on hoardings, and television, and, above all, inside a number of other product-advertising genres - ie, it appears in pastiches. But we don't know what it actually is.

The Mystery Product follows the Sega trail. Last year's Sega campaign subverted and invaded a range of generic pastiche ads. You'd be watching cat food, and up would pop the grinning skull. The objective was to give Sega adversarial credibility, un-wimpishness. The Mystery Product idea is to have the nation on the edge of its seat.

The spoofs are all obvious, cheap and short - headache cures, floor cleaner,

health drinks - ie, they're Seventies Anadin and Flash, and a sort of revamped Slimfast approach. The headache treatment has a lovely touch, however: the white-coated doctor is a woman, and she is a dead ringer for Virginia Bottomley.

Each treatment starts with a conventional question - 'Tense, nervous headache?', 'Tired of greasy floors?', 'Want to see a new you after two weeks?' - and then offers some options: 'You could choose a leading brand of pain-killer, or you could choose '?' ]' The big question- mark on screen is crudely drawn, like early quiz-show graphics.

So what can relieve headaches, clean floors and do the Slimfast job, too? This is a commendable attempt to reinforce national cohesion in a time of doubt and fragmentation by giving us all something to talk about. It is said the Queen Mother often breaks the ice with new people by saying, 'the flowers are lovely', reckoning this is a topic of universal interest. If this advertiser gets his way, her opening gambit in future will be 'and tell me, what do you think the Mystery Product is?'

Videos supplied by Tellex Commercials.

(Photograph omitted)

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