You're amazing, but not that different: No 135: BUPA

PETER YORK ON ADS
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The Independent Culture
There's nowt so daft as folk, the strange family of man, Unity in Diversity, and other types of big, windy, vaguely PC middle-brow sentiments are increasingly appearing in TV ads for very prosaic goods and services. They allow directors to make big, windy, expensive commercials, designed to conceal the boring or even distress purchase nature of the product. Faced with financial services, even the cleverest creatures seem to abandon originality in favour of the big cliche.

One classic area of big, windy, middle-brow sentiment is the notion of people as unique or gloriously different. It's the one that allows an advertiser to flatter the viewer and warrants the biggest, windiest, etc, commercials possible. Hardly surprising, then, that Bupa have progressed from "You're amazing, we want you to stay that way" to the gorgeous idea of human bio-diversity.

So the ad moves from an incontrovertible observation - that one person in 10 is left-handed - to increasingly dubious ones. "Everyone can do things the next person can't"; and, more gruesome still, "Everyone finds beauty in a different kind of face". (Why then do we all love Michelle Pfeiffer best?) "Everyone is different," says the unstoppably authoritative RP contralto voice-over in her People's Century tones.

But clearly they're not, or civilisation as we know it would break down, and Network South East wouldn't run at all. If everyone was that different the work of actuaries would be impossible. Businesses like Bupa know that people are predictable - within limits - and that large tranches of humanity are so similar you couldn't tell them apart unless you'd been married to them for some years. Anyway, as always, the theme allows the director to cram it all in - colour and black-and-white, young and old, tricky computer-enriched scientific camera shots of left-handed tennis players, slo-mo, surfacing divers, a cloud of white doves - you name it, Bupa's got it, all overlaid by those spacey, bubbly, swirly, whirly, heartbeat synthesiser sounds you get with this kind of ad.

A seriously clever reader should come up with an Osbert Lancaster word for this important style. My hopeless starter is Leatherhead Actuary Eclectic.

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