It was only a matter of time before Hallmark, the US greetings card giant, made its TV advertising debut in the UK. And boy, was it worth the wait.

Our hero sits at a table in a large, dimly-lit flat. His mood? Contemplative. He is writing, we notice, as the camera pans towards him. He looks tired and his unshaven chin suggests a restless night's sleep.

Finished, he puts on his jacket and leaves the house clutching an envelope. It's raining outside - a poignant reflection of his mood. He tucks the missive under his jacket in a vain attempt to keep it dry and starts to run ... up steps, across heaths, down cobbled streets, through ornate archways, past statues.

Damp but unbowed, he finally makes it and pops the card through the letterbox of his lover, who, by some extraordinary coincidence, has just got out of bed and is coming downstairs as the envelope flutters to the floor.

She looks pale and tired. Yet somehow she manages to find the strength to open the envelope, take out the card and read the printed message inside, which is accompanied by a single hand-written word: "Sorry". The card so carefully protected from the rain by her lover's coat now becomes very soggy indeed - with her tears. Aaah.

And yet, despite the glossy, feature-film look of the ad, the end result is distinctly lacking in emotion. The ad is obviously designed to illustrate how a Hallmark card can help people express their most innermost feelings, yet the attempt has a distinctly hollow ring.

Perhaps it's got something to do with the commercial's lack of place. It was, in fact, shot in Bristol, reveals Hallmark's advertising agency, Leo Burnett. Yet this couple are at once everyone and no one, thanks to a jumble of cultural references designed to give it a universal feel - and, of course, to allow it to be used in any number of international TV markets.

Then there's its lack of specifics. By showing only the morning after the night before, it remains unclear exactly what's going on, right up to the end. Is this another ad for the Post Office? Or Nineties Milk Tray man, perhaps? By the time all is revealed, it really seems too late to care.

Still, it's a distinct and stylish improvement on the advertiser's long- running US advertising campaign - a schmaltzy confection of gurgling babies and smiling grannies. All that outpouring of emotion. Yuk! Say it with a greetings card any day.

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