Fairy washing-up liquid

Proctor & Gamble

The US group Procter & Gamble - maker of Ariel, Bold, Daz and Fairy - is renowned the world over for the size of its advertising budget and the dullness of its ads. Advertising agency executives working on its hallowed business describe the advertising style as "traditional"; others condemn the company for a conveyor-belt approach to advertising that kills creativity. Imagine the surprise, then, when P&G started getting funky. In recent months there's been a Men in Black spoof for its Head & Shoulders brand and the recent launch of P&G-owned Oil of Ulay cosmetics came complete with a week of alternative artists previewing specially commissioned works in commercial breaks on Channel 4.

Less extreme, yet as striking an illustration of the company's creative glasnost, comes with the new commercial for Fairy. The ad, created by London agency Grey, shows a little girl watching Blue Peter. The presenter begins to list the various household items she'll need to make the model of the day, including an empty washing-up liquid bottle. The girl excitedly rushes into the kitchen, to find her mum doing the washing-up with plenty of detergent left in the bottle. Another day, another model and another empty washing-up liquid bottle is required. The girl squeals as the Blue Peter presenter starts her instructions, but is again disappointed when on entering the kitchen she is greeted by her mum: "Still lots left," Some days later she's watching Blue Peter again, and this time she's in luck. Before she even has to ask, her mum presents her with the empty plastic bottle ... only to find the Blue Peter presenter urging viewers to find a yoghurt pot instead.

The ad is the second in a campaign by Grey which kicked off last year with a small boy thwarted in his attempts to make a rocket by Fairy washing- up liquid's staying power. It's a simple idea, but one that manages to raise a smile. It's got the "aah" factor, too, thanks to careful casting. Rather than opting for the prettiest moppets, the ads' producers have gone for "real appeal" by choosing kids with character.

Most surprising of all, however, is the decision to feature a black child and mum - which shouldn't be a creative decision worthy of note, but it is because of the near blanket dominance of white faces in UK ads. True, we still have Mum up to her elbows in suds in the kitchen, but the other elements in the ad are refreshingly modern - nay, positively radical. Things have certainly come a long way since the days when a Marigolds- clad Nanette Newman attempted to persuade us not only that Fairy lasts longer but that, yes, she really had just washed up the remnants from the Scout's picnic. We now await with impatience the long-overdue end to Shane Richie and his Daz doorstep challenge.