TV advert: Captain Birds Eye

It must be something in the water. What other explanation could there be for the curious transformation of one of adland's best-loved characters?

You might remember him as a grey-moustachioed, salty old sea dog. This week, however, Captain Birds Eye returned to our TV screens in a new advertising campaign played by a twentysomething hunk with five o'clock shadow and dubious mid-Atlantic accent.

It's true. Birds Eye has pensioned off 76-year-old John Howser after three decades in the role, and replaced him with a new Captain played by the aptly named Thomas Pescod - a suave hunk and master of a hi-tech air, land and sea vessel called the Sharkmobile.

The Captain's got a new gang, too: action teens Mishell and Daniel and a pelican called Pedro. This unlikely foursome sets off in pursuit of the dastardly Piranha Gang whose mysterious leader cradles a marmalade tomcat - a distant cousin, no doubt, of Blofeld's motley moggie.

The leather-clad Piranhas are intent on stealing the secret of Birds Eye fish fingers' crunchy coating. Not if Captain Birds Eye has anything to do with it. As the baddies plot on board aboard their rusty old clipper, our hero is planning his move beneath their hull.

"Hold on you guys!" he cries as he manoeuvres his Sharkmobile for attack. Then, with the switch of a lever, the Captain unleashes two giant metal claws which grab and shake the gang's vessel, tipping the baddies into the icy sea.

Mission accomplished, the Captain signs off with a manly wink. As the clipper sails into the distance, captain and crew relax on the boat's upper deck with a hearty meal of fish fingers to celebrate.

Action movies, super heroes and computer games prompted Captain Birds Eye's face lift, Ammirati Puris Lintas - the agency behind the advert - admits. Birds Eye, meanwhile, talks of the need to "contemporise" the brand with the injection of "futuristic" excitement.

"While millions of consumers still enjoy Birds Eye Fish Fingers every day, extensive market research has shown that a younger Captain would hold even more appeal for families," the company declares. Although one could be forgiven for concluding all this has more to do with wooing mums than kids.

Someone somewhere has had an awful lot of fun dreaming this one up. It's well-executed, too - the ad is slickly shot with lots of thundering music, fast cuts and suspense. The shift from genial granddad to watery action man, however, is a leap which some may find hard to stomach.