Column One: Farewell - but, oh, how you spoiled us, Mr Ambassador

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The Independent Online
HOW DID they ever tell him? How did they tell Signor Ferrero, the eponymous octogenarian head of the Italian sweetie-maker Ferrero Rocher, that Brits - some of them at least - laughed at his television advertising; that they thought it was vulgar, Eighties, OTT. Did they ever tell him?

The original Ferrero Rocher TV commercials, conceived in Italy by the Ferrero Rocher in-house advertising people, Publiregia, filmed in Euroland and dubbed for the world, were gorgeous, trashy, utterly un-English and hugely successful. They added "Continental" edge to an affordable sweetmeat overwhelmingly given at Christmas. They were in the great tradition of Martini ads and Bond movies. In a Britain that was still nearer to Reg Varney and On The Buses than Cool Britannia when the first version came out, that meant wildly glamorous.

They were not - absolutely not - conceived by creatives with a NW1 and St Martin's sensibility working in an ironic mode. They don't do things like that in Euroland. They're not like us, you know.

It couldn't have been straighter - meaning it was old-fashioned aspirational advertising meant to show that people of high degree and great physical attractiveness held the foil-wrapped crunchy chocolatey balls very dear and served them at their grandest parties. You don't design big international campaigns to catch the Perrier Awards audience.

Those of us who liked the ads and the product in the first place but also saw its hilarious subtext were equally sincere. It was funny, it was OTT and it was glamorous, too. What would you rather have for Christmas chocs' advertising - Jo Brand and Jenny Eclair?

The Ferrero Rocher aesthetic - nouveaux Euro-trash, Monte Carlo funny money, Ivana Trump - reminds me of some amazing things we only glimpse here.

But now they have canned the glam ads. Tonight is the last night, a special showing; look your last on all things lovely.

Ferrero Rocher's British agency is running a new "humorous" commercial with a British suburban setting now, featuring a hostess who wants to keep all the chocs for herself.

No embassy backdrop, no butler, no pyramid of golden balls on a silver tray, no Bond-style beauties of all nations, no "you're spoiling us, Mr Ambassador". All swept away by the tide of history, to be replaced by... Abigail's Party.

I blame the Clive James tendency - the wish to trade in popular culture but show your middle-brow audience that you're miles above it and they can be too. Instant irony.

Ordinary people were forced to deny an innocent private pleasure for fear of being thought unsophisticated (and no doubt all this showed up in the UK research where people will have said the ad was old-fashioned, risible and "unreal").

But the fact is, spoil-sports, that gorgeous world exists; a few years ago at a party at the Italian Embassy I saw Joan Collins - a vision in that season's Versace - bid good night to the ambassador. I could swear she said: "You're spoiling us, Mr Ambassador."