Advertising: It isn't Hogarth's Gin Lane revisited, but Highway 61

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The Independent Online

Who drinks gin now? Not the new Hogarthian classes, who prefer Special Brew, Thunderbird or MD 20/20 (presumably son of WD40).

Everyone thinks Guildford and Leatherhead are Gin Lane Central but actually Gin and Jag is a pretty ancient joke. The Home Counties are full of corporate wives in leather trousers now. Does Tim Henman drink gin? Or Fern Britton? Do they drink it at the Kilroy-Silks' place on the Côte d'Azur? You can't see much of it going down in the Islington/Hornby world of Happiness. Where would it fit in the Paul Whitehouse repertoire - would Rowley Birkin QC get ver' ver' drunk on gin?

And which gin, come to that? The gash Eighties repackaged jobs like Bombay Sapphire in its square blue bottle, or the British Empire classics? Since the late Seventies, gin has had a crisis of identity, losing out to vodka on one hand and malt whisky on the other as advertisers struggled to make it younger, more relevant and all that. None of it worked, so far as I can see. The people who ever did look forward to a G&T still do, but the line of succession is broken; you can't see their kids doing it.

Gordon's, the market leader, has been through all sorts of representation exercises. The thing I remember was that expensive cinema commercial which had people being poured through great gin waterfalls. Lots of emphasis on the green bottle and the silvery spume. Pretty. Neutral.

The new Gordon's ad is wildly different. It's gone modern, with a lot of ugly people lit in the fluorescent manner, and a lot of studiedly banal mass-life settings - standard-class commuter train carriages, drive-in burger bars at dusk - with everyone looking psychotic. So far, so slightly Levi's wriggly jeans. But actually it's lovely old Seventies Cinzano. Remember the Rossiter-Collins Cinzano campaign, where Len was always dousing Joan in the stuff ("That's right sweetie, you get your head down")? It's in the 100 Greatest Commercials collections.

Well, everyone here is pouring any liquid they can over themselves for a bit of refreshment in sweaty times. There's a sad young man of multiple origins sitting in a puddle. There are bold women spraying themselves from overexcited cans. There's Everybloke pouring his Cola over his head in the cinema. And then there's the Gordon's man on the train. He's peaky and beaky with big hair and he's meant - most absolutely poised, planned and positioned - as a cult figure, a latter-day Dylan. He's poured himself a long drink in a long glass. The idea - which you can see signalled several miles away - is that he's going to break ranks and drink the stuff instead of sousing himself. Because it's dry, of course - Dry refreshment, the age-old gin claim. It's staged as a Bateman moment, with all the festering sickos on the train watching him closely as he Dares To Be Different.

That Richard Littlejohn, would you have him down as a gin drinker?

Peter@sru.co.uk

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