Advertising: Row your own boats

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The Independent Online

What will become of Jonny Wilkinson? We've seen him in Hackett, a brand relationship so subtle it's almost organic, but that's about it. We don't have a fixed idea of what he's like when he isn't in action. He's been kept as a hero in marble. Everyone's remarked on his middle-classness, private-person-ness and all-round dignity. Is that down to natural reticence or good management, building him up for a commercial coup?

What will become of Jonny Wilkinson? We've seen him in Hackett, a brand relationship so subtle it's almost organic, but that's about it. We don't have a fixed idea of what he's like when he isn't in action. He's been kept as a hero in marble. Everyone's remarked on his middle-classness, private-person-ness and all-round dignity. Is that down to natural reticence or good management, building him up for a commercial coup?

Sir Steve Redgrave and Matthew Pinsent, the Olympic gold rowing pair, always seemed to have some of those same not-like-footballers qualities. They were quiet, they avoided sex-romp and love-rat stories and they certainly didn't go off on "roasting" missions.

Well, now they're both in ads, and you see what could just happen to Jonny in a few years. Redgrave's in Admiral Insurance; Pinsent's pitching in an MG Rover dealer's commercial. And they're both jaw-droppingly awful.

Admiral fits Redgrave into its existing format: an actor in 18th-century admiral's dress; a parrot with a similar hat; a studio about 6ft square with a bright blue backdrop. It's cost-conscious production. There's Redgrave staring at the autocue, scripted and stilted. And he's off: "Hi, I'm Steve Redgrave, and Admiral want to help you find cheaper car insurance."

Steve and the admiral are both on rowing machines and they're pulling away. The parrot orders them to put their backs into it, telling the admiral: "You're a disgrace." The parrot's the best bit. Redgrave, sadly, looks pleasant and anonymous with all the excitement of Steve "Interesting" Davis.

But the Pinsent ad is miles worse. It's got all those Alan Partridge provincial sales managers' conference qualities. It opens with Pinsent, holding his three medals, looking epic. Then it goes into the conference split-screen mode, with a postage stamp of their Big Race, and another of Pinsent trying too hard with an unforgivable script about how three's his lucky number and could be yours, for these three winning reasons. Before we get into some multi-screen moody of MGs and Rovers swirling around to the Vangelis of Swindon sound, you can't help noticing Pinsent's crazed expression and deliberately demotic voice. Their agents should have limited them to print.

peter@sru.co.uk

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