Advertising: There'll always be a Leonard in Asda's price-conscious history

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The Independent Online

For one moment I thought Leonard Rossiter had joined the immortals. Like Steve McQueen, who became seriously undead in that Ford Puma car commercial in the Nineties or the old players who were intercut with Mel Smith and Griff Rhys in those Eighties lager commercials. They're getting so good at it, matching old and new film stock, producing the Cholmondley-Warner effect. You hardly stop to think about how they do it now.

So when I saw Rigsby rounding a lamppost in a Terry-and-June suburb to upbraid a neighbour, I took it in stride. I just thought, isn't it wonderful how advertising people who live in the continuous present and have no sense of history at all managed to summon up such amusing pastiches.

Rossiter was asking his neighbour how she could afford to fill the back of her estate car with so much shopping. What he actually says is "Won the pools?" with all the uncomprehending resentment of a man whose sensibility was formed by post-war rationing. His charming redheaded neighbour - think early Bel Mooney - taps her jingly pocket and says "Asda price". How clever to drop him into the long-running Asda format. You can't see a single join.

Then he's clipping his privet hedge with stiff British Empire clippers. It's hard going. But his neighbour's husband is streaking down his side with his electric trimmer. Next, boiling with humiliation, Rossiter watches a new washing machine delivered. "Holiday up the Swanee then?" is his loser's response. But his neighbour, who has suede shoulder patches on his cream woolly, says "Asda price, dear chap".

Then comes a crane shot of the Asda car park - all the cars are in those faded blues and reds - and Rossiter's joined up, he's got the biggest trolley-full of all. The jingles playing "all the prices are low, wherever you go". Now this is seriously clever, back-translating the current Asda themes into a late Seventies jingle.

Rossiter is perfectly dressed throughout, first he's in a mud-colour jacket then he's in a mustard cardie and, when he joins the modern world at the end, he's splendid in a white anorak. Something about him - the graceless under pressure part - makes me think of Hyacinth Bucket, and television's tremendous unfairness to lower-middle-class characters. It's Islington laughing at Isleworth.

You knew all along, didn't you? You knew it was just another of those ghost period ads that turn up on my tape. I was fooled for several seconds running because I hadn't realised the theme of everyday low prices and pocket slapping had been running quite so long (and I put the suede patches and the "dear chap" down to minute observation). Asda always knew where it was going and now, neck and neck with Sainsbury's, it's got there.

peter@sru.co.uk

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