Advertising: They won't be smiling like Cheshire cats now
Sunday 03 February 2002
Cheshire is gorgeous. Any fool knows that. Posh and Becks have a house there.
Cheshire is gorgeous. Any fool knows that. Posh and Becks have a house there. Indeed, many footballers and Manchester celebrities have large, eclectically styled houses in inner Cheshire. Wilmslow and Alderley Edge are there. Cheshire is big on the wealth map of Britain.
Cheshire is ghastly. Southern People Like Us know it's the North's mid-Essex, Birds of a Feather country. Adrian Gill went there once – like a rogue deb doing Butlin's in the Seventies – and said, Ooh, the people. Jeremy Clarkson went as Cynthia.
Cheshire Life is a county magazine that takes the positive view; Cheshire is full of gracious living, fine dining and ambassadorial mansions.
The Cheshire Life commercial, targeted at Granada-land's higher demographic, is modestly made. Stills of the kind of press-pack photographs you get in free London magazines flare in and out, while a lady-like voiceover with a corrected-grain Seventies travelogue accent reads a little rhyme about "fashion property, parties, places, heritage, history, county faces", ending on "get a better life, get Cheshire Life". And for generation of made-it Mancs, that's been the deal, until they move to London W8 of course.
The pictures show oldish houses, fiercely smiling couples, deer, a windmill, Princess Anne and food. The food is presented Eighties-style, with colourful piping on a white plate. The Princess Royal is grim and bear it, as usual. She wants to get back to Gloucestershire.
I imagine Cheshire Life has a problem balancing the generations of Cheshire money; the older group that liked a wannabe country-life look and the newer one that wants something more like Hello! with local small ads. Heritage and celebrity, it says on screen, people and places.
The rest of the rhyme's nakedly prescriptive "where to eat, where to meet, where to go, what to buy, where to live, what to drive" makes you think the editorial's going to be deeply advertiser-friendly.
There's nothing more profoundly unsettling for smart metropolitan New Money than this kind of thing – it's well-behind-the-beat mix of snobbery and consumerism – because it's an embarrassing reminder of what really drives more sophisticated milieux and magazines. OK! is below-stairs celebrity, safely distanced, good for a laugh, but this sort of thing is only 200 miles away. It's closer to home. That's why they're so snobby about it.
My Cheshire friends in London say Wilmslow and Alderley Edge aren't real Cheshire. So where is it? Sounds like the bit of Essex that's Constable country, practically Suffolk.
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