Advertising: This is far stranger then fiction
Now here's a one. One I really did think was an Egg spoof commercial from its Brilliant Ideas series. One you might've come across in, say, a mildly satirical '70s novel set in adland. It's a just-what-you-always-wanted commercial for a product of apparently dazzling irrelevance, the reworking of a Victorian novelty made for a more deferential print-bound age. It's The Miniature Classics Library – a collection of Classic books so weeny you can put them in your pocket.
It kicks off with Shakespeare in gloomy profile saying "to be or not to be?". Then he gets in a packing case in a dark cellar and shuts the lid on himself. "Now the classics take up less space" says a voiceover. Cut to tiny bookshelves with tiny books bound in hand-tooled Gnomitex and an enthralled man checking them out, partner-woman behind, way across the room. It's "the greatest works of literature in an exquisite unabridged miniature books collection". The opening offer is a two-up (in supermarket terms, a BOGOF). It's Dr Jekyll and Mr Hyde and A Christmas Carol for £3.95. Tiny on-screen print tells you it's normally £3.95 per title. They're two British Empire 19th century Christmas pot-boilers; and it's 2003 now.
It has to be a spoof. There'll be a final frame, for Egg or Pot Noodle, a stop-the-show Ikea intervention. Something. But there's just the irony-free pack-shot, followed by the publisher's brand, and it's called del Prado. It's got a little TV branding device, an early '80s vertical bar that moves down to the horizontal, putting a sort of lid on the logo. The sort of device you use when you're a household word – the another-good-thing-from-the-home-of device. But I haven't a clue who del Prado is and I don't think you have either.
Experience says if it looks like a spoof and it isn't then it's a Euro-commercial, dubbed and fiddled with for cost-effective pan-European marketing. I should've known from the beard and the jersey. The male character has a serious dark beard, the kind you simply don't have in British commercials for user-chooser roles. A beard so deeply southern European, it's almost Moroccan. And the jersey – it's a black zippered job with such an emphatic texture it's practically pleated, almost a Fortuny of pullies. It's someone from a culture where Tiny books mean something and Stevenson and Dickens are really exotic. Sounds foreign to me.
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