Advertising: We love it when celebs go to seed

Have I ever told you how much I like the woman in the Heat commercials? She's a caution, a real tease. She's always embarrassing her wonderfully dumb colleagues. She's set herself up as something of an expert on celebrity gossip, courtesy of Heat, and she's always offering salacious snippets in a leery way.

Have I ever told you how much I like the woman in the Heat commercials? She's a caution, a real tease. She's always embarrassing her wonderfully dumb colleagues. She's set herself up as something of an expert on celebrity gossip, courtesy of Heat, and she's always offering salacious snippets in a leery way.

This week there's celebrity bums and tums. The best and the worst. There's a billion-pound industry now in unflattering unauthorised shots of soap stars and band members. Spare tyres on the beach, paunches in profile, broad beams, sag and flab, cellulite (and that's only the boys; they're almost even-handed in catching former juvenile leads gone tubby as much as former models gone saggy - they're bitchy about everyone).

"Ooh look!" she's going. "Look at that - it's celeb bums and tums and he's naked.

"He's naked, Denise - are you interested?" she asks a deeply embarrassed couple.

It's got all The Office things - wonderfully plain characters, poignant pot plants, all the marvels of the hyper-ordinary in a newish office estate somewhere. Colleague one has a pale blue cardi, probably with a bit of recessive H Samuel on her - a tasteful little ring, "Denise" stamped out of a nine-carat plated-sheet something round her neck. The man's a stocky ginger creature with a powerful resemblance to Charles Kennedy - and especially in the hair area, the short Orkneys bob.

There's a whole sub-genre of corny ads set in the workplace where character one demonstrates huge enthusiasm for crisps (it's usually crisps or pizza or something else small and cheap like that). And when he/she (it's usually she) gets a rise from character two, she slaps her workmate down by saying, "Get your own."

The Heat ads belong there in a sense, but they're utterly transcendent because of the characterisation and the consistency. They've been following this theme for some time now while rivals have run through a mass of campaigns - hotel corridors, party pics, big "exclusives", the lot.

Heat has the look of success. You see it on trains and Tubes. Women like it because it cuts celebrities down to size, reduces them to tips and cautions. It's absolutely not Hello!, with its "tell me why you're so wonderful?" question format. It's celebs as sport, as flies to careless boys and girls, and as a water-cooler laugh. In Blighty 2003, that's how we want them.

peter@sru.co.uk

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