Advertising: Working for the Yankee dolly - BT tries Tina on for size

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The Independent Online

You know those 40ft-high doughnuts and giant frankfurters? They're Californian history - a combination of roadside advertising and fast-food shacks. They're from the '40s and '50s and little English design and cultural studies types just love them. They're in all the books.

You know those 40ft-high doughnuts and giant frankfurters? They're Californian history - a combination of roadside advertising and fast-food shacks. They're from the '40s and '50s and little English design and cultural studies types just love them. They're in all the books.

If you had a toyshop - a Hamleys or an FAO Schwarz (New York's finest) - it would be wonderful to have something of the kind outside: a huge teddy or a giant Rosebud doll. Just like the bronze of a field marshal in the town square. Then everyone would know what you did.

Tiny Tina, the biggest Rosebud doll in the world, is the central image of the new BT Business Plan commercial. There she is, in her pink dress, with her short platinum hair moving softly in the breeze, outside a '60s curtain-walled office block somewhere in a suburban office park area in Nowhere USA.

They've got this bit of nowhere absolutely right. Its not the filmic 50th-floor lawyers' office overlooking Atlanta; it's the first-floor office of a toy importer somewhere near White Plains, where everything and everybody is infinitely older and duller than here.

And inside, in an office greyer than grey, is thickset grey fiftysomething Sales Manager, Ed or Bud, just taking a call all the way from a developing country. "London on one," says his secretary to show she's thoroughly global. "Hi Tim, thanks for calling," he says in rather perfunctory fashion. You sense that he's working himself up to be not 100 per cent nice "sitting right here ... the size surprised us too". We see Tina through the window then, her huge pretty head filling the view. "It said metres on the plans - and you didn't think to ask?"

And there she is full-length with a little group gathering - it'll be a crowd by lunchtime. On the voiceover they're pointing out that a Business Plan 60-minute call to the US costs just 10p (can this be right?), so now you can afford to check out all those little details. In other words, Tina's a mistake; she's meant to be a little thing in centimetres, something you import by the container load from very low-wage countries like ours. Grasping for the ultimate put-down for hopeless Brits, Bud's there in a flash: "Did you think Tiny Tina was meant to be ironic?" Well, yes of course. Sort of. Americans like 'em big. Not ours to question, is it guv?

And as for the viewers, Tiny Tina is so distracting that you need several attempts to get the prosaic message. It's obvious what the director had in mind - it's so aesthetically informed, so Damien and the dollies, but that bit Jeff Koons too. If I were, say, the Baltic Centre in Newcastle, I'd be putting in my request for Tina on a very long loan right now.

peter@sru.co.uk

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