HARD SELL

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The Independent Online
Peugeot 406

Agency: Euro RSCG Wnek Gosper

How interesting are you? How thoughtful? How heroic? Do you wish you were more interesting, caring, thoughtful, heroic than you are? If the answer is "yes" - and how could it not be - and you are male, between 25 and 45 and work for a company that provides you with a flash car, the advertisement is aimed at you.

"The average person has 12,357 thoughts a day," reads the message on the screen, as the camera goes close up on the 40-ish head of a suit driving the new Peugeot. "Here are just a few," the next message flashes up. The camera zooms into the driver's eye. Instead of "Will I make it to the Hoover marketing convention in Wolverhampton on time?" or "I wish I hadn't had a cooked breakfast", we see a series of stirring images testifying to the imagination of the Peugeot driver, as M-People's "Search for the Hero" belts out.

We see a man faint as he witnesses the birth of his son, a beautiful woman sitting at a table in a restaurant who rips the tablecloth off, climbs over it and passionately kisses the man sitting opposite her, a man stop a rolling tank, a man rescue a little girl from an out-of-control juggernaut.

Heroic thoughts, indeed. Peugeot man is no average man. Not for him the mass-market, thoughtless, humanless pap of Ford car advertising.

But most interesting is that these "thoughts" of Peugeot man are all media images - a mish-mash of news, film and advertising tropes combined in a commercial that looks like a medley of great media moments. In fact, the commercial - three minutes long - is like a pop promo with an extravagant budget.

Which it is: the 406 is being sold not as a car but, like a pop single, as an emotion, or series of emotions and aspirations - about being someone, somewhere, better than you are now. Indeed, M-People is precisely the sort of CD you are likely to hear playing in the sales rep's car on the way to Wolverhampton, as he tries to imagine himself somewhere more heroic than a six-mile tailback.

Peugeot has come a long way from the boyish adventurism of its previous advertising campaigns. Set in jungles, deserts and burning sugar-cane plantations, the hostile environment was reflected on the cool, opaque window glass; the anonymous driver enjoying his masculine mastery of nature. Now Peugeot man wants to feel. There is even a shot of a man kissing another man. And, if the kiss turns out to be the kiss of life, it is still adventurous for a car ad aimed at men who previously got excited only over shots of shiny cars negotiating winding roads at high speed.

MARK SIMPSON

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