Hard sell: Product: Haagen Dazs Agency: Bartle Bogle Hegarty Spend: pounds 2m

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The Independent Online
Product: Haagen Dazs

Agency: Bartle Bogle Hegarty

Spend: pounds 2m

Have you noticed the dreary, square, middle-aged couple newly popular in advertising? They are there in the Maxwell House ad, scorning the fun of their coffee-swilling neighbours; they are the suburban Utterly Butterly family driven barmy by the excitement of a butter replacement; they are the dull people who should not buy the Toyota Rav 4; they are the duo whose vegetables leave their fridge because they don't have a Sinus. Now they are the cold, frumpy couple beneath the "hot" Haagen-Dazs lovers, banging on the ceiling with a broom. Meet the post-aspirational advertising couple.

Five years of recession and a complexifying market place have encouraged advertisers to appeal to consumers not so much on the increasingly intangible attraction of what they want to be, but rather on the more certain repulsion of what they definitely do not want to be. Hence the post-aspirationals.

But the real star of post-aspirational advertising is the anti-yuppie. Once the ultimate aspiration figure, the yuppie is now, appropriately, the caricatured face of post-aspiration advertising, selling products on the basis that people like him do not use them. In Abbey National "First Day at School" ad, he pulls up next to Dad's sensible family car in his red, fuel-injected BMW coupe, chewing gum and winking devilishly at the young schoolboy before squealing away (Abbey National dads are not like that).

He is there again in the Audi A4 campaign, being used hypocritically to extol the adrenalin-rich temptations of the car before revealing that he was just test-driving it and it "isn't really his style".

Aspirations without contrasts are not to be trusted these days; even sex - hence the thermal-imaged, hot/cold, sexy/frumpy Haagen-Dazs ad. Given the suspicion of positivity, post-aspirational advertising can be snobbish, sneering and intolerant in a way that makes Eighties advertising look positively democratic (here, the anti-yuppie is always coded as working- class-made-bad).

The only aspiration that does not need a qualification these days appears to be haut bourgeois Frenchness. The Renault family are so confident of their status as anciens riches idlers that they revel in their tinny little cars. Could someone bang on their adjoining walls with a broom?