Lads, this puts us all to shame

Peter York on Ads - No 293: Nisson
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A dvertising's treatment of gender issues is making a major step - from "Silly Daddy" syndrome to the Cocktail Sausage syndrome.

A dvertising's treatment of gender issues is making a major step - from "Silly Daddy" syndrome to the Cocktail Sausage syndrome.

"Silly Daddy" (and its successor "Silly Boyfriend") was the advertising showing that men had no social, sartorial or street skills whatever, and that without their clever wives, mums and girlfriends they couldn't negotiate the simplest of life's passages. Cocktail Sausage is a step-jump into New Woman and ladette territory where men's most intimate concerns are fair game. Julie Burchill started it all with her "Size matters" essay in The Face some years ago. And where she leads, chattering-class thought follows, denying her authorship all the way.

The theme first surfaced in those Renault ads with that painfully elegant Frenchwoman and her cruel retractable steel rule with its zipping sound (advertisers know that even now Smart Frenchwoman is shorthand for sexpert in Britain)

I couldn't work out in which department that particular Renault actually was big - engine, legroom, boot space - but they must have thought it didn't matter: memorability matters. Now Nissan is picking up the same theme in its new Primera campaign. This time the idea is that laddish behaviour signals male inadequacy.

An office lad - pale, ratty, sharp-featured face, Suit City suit, diagonal striped tie on opened collar in that Wild Boy way he had at school - walks out into the reception area of one of those 1994 developers' blocks off a major road (insurance back-office in Swindon, credit-card processing in Basingstoke). And he starts playing a game of eye-movement and body language about the girl nearest the door - who looks away. It's a dialogue with the doorman, a fat middle-aged uniformed character. It all seems to be about "is she up for it or not?" - lots of meaningful looks at the "push" sign on the door handle. I have to say that it's beautifully done - as lovely a bit of eye-swivelling, nodding, neck-hunching and arms- folding ensemble playing as you could imagine, subtly observed in 30 seconds.

The problem according to the female voiceover is Inadequate Car, and we know how that translates in modern girlspeak. The solution: he should try the New Nissan Primera. And across the new Traditional Style driveway paving sweeps a silver Primera, looking vaguely like a number of smart European cars with its slightly Alfa, slightly BMW radiator design.

I fear that this commercial degrades men; it warrants the close attention of our moral guardian, Peter Hitchens.