Peter York On Ads

On a diet of Bran Flakes and the American way, you're going to live for ever
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The Independent Online

Death is optional. Americans really believe that. They will go on and on, cryogenically frozen if necessary. They have a touching belief – we love to mock it – in the power of positive thinking about absolutely anything, particularly revival, rejuvenation, restart. Michael Jackson isn't that unusual in California.

Historically, Brits have been militantly against hope and happiness, quick to deride New Age thinking and anything to do with living forever. Remember that post-hippy couple who sold billions of books in America proving that with the right diet and exercise you could last till 200? It didn't translate.

But there have been moments of doubt recently. With liposuction and tooth veneering available on every provincial street corner, the move to life-extension clinics could be only a whisper away. All that stuff in the mid-market tabloids about keeping the 85-year brain ticking over. All that government concern about increasing "choice" in health provision. All that elective medicine. Officially, Britain might be against bongo US thinking, but the everyday tides of aspiration are moving that way. There's a market for people who want more of everything and more time to enjoy it.

Funny diets and detox are part of this because they're completely free of sin. Carol Vorderman has sold a billion books telling people how to drive the last atom of accumulated bad humours from their bodies. A friend is currently in Vietnam, knee-deep in scented candles, on a brutally restricted diet, atoning for 20 years of alky-carbies. She's "taking control", "moving on". It all sounds like very bad science but red-hot new religion.

There's a strong religious read-across in the American way of death avoidance. That's what always worried us – this nation with every kind of store front religion available in all those flyover places no Brit except Louis Theroux ever visits. People who buy that stuff, so we've reckoned snobbily, will buy anything. But now Britain is buying bongo religion. As the Church of England frets about women priests and gay marriage, and loses its congregations at a rate, the other stuff is growing.

The new Bran Flakes commercial has a distinctly religious look. It's pitched right in the hope and renewal business. It opens on a waking world – New Dawn – over what looks at first like one of those tall minaret towers but turns out to be a lighthouse. The sky is wonderful, pink and yellow like the best Victorian painters' redemptive skies. Then we get glorious dawn all over, across concrete canyons and cities on the hills. And a standard- issue male model with four days' growth to look at it all while the voiceover gets going: "Yesterday – forget about it. Today is a new day. Today you can start all over again. A day to look after your body and your heart."

It couldn't be more different from the old, "very tasty" Bran Flakes theme. The 1980s launch was a classic bit of compensatory advertising; mass markets hadn't liked All-Bran, the full-on fibre cereal, because it wasn't much fun. But the new hybrid – a combination of All-Bran and darling old Corn Flakes – answered the demand for something crisp and tolerable with some of those famous fibrous effects.

For years, perky family groups assured mothers that husbands and children could actually eat Bran Flakes. But now they're reverting to full-on hope and redemption – more in the mood of that original Kellogg of Battle Creek, Indiana, who believed that better digestive transit could save the world.

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