Peter York On Ads

Mum hopes that till-death-us-do-part sex will sell even to Britons
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The Independent Online

Men had always believed they could make first-class babies until they croaked it. They'd cite 'Star Trek' Scotty (James Doohan) or Des O'Connor, who were both fertilising in their 70s and beyond, and ignore the rest. Leave aside the question of equipment failure – crucial until the Viagra decade – men sustained themselves with the idea that there was no male menopause and it was all there, power in reserve. Hyperactive teenage sperm thrashing around just waiting to get out there and in there. So last week's big report showing men go mouldy from 35, producing fewer, lower-quality sperm with every passing year, must have been a downer for every fat baldy in denial.

The idea of Everlasting Love, with that side of life continuing despite stress, bad backs, morbid obesity or terminal boredom, is a nice one in principle but worrying in practice. It's the stuff of Euro-comedy and European advertising. But it's not 100 per cent us.

'No Sex Please, We're British' – one of the more brilliant lines of the post-war world – actually opened in 1971 as a West End farce. It ran for nearly a decade. It's about as relevant to 21st century British behaviour as the book 'Major Thompson Lives in France' (1959) or a 'Carry On' film.

But there's a legacy. While our behaviour has moved towards the downright barbaric – mainstream Europeans are shocked at our bottom-flashing, pavement-sicking, predatory bike-shed, bunk-up teens – we still find continental romantic soft-porn a bit much. We'd rather they played it for laughs. Euro-trash, with its unfeasibly giant boobies and silly willies, presented by that unstoppably supercilious "ironic" Frog, Antoine de Caunes, initially with Jean-Paul Gaultier in a kilt, showed they'd got our number.

The 'Newsweek' account of the Max Mosley affair was headlined "Kinky Sex Please, We're British". All British gents of a certain age, so this Do-They-Mean-Us view goes, like spanking and 'Allo Allo' costumes. Depend on them for satisfying outcomes.

That's why increasing numbers of British viewers will find themselves thoroughly rattled by the new Mum commercials. They propose Everlasting Love with a definite physical side to things and a plangent piano music track. They start like an old-fashioned film trailer with young Kim and Fernando getting it on in a car while the rain buckets down outside. They're young and gorgeous, so tongues seem OK. They've been together for eight years. Then it's Anna and Marc, clamped together, out on the front step. They look pretty much the same age but they must be owner-occupiers because they've been together for 16 years.

Mick and Zoe, well-dressed 40-somethings, have clearly made it. Their kitchen location is wall-to-wall stainless steel. You'd think that would be distracting but they're still at it after 23 years. But there's more. Mick and Helena seem to be on the cash-out "liquidity event", long-haul retirement holiday of a lifetime, silhouetted against the sea and the sky, framed by palm trees. They've done 34 years together. At this point viewers all over Ambridge are starting to fret and turn away from the TV. And terrible thoughts are coming unbidden. Plummeting dentures. rock-star seizures, that kind of thing.

But there's worse. Mary and Frank – locked in bed together after 59 years. Him apparently naked. What's their secret? Mum deodorant has apparently kept the home fires burning since the Forties. How insanely romantic is that?