Peter York on Ads: A hymn to the age of the pre-clubbing granny

British Gas
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The Independent Online

A granny going to the shops in the snow. With her bootees and her little tartan shopper on wheels. Buying one thing at a time, costing out the money. Nat King Cole singing "A home with love in it, is rich indeed". You're set up for either a comic mugging or her being Gary Lineker in drag. But the new British Gas commercial is full-on imperial schmaltz designed for the more mature viewer, so there's never an ironic moment.

BG, the consumer trading arm of Centrica, knows that its brand is a nostalgic one with strong positive associations with public ownership and the public service ethic, despite all the realities of a profit-maximising quoted company. So they like to tell you that they do the right thing - a touch of the Corporate Social Responsibilities.

What's righter than looking after the old - or, in their terms, "the most vulnerable"? The idea is that they discount energy-efficient things - roof lagging, long-life bulbs and so forth, but for old folk they're free. A nice artisanal type will go round, do it all and have tea and biscuits with Gran in a front parlour under an engraving of Holman Hunt's Light of the World. It's Ealing Studies, The Lavender Hill Mob, altogether lovely.

It's all set in a nice, empty-looking street, a proper workmen's terrace of little houses, 1880 and deliciously simple - no stone-cladding, UPVC replacement windows, Kentucky Fried Georgian front doors or indeed anything at all from the way we live now. This street knows nothing of Linda Barker.

And the granny - the granniest granny possible - is black. This scoops the pool, because it's servicing the community, acknowledging diversity and the rest, but getting the Windrush generation of grannies, tapping into the granniest set of British values imaginable. So there's the china cabinet and a lovely sharing moment with the kiddies' photographs and a good day's work done.

It takes you back years - 30 or more years to before nice back-to-backs were levelled for tower blocks or bought by gentrifiers and before grannies started drinking Malibu and going down the clubs in tracksuits and bling.

Peter@sru.co.uk

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