Peter York on Ads: Emmerdale and the art of making the inedible irresistible

Heinz Tomato Ketchup
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The Independent Online

I've never followed Emmerdale at all - don't know any characters or plot lines - but I'm told it's a very changed product. No Yorkshire, country or farming to speak of and many older characters euthanased. And over the years they've apparently had some stories as mad as Dallas's. A plane crashing on Emmerdale for instance.

I've never followed Emmerdale at all - don't know any characters or plot lines - but I'm told it's a very changed product. No Yorkshire, country or farming to speak of and many older characters euthanased. And over the years they've apparently had some stories as mad as Dallas's. A plane crashing on Emmerdale for instance.

All this means I haven't a clue whether it's the right programme for Heinz Tomato Ketchup to be sponsoring. Coronation Street (where there's a wildly OTT story running now about the love triangle involving the Indian lover-boy character - attempted murder, arson, red sports-cars, glamorous villainess, the lot) seems absolutely right for Cadbury's. But Emmerdale intended to maintain the Heinz ketchup faith with its core market - older down-market women buying for the family - or are they trying to reach someone else?

They're rather smart little ketchup commercials - 5, 10 and 15 seconds - selling the idea that HTK makes the inedible irresistible. I've always thought ketchup was a way to make filthy food filthier but I know foodies who see it as central to civilisation and have it alongside the bespoke pesto and the designer vinegar. "You can't eat without it," they say in these commercials.

There's a man out hawking with a bit of meat on his big glove that fails to attract the bird. A squirt of ketchup from a squeezy pack (they've obviously given up promoting the old slow clogged glass bottles as worth waiting for) and we're in The Birds, with a flock of crazed avians attacking him. In another, an inactive waste-disposal machine jerks into ravenous life when ketchup's added to the veg waste in the sink. In yet another - there are at least four treatments - a man steals identical chips off his neighbour's plate, because they're ketchupped.

Heinz ketchup: it's a bit of an animal, seems to be the sub-text. They're trying to have it both ways - on the one hand as the classic, clever, national treasure with the lovely old label; on the other a touch of the modish demonic demotic.

Peter@sru.co.uk

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