Peter York On Ads: Europe, the great melting pot of yogurt
Sunday 09 July 2006
Euroland, can't live with it, can't live without it. Eurostar - the nice, easy bourgeois way to Paris, Brussels, Lille - easyJet, Ryanair. Weekend breaks, you name it. Amsterdam clubbing for teens and twenties: just an extension of Soho and Shoreditch. Ibiza: love that 1990s revival vibe. Positano: that posh retro Mr Ripley thing. And the Eurohouses - it used to be Buy One, Get One Free. A chateau the size of Chatsworth for £2.50. It's gone up a bit now we've all got one.
All of it easy, a doddle now. Convenient currency in most of the familiar places. And great tranches of Old Euroland speak English better than what we do.
Of course, gap-year people want to spend a month in a Vietcong tunnel and another in Islamabad - it'd look weedy to go anywhere your mum goes for Awaydays. But for most of comfortable Britain - Middle England, whatever - accessible Euroland adds hugely to the sum of everyday treats. And as for the New Europe, the accession countries and all that, Brits have taken to it too. Easy. Prague's on the Stag Weekend list. Go to Hungary to get your teeth done half-price. A house in Slovakia or Montenegro. (My friend Ronnie was buying up picturesque war-torn Europe 10 years ago.)
Lots of Europe is delicious. A lot of the ugly stuff is at least familiar. And we know the people from killing them so often. And whatever they say, there's still masses of money there. Any decent medium-big provincial town in Old Europe has a mini Bond or Sloane Street. And have you seen how the Italian rich live?
But whatever our experience, however warmly Chiantishire our feelings, we all take on a bit of American neo-con when we talk about the institutions of European-ness. Is there any one of you who hasn't exchanged at least one Euro-institution joke this year (straight bananas?). Weird regulations are best, and the Eurosceptic Press Bureau invents one a week. Brits like to hate the EU, the EC, the Common Agricultural Policy and the wine lake. They believe yesterday's Euro-stories today, and they feel thoroughly conflicted when they hear about "cheese-eating surrender monkeys". Lots of them bought Tobias Jones's book on The Dark Heart of Italy. Lots more will buy Jules Eden's and Alex Charles's funny new book Fifty Reasons to Hate the French to read in their gîtes this summer.
Which brings us to the Euro-pudding. It's usually a metaphor for a muddle, some kind of European lash-up, bad legislation or a co-production tax-loss film, but Europe actually makes masses of puddings, churned out by its huge pudding factories. Especially milky, yogurty ones. Mmm Danone, or Müller. Müller (a bit umlaut-y, must be German) does those Fruit Corner things, yogurt with a bit of strawberry jam stuff, which have completely taken over from those English brands of the 1970s.
Müller also makes something called Vitality, which presumably is another kind of milky Euro-pudding with added microbes - "good bacteria" are this decade's big thing in the Individual Portion Controlled Yogurt Sector. Its commercials are about a day in the life of an orange - or rather an orange-coloured ball that gets bounced around the city from hand to hand to Nina Simone's version of "Hair". Which city? You'll have to work it out. It bounces on to the bed of a couple half asleep in bright Euro-sun, then the wife bats it out of the window, over a pleasant garden and into a nice big family kitchen somewhere un-English, with pretty flaxen children. And from there to another couple in another nice high flat that probably has at least one bare brick wall. There they are, drinking little pots of Vitality, optimising their stomach flora.
On to a grizzled old black man who does a clever dance-troupe arms-manoeuvre with it, with a video-promo chorus in step behind him. As the camera draws back, we're in a big low-rise Euro-square, rather stony and Beaux-Arts looking and they're telling us to grab the day and lead a Müller life. No question, as we're all off back to Stansted at 7.30.
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