Peter York on Ads: In the supermarket war, a genuine chef is dynamite

Sainsbury's
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The Independent Online

Tesco is a very well-run company. It's made proper money for its shareholders. It makes that money in Eastern Europe and South-East Asia now. It's got a proven team at the top. It looks unstoppable.

Tesco is a very well-run company. It's made proper money for its shareholders. It makes that money in Eastern Europe and South-East Asia now. It's got a proven team at the top. It looks unstoppable.

Sainsbury's, however, has Jamie Oliver. It's a great deal better than nothing. Jamie's back on for them now and he's covering all the bases. The first Jamie incarnation for Sainsbury's was loft-living lad. Footie and food for the gang. Making clever food sound like footie, actually. Plus a bit of ironic soft reggae. Exactly the life that thirtysomething going-on 18-year-old creatives wearing darling little Puma pumps saw themselves leading then, in the golden glow of The Project. And it was good for Sainsbury's, no question, in making the store sound like fun after the disastrous John Cleese campaign.

The new, shape-shifting Jamie is thoroughly diversified. He's got something demotic for Darren in Dagenham and something thoughtful for Tessa in Tuscany. And, marvellous man that he is, looks utterly comfortable in both. When Jamie was first invented, I thought that here was another example of Guy Ritchie syndrome, a middle-class, Home Counties Jamie Mockneying away. But it's more complex than that and Jamie's much more unplaceable; really from Essex and really from The River Café and really comfortable with it all in front of the camera.

Which is why it's fine to put him in a sunny Essex garden talking to Frank Lampard about football, with a barbie sizzling away and kids kicking balls around.

"What was it like when you were picked for the England squad?" asks Jamie. Or after an Eighties clip, "That must've been your old haircut."

Lampard does the nostalgia route efficiently enough - how it was to collect those footballer cards at seven, how it was to walk out of that tunnel.

Then it's on to the plangeant two-tone trumpets, the orange dawn of Sainsbury's signature colour and the current strap-line, "Making life taste better".

We all feel we know how to mob up Essex/inner Herts now: Lego brick "mansion"; a swimming pool; a touch of the page threes; a heavily logo-ed dress code and a whiff of Ray Winstone. They don't do any of that here, you just know where you are.

You can take Jamie anywhere. Under the circs, Sainsbury's is very lucky to have him.

peter@sru.co.uk

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