Peter York On Ads: It's the pits for Ben Affleck and slumming stars


It's marvellous being Big in Japan. Or Brazil. Or anywhere populous and far away where they go on loving you and buying your music/watching your films/reading your books long after the great world - the NY-LON-LA one - has forgotten you. A number of rather marginal and completely superannuated musicians remain surprisingly rich for just this reason; they love them out there. That means they can potter here, collect Stratocasters or punk ephemera at Christie's, unembarrassed by all the stuff they've done at the ends of the earth. No one sees the "character merchandising", the guest appearances at businessmen's conventions, or the ads.

The ads are really nice work if you can get it. Sometimes we are another Japan for Americans - a nice place to make commercials. Remember Burt Reynolds for Dolland & Aitchison, mobbing himself up as a vain old thing? Or Kim Cattrall (Samantha from Sex and the City) doing terrible Tetley tea ads? Or even George Clooney for Martini last Christmas? Our attractiveness increased for Americans when we became the creative centre for Europe - with British commercials being adapted and aired in pan-European campaigns. That way you could make proper money from a few days' filming, away from the backyard, with nobody speculating on your current movie bankability or alimony situation.

And it was lovely to get the attention again, the respect for being the real American article. The whole glorious ancient ritual of fan worship. Especially obsessional foreign high-brow fans who know your work better than you do, who've thought it through in a Tokyo cultural studies sort of way and tell you what you meant by things - a weight of subtlety and sub-textiness you never knew you had. But flattering and rewarding as it is, your agent usually insists it doesn't play at home. At home - in Britain or the US - you're either a player or a recluse but you're not to be seen milking it or fighting it out with the C-list.

Latterly, it's got even better: appearing in the right commercial could just mean your best role ever. Something you're not so shy about after all because you can show a new, cleverer side. You can get into thoughtful self-parody if you're property directed. Do something prize-winning, stake out your next career move. Good ads have gone up in the world.

Lynx is an improbable product for a joke market - anxious early-adolescent boys - but it's sustained by brilliant British advertising. Humour has allowed Lynx to target the Kevin and Perry set, and sensitive cultural judgements have kept it credible and watchable.

But now it's gone for something rather different, a Hollywood star vehicle that's weighted down with all the familiar expectations and limitations. What did Ben Affleck's agent demand, and what did he conclusively, legally and globally forbid?

Affleck's problem is that he hasn't quite made it as an A-list actor (he was OK in Shakespeare in Love) and he doesn't seem all that likeable or convincing as a personality. He's cast as a joke babe-magnet here because he's big and buff and wears a tight sweater well.

The running joke is that he's clicking up the attention he gets from foxes everywhere on his daily rounds (is it Rodeo Drive or Bluewater?) on one of those little traffic-counting things. Lovely girls at the coffee shop or the dry cleaners hold his eye while he clicks away. The conceit is his raging self-regard; the problem is you're inclined to believe it. He doesn't strike you as exactly self-doubting. In a typical Hollywood trope - and this will have been closely defined in the contract - he gets The Look from a gay black salesman and goes through a heavy-handed bit of mime - liberal, comfortable in his own skin - clicking it up.

The payoff is that the short, weedy lift boy can show him more clicks on his machine because he's spraying every scrawny working part with "Click", the latest Lynx line in aerosol air-freshener. So we end on Affleck mugging too hard as the lift doors close.

This could've been creamy fun - most Lynx advertising is - but the casting is off. But, of course, this judgement would have to be comprehensively revised if my Playing Away premise is all wrong and it's being screened in God's Own Country.

Start your day with The Independent, sign up for daily news emails
election 2015The 10 best quotes of the campaign
A caravan being used as a polling station in Ford near Salisbury, during the 2010 election
election 2015The Independent's guide to get you through polling day
David Blunkett joins the Labour candidate for Redcar Anna Turley on a campaigning visit last month
voicesWhat I learnt from my years in government, by the former Home Secretary David Blunkett
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
ebooksA celebration of British elections
  • Get to the point
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

iJobs Job Widget
iJobs Media

Ashdown Group: Marketing Manager (B2B) - Romford - £40,000 + car

£35000 - £40000 per annum + car and benefits: Ashdown Group: Marketing Manager...

Guru Careers: Senior Account Manager / SAM

£30 - 35k: Guru Careers: A Senior Account Manager / SAM is needed to join the ...

Guru Careers: Management Accountant

£27 - 35k + Bonus + Benefits: Guru Careers: A Management Accountant is needed ...

Guru Careers: Recruitment Resourcer / Recruitment Account Manager

£20 - 25k + Bonus: Guru Careers: Are you a Recruitment Consultant looking to m...

Day In a Page

General Election 2015: ‘We will not sit down with Nicola Sturgeon’, says Ed Balls

'We will not sit down with Nicola Sturgeon'

In an exclusive interview, Ed Balls says he won't negotiate his first Budget with SNP MPs - even if Labour need their votes to secure its passage
VE Day 70th anniversary: How ordinary Britons celebrated the end of war in Europe

How ordinary Britons celebrated VE Day

Our perception of VE Day usually involves crowds of giddy Britons casting off the shackles of war with gay abandon. The truth was more nuanced
They came in with William Caxton's printing press, but typefaces still matter in the digital age

Typefaces still matter in the digital age

A new typeface once took years to create, now thousands are available at the click of a drop-down menu. So why do most of us still rely on the old classics, asks Meg Carter?
Discovery of 'missing link' between the two main life-forms on Earth could explain evolution of animals, say scientists

'Missing link' between Earth's two life-forms found

New microbial species tells us something about our dark past, say scientists
The Pan Am Experience is a 'flight' back to the 1970s that never takes off - at least, not literally

Pan Am Experience: A 'flight' back to the 70s

Tim Walker checks in and checks out a four-hour journey with a difference
Humans aren't alone in indulging in politics - it's everywhere in the animal world

Humans aren't alone in indulging in politics

Voting, mutual back-scratching, coups and charismatic leaders - it's everywhere in the animal world
Crisp sales are in decline - but this tasty trivia might tempt back the turncoats

Crisp sales are in decline

As a nation we're filling up on popcorn and pitta chips and forsaking their potato-based predecessors
Ronald McDonald the muse? Why Banksy, Ron English and Keith Coventry are lovin' Maccy D's

Ronald McDonald the muse

A new wave of artists is taking inspiration from the fast food chain
13 best picnic blankets

13 best picnic blankets

Dine al fresco without the grass stains and damp bottoms with something from our pick of picnic rugs
Barcelona 3 Bayern Munich 0 player ratings: Lionel Messi scores twice - but does he score highest in our ratings?

Barcelona vs Bayern Munich player ratings

Lionel Messi scores twice - but does he score highest in our ratings?
Martin Guptill: Explosive New Zealand batsman who sets the range for Kiwis' big guns

Explosive batsman who sets the range for Kiwis' big guns

Martin Guptill has smashed early runs for Derbyshire and tells Richard Edwards to expect more from the 'freakish' Brendon McCullum and his buoyant team during their tour of England
General Election 2015: Ed Miliband's unlikely journey from hapless geek to heart-throb

Miliband's unlikely journey from hapless geek to heart-throb

He was meant to be Labour's biggest handicap - but has become almost an asset
General Election 2015: A guide to the smaller parties, from the the National Health Action Party to the Church of the Militant Elvis Party

On the margins

From Militant Elvis to Women's Equality: a guide to the underdogs standing in the election
Amr Darrag: Ex-Muslim Brotherhood minister in exile still believes Egypt's military regime can be replaced with 'moderate' Islamic rule

'This is the battle of young Egypt for the future of our country'

Ex-Muslim Brotherhood minister Amr Darrag still believes the opposition can rid Egypt of its military regime and replace it with 'moderate' Islamic rule, he tells Robert Fisk
Why patients must rely less on doctors: Improving our own health is the 'blockbuster drug of the century'

Why patients must rely less on doctors

Improving our own health is the 'blockbuster drug of the century'