Peter York on Ads: Me and Mini-Me get a mortgage... I blame Mike Myers

Abbey
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The Independent Online

You can't blame Austin Powers for everything. Mike Myers understood us better than we knew: the bad teeth, low-budget, high-hopes, showing-out, Up-West of Swinging London Mark 1. And casting Liz Hurley as Miss Kensington was inspired. She's a much misunderstood Game English Girl at heart. She's not supposed to act. It's just that she's got a bit carried away by the multinational company she keeps now. Her thing about "civilians" was more brilliant than she knew. The idea of thesps and celebrities as a high-maintenance warrior tribe with secret knowledge and a code of honour, who have to marry each other so the sacred flame doesn't die; well, that was scales from our eyes, wasn't it?

And Austin Powers gave us a whole set of marvellous mannerisms and gorgeous language, those Freemans catalogue Lulu outfits, those dance routines, "shagtastic", and above all, Mini-Me.

Abbey - onward and upward into the void they go - Abbey the bank has a new campaign based on Me and Mini-Me. They're both vaguely student types and they live together. The effect looks tremendously clever - a big young man and his perfectly scaled-down, half-sized identical twin talking and moving together in the same frames. But we've SFXed out now. It's got to be beautiful or resonant, it's got to have something extra, or we just move on.

This is one of a small group of big advertiser campaigns - the others are Persil's "Aloe Vera" and Cadbury's "Your Happiness" - which look as if they've been informed by The Pelican psychology theory of the sub-consciousness. There's a pack of inner children going round at the moment. Anyway, the big brother has a grey ME T-shirt, the little one's "My money", and they've got a distinctly odd relationship.

Big Me rushes into his little brother's room - it's got up like a realist film of 1954 - and says: "We're going to see Abbey". "Who's she?", says Mini-Me, who's on the nursery slopes of self-knowledge. "She's the bank". "Should I wear my cotton pants or my silk ones?" asks the little creature. (I said it was odd.) They're seeing Abbey to get some kind of stabilised mortgage product which, apparently, makes life more bearable.

Is it resonant for mortgage shoppers? I doubt it. Will it do much for the Abbey brand? It'll certainly confirm why exactly this once dull but hugely reassuring ex-mutual lost its way and is ending up in the belly of a Spanish bank.

Peter@sru.co.uk

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