Peter York On Ads: Nanny is a bloke and there's no crafty fags

Smoking ban
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The Independent Online

Stop right now. Whatever it is. Smoking, drinking, turkey twizzlers. You know it makes sense. I love nanny state, just as I'm completely up for political correctness. What are we paying our taxes for if not to save us from ourselves? Some people could do with a lot more nannying. Cirrhosis, spongiform brains from all those 1990s Es, lung cancer, hardened arteries.

And of course, all these things are class-related. If, say, you're the Scottish underclass then your scores on all the booze, fags and street drugs indices are quadrupled. Glasgow-City-of-Culture, the wash and brush-up for those elegant Victorian terraces, the Burrell Collection and all the other artsy regeneration initiatives haven't magic-ed away the intractable core of poverty and incredible ill-health on the tough estates - the "schemes".

It's quite hard to do your nannying in tough places. It's difficult selling nanny's good ideas, getting the targeting right, getting the tone right. For the last 30 years, advertisers talking to youth about tough stuff have been desperate to be relevant, cool and thoroughly demotic.

The Central Office of Information's new smoking-ban commercial doesn't have quite these problems. It's not about weaning people away from bad habits, it's simply about laying down the law - explaining when and where you can't smoke. So all it is is a bloke - Keith Allen without the sex and sophistication - a bald bloke, 50ish, in short sleeves, walking around the proscribed locations. The small conceit, the little trick here, is that all the locations are actually TV sets, so you move the pub wall and you're in an office and so forth. I think it's fair to say we've seen this done before (and it doesn't look like software trickery either, more like Ealing Studios).

From 1 July, he's saying - in the most unplaceable accent possible - that it's against the law to smoke practically anywhere that's an enclosed public space or a workplace.

It's all vaguely demotic but deliberately that bit artificial. It's almost like doing wartime posters thinking up a commercial that covers Annabel's and the Peckham balti house alike.

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