Peter York On Ads: No men and Fair Trade - the shop of the moment

THE CO-OP

Moral tone is a wonderful thing, a mid-19th century marvel like civic pride. The idea of moral muscles at their peak, utterly buff with all the answers to life's everyday questions, appeals hugely. It's changed a bit since 1880 though. I've just spent the weekend with some people who reviewed the travel expenses of every mouthful on their plates. Those green beans, for instance, had probably been airlifted from Kenya. Atmospheric damage. Their coffee at home was Fair Trade. And, of course, they were vegetarian. They'd thought it through, the inputs, the outputs, the impacts. They went to moral-tone websites which taught them which manufacturers and shops paid their workers best, or had good health and safety records.

Didn't it make life more complicated, I asked? No, they said it made it simpler, certainly simpler than mugging up on Glycaemic Indices and other self-centred nonsense.

But don't you end up with completely dumb pony products if all you worry about is moral tone? But, glorious in their righteousness, they said everything they had was beautiful, so there.

The Body Shop had moral tone - it was central to its brand, whose original appeal was to concerned middle-class teenage girls. Many of the products were made out of recognisable ingredients. Things with that avocado look and texture, things that connect you with the soil of Muswell Hill, with all its throbbing undercurrents, ley lines and seasonal rhythms. What lies beneath?

But L'Oreal's aesthetic is different, somewhere between the James Bond clinic in the Alps (it's part-owned by Nestlé) and the piss-elegant glam' of Seventh Avenue. L'Oreal's second brand, Laboratories Garnier, is all about Euro-science creating Euro- elegance. It needs the Body Shop to cover all the market segments, and the moral-tone market is a surprisingly big one now.

But 21st-century moral tone is a private affair compared with the 19th-century kind. The private satisfaction of avoidance, changing what you buy, rather than full-on fulmination. Or anything collective.

There's something profoundly collective about the way the John Lewis Partnership is owned and run. Its staff (the partners) feel different about the world because they feel they own the shop, so they handle customers differently (as in "I think the cheaper one's better value"). The JLP moral tone comes from something structural and collective. Its continuing success, however, comes from running shops very well. JLP doesn't bang on about moral tone.

And nor does the Co-op. Its roots and its current reality are very different from the John Lewis Partnership's. JLP is southern, ragingly middle-class, it's practically defines echt middle classness - leaning to upper-middle (Peter Jones) and north London Foodie (Waitrose). The Co-op ethos is working class, Northern and self-help. But there's clearly a moral tone message there it could use - and it barely does. No one's accused the Co-op of running good innovative shops for years. Nor of interesting advertising ("your caring, sharing co-op").

You long for an interesting rallying call, but clearly the research is saying its customer base doesn't respond, that the sort of class awareness that linked, say, the old Daily Mirror ("Forward with the People") and Old Labour with the Co-operative Movement evaporated in the Wilson Sixties. So it talks price - where it's vulnerable to all the operators with more buying clout - and family, with a weak echo of collective ownership.

But the new Co-op Mother's Day commercial has some odd moments. Mother's Day, for instance, is completely a girl thing in this commercial. It celebrates a household where men have been ... dismissed, or possibly buried under the patio? And that's got moral tone, because we all know men are solely responsible for Air Miles and everything else that's bad.

A little girl takes her mother breakfast in bed. The mother gives her sister a box of Cadbury's Roses. The sister gives Gran Belgian Fair Trade chocolates (difficult to imagine Belgian Fair Trade anything but maybe they've repented). Then the women stand around drinking cut-price Fair Trade wines. "It's our Co-op and it's our day," they say in a wonderfully bleached-out 1970s looking group shot. Is the Co-op finding it's moral-tone plot again?

Peter@sru.co.uk

Arts and Entertainment
Characters in the new series are based on real people, say its creators, unlike Arya and Clegane the Dog in ‘Game of Thrones’
tv'The Last Kingdom' embraces politics, religion, warfare, courage, love and loyalty, say creators
Sport
Sergio Romero saves Wesley Sneijder's penalty
world cup 2014But after defeating the Dutch, Lionel Messi and Argentina will walk out at the Maracana on Sunday as underdogs against Germany
Sport
Scoreboard at the end of the semi-final World Cup match between Brazil and Germany at The Mineirao Stadium in Belo Horizonte
Sport
'Saddest man in Brazil' takes defeat with good grace, handing replica trophy to German fans
PROMOTED VIDEO
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
News
ebookA unique anthology of reporting and analysis of a crucial period of history
News
peopleThe Game of Thrones author said speculation about his health and death was 'offensive'
Arts and Entertainment
Martin Freeman and Lauren O'Neil in Jamie Lloyd's Richard III
theatreReview: The monarch's malign magnetism and diabolic effrontery aren’t felt
News
Glamour magazine hosts a yoga class with Yogalosophy author Mandy Ingber on June 10, 2013 in New York City.
newsFather Padraig O'Baoill said the exercise was 'unsavoury' in a weekly parish newsletter
Extras
indybest
News
people'She is unstoppable', says Jean Paul Gaultier at Paris show
Sport
Alexis Sanchez and apparently his barber Carlos Moles in Barcelona today
football
Arts and Entertainment
Miley Cyrus has her magic LSD brain stolen in this crazy video produced with The Flaming Lips
video
Arts and Entertainment
In his own words: Oscar Wilde in 1882
theatreNew play by the Oscar Wilde's grandson reveals what the Irish wit said at his trials - and what they reveal about the man
News
people
Arts and Entertainment
Unless films such as Guardians of the Galaxy, pictured, can buck the trend, this summer could be the first in 13 years that not a single Hollywood blockbuster takes $300m
filmWith US films earning record-breaking amounts at the Chinese box office, Hollywood is more than happy to take its lead from its new-found Asian audience
News
The garage was up for sale in Canning Place Mews for £500,000
newsGarage for sale for £500,000
Life and Style
tech
Independent
Travel Shop
the manor
Up to 70% off luxury travel
on city breaks Find out more
santorini
Up to 70% off luxury travel
on chic beach resorts Find out more
sardina foodie
Up to 70% off luxury travel
on country retreats Find out more
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating
and  

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

iJobs Job Widget
iJobs Media

ERP Business/ Implementation Analyst

£40000 - £45000 per annum + competitive: Progressive Recruitment: This is an e...

Business Intelligence Program Manager

competitive: Progressive Recruitment: BI Project / Program Manager BI Project...

Radian6/Social Media/Digital Analyst

£250 - £300 per day: Progressive Recruitment: LEAD DIGITAL ANALYST - CONTRACT ...

Head of Technology - London - Up to £70K + Benefits

£60000 - £70000 per annum: Deerfoot IT Resources Limited: Head of Technology -...

Day In a Page

The true Gaza back-story that the Israelis aren’t telling this week

The true Gaza back-story that the Israelis aren’t telling this week

A future Palestine state will have no borders and be an enclave within Israel, surrounded on all sides by Israeli-held territory, says Robert Fisk
A History of the First World War in 100 Moments: The German people demand an end to the fighting

A History of the First World War in 100 Moments

The German people demand an end to the fighting
New play by Oscar Wilde's grandson reveals what the Irish wit said at his trials

New play reveals what Oscar Wilde said at trials

For a century, what Wilde actually said at his trials was a mystery. But the recent discovery of shorthand notes changed that. Now his grandson Merlin Holland has turned them into a play
Can scientists save the world's sea life from

Can scientists save our sea life?

By the end of the century, the only living things left in our oceans could be plankton and jellyfish. Alex Renton meets the scientists who are trying to turn the tide
Richard III, Trafalgar Studios, review: Martin Freeman gives highly intelligent performance

Richard III review

Martin Freeman’s psychotic monarch is big on mockery but wanting in malice
Hollywood targets Asian audiences as US films enjoy record-breaking run at Chinese box office

Hollywood targets Asian audiences

The world's second biggest movie market is fast becoming the Hollywood studios' most crucial
Grindr founder Joel Simkhai: 'I've found love on my dating app - and my mum keeps trying to hook me up!'

Grindr founder Joel Simkhai: 'I've found love on my dating app'

Five years on from its launch and Grindr is the world's most popular dating app for gay men. Its founder Joel Simkhai answers his critics, describes his isolation as a child
Autocorrect has its uses but it can go rogue with embarrassing results - so is it time to ditch it?

Is it time to ditch autocorrect?

Matthew J X Malady persuaded friends to message manually instead, but failed to factor in fat fingers and drunk texting
10 best girls' summer dresses

Frock chick: 10 best girls' summer dresses

Get them ready for the holidays with these cool and pretty options 
Westminster’s dark secret: Adultery, homosexuality, sadomasochism and abuse of children were all seemingly lumped together

Westminster’s dark secret

Adultery, homosexuality, sadomasochism and abuse of children were all seemingly lumped together
A History of the First World War in 100 Moments: Dulce et decorum est - a life cut short for a poet whose work achieved immortality

A History of the First World War in 100 Moments

Dulce et decorum est: a life cut short for a poet whose work achieved immortality
Google tells popular music website to censor album cover art in 'sexually explicit content' ban

Naked censorship?

The strange case of Google, the music website and the nudity take-down requests
Howzat! 8 best cricket bats

Howzat! 8 best cricket bats

As England take on India at Trent Bridge, here is our pick of the high-performing bats to help you up your run-count this summer 
Brazil vs Germany World Cup 2014 comment: David Luiz falls from leader figure to symbol of national humiliation

David Luiz falls from leader figure to symbol of national humiliation

Captain appears to give up as shocking 7-1 World Cup semi-final defeat threatens ramifications in Brazil