Peter York on Ads: Oh no, the director's been at the vintage horror videos

Boots Soltan cream
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The Independent Online

If you get around a bit, you can usually see where TV directors get their ideas from. The Matrix alone has probably underwritten 20 major campaigns. But do they look at Victorian pictures for composition? The new commercial for Boots Soltan has that storm-lashed, sex-crazed look of those popular potboilers involving rocks, caves and witchy women.

If you get around a bit, you can usually see where TV directors get their ideas from. The Matrix alone has probably underwritten 20 major campaigns. But do they look at Victorian pictures for composition? The new commercial for Boots Soltan has that storm-lashed, sex-crazed look of those popular potboilers involving rocks, caves and witchy women.

There they are, five lovely girls - and two lovely boys - in swimwear, silhouetted against some big grey rocks, the gateway to sea and sky beyond. It's not the happy open beach. And it's not happy open music either. Its important Doorsy music.

Despite the doominess they do a fair bit of frolicking and lying around. The boys show off their Chelsea six-packs (skinnier than the Essex version) the girls gather for a group shot. One couple get close. Another couple are in the grey water looking out of their depth.

And then the girls start whispering, horror-film style. Maybe they're going to morph. This all-purpose menace is about a totally modern pre-occupation, sun-damage. The girls are saying that if you could see the long term damage UVA does to your skin you'd use Soltan - Boots' suncream - because it's the only five star UVA protection. Modern people still want to be brown absolutely all over, but they don't want to be Leathers by 40 (Leathers was the 1980s word for the group of global white trash, rich people who'd burnt themselves into caramel crocodiles on the smartest beaches in the 1950s and 1960s).

Heat magazine has a kindly little corner for celebrity health complaints called The Clinic. Recently, it was worried for poor Elle MacPherson who, it said, was suffering "hyper pigmentation" - coffee coloured skin patches - from too much sun and not enough protection. Pale gingery Aussies from Scots and Irish stock fry themselves into skin cancer by the thousands every year.

Anyway, the girls are muttering away when it happens - a photoflash of light and they're all a mass of brown marks (of course the director's been watching vintage horror films, the ones where the she-devil ages and turns to dust in seconds). The final shot with its second-degree-burns victim looks really alarming by skincare ad standards.

Conventional wisdom used to be that the scary approach didn't work because it associated the brand with negatives. But conventional wisdom's helpless against a director's Big Idea.

Peter@sru.co.uk

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