Peter York on Ads: Pop scowler Simon mixes up a mean cheese and pickle

Walkers Crisps
Click to follow
The Independent Online

Pop managers are riveting. The stories they can tell (and they do; see Andrew Oldham's marvellous Stoned and Simon Napier-Bell's equally marvellous Black vinyl, White Powder)

Pop managers are riveting. The stories they can tell (and they do; see Andrew Oldham's marvellous Stoned and Simon Napier-Bell's equally marvellous Black vinyl, White Powder)

Pop managers are fixed in the dramatic stock character repertoire too, ever since the first British pop film musical, Wolf Mankowitz's Expresso Bongo of 1959, with Cliff Richard as Bongo Herbert and Laurence Harvey as his manager. The key components were cast as X parts gay, X parts Jewish and triple X opportunistic.

There are pop managers, and then there's Simon Cowell, who isn't gay, Jewish or particularly riveting. He's not without interest but he doesn't exactly have the hinterland of, say, Brian Epstein.

Cowell's in a Walkers Crisps commercial with McFly. I know nothing about McFly except that they follow the Busted model - i.e. schoolboys with guitars and no dancing. The running joke is that Cowell's doing everything for his demanding little charges. "I took the bubbles out of the Pepsi, I personally peeled the Maltesers for you." "But did you mix up the cheese and pickle flavour, Simon?" (apparently this involves putting two kinds of crisps together - Cheese and Onion and Pickled Onion.)

"Yes boys I did."

Cowell does low-energy camp, submitting to the demanding blond boys. It's a funny relationship and he's almost sibilant.

I think it's all about Comic Relief but it's a bit unclear on that front. They give you a blast of the completely unmemorable McFly concert sound (will they turn out to have at least one public schoolboy member, like Busted?) and shots of a screaming, girly audience, mid-teens and older. Is this the real McFly target market, or are they actually all 10? One of the girlies is Gary Lineker, of course. God, that man's made the most of himself, hasn't he? and the look is roughly early Rita Tushingham. This allows the boys a joshing moment - "I don't think much of your one!" - and a brand identity moment, because the entire sentient world knows Lineker equals Walkers.

Next up for Walkers, however, is the Jamie Oliver fall-out. Crisps are much worse than Turkey Twizzlers, so they might have to introduce a few token low-fat wholemeal lines, fried in extra virgin oil and presented by someone socially redemptive like Bob Geldof.

Peter York@sru.co.uk

Comments