Peter York On Ads: Take a deep breath - it's heaven scent for teens

Glade
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The Independent Online

Out there, stuff is going on still. Things we haven't proposed in this newspaper. Or discussed at kitchen suppers in Notting Hill or Primrose Hill. You'd have thought 10 years ago, wouldn't you, that with global media, imminent global online sharing and the rest of the visible process of blanding and smoothing practically everything - the End of History, a sort of PFI of debate - it would mean no more surprises. Not just the big stuff, the clash of civilisations and wars, but all the other local cultural surprises, the equivalent of the hip-hop and graffiti eruptions of the 1970s, would smooth out.

All those mechanisms: the research and journalism and 1990s cool-hunting that identified new movements within days of their first sightings, and fed them into leisure businesses run by MBAs and rogue cultural studies graduates. For better or worse, you'd never have to fret about that side of life again. Channel 4 and Google and a thousand trends- r-us sites would have it taped. Everybody would know everything and trends, like people, would last 15 minutes.

If young tastes were covered off, so too would be working-class taste because it was obvious then that working-class people, as we'd known them, were residual. The whole white working-class world Michael Collins described so brilliantly in his The Likes of Us seemed to be disappearing and along with it would go skaters' trails carpeting, black vinyl sofas and bronze Cortinas (the world the art directors on Life on Mars have been trying to recreate).

According to prescient marketing gurus, with no miners, car workers or HP sauce bottlers, with council housing demolished or sold off, markets would shortly be arranged horizontally into "taste" and "lifestyle" groups.

The old vertical class hierarchy media planners used back then (AB, C1, C2, DE, based on the Registrar-General's Classification of Occupations) would become unworkable as we became a nation of absurd service occupations. Where could "holistic healers" feature in the old taxonomy?

You heard all this kind of thing presented straight-faced on PowerPoint by the Fukuyamas of modern marketing in conferences in, say, Istanbul called "Global Segmentation in the Age of the Information Superhighway". Trust me, I'm a brandologist. I was there.

Sentimental sociological 40 and 50-somethings who believed punk and what grew out of it was profound now have a 2007 rallying point and a rhetoric to vindicate them at the ICA. "The Last Days of the British Underground" proposes that the late 1970s and early 1980s were the last flash of outsider artistic subversion before the deluge of consumerism and instant cop-option.

And yet I'm here to tell you there's something stirring in the woods, or, more precisely, in the Glade. The air-freshener sector has been growing and changing. (Just that one genteelism will have grated horribly, won't it?) And the products themselves, you wouldn't use them in a million years, would you? The idea of a pinky-mauvey sickly chemical spray to mask lav' and kitchen smells. Worse than the organic stinks it covered up you'd say. And probably bad for the ozone layer. Open the window, keep things clean.

Which means, dear reader, you'll probably have missed out on the latest. The gradual move from defensive air freshening with fragranced sprays (I had to put that one in just to get you going again. Was there ever such a shrieking Linda Snell of a word as "fragrance"?), to a kind of technological version of scented candles has gone unnoticed. They're called plug-ins: you plug them in, they start warming up and discharging sitting-room smells for hours. Plug-ins have been going for years - but have you got one?

Now Glade has moved on several notches. They've gone from room scents to light shows. There were 1960s hippy light-shows - Middle Earth magic-lantern affairs where they projected swirly coloured oil and water patterns, like lava lamps. Then the extraordinary computer-driven shows that came out of rave culture. Well, Glade has its own "freshness and colour", where a little light changes through blue, purple, orange and green.

Its new commercial is directed at teens and sub-teens and their bedrooms, at the pyjama party set. There's a teenage girl talking on the telephone as unlikely flowers drift around, a woman at her dressing table, a dog in a basket, all caught in the new electric ambience. If they'd made promo videos for The Carpenters they'd have looked like this. It's from SE Johnson, an American Family Company, and it looks like absolute heaven.

Peter@sru.co.uk

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