Peter York on Ads: The turf war is over as lawnmower man grows up

Flymo
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The Independent Online

More mature readers may remember the lawnmower wars of the 1980s. Flymo fought Qualcast across TV and print and in garden centres up and down the land. It all turned on the virtues of hovering. Flymo, then a newish challenger, worked on the hovercraft principle, floating on a cushion of air. This revolutionary USP helped them to build significant market share very quickly. Qualcast - a name that just oozes Birmingham metal-bashing - fought back with an inspired campaign: "It's a lot less bovver than an 'over". And Qualcast had a USP too, a British Empire bowling-green one: stripes. Flymo hovers didn't make stripes; they just cut the grass with no craftsmanlike crosshatching. All this made lawnmowing a weirdly high ad-spend sector back in the Golden Age.

Flymo won. Then it all went quiet. I haven't noticed a lawnmower ad on TV for years - and you could easily miss the new Flymo commercial unless you were a lawnie. Here's what you don't get from Flymo: sex, violence, animation, art direction, costume design, colour filters, knocking copy, Mockneyism or music. It's either lucid and limpid or just limp - I've not decided which - but here's an ad that avoids every fall-back trick of commercials direction over the past 15 years.

It's got a talking mower and it's shot from the mower's eye view. But this mower has a sensible, mature, middle-class, manly voice and it doesn't say anything remotely cute or funny. It's just understanding - understanding about mowing being boring; about you wanting more time to enjoy the sunshine (the campaign started at Easter) "because weekends don't last for ever". Saga-sector sympathy. The voice goes through the product features: a window on to the grass box, a tighter squeeze action on cuttings so you don't have to empty it so often, and a roll-up cable tidy. It's called the New Vision Compact, and they make it clear: Flymo's owned by Electrolux (huge respectable, Swedish) and Qualcast belongs to Bosch.

Social pointers: I'd say retired GP country, an established Victorian suburb, Ealing or Edgbaston. Big bricky detached houses in big gardens.

Sex pointer: barely a sniff. The grass cutter ends up sitting way across the garden with someone who might just be a woman.

Dress code: the mowing man wears stunningly credible off-duty basic body cover that looks as if no art director went near it. And that's something close to genius.

Peter@sru.co.uk

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