Peter York On Ads: You can take the hero out of England...

Gillette
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The Independent Online

I was gutted. I'd been so looking forward to him moving in. The Ferraris, the Porsches, the actresses/models, the Footballers' Wives barbeque parties in the garden. All that.

We like our home-grown celebrities to stay around. It's fine to big up and bling up but not to go too global. Why does Robbie Williams live in California if he's not aiming to conquer the American market? (Whatever is done for money is sacred.) What's the point of tax exile if it becomes a permanent exile? Just imagine living mainly in Switzerland for so long you lose the plot about London; to the point that your idea of a nice London pied-à-terre is a flat in Chelsea Harbour, an over-priced off-pitch 1980s development that looks just like a gated compound in New Jersey?

David Beckham has left us for the world. What we liked about him was his simplicity and openness, we liked the story that he'd sent Posh a drawing he'd traced from a Lion King book. We liked his idiot savant side, his E L Wisty voice - never as high or girly as people said - which went nicely with his handsomeness.

But this was a very Brit kind of branding, altogether too nuanced and disingenuous for global markets. If you go multi-channel and MTV, if you're building a brand with a high recognition factor in mud huts and igloos, then it's all got to be much simpler.

Gillette clearly think that exploiting the Beckham brand globally means telling people just how international his gorgeous life is, just how catwalk and paparazzi and diamond-ear-ringy. Time was Gillette let Beckham find his own level. They'd deliver their usual message about Machs and Turbos with a leavening of computer graphics and glowing green lcd and then David would come on - just his sweet head - staring into the middle distance and cutting a swathe through the foam. That was it; we knew perfectly well who he was and a truffly sliver of him would do.

But it won't do now. The new Gillette commercial - presumably pan-European and probably more - runs with Beckham's internationalism in the most clunky way imaginable. It's like the opening sequences of one of Lew Grade's marvellous TV series from the 1960s. Tony Curtis and Roger Moore set in London, New York and Monte Carlo. Gillette has a whole week of it. On Monday David's in Madrid, on Tuesday in London, on Wednesday he's in Morocco, Thursday in Rome, Friday in Milan, Saturday Paris and Sunday Tokyo. It's quite a long commercial. It's got urgent manly music and lots of microphones and flashbulbs. They've got a corny bit of symbolism for every day of that epic week. There's David doing a studio photo-shoot, air-blown by a giant fan. There he is teaching children football in Madrid. There are some aircraft wheels touching down. Then he's on a catwalk and you can see the diamond in his ear and his big super-minder, for all the world like a hip-hop star. (At one point he does a wonderfully Beckham thing - wonderful that is for little English people - he waves in a shy weedy way, a tentative wave, a sort of Nicholas Lyndhurst don't-know-your-own-strength wave. But blink and it's gone.)

And then there are the shaving shots where David actually looks like a slenderer Toby Young or Ross Kemp. You're not sure it's always him. "You can have the power to feel your best every day" is the sub-theme, linked to Gillette's vibrantly electrical new razor. It all contributes to the great Gillette Top Gun positioning: "the best a man can get".

Beckham's using his short window of opportunity - the Vanity Fair cover and the stud stories - to put himself about through the advertising trade, to raise his Real Madrid salary (he makes their kit saleable worldwide) and build up a big account in Zurich, before settling in his nice tower block apartment in Dubai.

Peter@sru.co.uk

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