Peter York on Ads: You have to have Joanna Lumley to be posh

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The Independent Online

Now agencies are uncomfortable about it all, like everyone else, so the correct fiction is that the world is divided horizontally into elective lifestyle groups.

If you want to do posh now it has to be spoofy and retro. And you have to have Joanna Lumley. Lumley is one of that gallant crew of fiftysomething upper-middly thesps who get cast as between-wars duchesses in 1930s ITV costume dramas - and are perfectly happy if it pays the rent. They don't fret about being typecast. (Actually, Lumley was brilliant as the abandoned Sloane wife in that Up In Town series of monologues on BBC2.)

So if you've got an insurance company, like Privilege - "You don't have to be posh to be privileged" - then you go for a Carry On Toffs approach and situations so ancient that no one under 50 will even recognise the shorthand - butlers and those Daimler limos that double as hearses. And caffs. We know that creatives love the idea of caffs, the kind you see in Sixties films. The kind that are practically extinct. An art director working on, say, McDonald's or KFC, Burger King or Harvester, will seek out the last Formica and chips café left in Shoreditch for his private moments. The Privilege caff treatment has English working men - correctly diversified with a black man and some 1950s Ealing comedy charladies - doing comic toff the Lord Snooty way - "one is utterly ravenous" - "but it's so you" - when our Joanna, in a royal portrait set-up on the wall and wearing a tiara, tells them to: "stop being so la-di-dah because you don't have to be posh to be Privileged" and get a really nice class of insurance. So they lapse back into Dock Green.

The moral, of course, is that real ladies are never stuck up, a deferential notion about as robust as the divine right of kings or papal infallibility. But it all works, this re-working of a music hall turn from before your mother was born, because of National Treasure Dame Joanna, God Bless Her.