Winner's TV ad is voted 'most irritating' of 2004

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The Independent Online

It is lodged in the memory of anyone who has seen it, but for all the wrong reasons. Michael Winner's campaign for motor insurance firms First Alternative and Esure will this week be proclaimed the most irritating advert of the past 12 months.

In the ad, chosen by the public in a specially commissioned NOP poll, the restaurant critic and director of the Death Wish movies appears alongside a grinning actress who holds a series of signs saying she is not his sister.

It beat off other toe-curling efforts such as the campaign from Zovirax for cold sore treatments and the McDonalds "I'm loving it" ads to triumph in Marketing magazine's annual hall of shame.

The advert was designed to explain the new partnership between First Alternative and its sister company Esure. The latter's equally cringeworthy commercials had already featured Winner delivering the grating catchphrase: "Calm down dear, it's a commercial."

Past horrors which have landed Marketing's "most irritating advert" title include Billy Connolly's attempts to rebrand the National Lottery. Last year the dubious honour went to commercials for telephone enquiry service 11 88 88, which featured actors singing the numbers repeatedly.

Craig Smith, editor of Marketing magazine, said the commercial was a worthy winner. "I think the First Alternative ad is way up there in terms of irritation.

"This can often be a conscious decision. Once you're in a market with a very low interest factor, you've got to do something to stand out. Irritating doesn't necessarily mean ineffective," he said.

Andy Brown, head of marketing for First Alternative which launched in June, said: "The 90,000 policy-holders the company now has are testament to the campaign's success. The First Alternative ad was designed to stick in the mind of the consumer."

Runner-up is the Mint credit card advert featuring a big-nosed character who sneezes over his girlfriend's family.