Millennium defined by a sandwich

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The Independent Online
HERE IS something guaranteed to keep the family arguing during the season of goodwill, just in case Scrabble and the choice of viewing for Christmas Day are not enough: name the most significant people and events of the past 1,000 years.

As if it had not courted enough controversy to last the next 1,000 years, the company responsible for the Millennium Dome had a stab at its choice yesterday when it unveiled a pounds 2m advertising campaign. A television commercial, which begins on Christmas Eve, runs through what it considers the great achievements of humanity during the past millennium.

Top of the list are Michelangelo's Sistine Chapel, the moment in the 1780s when the Earl of Sandwich grasped the limitless possibilities of bread, and the compassion of Mother Teresa.

The New Millennium Experience Company's top 12 also includes: the Easter Island statues, Westminster Abbey, William Shakespeare, Florence Nightingale, the invention of television, the lunar landing, the fall of the Berlin Wall, the end of apartheid, and Sir Walter Raleigh's patronage of the potato.

Any debate about whether people need to see advertising to know that a new millennium is on the way will almost certainly be overshadowed, however, by arguments over the commercial's omissions.

They include the discovery of penicillin, the steam engine, the Industrial Revolution, the Reformation, the Renaissance, and Darwin's theory of evolution. And would, for example, Sir Walter have ever considered venturing beyond Basingstoke had not Christopher Columbus made the New World a popular holiday destination? Without the Age of Discovery, apartheid would probably not have had a beginning let alone an end. And without the Russian Revolution, the Berlin Wall might never have climbed higher than a picket fence.

The company said it drew up the final list after consumer research was carried out. The pounds 250,000 television commercial will appear over Christmas and run for a fortnight alongside a heavyweight poster campaign, which starts this week."People seemed to go for the small familiar things which affect everyday lives as well as the big significant advances," a spokesman said. That explains the sandwich.

But by concentrating on the significance of the new millennium, the commercial ducks any of the controversy surrounding the Dome.

"People know a lot about the Dome," said a spokesman. "But this is refocusing on the whole millennium experience, which people have not yet managed to grasp.

"People have not grasped the momentousness of the event - that it's a once in a 40-generation occurrence."

The advertising is stage one of a pounds 16m, year-long campaign that will culminate in a pitch for people to buy tickets for the Millennium Dome when they go on sale next autumn.