Purple passion puts Tango on top of the advertising world
Tuesday 18 November 1997
Paul McCann, Media Correspondent, asks if advertising can be so good that it becomes art.
It's official. The Blackcurrant Tango television advert featuring a hysterical, xenophobic Tango spokesman running around in purple boxer shorts is the best advert in the world.
The advert, which first ran on British television last year, was the grand prize winner in the London International Advertising Awards last night. It beat 7,000 entries from 78 countries to win the coveted grand prize at a black-tie award ceremony.
The advert had already won its agency, HHCL Partners, the British Creative Circle awards and Design and Art Director awards earlier this year. It has also appeared on countless industry "advert of the year" lists.
The commercial was also one of the top ten most complained about adverts of last year. In all 68 people protested to the Independent Television Commission that it was insulting and xenophobic.
The advert featured mild-mannered Tango spokesman Roy Gardner reading out a letter from a French schoolboy who complains that he doesn't like blackcurrant. Prompted by this and a Tango scientist, Roy marches through his office getting angrier and angrier until he is outside, stripping down to a pair of blackcurrant-coloured shorts.
The Tango spokesman then marches to a field supported by 400 cheering extras where a boxing ring is set up. Here he challenges the boy and the whole of France to a fight. As the camera pans back and the music swells the boxing ring is seen perched above the White Cliffs of Dover
The ITC dismissed the complaints on the grounds that the humour of the commercial was in the same tradition of xenophobic British humour as Alf Garnett or Basil Fawlty.
The pounds 500,000 advert received plaudits from outside the advertising industry when the Institute of Contemporary Arts included it in an exhibition this year to illustrate how art could come from commercial sources.
Kate Bush, curator of the ICA's Assuming Positions exhibition said the advert was used because it was technically brilliant as well as self-knowing: "It starts off dull and builds to a wonderful cinematic climax. You could read it as real laddishness and repugnant xenophobia, but at the same time you known it knows all that about itself and is a parody. This helps it transcend being an advert and becomes art."
Mike Cozens, creative director of rival agency Young & Rubicam, said: "It's been a great hit with punters as well as with advertising juries, which doesn't always follow. It's good to see such a mainstream brand like this winning awards for its advertising; it's often more obscure brands that win, which is sometimes questionable."
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