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The People's Postcode Lottery adverts are a chilling vision of D-list purgatory
Plus Diet Coke's 'Yurt It Up abomination; "Hey Brian, I can smell gas"; what happens when you ask AI to write an ad script.
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Worst ad of the week: People’s Postcode Lottery
The People’s Postcode Lottery has become synonymous with the luck (or otherwise) of the draw when it comes to how likely you are to die an unnecessary death at the hands of an underfunded health service, an outcome that wouldn’t seem so bad after watching these adverts for the literal Postcode Lottery starring a frankly weird assortment of randoms and that makes the crew of Blake’s 7 look like the cast of Call The Midwife.
The Lottery ambassadors, who seem to live together and are clad all in red like something between the Carry On gang and extras from The Handmaid’s Tale, now seem to consist of Jeff Brazier (online casino presenter), Jason Donovan (Neighbours in the 80s), Judie McCourt (nope) and two Johnsons (Matt – not the one from The The – and ex-X-Factor man Danyl). Myleene Klass but be waiting by the phone as we speak.
That’s a group that, with the best will in the world, would struggle to enliven a light bulb with their star power, with Donovan in particular scarcely relevant since last millennium. Maybe that’s the point – all of these people seem approachable, fairly normal and cheerful to the point of instability. That stupid, chirpy optimism; those inane winsome grins. There’s a very good reason Will Self isn’t a Postcode Lottery ambassador.
Of course, very much unlike Omaze, the People’s Postcode Lottery isn’t run for profit so it feels a bit mean going full tilt on it. That is until the “Someone’s knocking at the door…” refrain kicks in. I’m not sure Wings’ Let Em In was ever a very good song, but it’s rendered absolutely hellish by this relentless overexposure.
Somewhere in Hell there’s a housing estate with the roads blocked by Jeff Brazier in an HGV, the streets flooded with red-jacketed D-listers and that abysmal earworm playing for ever and ever and ever.
From The Vaults: “If you want a Diet Coke, have a Diet Coke”
“If you want a Diet Coke, have a Diet Coke.”
That’s it? That’s the pay-off to this sequence of dissonant Millennial brain-shart? Is this what William Shakespeare died for? Is that what a medium-sized Colombian cocaine-harvest produced? ‘Have a Diet Coke – because you can’?
Rest in your grave Emmeline Pankhurst; sleep tight Stephen Hawking; dream fitfully Nelson Mandela – mankind has got it covered. We’ve had a long talk about it and we’ve decided that we’ve come up with the answer to life, the universe… everything. And the answer is… ‘if you want a Diet Coke, have a Diet Coke.’
That’s the sum total of human endeavour, right there. That’s what 200,000 years of evolution, the renaissance and industrial revolution brought us. We’ve decided to hand over the reins of humanity to the Diet Coke demographic, with their athleisure and ‘yurt it up’. We’re superhappy with the results and we think the future’s in safe hands.
Back in the 70s, ensconced in Berlin, David Bowie and Brian Eno refined a technique for creating music called Oblique Strategies. The idea is to encourage lateral thinking, often by doing something that might appear nonsensical or resulting in an apparent non-sequitur. In our short history such techniques have been used to create some of the finest art in history.
But in this Diet Coke advert, filled with meaningless, unconnected phrases that still manage to come off as deeply affected and hatefully hip, what appears to be a similar dynamic has birthed perhaps the most obnoxiously dumb 30 seconds in existence.
More nauseating than Trump boasting of grabbing women by their parts; more smug than Piers Morgan announcing he has won the Euromillions rollover; more thoroughly awful than Nigel Farage laughing while doing a shit in your bath, the Diet Coke advert is a Soho/Manhattan nightmare of vacant stupidity that literally has no meaning. You are trapped in it and there is no escape. Welcome to the rest of your life.
Vintage ad of the week: "Here Brian, I can smell gas..."
This advert from the 80s on what to do (and not to do) in the event of a gas leak absolutely terrified me as a child. The gloomy house, the chilling music – not to mention the terrifying cliffhanger. It was as frightening as Doctor Who, Chocky and The Boy From Space in its day.
Now I admire it for how long it's existed in a speck of my mind. Whenever I smell gas I think about it. And occasionally when people reach for a light switch I point and shout NO! at them. Would I reach for a light switch if I came home now and smelled gas? Hell no - because of this ad.
The David Cameron government decided we’re all clever enough that we don’t need these Public Information Films any more. From where I’m standing we’ve never needed them more, but I suppose it’s one in the eye for the nanny state, even if it only wanted us to stop blowing ourselves up from time to time.
Of course, the bloke in this advert was Terry in Eastenders, Captain Bertorelli in 'Allo 'Allo and various other things. It's character actor Gavin Richards, natch (also spotted in the ‘you can’t sing, you can’t dance, you look awful… you’ll go a long way KitKat adverts from around the same time). Amazing ‘tache. And yes, people did have hair, coats and cheroots like that in the 80s.
Some things I looked at this week
🤖 Is AI going to put every agency out of business? Or is it a load of old bollocks? This piece is worth a read.
🛑 Quite an amusing piece from the Advertising Standards Authority on what is likely to cause religious offence over Easter (tip: don’t advertising your betting offers with ‘imagery of blood dripping from a hand pierced by a nail alongside the text “nailed on bonus”).
🥫I asked Chat GTP, the AI bot that is going to enslave us all in a few years time, to write a script for a Diet Coke advert. It’s as insipid, cliched and obvious as you’d expect (though not as bad as “Yurt it up”:
[Scene: A young woman in a bright, colorful outfit walks into a convenience store on a hot summer day. She looks around for something refreshing to drink.]
Narrator: "It's hot out there. You're thirsty. You need something refreshing, but you don't want to compromise on taste."
[The young woman spots a can of Diet Coke in the refrigerator and picks it up.]
Narrator: "That's why there's Diet Coke."
[The young woman takes a sip of the Diet Coke, and her face lights up with pleasure.]
Narrator: "With zero sugar and zero calories, it's the perfect way to quench your thirst and satisfy your taste buds."
[Cut to the young woman dancing down the street, feeling energized and refreshed.]
Narrator: "So why settle for anything less? Choose Diet Coke and feel the difference."
[Cut to the Diet Coke logo and the tagline: "Diet Coke. Because you deserve it."]
[End of Advert]
That’s it for this week. If you enjoyed this please send it someone who mighy also enjoy it. Frankly even if you didn’t enjoy it I’d like you to send it someone – I’m not even that bothered if they don’t enjoy it.
Same time, next week. Don’t forget to follow me on Facebook and let me know which advert has reduced you to a pathetic, dribbling mess this week.