Here’s a revelation: I never thought I’d say this but I now hate Boots advertisements more than those for Special K. Ta-dah! This may be partly to do with not having seen so many Special K adverts recently (although My special life still haunts the pages of Glamour) but I suspect that, even with a full-on where’s-your-red-dress-fatso marketing assault from The K, Boots would still be topping my hate list on their own merit. So well done to them.
It’s not as though Special K and Boots are so very different in their marketing message. Target Real Woman ™. Subtly imply that yes, you know she’s above all this dieting / makeup / anti-ageing shit anyhow (you do this by getting her to smirk a bit. It works particularly well if she’s Keeley Hawes). Once you’ve done this, chuck the products at her anyhow, because you know and she knows she’ll still buy them, and really, that’s quite funny when you think about it. In fact, you could make this contradiction the advert’s punchline. Let’s all have a giggle at the women throwing their makeover products into a skip in the back garden, at the “girls” going mental in the office loos in preparation for the Christmas party, at the diet-obsessed girl who’s driving her boyfriend mad (“she always looks great to me!” Yes, that’s because she’s a fucking model!). Ah these silly, silly women. Good we can have a laugh at our own expense. The kind of laugh that reinforces the low self-esteem that keeps you buying crap.
For years I thought no one would ever replace Special K as my most despised marketing campaign in this respect. I only had to think of the woman in the Special K Bliss advert, trying to convince you she was happy because she’d found some shards of chocolate in her cereal bow, when actually she was probably freezing cold, what with the red swimsuit and atmospheric breeze and lack of calories in her system … You could see it in her eyes, the deadness. And then when the advert ended you thought, yeah, I’m really fat. I ought to make myself feel that shit, too. I used to think nothing could top that. But I was wrong.
It’s not the “here come the girls” nonsense that’s been around for a while. I can live with that. It’s so openly crap, this “girls” bollocks, I’ve found it hard to care (except when the whole “girls” thing gets too much and I find myself confusing buying a Shapers sandwich with fighting breast cancer). No, the thing that has tipped me over the edge is the new “Ta-dah!” campaign. And the thing that really, really gets to me?
That’s it. The intonation. Just the way the voiceover says “Ta-dah!”. There’s so much you can read into it. And being me, I read away.
It’s not said in a showy, full-on way, not the way you really should say it. Just in a little voice, half-embarrassed. I think you’re meant to mistake it for modesty, but it’s more than that. Deep down, you know it’s ridicule.
Ta-dah! That’s you, all made-up, thinking you’re special, thinking you’re someone who can face the world. But we know you’re pretending. You’re not really okay, but we’ll help you get by.
Ta-dah! Like a little girl who’s been through her mother’s makeup box, made a mess of the lipstick and rouge but still wants to show everyone how lovely she looks. That’s you. Go on, show yourself. Might as well make a bit of a joke of it.
Ta dah! It’s okay, as long as you don’t make anyone think you take it seriously. As long as you play the game but accept your limitations.
Can you read that much into a simple exclamation?
But right now, Boots, in my world you’re making Special K almost benign.