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I tried and failed to work a political moral into this post about annoying adverts

This one, for Gordon’s gin.

The link may not work for everyone, so let me summarise the story. The scene is a garden party. A willowy wine connoisseur is holding forth with wine-connoisseur talk to a small group of guests. There is no evidence that his spiel is unwelcome to his hearers; one of them can be heard responding in kind. Then the camera moves to where a woman is talking to a man a few feet away. Both are drinking Gordon’s. The man, played by Philip Glenister who played Gene Hunt in Life on Mars, is more manly and less posh than the wine connoisseur. The woman overhears the wine man and praises Gordon’s gin to her companion in terms that are presumably meant to echo the connoisseur’s while being less pretentious, i.e. such as to actually make the audience want to drink Gordon’s gin. Meanwhile gin-drinking man has also been eavesdropping on wine-drinking man and starts to get visibly enraged. DCI Hunt usually had the excuse that a crime had been committed but this character simply doesn’t like anyone talking lah-di-dah in his hearing. Unprovoked, he loudly insults the wine connoisseur and finishes up with a disingenuous pretence that he does not know why everyone is looking at him.

The message is meant to be that drinking Gordon’s shows you to be plain-spoken and heterosexual. The message it sent me was that drinking Gordon’s makes you an obnoxious jerk.

The above was only the second most annoying advert of all time. There was a commercial many years ago, also for booze, that would have caused me to boycott whatever it was for forever if I could ever remember whatever it was. It might have been lager, bitter, or a mixture of water, urea, uric acid, creatinine and various organic and inorganic compounds. The advertisement was set in a gym. A young woman sprains her leg. A young man steps forward authoritatively, saying “let me look at that”, examines her leg and squeezes it here and there in a professional manner. She thanks him and says how fortunate it was that he was a doctor. “I’m not a doctor,” he replies with a leer and all his mates laugh at how he had managed to get himself a grope of someone in pain. Drink our Alcohol Product and you too will be emboldened to try this!

As I said, no moral. I just want whoever scripted these adverts (the “Bartle Bogle Hegarty Creative Team” for the gin one, apparently), and even more whoever paid for them, to read this one day and suffer torments. Well, maybe not actual torments. Not even one little torment, like an infestation of microscopic nanoyeast monsters making their ears smell of hangover. But definitely significant embarrassment.

76 comments to I tried and failed to work a political moral into this post about annoying adverts

  • JohnB

    Thugism and related behavioural norms have been riding rather high in the UK popularity charts.
    But, unfortunately, it seems it is being promoted as part of being British.
    Witness a crowd of fairly upmarket diners at a Spanish beach bar punching the air.
    or our latest James Bond – as a trend.
    I suppose people are a bit fed up with all the food snobbies on TV, other partial affectations, and the false culture that goes with that and similar exercises in ego?
    Perhaps it’s also part of an elitist plot to dumb all the people down, get them spitting on the soccer field and subsequently in the street and talking as far from clarity as possible and singing in an off-tune mutter or rage.
    Wotcher, mate, better get out of ‘ere before I get mugged!

  • Drink our Alcohol Product and you too will be emboldened to try this!

    Alternatively, you could be emboldened to try a bunch of things if only you pop a breath mint.

  • RAB

    Jeepers Natalie, you obviously don’t watch much telly, there’s a million incredibly annoying ads out there. The GoCompare ones are legend, but my personal screensmasher was the PG Tips one with Johnny Vagas. “How can a tea taste… Eagle!” I don’t give flying one what it tastes like, because I have vowed never to buy PG Tips tea ever again, even if it is the only packet left in the shop (avertising really works, doesn’t it?).

  • James Waterton

    Ha! I can top that Gordons ad! Previously I wouldn’t have bought a Kia for any other reason beyond the fact that they’re cheap. However, these two horrifically bad advertisements ensured that, even if they paid me to take one, I wouldn’t be seen dead in it:

    Man Of Now

    Woman Of Now

    Man Of Now in particular is so cringingly lame that he could easily make people to resort to violence.

  • Lee Moore

    The first advert sounds vaguely reminiscent (politically) of one from a few years ago. In which a fat toff on a horse in front of a stately home was making some silly arse toffy sounds, and was promptly knocked off his horse by a giant swinging packet of Tunes, the voiceover informing you that Tunes were good for clearing away stuffiness.

    As it is no longer acceptable to make fun of the traditionally discriminated against classes, there is a gap in the market for laugh-at rather than laugh-with humour. Since we humans like to be cruel some of the time, this market gap has been filled with humour directed at the few remaining permissible targets – toffs, posh people, pretentious people, Americans, bankers and so on. If cruel stereotypical humour cannot be dispensed with – as I very much doubt that it can – it is probably better directed at those best able to bear it.

  • Maximo Macaroni

    But, but … Gordon’s gin IS better than wine!

  • WIlliam

    We certainly have a different perspective of who the obnoxious jerk is. The gin man had the courage to quiet the jerk we all would like to quiet but don’t have the courage to.

  • Biff

    If you are looking for a political moral involving the Gordon’s advert, the moral is not about the advert itself, but about the reaction to it.

    While the rumpled fellow may have breached some boundary of etiquette by making a critical remark within earshot of the wine connoisseurs, it wasn’t at all clear that he spoke any more loudly than the “expert”. At the same time, the expert was preening in a way that was intruding on nearby conversations, itself a transgression of etiquette. By speaking more loudly than necessary, the expert was, indeed, provoking — demanding, even — applause or retreat from those nearby. The rumpled fellow’s droll remark seemed a rather gentle reminder to the expert that not everyone within earshot was entertained by the show — and it was a show, properly subject to reviews from an involuntary audience. Rather than do the expected, the gin drinker stood his ground.

    So where is the political moral?

    The Gordon’s scenario was not very different from what transpires at any number of social events where a political topic arises. A preening advocate of government intervention declares the wisdom of increasing spending or decreasing freedom, does so in a way that demands either the silence or the assent of all nearby (whether party to the conversation of not) to show tribal affiliation, and any troglodyte who disagrees is expected to slink away and keep their benighted opinions to themselves.

    Metaphorically, the connoisseurs represent the mainstream of our chattering intellectual class. The gin drinker is…Nigel Farage. Or at least a Samizdata reader.

    I’ve admired Ms. Solent’s thinking for many years, but I was astonished by her characterization of the gin drinker as “visibly enraged.” At most, the fellow qualified as “mildly miffed”, and his actions were a firm, yet gentle, rejoinder to an effete bully. If we have reached the point where we libertarians equate standing our ground with rage, then perhaps we have already ceded so much ground that we have no alternative but to retreat to our libertarian ghettoes and cloisters, huddling for ineffectual comfort.

    Nonsense. Hand me a gin, and, paraphrasing the Gordon’s advert, let’s get started. We have work to do.

  • Thing is, if you do wine tasting, you often pick up a flavour that is like wet dog or cola-flavoured spangles and someone will say it and you taste it and you get exactly what they mean. Something in there triggers a memory of another flavour.

    What I hate about this stuff is just how people revel in their own ignorance or hatefulness. Even if people doing wine tastings are a bunch of jerks, so what? There are blokes who can tell you the result of Accrington Stanley vs Bolton in 1922, but oh, that’s not nerdy and twattish, is it?

    Oh, and Gordon’s tastes like crap. It’s probably fine if you’re adding bitter lemon to it, but if you’re making a martini, you do better buying Sainsbury’s rather excellent Blackfriars Gin for £3 less a bottle.

  • David Crawford

    To me, the commercial that makes me want to hunt down and slam someone is the one they have on here in the U.S. by Blue Buffalo dog food. They refer to people as “pet parents”, not as owners but as parents.

  • David C

    What Biff said.

  • Natalie Solent (Essex)

    Biff, truly, thank you for your comment. Debate is what comment threads are for. You write:

    The Gordon’s scenario was not very different from what transpires at any number of social events where a political topic arises. A preening advocate of government intervention declares the wisdom of increasing spending or decreasing freedom, does so in a way that demands either the silence or the assent of all nearby (whether party to the conversation of not) to show tribal affiliation, and any troglodyte who disagrees is expected to slink away and keep their benighted opinions to themselves.

    But it was very different! For someone to describe his own, subjective experience of a taste is about as far as can be from someone “laying down the law” about a political topic.

    I object to the latter as much as you do, particularly when it takes place in circumstances where it would be impolite to start a row yet silence might be taken as assent. IIRC, Jonah Goldberg, the author of Liberal Fascism, has often written about how infuriating it was for him as a US Republican when for example, the conductor of an orchestra would get in a dig at President Bush while introducing a piece of music.

    However subjective taste is about as inoffensive and by definition non-tribalising a topic as can be imagined. Wine-drinking man was showing off, yes, as nearly all human beings do all the time, especially at parties, but he was not doing down anyone else for having a different experience. As The Stigler said, it’s no different from enthusiasts for any hobby going on about their favourite subject.

    The worst that can be said of him was that he was a bit loud… but they were outdoors in a big space. The gin-drinking couple could have moved out of earshot in two steps if it was too loud for them. Most people do this unconsciously, which is why the conversational clumps at garden parties end up fairly regularly spaced. Also wine-drinking man’s loudness wasn’t meant to be heard by or offend gin-drinker, but gin-drinker did intend to be heard by and offend wine drinker.

    (To forestall an objection that nobody has yet made, yes, of course all these people were actors and this was merely a 30-second gin advert so it is a little odd for me to analyse it so seriously – but adverts do illustrate how people actually behave and how people aspire to behave.)

  • Laird

    I agree: what Biff said. And said rather eloquently, too.

    “Pretentious rubbish” is a pretty apt description and at worst only the mildest of rebukes. “Pebbles in the rain”? Come on.

  • Metaphorically, the connoisseurs represent the mainstream of our chattering intellectual class. The gin drinker is…Nigel Farage. Or at least a Samizdata reader.

    Hmmm… but… I am a gin connoisseur… I actually goes to gin-tastings and knows my Aviation from my Martin Miller from my Bombay Sapphire :D

  • Natalie Solent (Essex)

    Ted Schuerzinger,

    Interesting link. It is genuinely funny, and it appeals to the part of all of us that can fantasize about breaking rules. I have laughed at or enjoyed many scenes in action movies when, justified by great need, James Bond or a similar hero breaks and steals the property of numerous bystanders and generally causes spectacular chaos… one just has to hope in-story that no one except the bad guys actually gets killed. That advert was a milder example of that sort of naughty pleasure. (Though now I think about it, the man in the advert was not acting under great need at all.)

    It wouldn’t be so funny if it happened to you or me. Imagine that instead of the driver being a male, evidently rich (judging from his ownership of one of those new-fangled “mobile phones”), capitalist bastard in the prime of life, it was a frail, nervous old lady experiencing a big guy force himself into her car.

  • Natalie Solent (Essex)

    Laird, what had he done to deserve rebuke at all?

    What can people talk about that won’t cause offence, if not their personal tastes and enthusiasms? OK, there’s always the weather. But even in Britain the weather wears a bit thin as a topic over the whole length of a garden party.

  • RAB

    I’m with Biff too. The pretentious twat has obviously been asked to blind taste a wine. Evinced by his first words being… Well it’s a Chablis of course. He is setting himself up as an expert and daring anyone to disagree with him, much like Biff’s political scenario. You cannot disagree with me because I am an expert and you are not etc. basically it is egotistical bullying.

    Personally if handed a good tasting wine, I’m likely to say… Hmm nice drop this, fruity and full bodied, may I have another glass?

    And the Stigler, if you handed me a glass of wine that tasted of wet dog and cola flavoured Spangles then I would instantly spit it out all over your snow white shag-pile, ok? ;-)

  • Mr Ed

    The Gin man is boorish, but whose party is it? On what terms are the guests there? The gin man may have breached an implicit term of quiet enjoyment, his loathing may be understandable, but it is at the least impolite,

    Is there not a class angle here, despite tens of millions killed in the name of the low classes, class hatred is not seen as wrong here, even though the makers of adverts and gin would be amongst the first to be shot by Bolsheviks on their seizing power, it would serve them right.

    The late, great Auberon Waugh said that all hat was loathsome about modern Britain was summed up in Mr Bond, a lawless thug working for the State, feeling entitlted to ride roughshod over others, the mundane types, in pursuit of his ends, the killer bureaucrat unleashed, the mentality of destroying that which opposes you being his MO .

    I agree, and note that the latest effort, Skyfall, which I saw without having to pay, was fascinatingly awful. In brief, it is as if the BBC had taken over the franchise and made the film. The plot was bizarre and unbelievable, the main focus of the agency was bureaucratic self-preservation (this might have been post-dodgy dossier Iraq irony, but I doubt it), the villain had a Portuguese name and Spanish accent, and lapsed into psychobabble, the opening scences involved no obvious enemy and destruction of private property and wanton disregard for others’ lives in Istanbul, the ‘Scottish’ Bond’s ancestral home in Scotland had a priest hole, although this is properly an English phenomenon, and the whole thing was so obviously PC as to be laughable.

  • RAB

    Perry, did you rate the Aldi Oliver Cromwell, which at £9.65 to Bombay Sapphire’s £21 is an absolute bargin, and also came second in a recent blind tasting?

  • Natalie Solent (Essex)

    Perry… this is me being a troublemaker, but how would you describe the taste of Bombay Sapphire?

  • Biff

    I like good wine. I go to a fair number of very high end wine tastings, and I often detect the occasional note of citrus, caramel, or nuttiness.

    However, let’s not kid ourselves. Many wine tastings are at least as much about demonstrating tribal affiliation (i.e. class, status, “breeding”, etc.) as they are about describing one’s subjective experience of a taste. That’s not so different from many garden party political discussions, which often are more about strengthening tribal markers than they are about any depth of knowledge, appreciation, or political enthusiasm.

    I would have reacted differently to the advert if the wine expert had been pontificating to a large, appreciative crowd or if the obvious purpose of the party were to listen to his expert analysis. In such examples, our gin drinker would have been quite out of line. That wasn’t the case, though, was it? The expert was speaking to three other people, presumably his guest and another couple, and he was speaking loudly enough to disturb a nearby couple. Why is it the duty of the nearby couple to yield their place to the expert’s boorishness?

    I also wonder how the commercial might have been interpreted if the rumpled fellow had been an impeccably groomed, tuxedoed James Bond, delivering exactly the same line, albeit with a somewhat more polished, Bond-like flair. Issues of class, rather than content, abound.

  • Biff

    @Natalie: I don’t want to over-analyse a thirty second advert, but perhaps I have identified the source of our differences. You thought that “wine-drinking man’s loudness wasn’t meant to be heard by or offend gin-drinker”. In contrast, I interpreted his loudness as being fully intended to be heard beyond his immediate circle, though I concede that most likely, he did not intend to offend. If your interpretation is correct, then yes, the gin drinker is more out of line. If mine is correct, then both may be at fault, but I think wine drinker carries the most guilt. I don’t think that we can come to a firm conclusion from such a brief snippet.

    Prepare the Rorschach tests! And ready the gin, or the Chablis!

  • Biff

    PS. Re. “What can people talk about that won’t cause offence, if not their personal tastes and enthusiasms? OK, there’s always the weather.”

    Jonah Goldberg’s National Review colleague, the music critic and conservative pundit, Jay Nordlinger, has written a few times about the “politicization of everything. Nordlinger might respond to your question with “Nothing. Not a single thing.”

    Speak of the weather, and you will hear about climate change.

    Speak of music, and you will hear of the horrid cuts in financial support for the arts.

    Speak of books, and you will hear about the need to spend more on the schools.

    Speak of the food, and you will hear of the need to restrict food choices in order to combat obesity.

    Speak of sex, and…well, okay. There’s that.

  • I am with Natalie. The Wine Guy is clearly the less likable type (an effete pompous type), while the Gin Guy is the likable type (a manly plain-spoken type). So what? The likable guy is still in the wrong, and having so plainly spoken the things he spoke, he was totally out of line.

  • Gee, Natalie, I didn’t think you could analyze a silly commercial that much. At the very least, I hope you’re stuck with that horrible earworm. :-p

    James Waterton:

    How can you not like this Kia advert? :-)

  • RAB

    Sorry Alisa, how is he totally out of line? He is asked a question by his Garden party companion, and he answers in no louder and more expansive terms than the pretentious wine twat. His female companion started it by describing exactly what the advertisers want you to think of Gordon’s Gin, namely..crisp dry gin with a dash of tonic and a hint of Juniper and asking what he was getting.

    Let’s cut to the chase here, for this is not a one off advert, but one of a series. There is an implicit backstory. Posh bird picks up a bit of attractive rough and introduces him to her “Set” in various social situations. He is uncomfortable in these situations but bluff and obstinate enough to hold his own. The other one I can remember, the only detail being, is her saying to him as the punchline, after talking about Faux Pas… “unlike you turning up to a Dinner Party in trainers”.

    Gordon’s which has been forever the best known name in Gin, is losing sales. They wish to ditch the old colonial Middle Class image and rebrand ( Tonic was specifically designed to contain Quinine to counteract Malaria)and flog their stuff to “solid honest ordinary types” like Glenister.As if to say “You may be from Barnsley rather than Tunbridge Wells but there’s nowt wrong wi’ a plain old G&T” Gin is being outsold by Vodka five to one or more, they just want their market share back is all. It’s all about Class, rebranding and shifting product, simple as…

  • Stonyground

    I watch hardly any TV so this stuff is mostly going over my head. Radio Ads, on the other hand, I do feel qualified to comment on. Being a middle aged git, BBC Radio 2 suits me a lot of the time. I do have to escape from the irritating Chris Evans and the witless Jeremy Vine by running into the arms of independent radio.

    Not only are radio ads much more annoying than TV ads but they tend to be repeated so often that even the ones that you initially found to be mildly entertaining start to piss you off. I can now recite verbatum both the Lightcraft ad and the one where Johnny Ball tells us that ‘Helplink do it right’.

    The current champion has to be an ad for Halfords. This ad features an actor playing a Halfords employee, holding a conversation with clips from Queen’s Bicycle Race song.

    I have no intention of boycotting Halfords because of this annoying ad, I think that life is too short to be so petty.

  • RAB, the pretentious wine twat has every right to be a pretentious wine twat that he obviously is – especially if this is his set. The attractive rough would do well looking for a set where he does feel comfortable. The bird in question would do equally well making up her mind as to what set she wants to belong to and to pick her men from that set, rather than trying to manipulate them as a form of entertainment. To each their own?

  • Natalie Solent (Essex)

    Biff and RAB,

    Biff has correctly identified in his comment of 6:28 the point where our views diverge: it looks to me like wine drinking guy intended to show off but did not intend to offend, whereas gin-drinking guy did intend to offend, by calling the other pretentious.

    RAB, you say the wine guy had “obviously been asked to blind taste a wine.” I assumed this as well, but him having been asked to give his opinion as to what wine it was makes his conduct in answering the question put to him more innocent, not less.

    Now, you guys disagree but since none of us are going to launch a holy war over what really happened in an imaginary situation, let’s move on to class. I think I am getting – with just a threat of oyster shell – the political moral I said I failed to get in the heading of this post. Biff speculated that the gin-drinking man would have been assessed more favourably if he had been more upper class. I look at it the other way round. I think the wine-drinking guy would have been assessed more favourably if he had been less upper class. See Lee Moore’s comment of 1:43pm: “Since we humans like to be cruel some of the time, this market gap has been filled with humour directed at the few remaining permissible targets – toffs, posh people, pretentious people, Americans, bankers and so on.”

  • Natalie Solent (Essex)

    Just a general observation: isn’t it odd how many people have mentioned James Bond? Bond’s place, or rather the many places of all the many versions of Bond, in the soap opera of the British class system is slippery. In the books he was portrayed as a bit of a parvenu, more virile and ruthless than the over-bred, over-scrupulous cricket-playing types around him. He may have been to Eton, but his unashamed pleasure in luxury wasn’t exactly upper class.

  • RAB

    Well first off Natalie, I don’t see how Biff and I disagree; we have pretty much agreed in the main. And I still think you have missed the crude point of the avert. Which is… It is cool for ordinary people to drink G&T ( oh please please! cry Gordon’s we’re losing money!) that you don’t have to be a pretentious uppermiddle class twat in a cravat (do notice the cravat) to appreciate its clean honest taste, and surround it with mumbo jumbo bullshit “I’m getting a THREAT of Oyster shell…” Um WTF!

    Gin has already been rebranded and re-marketed a few times already. It was mother’s ruin once upon a time, and the scourge of the working classes in Hogarth’s prints etc. You could by a bucketful of the stuff for a penny, hardly an upper middle class tipple then eh? Something must be done! was the cry. So they sent it to our Colonies along with the life-saving Tonic. Now they want to take it downmarket again as an honest clean and tasteful drink for all.

    Adverts are, in the main, crude cartoons that have to say what they want to put across in a very short time. Nothing is inadvertant or wasted about them. This is a crude attempt to make the working classes think it’s ok to drink Gin again, that it’s not soley the perogative of their social betters.

    Well best of luck with that.I wonder what the sales look like? Some of the most famous and popular ads in British Advertising history were the Cinzano ads by Leonard Rossiter and Joan Collins. Everyone loved the ads, they were funny. The sales of Cinzano however plummeted.

    Now then, what happens when Pimms sales start to fall? What sort of ads will we see then? What the hell is the spirit in Pimms anyway? I have never found out.

  • ragingnick

    The gin advert is a fairly typical example of the marxist meta-narrative that pervades all forms of established media, including advertising.

    The general rule of modern advertising is that you can be cruel and rude if you are a member of a perceived victim group (women, the working class ect ), while those seen as ‘oppressors’ (white, male, upper class) are fair game. The advert is perfectly designed to appeal to a common hatred of those seen as posh or elitist that has been ingrained into the collective mentality by the Gramscian capture of media and culture.

  • Nick (nice-guy) Gray

    I like both types of gin! Gin the drink, and Gin the Aboriginal woman (originally Diyin, from a local Sydney language)!

  • Natalie Solent (Essex)

    RAB, I didn’t mean you disagreeing with Biff, I meant you plus Biff disagreeing with me.

    I did get that the advert was trying to do. The rough, working class, anti-PC character of DCI Gene Hunt is very popular, and Philip Glenister was basically just playing Hunt for a few seconds more for this advert. I bet the whole inspiration for this ad was Hunt’s much-quoted boast “I once hit a bloke for speaking French.”.

    I’m sure you are right about the branding, but I don’t see the relevance. Hunt has some great lines but someone who actually behaved like that would not have been able to sustain day to day relationships even as a 1970s cop, let alone at a modern garden party. I think it’s a pity if the modern idea of working class cool involves being hostile to people who weren’t hostile to you.

  • Peter

    Growing up in the North East I would not have thought a man who drinks gin to be manly or macho at all. Not far in fact from Delboy Trotter with his many bizarre cocktails or Jerry & Margo..I wonder if the ad is nationwide or region specific.

    Now been living in the south for 25 years so I have broadened my tastes somewhat, though it still a great pleasure to come across a pub selling Newcastle Brown Ale.

  • James Waterton

    I used to be heavily involved in the wine industry, so I’ve basically forgotten an awful lot about wine1. And there genuinely are a small number of people out there who can be handed a random unmarked glass of wine and accurately tell you the variety, vintage, region and very often winery. Every time. Some people have the MW title after their name. Respect it.

    Then there’s the vast majority of people who act like they’re MWs (also known as wankers) who might be able to pick one of the more well-known varieties (which isn’t that hard, especially with wines at higher price points). Then it comes down to the excrutiating process of hearing what they’re getting. This is easy to do, incidentally. Just be a regular reader of the wine press (ahem) and you will soon learn the basic ‘overtones’ of the different varietals… Riesling – limey/austere; Cabernet Sauvignon – cassis, mint; Sauvignon Blanc – grassy, gooseberries.

    Keep reading these articles and you’ll assemble a whole bunch of more the lesser wine adjectives – forest floor, sweaty saddle (Hunter Valley Shirazes were frequently cursed with this a while back. Australians will know why), voluptuous. There are literally a tonne more of these ambiguous terms that oenophiles learn to associate with certain varieties. That’s how these folk can sally forth and rattle off 5 or 6 obscure flavours from their wine – they’ve all pre-learnt! Easy as pie.

    So yes, it’s a wanker’s ball. If anyone comes at you spitting absurd sounding types of food, flora or , rest in peace that they’re making it all up as they go along and their palate is not markedly better than theirs. Could be worse.

    Of course, there are people that genuinely have fine, fine palates who can do all of the above and more. They’re the ones that pick a bottle of wine as corked and send it back, leaving you thinking they’re over-reacting. Until the replacement arrives and tastes considerably better. Slightly corked wine is ubiquitous, thanks to the unwillingness of consumers in some countries to embrace the screwcap. It’s true that an expensive cork in a premium bottle is much less likely to affect the wine, but in the commercial midrange, a screwcap is far preferable.

    Me, I have gone from initially enjoying wine, to making a concerted effort to really being able to discuss it at great lengths (I was even on a few professional judging panels back in the day), although it must be said that I was much closer to the embarrassingly noisy “sweaty saddles” type enthusiast as seen in Natalie’s ad than an MW. Now, I drink and love wine. And when I do, I think about it but don’t really like to talk about it much.

    Drink. Think. (Optional) Cancel the workshop.

  • James Waterton

    ‘Think’ was optional. The workshop…well if anyone gets into these, I suspect they won’t be invited to Samizdata HQ to rattle off the list of increasingly preposterous flavours they’ve detected in a glass of Bordeaux.

  • nemesis

    The advert obviously worked because you remembered the name!

  • It still does not mean that she’s going to buy it though.

  • The advert obviously worked because you remembered the name!

    One of the greatest of many fallacies in the modern world is “there is no such thing as bad publicity”. Nothing could be further from the truth.

  • Nick (nice-guy) Gray

    I don’t know about that, Perry! I’m surprised there isn’t a ‘Victory Gin’. It could be advertised as ‘double-plus good!’. Big Brother recommends it, so you know it’s good!

  • Plamus

    Natalie Solent:

    Biff has correctly identified in his comment of 6:28 the point where our views diverge: it looks to me like wine drinking guy intended to show off but did not intend to offend, whereas gin-drinking guy did intend to offend, by calling the other pretentious.

    Umm, Natalie, even assuming your interpretation is exactly correct… Does the wine fellow enjoy a special right not to befeel offended? If you choose to air your opinion, you had better be prepared to hear others’ opinions of your opinion. If it’s the wine guy’s turf, he can ask the gin bloke to leave; if it’s not, he can leave himself. In either case he can defend his opinion, or voice his opinion of the other’s opinion.

    I’ll add as a consideration that the wine fellow is (IMHO) trying to pass himself off as at least a connoisseur, if not a “pro”, while swallowing a good ounce of wine. You don’t see him spitting in front of the two ladies. He is also holding the bowl of the glass, and not the stem or the foot, which warms the wine. Thus “pretentious” – attempting to impress by affecting greater importance, talent, culture, etc., than is actually possessed – seems like a rather accurate description. To me, at least, his goal is indeed to impress, not to share an expert opinion.

  • Natalie Solent (Essex)

    Plamus,

    Does the wine fellow enjoy a special right not to befeel offended? If you choose to air your opinion, you had better be prepared to hear others’ opinions of your opinion.

    I think everyone here would strongly assert that no one has a political right not to be or feel offended. The creeping creation of a legal “right” not to be offended, i.e. to punish and silence those who do offend politically favoured groups, is one of the most sinister developments in British politics.

    However we are not talking about rights in that sense. We are talking about what is within the limits of politeness, or as I put it in the original post, whether certain behaviour counts as being a jerk.

    If I’m a guest at a party of that type (a purely social gathering such as someone’s birthday or wedding anniversary, not a forum where robust debate is welcome) and a fellow guest shows off then, in order not to embarrass my host or fellow guests, nine times out of ten I’d smile and let it go by. After all, people show off constantly, the craving for approval and admiration is part of the human condition. It’s no skin off my nose. About one time out of ten I’d venture to politely disagree with the showoff. I wouldn’t get angry and say that the showoff was talking “rubbish”. The only circumstances in which I would get angry were if the person said something deeply offensive. Some silly man pretending to be more expert than he really is in order to look good in front of the ladies doesn’t qualify.

    As an aside, I find it rather touching when someone who is expert refrains from public correction in order to protect the feelings of a more ignorant person. There are times when it would be nicer to correct the mistaken person, e.g. in order to save them future embarrassment, or just because they might welcome more knowledge about a topic they are interested in, but not always. I’m thinking of the story about some king or other who was making awkward small talk with a person from a humble background who had just got an OBE. The ordinary bloke started talking about how he loved the works of “J.S. Bach, the composer” – only he pronounced it as “J.S. BATCH”. So the king said firmly that he loved the works of Batch, too, so as not to spoil the ordinary bloke’s big day.

  • Plamus, are you actually complaining that he’s not pretentious enough?:-P

    Of course both guys have the right to voice their opinions of each other, provided the premises are owned by some third, unrelated party. The question that was originally raised here though simply was ‘who is being more obnoxious’. I’m still with Natalie on this.

  • Plamus

    Alisa, no, he’s just about hit the sweet spot of pretentiousness :-)

    As for who is more obnoxious, I’ll answer with a question: more obnoxious to whom? But at least the gin guy could point out why the other guy is in fact pretentious, while the wine guy could… do what?… Say “but, but… oysters are indeed threatening!”?

    Natalie:

    As an aside, I find it rather touching when someone who is expert refrains from public correction in order to protect the feelings of a more ignorant person.

    Perhaps, although I think we have too much of this, and not enough of the opposite. In my book, that does not extend to being politely quiet while an astrologer or some other BS artist is plying their trade, whether for financial or status gain.

  • more obnoxious to whom?

    To an uninvolved third party, such as any of us here. Note, ‘uninvolved’, rather than ‘uninterested’. Why? Because the real question seems to be: which of the two guys would you rather run into and have to deal with in real life. I’ll take the the wine guy, thank you very much – albeit not in any kind of romantic sense:-O Seriously, as viscerally unattractive as he is to me, on a purely rational level I do prefer people who tend to mind their own damn business.

  • …not that I myself always conform to that high standard – but hey, nobody is perfect…:-)

  • Rick

    Sorry, Natalie, this is about you, not the commercial.

    Rumpled Gin Man is obviously the hetero; Weenie Wine Boy is wearing a pocket square! RGM is also visibly WITH the prettier woman, as opposed to WWB, who is sharing the attentions of two ladies with another poof in a bad hat. In the final crime against masculinity, WWB is drinking chablis!!!

    Subtext, Hell, overt text: Gordon’s Gin for manly men and womanly women. Where do you fit in, Natalie?

  • Where do you fit in, Natalie?

    Having met her and seen her in action many times over the years…. she fits into the “woman-with-brain” demographic, hence her aversion to adverts aimed at the moron demographic. Has been described as a Ninja Librarian.

  • Lee Moore

    Natalie may be a “woman-with-brain” but she’s plainly also a girl. Her non interference strategy for show offs is impossibly girly. As any chap knows, showing off is, consciously or unconsciously, about pulling birds. Either directly, or indirectly by impressing other chaps and so acquiring higher status.
    So if an ignorant show off is succeeding with his showing off, because his audience is unsophisticated, and if he accordingly threatens your status or shows signs of pulling a bird you might prefer to pull yourself, then you can’t possible let it go, in deference to your host’s sensibilities. Unless, of course, putting the show off in his place involves even greater risks to your status or your bird pulling, by making you appear boorish or cruel.

    Showing off is a competitive sport (for chaps at least) – unilateral disarmament can only lead to defeat. Although the better players can show off with appearing to, they’re still showing off.

  • Laird

    Lee Moore nails it.

  • Natalie Solent (Essex)

    Amateurs. When we show off, you think you are making an objective assessment.

  • Lee, what you said only goes much further to show that the Gin Guy did a poor job of showing off and pulling a real bird (namely Natalie), as opposed to an imaginary one (namely the actress next to him in the commercial).

  • Lee Moore

    As I didn’t see the advert Alisa, I can’t comment on the Gin Guy’s actual performance. But as you say, he seems to have failed with Natalie. But few products appeal to all market segments. One can make a very good living selling things that only 1% of the population is interested in. Natalie is no doubt a discerning and intelligent consumer of masculine charms – this is NOT the only kind. Thank God.

    Showing off works. Even showing off about wine. By her own account, some lucky bloke even managed to pull Jean Seberg with a bit of wine snobbery :

    “My first marriage was not happy. I married him because I was impressed that he knew which wines to order and how to leave his visiting card. Ridiculous reasons”

    Ridiculous, but apparently sufficient.

  • Plamus

    Alisa, I am honestly bewildered how you can reconcile “I’ll take the the wine guy” with “I do prefer people who tend to mind their own damn business” – on a purely rational level, of course :-) Mr. Chablis’ peacockery does not fit inside my definition of minding one’s own business – not that I am denying him his right to it – but… to each their own, as a wise lady wrote earlier. Personally, I’ll take an honest fellow over a BS’er any day.

  • Laird

    Alisa, it seems he did a fine job with respect to his specific target: his companion at the party. I don’t think he was aiming at Natalie. A bird in the hand and all that.

  • Mr Ed

    We do not know if the Wine Chap was joking or sending up wine snobs, nor whose event it was.

  • You cracked me up, Lee:-)))

    Laird, can I have your attention for a second? Here it goes: the “bird in hand” was an imaginary person played by an actress. :-)

    Everyone, I’ll sum up by repeating myself: on a purely visceral, sexual level I’d be attracted to the Gin Guy – that is, until he began acting like a bully. Once that happened, the charm evaporated. At the same time, I cannot imagine a circumstance where I’d be similarly attracted to the Wine Guy (I’m still giggling over ‘willowy’, heh:-)). It’s just in this particular imaginary scenario he comes off less bad as a person than the Gin Guy. Is all I’m sayin.

  • Mr Ed

    The moral of the advert, if anything, appears to be that hatred of someone for their class, exemplified by the Wine guy and his manner, contrasted against the Gin guy, is good. ‘We must teach pur children to hate’ said Lenin.

    http://frontpagemag.com/2013/mark-hendrickson/margaret-thatchers-passing-and-the-hateful-spirit-of-the-left/

  • Indeed, Mr. Ed. Very much so. And it is quite appalling too.

  • Laird

    Alisa, I don’t get that at all. I guess we’ll just have to disagree. Oh, and I am well aware that the “bird in hand” was an imaginary person played by an actress. But in case you hadn’t noticed, so was Gin Guy. (Indeed, from their perspective, perhaps Natalie is the one who is “imaginary”!) But in the story his character was playing to her character (not to some hypothetical god-like creature listening in on their conversation). And, if you recall, she is the one who started the mockery of Wine Guy with her rather sarcastic “analysis” of the bouquet of her G&T; Gin Guy merely followed her lead and took it up a notch. So they were both playing the same game; he was just a bit more overt about it.

  • Laird, I cannot believe you are missing such an obvious point. If you go to a furniture store, the nice sofa on the display floor may very well impress you, but it cannot impress the chair standing next to it. The Gin Guy is there to impress the viewers (men and women, although mostly men, I imagine). The woman next to him is no more than a prop – a mere piece of furniture.

    You don’t get what?

  • Laird

    Alisa, I think it is you who are missing an obvious point. Of course the purpose of the ad is to convince me to buy their gin (not likely, as I’m a scotch drinker, but give them points for the effort). To that extent they are all “just props”. But in the attempt to achieve that purpose they are telling a short story. Within that story are a man and a woman at a garden party. The two characters relate to each other in some fashion, and we watch and listen as the vignette unfolds. We, the viewers, must go along with the ruse and accept the fiction that they are real persons carrying on a real conversation; otherwise there is no point to the exercise. And within the confines of the story the woman starts a gentle mockery of a pretentious third person which the man then carries forward. If the story means anything we need to put ourselves into the shoes of one of the characters, and we either relate or we don’t. The more who do, the more successful the ad is. But if everyone, the writer, the actors, and the viewers, sees it as merely an effort to hawk gin, then they might as well have simply hired a talking head to look directly into the camera and urge us plainly to buy their product. If you don’t accept the story on its own terms then the ad has failed. But I don’t think it did.

  • Laird, you wrote: Alisa, it seems he did a fine job with respect to his specific target: his companion at the party. I don’t think he was aiming at Natalie. A bird in the hand and all that.

  • Sorry, tired – let me try that again.

    Laird, you wrote:

    Alisa, it seems he did a fine job with respect to his specific target: his companion at the party. I don’t think he was aiming at Natalie. A bird in the hand and all that.

    My point is that he was not aiming at his companion at the party. Rather, he was aiming at TV viewers, Natalie among them.

  • Plamus

    Alisa: “… until he began acting like a bully.”

    Seriously, Alisa? Now saying what you think of someone’s opinion is bullying? Are we here on Samizdata bullies to the poor statists? I find this semantic drift of the term “bullying” (and the related “verbal abuse” – used a lot to define “bullying”) very disturbing. It’s right up there with the original version of the Racial and Religious Hatred Act in the UK, which outlawed words and behavior that insulted or abused religious groups (thankfully amended to outlaw only threatening, although still vile). I am okay with the duty not to threaten people, but not okay with the duty not to discomfort them with my speech. Until you can convince me that Gin Guy was threatening or physically assulting Wine Guy, I reject the “bully” label.

  • Nick (nice-guy) Gray

    Alisa, I haven’t seen the ad, and I prefer Gin!!! So it must be a powerful commercial!!! (Besides, if the French like wine, can it really be that good???)

  • Laird

    Alisa, my point is that he was aiming at his companion. The author of the piece was undoubtedly aiming at Natalie and the rest of us, but within the confines of the story that character was not.

    And Plamus is right.

  • Laird, Natalie is not within the confines of the story.

    Plamus: the Gin Guy forced himself into a conversation that was none of his business – this is bullying. Second or third degree bullying, but still bullying. An obvious use of force is not a necessary part of bullying – although it does make it much more obvious and threatening. The Gin Guy didn’t have a gun, but if he did (or does), I’d be much more worried than if the Willowy Guy had one.

    And to put your mind at ease, Plamus: nowhere did I say that the Gin Guy or his likes should be prohibited from such behavior by the force of law – indeed, such “third-degree” bullying should remain perfectly legal. That is in sharp contrast to the way the people we tend to attack here should be treated.

    Sorry guys. I wholeheartedly agree that the macho plain-spoken Malboro man is clearly the sexier one (in both literal and metaphorical sense), but he is still a bully.

  • Mr Ed

    May I infer that what I see on TV isn’t real? If so, that means…. Blimey!

  • Plamus

    …the Gin Guy forced himself into a conversation that was none of his business – this is bullying.

    Are we watching the same commercial? The Gin Guy answered a question by his lady friend. What conversation did he force himself into? If talking loudly enough to be overheard is equivalent to forcing oneself into a conversation, then it is the Wine Guy who was forcing himself into every conversation on that lawn.

    Furthermore, even if he had forced himself into a conversation, that is emphatically not bullying. As I mentioned, the definition of bullying is being nudged by the PC crowd to mean “things you do or say that I do not like”, but it still requires intimidation. None of that is manifest.

    “The Gin Guy didn’t have a gun, but if he did (or does), I’d be much more worried than if the Willowy Guy had one.”

    Funny. I get the exact opposite vibe. Gin Guy could probably pulverize Wine Guy in a fist fight, and with no guns present, he does nothing of the sort.

  • Laird

    Alisa, read again what I wrote. I never said that Natalie was within the confines of the story; quite the opposite, in fact. She is the target of the screenwriter but not of the male character within the story.

    And Plamus is still correct. Your expanded definition of “bullying” is troubling.

  • Midwesterner

    I finally gave in and watched the ad and was pleasantly entertained. A thirty second spot, it is of necessity simple and direct, but well written and well played. First impression, it is the woman with the gin that cuts with the sharpest blade, a mocking parody that oozes smiling contempt. Far from class, wine guy looks like a carefully coiffed and upholstered Sean Penn over acting a part. That impression appears to be deliberate by the ad’s writers. Wine guy is talking louder than gin guy by quite a bit but, as poseurs usually do, has keen ears for a bad review. It is hypersensitive wine guy’s stop-and-look that unwittingly opens a hole in the chatter for the words “pretentious rubbish” to register and linger.

    Gin guy ignored his date’s privately shared derision approach and notes “overbearing aromas of pretentious rubbish”, an accurate and unnuanced assessment delivered at normal conversational volume, not sotto voce. They close mic’d (or overdubbed) gin guy so his remark can be heard by viewers, but the timbre of the voices makes clear that it is wine guy who is publicly pontificating and gin guy who is speaking in a conversational tone. Gin guy’s social faux pas is not the volume he speaks at (which is softer than wine guy), it is facing his target while he speaks. That is what turns his remark from ubiquitous cocktail party cattiness into open contempt. And perhaps his failure to modulate his voice either up (challenging authority) or down (respecting authority) adds to his expressed contempt. With his disregard, he treats wine guy like a gaudy piece of furniture.

    It would have been a very different message had gin guy followed his date’s lead by concealing his contempt from public view. That would have been a different ad aimed at not just a different demographic, but a different mindset. The ad as written is aimed at iconoclasts, not at the socially aspirational. I don’t see a social message, the woman with gin appears to have more genuine class than wine poseur, this ad is about character. Being a philosophical individualist, I see it as being all about how one finds their personal identity, whether it is forged from within or acquired from others.

    As liquor ads go, this one is easy on the palate with impish overtones of mockery and a subtle and lingering thoughtfulness evinced by the prolonged discussion in this thread. It will pair well with dry humor and a dry martini, shaken of course.

  • Julie near Chicago

    “As liquor ads go, this one is easy on the palate with impish overtones of mockery and a subtle and lingering thoughtfulness evinced by the prolonged discussion in this thread. It will pair well with dry humor and a dry martini, shaken of course.”

    Thus Sensible Commentary guy ends his critique with both “dry humor” and “impish wit.” *applause* :)

  • Laird

    Well done, Mid. You’re much deeper than I am.