Friday 24 November 2017

Television: Clever ad wizardry steals hearts

Orchard Thieves Ad (Various Channels)
* Wimbledon (BBC)

Illustration: Jim Cogan
Illustration: Jim Cogan
Declan Lynch

Declan Lynch

The voice of Michael Gambon has never sounded more beautiful than it does on this television ad for a brand of cider called Orchard Thieves. Perhaps it's something to do with the lines he is speaking, which are taken from the nursery rhyme The Fox And His Wife.

"The fox jumped up on a moonlight night/the stars they were shining and all things bright/ Oh ho said the fox, it's a very fine night/ for me to go through the town e-ho ..."

It is a deeply comforting sound, redolent of a time long before any of us started drinking cider, or even knew what it was.

But the people in the ad are of a cider-drinking age. They are not the sort of people usually associated with cider in the stereotypical sense - they are not drunkenly demented youths stretched out in the park with a load of flagons, they are more the twentysomething Glastonbury-types enjoying some kind of a night on the town, "drinking responsibly" as they say.

And for them, the voice of Michael Gambon would have a special resonance. Not only is it bringing them these blissful images of the fox and the moonlight night and of nursery rhymes in general, it would also evoke one of the most powerful images of their childhood: Dumbledore.

Perhaps they would not immediately make the association because on the face of it, they wouldn't expect lovely old Professor Dumbledore to be warmly encouraging them to drink cider. But the association is there, in the collective psyche of that generation, whether they know it or not, whether they like it or not.

For years they have been listening to that most soothing of all voices counselling Harry Potter, and it speaks only of good things - wisdom, kindness, loyalty, love.

"Orchard Thieves Cider - be bold!", is the payoff line, and the job is done. It is a masterpiece.

Somehow the drinking of cider, which for long has had "anti-social" connotations, now has connotations of Harry Potter. Indeed for any alcoholic drink to succeed in associating itself in any way with the most popular children's character ever created is quite a day's work.

And it is a reminder to Fergus Finlay, and to others who in good faith gave their support to the Stop Out Of Control Drinking campaign, which was financed by the drinks industry, that these guys are good.

They are too good.


"Too good!" is a line they use a lot at Wimbledon, when a player hits a forehand winner up the line, or even a backhand winner up the line. But the commentators themselves are not too good. You could listen to them for a fortnight and hear hardly a mention of words such as "performance", "enhancing", and "drugs", as if such things were simply inconceivable on these lawns.

You could be watching the big Croat, Marin Cilic, reaching the quarter-final with nary a mention of the fact that in 2013 he tested positive for a banned stimulant contained in some glucose tablets, which were bought by his mother. A nine-month ban was later reduced to four, as it was accepted that it had all been an unfortunate accident. But you could have watched him winning the US Open last year on Sky, with nary a mention of it either.

They're always trying to stoke up a bit of "human interest" in the players, yet here was one who had overcome the trauma of a positive test which inadvertently involved a substance acquired in an everyday transaction by his own mother ... and all they want to talk about is the man's second serve, which is weak for such a big player.

Nor would you guess for a moment that there is a phenomenal amount of gambling on tennis, that several players - particularly in the lower reaches of the game - have been investigated in relation to "unusual betting patterns".

Not that we want Sue Barker to be interrogating these poor devils for our amusement, but we would appreciate just the odd fleeting mention of the "challenges" that are out there.

Most likely the BBC is just terrified of annoying anyone, perhaps with good reason - tragically the British Open golf will be on Sky from 2017, and no doubt Sky are now gunning for Wimbledon.

No doubt they'll get it too.

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