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Martin Kelner, Journalist, Author and Radio Presenter.
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In Praise of Eric - and the early days of Good Morning Britain
By Martin "but of course" Kelner on May 10, 2014 - 8:33:36 PM

About the worst news in television at the moment is the ruling by the Advertising Standards Authority that the Kronenbourg 1664 advert, the one starring Eric Cantona, is misleading.   I do hope this doesn't mean we have seen the last of the ad, which admittedly gives the impression that the beer is the product of the labours of the hop farmers of Alsace when - shock, horror - the stuff's mostly made in Britain.  


Yes, it's misleading, but only to the kind of meatheads who believe the marketing of largely interchangeable fizzy yellow alcohol has anything to do with truth.   I believe it's the solemn duty of a great thriving economy like ours to mislead these people.   In fact, the consumer-led booms we enjoy from time to time are predicated on a plentiful supply of meatheads to mislead.


I, for one, cheered at the return of the Kronenbourg commercial a month or so ago - where Eric pretends to be a hop farmer to win the admiration of a smart young woman - after its first run in 2013.   I can only assume Eric was such a success the beer folk decided to stick with him for this year's campaign, rather than try something new.


It was on fairly heavy rotation during sport on ITV and Sky, so I must have seen the ad scores of times, but it never failed to make me smile.   Eric does two brilliant looks to camera, first a puzzled look when a statue to a hop farmer is unveiled, and then, when he lies to a potential conquest about being a farmer, a look which seems to say "oh, come on, you would, wouldn't you?" It's probably unwise to make a judgement based on 30 seconds of TV, but in my view Eric bears comparison with masters like Eric Morecambe and Oliver Hardy in the art of the comic stare down the barrel of the unforgiving lens.


What the ad did not do was persuade me either that the lager was produced by master craftsmen in time-honoured fashion in Eastern France, or that being a corpulent, ruddy-complexioned hop farmer was the route to sexual nirvana in that part of the world.   I just thought it was funny, and for that reason preferable to, for the sake of argument, the current Guinness campaign.


I have nothing against Guinness, you understand.   It was my alcohol of choice, as a young journo back in the dark ages.   My theory is that we all go through a Guinness phase.   It's like The Smiths.   For a while we think it's just the ticket, lending a veneer of sophistication, without being exactly pretentious, but then we grow up, form relationships, acquire wisdom, and realise it's just beer - or Morrissey whinging.


I don't see that the Guinness commercial featuring the Society of Elegant Persons of the Congo, where these sharply dressed chaps put on their finery and go out to tap dance and drink Guinness, is any less misleading than Eric and the Kronenbourg hop farmers.   The famous dark stout is after all, as exclusively revealed in this column, just beer; in which context the slogan, "In life you cannot always choose what you do, but you can always choose who you are," sounds not just irrelevant but suspiciously like what we doctors call bollocks.


Maybe I have become jaundiced through watching too many adverts, having added ITV's new breakfast show to my daytime TV habit, in the interests of research.    Unlike Conservative politicians, TV folk believe you can solve a problem by throwing money at it, and so, as has been widely advertised, they sent a skip full of the stuff round to Susanna Reid's house to lure the nation's favourite from the BBC, and lavished further resources on reporters to give the show a "newsier" feel.


News, schmews, I say.   What breakfast telly is really about is patent medicines.   A friend who worked for TV-AM twenty-odd years ago when it was going through one of its periodic financial crises tells me the station was pulled from the brink by drugs firms heavily advertising cystitis remedies to its predominantly female audience, and the new show is similarly cashing in on the disease dollar.   

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