The right to choose or just a turn-off

PUBLISHED : Friday, 16 January, 1998, 12:00am
UPDATED : Friday, 16 January, 1998, 12:00am

LET'S talk about advertising, we'll get to the football in a minute.

In the free world advertising pays for TV programming. No problem. But some individual ads? Big problem. There's no axe to grind here. Just teeth.

First there's that curious info-mercial about advertising which is paid for by the advertisers' trade body (ruling coven, junta, cabal, whatever they are).

The gist of this ad is telling us how wonderful the world is because of advertising. You'd think the fall of the Berlin Wall settled that argument for good but apparently not.

In one version they show a Subutteo-style soccer stadium and gradually remove all the ad hoardings, the stands, goal posts and the ball. The point is to illustrate televised sport's dependence on adverts.

The unctuous, self-admiring spiel winds up (and I mean winds up) with the slogan 'Advertising ? the right to choose'.

The great philosophers of history may be surprised to hear this.

Equating advertising ? which uses methods of extreme persuasion that would have done 'The Godfather' proud to influence people's purchasing decisions ? is some distance removed from the concepts of thinkers like Alexis De Tocqueville, Thomas Paine, John Stuart Mill and Jean-Paul Sartre who expounded at length on freedom, democracy and personal responsibility.

However, if the right to choose IS the essence of advertising then I wonder how many people chose to laugh out loud at the wristwatch commercial featuring Ryan Giggs.

This horribly ill-judged concoction overlaid action images of the Manchester United wing wizard with the sound of his weedy voice whining: 'I hope this match never ends' over and over again.

It culminates with scenes of the flying, Aston Martin-driving, Welshman looking love-lorn about a woman, while his wet-as-a-dishcloth voice says: 'When the match ends the memories begin.' Well, according to straw polls, the viewers wished the ad would end or at least the voiceover. Hey presto! Wish granted, as Giggs' dialogue was thankfully replaced by some stirring music in recent versions of the commercial.

All the foregoing is by way of a palliative to those Manchester United sceptics out there who may have felt Giggs' goals against Spurs and United's win at a canter last week (Wharf) meant the league race is up.

Well, it is. But at least when United visit Southampton (in Monday's live game on ESPN) and Giggs turns Francis Benali and Co inside out on the way to another easy win (if last season's encounter can be glossed over), you can console yourself with laughing at memories of Ryan wishing 'this match never ends'.