The Night of the Ad Eaters French May Queen Elizabeth Stadium May 9 and 10 A skier glides into the sunset. Cut to a hospital room: 'He's coming back to life,' says an excited doctor. But with a mutter along the lines of 'spoilsports', the patient reaches to pull out the life-support plug and return to his fantasy. If there is a paradise it is skiing - in Thredbo, Australia - promises the cheeky commercial, predating last year's landslide which killed 18. How tragically ironic; how sick. Whether or not they should have shown the Thredbo ad was a subject for debate after this five-hour non-stop ad event. But the point of The Night of the Ad Eaters is surely not to display good taste. As well as showing gloss, sculpted bodies, and the honed humour of 45 countries, this annual event manages to be a fascinating piece of social documentary. What's hot, what's not, and, most importantly, what gets attention, varies dramatically over time and distance, even in this so-called 'global village'. Or is that - like 'ploughman's lunch' - just an advertising term? This year was special: the world's first moving ad was made, in France, in 1898. It advertised Sunlight soap powder, and was made without respect for image, narrative, wit, brevity or plot. The genre got worse (vis: the Moet advertisement that looked as if a tourist left a camera going by mistake) before it got better and became today's slick tool of manipulation. How tastes change: in 1955 the French ran 'Opera Boeuf' ads with cows singing and urging viewers to eat more beef; in 1965 Africa, black actors were describing how 'Omo washes whiter'; in 1998 it's lipstick on your Calvins. That must be progress. The final reel gave Ad Eaters its Category IIB listing - and the censors were generous. This was a strict No-Clothes-Zone, with Brazilians the clear winners, and Australians and Americans surprise runners up, using aftershave as an excuse for steamy aerobics. This 'sexiest cinema advertising around the world' was billed as 90 minutes and was actually about half an hour. But who believes ads anyway?