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Dancing in granny pants and cruising with Jefferson Airplane

30 Sep 2019  |  Dominic Mills 
Dancing in granny pants and cruising with Jefferson Airplane

From a complete genre buster to a soulless cruise ad, Dominic Mills sings his praises to great music. Plus: why DC Thomson plays a strong hand with the launch of Platinum magazine

You might think there isn’t much that links this item about two ads out recently. One is for Sloggi underwear by MullenLowe, the other for Carnival Cruises by Lucky Generals.

And you’re mostly right. I don’t cover ‘The Work’ as much as I ought to, so I am force-fitting these two together in a slightly unnatural manner.

Not that they are entirely without parallels. One is that some of the people who buy Sloggi underwear probably also go cruising. In their choice of underwear and holiday, cruisers like comfy, and that is the promise of both ads.

The second is that both brands are somewhat in need of refreshment. Sloggi has been around for 40 years and cruising even longer (and yes, I know the cruise industry is doing its best to attract younger voyagers but it’s an uphill struggle).

The third is in the use of music to draw attention — not just as an age-cohort trigger — although you can’t imagine two more different soundtracks.

Here we go then. Sloggi features Colette Zacca, aka the ‘Dancing Granny’ who achieved viral fame at this year’s Notting Hill Carnival.

In the ad, she dances and raps along to Sir Mix-A-Lot’s Baby Got Back, complete with rewritten lyrics. The original lyrics, which, er, celebrate a certain female body type, are pre-historically filthy.

A bit like some old Dove ads, Sloggi celebrates women of all ages, sizes and shapes, not least Collette herself, a 56-year-old from Sheffield with, and you couldn’t make this up, two hip replacements.

She’s an unlikely heroine in every way for an underwear ad, but what a star. And so are the creatives (a female team, incidentally) who rewrote the original lyrics. Here’s a sample…

“When a girl’s got pants as big as her face
And they’re pulled up to her waist
You say ‘WHAT’.
And then you get jelly
Granny Pants holding in her belly.
No thong getting up there stressed
Looks like granny knows best.”

Watch the whole glorious 1.30+. Here’s the German version so you can read the lyrics too.

You might think, by the way, Collette was a) an actual granny and b) an ordinary member of the public plucked from obscurity to stardom.

As she cheerfully admits, she has no children. And she is a professional actress with a long list of credits.

In fact, as I understand the sequence of events, the song came first and the lyrics were rewritten and signed off by the client before Colette was even cast. So this idea, happily perpetrated by the media that Colette’s Notting Hill viral propelled her to the attention of Sloggi, is not quite true. Indeed, better to look at it as a clever piece of earned media designed as a teaser for the ad.

Not that it matters a jot. Plaudits to Sloggi and MullenLowe. Everybody must have had fun doing this, and it shows.

It’s a hoot from start to finish. But better than that, it’s a complete genre-buster, a life-affirming contrast to the normal faux-slinky/sultry stuff that passes for standard underwear advertising.

I don’t get the sense that there was much fun to be had around the making of this Carnival Cruises ad, which looks like it has been strangled by a long list of corporate must-haves.

Must have a yummy, middle/upper-class family.

Must have a food shot.

Must have a cool-looking older couple (guy wears a pink suit!!).

Must have a shot of the on-board entertainment.

Must show a sumptuous cabin with soft-white sheets. And so on.

It’s lovely to look at — cruise porn, if you like — but so empty and, in a corporate way, soulless.

So far so normal for cruise advertising, although it’s all a bit classier than the cruising P&O makes Rob Brydon put up with — but perhaps not for much longer.

But not normal in every way, because the standout (in more ways than one) is the soundtrack, Jefferson Airplane’s White Rabbit, a psych-pop, counter-cultural classic that is both a homage to Lewis Carroll’s Alice in Wonderland and a hymn to the joys of LSD. Even the writer, Grace Slick, thought the lyrics so contentious the song would be denied air-time.

The music works. In fact, I wouldn’t have paid any attention to the ad had it not been for the music. It’s brooding and mesmeric; it will resonate with the baby-boomer segment of the market for whom White Rabbit was part of the soundtrack to a carefree youth; and thematically the lyrics could —generously — be interpreted as reinforcing one of the selling points of cruising, discovering ‘places of wonder’. But it’s about the only thing in the ad that works.

Here’s a sample of the lyrics:

“One pill makes you larger, and one pill makes you small
And the ones that mother gives you, don't do anything at all
Blah blah blah….
When logic and proportion have fallen sloppy dead
And the white knight is talking backwards
And the red queen's off with her head
Remember what the dormouse said
Feed your head, feed your head.”

Or am I missing something about cruising? That it’s where you go to get off your head.

DC Thomson launch shows the faith

There’s always been something different about DC Thomson, the family-owned publisher HQed in Dundee and pumping out titles as eclectic as Beano, The People's Friend, My Weekly, Let’s Knit, Veggie and the Dundee Courier. Fashionably unfashionable, you might say, defiantly non-metropolitan.

Now it’s taken that contrarian stance a step further with the launch last week of a new print title, women’s mag Platinum, targeting a circulation of 250,000.

This, we should note, comes at a time that other titles in the women’s market — Marie Claire, Glamour, InStyle and Look, to name a few — are closing or reducing their print efforts.

But then Platinum is fair and square in one of the few solid sectors of the market, readers (especially women) 55-plus. I saw this with my own eyes a few weeks ago, when a woman in the newsagent queue ahead of me stuffed a clutch of five to six titles into her shopping bag.

It seems to me sometimes, especially viewed from the London bubble, that this is a market too often underplayed. These readers, we can assume, include those in the market for granny pants and cruises, and many of them have decent levels of disposable income.

I can’t comment on the editorial — just not my area — but I can on the ads. And while I might have expected a launch issue to pull in a few more, brands like Pantene Grey, Olay Regenerist, Farrow and Ball, Dove Pro Age, Tesco and Viking Cruises, clearly think there is life in this market.

As does Thomson, and it's good to see such a visible demonstration of the faith, not just in magazine brands, but specifically in print.

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27 May 2020 

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