OI! FATTY! IT’S JANUARY SO YOU’D BEST GET ON THE TREADMILL! Is what I’d be shouting at you if I wasn’t one of you; a Festive over-indulger that left a world of salad and steak for one populated almost exclusively by Toblerone and Terry’s Chocolate Oranges. We’ve all been there and now you’re probably sitting clutching your list of New Year’s Resolutions desperately trying to convince yourself that you’ll achieve all of the things on it.
Why should you? You’re your own person and you don’t need a list of goals to tell you that you should probably crack open a bag of cress every now and then before you start to resemble Michelle MacManus & Rik Waller’s illicit love-child. You don’t even need a list of goals to tell you that it might be time to get yourself on a dating website and meet someone new before you fall into the arms of an ex-lover because you’re horribly lonely.
None of that matters though because there’s always something better than a list and in this case adverts are willing to take on the role of your conscience and the New Year ad schedule is packed with sanctimonious bullshit designed to get you out there into the world looking svelte and feeling amazing thanks to some pro-biotic yogurt.
That’s the thing about adverts, isn’t it? They play up to an accepted norm about the society that you live in. Take the hideous Morrisons advert in which two middle-aged children discuss the recession and the need for people to ‘tighten their belts’ in January. You think this is fine because they’re Northern but they’re actually creating a sickening dystopian vision of a world where children are no longer free to be children and have to think about food vouchers and Freddie Flintoff’s bath of gold doubloons. Of course, Morrisons are trying to add an innocent expression onto something that responsible adults seem to talk about all the time whereas some ad campaigns are just cynical.
Take a moment, shut your eyes and imagine a meeting room where six people are sitting. None of them are wearing suits or any kind of formal business attire and one is wearing a pair of tattered brogues with no socks. One man fiddles nervously with his spectacles as he examines the stoney faces around the room. They’ve been given the ultimate contract; a weight loss brand that needs a change of direction.
One woman in the group suddenly rolls back in her ergonomic back-supporting office chair and makes a loud exclamation of joy. “I’ve got it,” she shouts, “why don’t we show overweight people that if they follow the Weight Watchers plan, it’ll make them thin?!”
There is a stunned silence in the meeting room and the glass walls begin to de-mist as their collective breath is held. Everyone looks to the man wearing a rugby shirt at the head of the table. He nods sagely and the room erupts in applause. The creatives have done it again! Fat people can be thin and they will show them the light!
“Wait though!” Cries the man with no socks. “How can we convince our target audience of saturated fatties that they want to be thin and beautiful?” The room falls silent again: all that can be heard is the nervous tapping of pens on the table.
“What about writing a song and getting a pop star to sing it?” The quietest woman suggests. “We could make the lyrics really motivational so that they really speak to our target market?”
There is some muted discussion in the room. It’s too quiet for us to hear but we all know that they’re discussing who to have sing it. Rik Waller and Michelle MacManus are busy making babies and Craig Colton from last year’s X Factor is far too shit. They need someone that people can aspire to be like. Someone sassy and respectable that will quite literally sell their soul for money.
If only there was someone that fitted the bill. They have a long conversation and seem to come up with nothing. They’re standing up to leave, presumably off to think about it over some champagne and oysters when a Britain’s Got Talent judge walks into their office, looking for scraps.
“Hark!” They cry in unison as this fictional account becomes alarmingly Dickensian. They’ve found their woman. A sassy, respectable woman with a big, idiotic face who would quite literally sell her soul for money. They don’t even need to negotiate with her. Alesha’s shaking hands with them all before they even name a figure. Her only stipulation is that she doesn’t have to touch any of the fatties and that she doesn’t have to rap. She’s moving in a new direction.
Now you know how the Play Weight Watchers campaign came into being, aren’t you a little more open to its message and its 3 minutes and 14 seconds of bad miming, worse dancing and sanctimonious ‘body positive’ thrust? Doesn’t the sight of these people who, you’ve got to hand it to them, look great inspire you to go out there and go to meetings, living by a strict ‘point controlled’ system which requires you to lose weight by emptying your wallet?
Or does it still make you want to tear your own eyes out and stuff them into your ears so that you don’t have to see or hear this abomination ever again? What’s it going to be, fatso?