The Rose Bowl. Sofia Gardens. Chester-Le-Street. Headingley. The Oval. What do they have in common? You may not know it but they're all cricket grounds. But they all share something else in common - they all have bastardised corporate sponsor names that stick in my throat like a piece of semi-masticated beef gristle.
They are now as follows: The Ageas Bowl. The SWALEC Stadium. Emirates Durham ICG. Headingley Carnegie. The Kia Oval. Names as hollow as the regard that a Korean budget car manufacturer actually has for cricket.
Like most sports, cricket is going the way of football in following the scent of hard cash, which is why we have to suffer the horror of Sky's coverage (Bob Willis, Ian Botham, Ian Ward, Nick KNight, Charles Colville).
No-one in their right mind should ever utter these names - and it was refreshing to hear a couple of England cricketers ignore Mike Atherton's repeated trumping of 'the Ageas Bowl'and doggedly refer to it as the Rose Bowl.
Ah, Rose Bowl. A pretty name. It was named after Hampshire's crest and the curve of the pitch. Nice eh? Not nice enough for Belgium-Dutch multinational insurance company Ageas. If they were stump up some cash (naming rights are sold for surprisingly small amounts of money - Ageas are getting their name read out regularly by chumps like Athers on Sky; name written in national newspapers and plenty of local publicity for a measly £2m over six years) then they were damn well going to transform the club into a piece of corporate art.
Sophia Gardens was named after Sophia Rawdon-Hastings, the wife of a posh Welsh Georgian nob. So, a nice little regional, historical reference. Still, The SWALEC Stadium has a ring to it, eh?
The Oval. So named for its unusual shape - a name going back over 150 years. And, in recent years variously The Fosters Oval, AMP Oval, Brit Insurance Oval. And now named after Kia, who make cheap and utterly tedious little econoboxes. Big connection with all that South London, gas-holder, West-Indian cricket chic.
Headingley Carnegie, meanwhile, breathlessly offers sponsorship of its media centre, which is "now officially Yorkshire’s most globally viewed building" and boasts the following sponsorship opportunities on its website:
Stand Naming rights
Logo inclusion on tickets and literature
"Money can't buy" access to players
Presence on yorkshireccc.com with 90,000 Monthly Unique Visitors
Inclusion in online newsletter
Product awareness stand/sampling opportunities at match days
Branding on the replay screen at every Yorkshire CCC fixture at Headingley Carnegie
Access to tickets
Use of facilities on non match days
Before we move on, just ponder the irony of offering corporate sponsors 'money-can't-buy' access to players. That's a special kind of bullshit, right there.
Headingley Carnegie isn't as clear cut as the others, mind. As the ground is owned by the sports-orientated Carnegie University it gets its name on the bill. Fair enough. But renaming stands? Yeah, to hell with Verity, Wardle, Sutcliffe, Hutton, Trueman, Boycott, Close and Gough.
Make way for Stagecoach, Barclays, Sky Sports, Audi, Stella Artois and Vodaphone. Jimmy Anderson is now running in from the BP End at the Enron Bowl.
Inevitable? Maybe. Money for old rope? Certainly. But there's something enormously dispiriting about it all. If cricket can't hold out then sport's doomed. Next we can probably turn to other cash-strapped edifices. The Tango Westminster Abbey. Hadrian's Wall by G4S. The McDonalds New Forest.
It's enough to make me weep into my Adidas handkerchief and Nestle Shreddies.
Who on Earth told Chris Kamara he was funny?
This advert can be summed up thus, by the reactions of my housemate over a few days of seeing this ad, which seems to be on at least four times every ad break:
So, there you have it. Love at first sight to disinterest within the lifespan of a televisions advert. That's less impressive than a mayfly's pitiful lifecycle.
Will Secret Escapes mind? Of course not. With companies like this who don't offer a product, unique service or anything that isn't easily copied and replicated, the market is crammed with competitors.
How do you tell if one is better than another? You don't. The quality of service, the scope of the hotels on offer, the prices available. If there is any difference between them it's impossible to discern. So how else to advertise yourself?
Carpet-bombing with a fit girl. Carpet-girl bombing. Girl-carpet bombing. Bomb-girl carpeting. She's called Camilla Arfwedson if you're interested. And, Camilla, if you're reading I reckon my mate would still be happy to take you out for a date.
The worst thing about this advert is the music. By a long, long way the music. Vauxhall has a habit of using bad music its ads, despite detours a few years back with The Fall and the brilliant use of Peter Gabriel's Sledgehammer in the 80s.
But every 80s advert from Vauxhall used that Dad-rock hook from Eric Clapton's Layla. And now there's another MOR deluge in the shape of this shit-eating Feeder track. It's an assault of mediocrity, which is particularly unfortunate for Vauxhall, as it's a company that, despite making some excellent cars, has a reputation for being dull, average, mediocre.
Then the voiceover, the voice of a man who's a captain of a tennis club in Frome. It might be Bill Nighy, which makes it worse. And have you heard what he's saying?
"We've seen things a little differently from other manufacturers?" Yeah, cos the Vectra was such a radical departure eh? And don't get me started on that first-generation Meriva. Woah. Tear up the rule book.
"We haven't always taken ourselves too seriously?" Please. This is surely a reference to the baffling and irritating C'Mon! ads. That's like John Major trying to prove he's hip by dancing to Madness at a wedding.
Finally, and in some ways most egregiously, the 'warranty that could last a lifetime'. There's a myriad of ways that this claim needs to be qualified before it makes any sort of sense whatsoever.
Put it this way. Once you hit 100,000 miles that's the end of your warranty. Once you sell the car, that's the end of your warranty. Unless Vauxhall turns up at your house to shoot you in the head upon the immediate end of your warranty I don't really see how this claim stands up at all. If you don't have an annual service check at a Vauxhall-approved dealership (and guess what, you need some work doing!) you lose the warranty.
I don't really see how any notional, metaphorical warranty can possibly be allowed when it's qualified by hard figures. You might as well call a three-year warranty a 'warranty that could last a lifetime'. Or even a 'warranty that will last for ages'. Or 'warranty as long as a piece of string.
The ridiculous thing is that this is a very generous warranty that shows the faith that Vauxhall has in its own product. Why not call it a '100K-mile warranty'. Or just say a 'ten-year non-transferrable warranty'? I doubt the terms would work out that differently from the non-transferrable 'lifetime' warranty.
As it is the advert is communicating something that people hate (perhaps more than anything else in advertising) as the keynote to the whole 60 seconds.
Even if the rest of the ad were good – it isn't – the impression that most will be left with is that Vauxhall is trying to pull a fast one. Why even leave a lingering doubt in the customer's mind, nevermind a crashing great iceberg of angst?
Shit music. The uncoolest voiceover ever. And a message that sounds like a rip-off. Great work, Vauxhall, great work.
What's Microsoft trying to say here? Internet Explorer is 'just too close too love'? As in overfamiliar? Too obvious? Wood-for-the-trees?
How about just 'shit'? Further, any song that contains a lyric like 'got to be true to myself' is clearly too terrible for words. I'd suggest the following change of lyrics in this ad, from:
It feels like I am just too close to love you
It feels like I am just too smart to use you.
Now fuck off
Yes, The Fast Show was brilliant. The characters, the catchphrases, the sheer machine-gun delivery of laughs. Paul Whitehouse clearly has an eye for a comic grotesque, but there's more to it than that. Many of the best characters touched on a fundamental truth relating to their primary characteristic – we could relate to them, in some way.
That's clearly the thinking behind this seemingly neverending set of adverts for Aviva, which does insurance or something. Whitehouse has appeared – it seems to me – as about eight hundred different characters all talking about the benefits of some sort of insurance.
One of these – the dead Dad looking after his family from beyond the grave – I find genuinely obnoxious. The others? A weird mix of irritating, try-hard surreal and just wrong.
Take the fat Welsh goth with a fixation on chintzy ornaments. Fuck the what? All I can manage to take from this grotesque creation is a genuine sense of discomfort looking at Whitehouse's jowly face grinning in trowelled-on make-up; something somewhere between The League of Gentlemen and Silence of the Lambs.
And the Plymouth fan. "Green Army!," may have had idiots LOLing on Twitter, but it made me want to throw a pint glass of pop – or my cat, whichever was closer – at the telly. Then there was the Scottish ballroom dancer who had recently purchased some cuban heels.
Now we appear to have a bloke who enjoys fishing and a feller who likes metal detecting. There's a pattern developing here, I'll explain it thus:
Stupid accent + affliction / weird appearance x unlikely obsession = Paul Whitehouse holiday villa
Based on that we can create our own Aviva characters. First we need an accent. We've not had scouse yet, so let's go for that one.
Second, something that's apparently an amusing or offbeat pasttime. Let's say... stamp collecting. Yes, that will work.
Thirdly, let's suggest that Albie (they all appear to have daft names) has one leg. A one-legged Liverpudlian philatelist.
A-ha, but there'll need to be a reason to reference Aviva here. Let's suggest that the recent wet weather has caused the roof to cave in at Albie's house – while he was out getting 'legless' – and ruin his prized Penny Black (Albie will say 'arlarse').
But – a-ha! – he'd insured his stamps with Aviva! Hooray! Albie will probably hobble towards the camera saying "That's dead boss, that is!"
Proudly, Albie will show off a new stamp that's in some way strange (ummmm... it's got Donna Air on it; Albie will fancy her) and praise Aviva for sorting it all out. He is "made up".
Want to make your own Paul Whitehouse Aviva character? I'll start you off with a few options – all you have to do is stick them together. Then, like Paul Whitehouse, maybe you can make hundreds of thousands of pounds for a load of old fucking rope.
Name: Cyril, Cecil, Roderick, Anton, Fergus
Accent: Norfolk, Cockney, Teesside, Manc, Irish
Obsession: Newt-breeding, ferret-trousering, traction-engine restoration, taxidermy, divining
Affliction: Stutter, Lucifugous, Crohn's Disease, agoraphobia, Cerebral Palsy
Not convinced? Have a look at the following. You can practically see the base code running through it after three or four.
I suppose if your company is called Agent Provocateur you're going to court controversy. But a sado-masochistic assault on a clearly distressed woman? Hmm. Just how important is it to sell pants?
So important that you riff off a frightened woman's discomfort at having her home invaded and being subjected to a kind of bondage-orientated sex show? (Although not so important the ASA haven't banned it).
And then, get this, she emerges clad in the same kinky gear as the rest of them. It's a moment of rebirth, revelation - almost valedictory.
She emerges as a Stepford Slut. A featureless, emotionless sex machine. Silent. Subjugated. And utterly fucking filthy. It's shockingly sexist and wholly inappropriate (yes a man made it).
So disgracefully inappropriate that I need to watch it again, just to correctly gauge how disgraceful.
Jesus. Outrageous. Disgusting. Fucking hell.