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Vodafone Advert: Martin Freeman Submits To Money

Martin Freeman Vodafone advert

I have a lot of time for Martin Freeman. His everyman, underdog shtick has a real ring of authenticity and, as the most relatable man in most television series or films he's in he's a natural repository of good will and trust for the viewing public. Tim in The Office; John Watson in Sherlock; Arthur Dent in Hitchhikers; Bilbo Fucking Baggins... he's always a bit nice, a bit awkward and so very human. He might as well have been walking around with a target painted on his back as far as advertising is concerned - hence this Vodafone advert.

I wrote an email to a Government agency a while ago, providing my advice on how to communicate important things (pensions, benefits - boring, awkward, difficult stuff to communicate in adverts) through the medium of television advertising, having been unimpressed by their over-complicated efforts.

The concept ran as such: if you need to tell the unwashed masses about something both dull and difficult - the switching off of the analogue system that was feared might result in thousands of grannies being unable to watch Countdown and not knowing why, for example - you do it as simply as possible. An example: Michael Parkinson, sat on a chair, a white background, explaining in white-hot Yorkshire common sense that you need to buy a Freeview box if you want to be able to continue watching Inspector Morse repeats for 18 hours a day.

For that demographic you could hardly do better than Parky - a man with a face like Harrogate toffee, a voice like warm beer and a presence like a crackling open fire. A man imbued with good humour and sincerity.

Martin Freeman is the Michael Parkinson of Generation X and Y, who have almost been trained to listen to what he says and silently root for him. Tim the Underdog, John the Underdog, Arthur the Underdog, Martin the Underdog. Slightly pained, put-upon - but we will always have his back. Because he's you, me, us. We see Martin Freeman and we see ourselves. So if Martin Freeman has a Vodafone contract and wants to make lots of money through that association, who are we to judge?

For advertisers, Martin Freeman must be catnip - not for nothing is his voice lathered over TV adverts. Freeman is a precision-guided missile to your Trust Nodules, buried deep inside your Empathy Gland, just next to your Buying Synapses. It's no surprise he's in such demand from charities and political parties - it's hard to think of anyone better who can convey the required feels.

In this context it's clear why Freeman is a man in demand in advertising. And despite the ubiquity of his adverts, the frequency of them and - more often than not - the annoyingness of them, we can't hold it against him.

For he is Martin Freeman. Bastard.


Halifax Ghostbusters Advert

Halifax Ghostbusters Advert

Oh you absolute bastards.The Wizard of Oz and Bloody Top Cat and the Flintstones are one thing, but when I first saw this Halifax Ghostbusters Advert I felt a small part of the soul of the human race shrivel up and die. "Is nothing sacrosanct?" seems an increasingly rhetorical question these days. If they can sodomise Ghostbusters it begs the question as to what else is next.

A bit of context and perhaps a defence here. For some, the original Ghostbusters is hardly a work of art. When some reviews of the deathly Ghostbuster reboot came out, some actually went so far as to claim that the female-led reimagining was more amusing than the original, or 'relentlessly funny'. Almost correct.

Halifax Ghostbusters Advert

While the remade Ghostbusters film was a deeply forgettable piece of work, I also deprecated the misogynistic backlash the film attracted. But while I thought the whingeing about people's childhoods being ruined was pretty ridiculous - mainly because some ladies with fannies were in the new film - I've started to empathise with those ecotplasm-loving GhostBros.

Why? This Halifax Ghostbusters Advert, the advertising equivalent of defecating directly onto the faces of everyone involved in the original film. Here Bill Murray is replaced by Gareth, the stout Welsh chap who, not content with vomiting all over the Wizard Of Oz, now seems to be embarking on an all-out celluloid rampage akin to painting a cock into the Mona Lisa's mouth.

Halifax Ghostbusters Advert

I'm guessing that it's no coincidence that Bill Murray is not involved, a man who, unlike Dan Akroyd, seems to be unimpressed by money and frivolity when it comes to his work. Harold Ramis, of course, did not have a choice whether he appeared in this genuinely upsetting spot, by handy virtue of being dead. There's an irony.

"Oh, it's only an advert. Get over yourself!" some arsehole will inevitably type. The reason the Halifax Ghostbusters Advert is so unpleasant is the inherent message behind it: see that thing you like? We can buy it and we can use however we please, simply because you like it and that has a value to us.

Halifax Ghostbusters Advert

It's as naked as advertising gets in exploiting you, your memories and your fondnesses. And if you're one of those 'get over yourself' types then imagine how you'd feel if they wrote HALIFAX DEBIT CARD all over your Mum's face.

If you accept that some things would be beyond the pale on virtually any level - let's say dropping Gareth into Schindler's List to discuss life insurance, for example - then you accept that all such judgements are questions of degree. And if you have any sense you'd concede that everyone's red lines are set at different levels. Who are we to judge other people's red lines?

Halifax Ghostbusters Advert

For me, this advert crosses one. For I have incredibly fond memories of Ghostbusters, forged with friends, families, girlfriends. It's a common cultural currency for people of my generation. To buy it, to unfunny it, to reduce it to digital material that's only good for advertising financial services; to erase Bill Murray for a camp bank clerk burbling on about debit cards, well... it's just depressing isn't it?

To see adverts like this is to look through your memories, the repository of stuff you like, and realise that every single bit of it is up for sale. And whether you like Ghostbusters or not, that's a frightening thought.

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