Beneath these grey roots there is no gold

Fri, Feb 8, 2013, 00:00

Fiftysomething:There is a radio advertisement currently polluting the airspace that has got under my skin; actually, it’s damn near killed me. Every time I skid across my unwashed kitchen floor to turn the shagging thing off, screaming expletives at the speakers, scattering the cat, unleashing the rusting kitchen devils, and kicking over yet another bowl of pussycat crunchies (which, for the record, have the colour and consistency of small tumours), I risk serious personal injury.

I don’t want to be sued by runny-yogurt manufacturers, so let’s just say that the copywriters on this particular campaign have created a kind of Irish everywoman with a nice unthreatening name and a reassuringly practical nature who tells us, in the brightest and most no-nonsense of ways, how much better our lives can be if we imbibe the right gut-defenders.

The script enumerates the little stresses and strains we girls might run into over the course of our day: tardy children, forgetful husbands, that tattooed body in the chest freezer with the single testicle. It then goes on to offer us practical advice on the importance of fresh air and a listening ear, before sending us on our merry way, foursquare in the knowledge that pouring unpronounceable things down our gullets will help us to achieve order, balance and satisfaction in our puny, uncontroversial existences.

It’s certainly not the only radio advertisement out there that somehow seems to reduce women’s lives to a dull suburban dance. It’s a shame, because there are some really smart campaigns around, not least the recent one to highlight the power of radio itself as an advertising medium (it’s all about intimacy and juxtaposition, innit?).

With radio, the listener can be brought just about anywhere, so why the endless parade of bland commercials for supplements, cereals, insurance and shampoos that will turn us into lovable, bubbly breakfast queens with manageable hair, quirky professorial children, fragrant bedding and gluteal muscles you could tap-dance on?

All this bonhomie is, of course, delivered with a kind of terrifying conspiratorial friendliness, the kind of chummy chat that makes you want to run to the hills and take up basket-weaving with your underarm hair (whoops, sorry, lost that to a neon pink razor that guaranteed me eternal youth and a free nasal strimmer) .

It’s funny: now that my children have deciphered the hieroglyphics on the remote control and we no longer watch anything in real time, television advertising has ceased to be part of my life. No more those sunlit campaigns of my childhood when boil-in-the-bag families and uxorious husbands gathered around steaming pots and sniffed at the aromatic air like eager hounds, while mother dished up the meaty contents sporting a wraparound pinny and a hair-set that would last her through Lent.

I used to wonder which would make you happier if you lived in television land: to be one of the shiny-haired girls gathered around the pot, with the Alice band and the clean fingernails; or to take the plunge rather than the pledge, and be that shadowy girl in the baby-doll nightie, with the inch of eyeliner, who skulked behind the velvet curtain and watched the tuxedoed man pole vault over the balustrade with a box of chocolates under his oxter?

I know I can’t escape the great big butterfly nets the advertising industry has constructed to entrap us from cradle to grave. But I rail against those aimed at the boomer generation, at women in particular, whom the industry seems to view as untapped seams of gold hidden under the sedimentary rock of grey roots and flaky elbows, of unfulfilled desires and long-held insecurities.

Maybe if we were being encouraged to parachute over the Andes (even in silhouette-friendly underwear) rather than to rid the carpets of embarrassing odours or to keep our teeth in with quick-drying cement, there would be something worth tuning in to.

But really, can one take much more of some young one with a corny American accent telling us to stock our mirrored cupboards with half-price designer offerings any more?

I don’t want pointy shoes and sparkly boleros; I don’t want a Hungarian root canal or cut-price laser optics or gold-plated pet insurance; I just want to listen to the news without being shouted at from the sidelines.

So I’ve made a resolution (late, I know, but this one I might actually stick to): the next time some over-elocuted, nauseatingly buoyant Mary Hick sidles up to my analogue ear with her foolproof plan to make me the Mother Teresa of my family’s shaky immune system, I’m going digital. I’m going to listen to Mississippi blues or Canadian folk music, and the only disquieting noise will be the rattle of the storm on the windowpane.

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