Has it come to this?: My least favourite advert at the moment

Celebrities selling stuff to the public isn’t a new idea, if you think about it the Queen has been doing it for years with all those companies who carry the crest or whatever, and Hollywood was quick to get in on the act, here’s screen legend Bob Hope flogging cigarettes back in the day:


It’s an idea that makes sense, by using a star you can use the attributes usually associated with them (e.g. sexiness, masculinity, reliability, glamour) and link them with your product. You can grab their fanbase for your own and you can cash in on people’s desires to be like their heroes.

I may be a former media studies student and aware of these tricks, but that doesn’t make me immune. When I went to buy aftershave I did judge by smell but when it came down to the final two the one that won out was Hugo Boss because Ryan Reynolds was in their adverts.

How does Ryan Reynolds smell? Like a boss.
How does Ryan Reynolds smell? Like a boss.

I know that smelling like Reynolds isn’t going to make me look like him, be as successful as he is or change anything, but the star factor was what worked on me.

But it can be a tricky path to walk. Yes, it makes sense for the star to milk their time in the limelight as much as possible because fame is a fickle mistress, but it can also look crass and tacky, especially TV adverts. It can also impact on the perceived “artistic integrity” of the person involved, but let’s face it, your average actor is going to have done at least one “for the money” role and so why not sell stuff on the side too?

Some stars have the sheer charisma to carry it off (Jason Statham for Kit Kats, Samuel L Jackson for that bank a few years ago) but even the best can struggle (George Clooney flogging coffee is a bit of a tough watch, and despite his cool voice and charisma the Brad Pitt Chanel ad is pretentious drivel).

For your jobbing actors or D-listers adverts are their bread and butter. Occasionally they’ll poke fun at themselves, like the plethora of irritating celebrities in this Heineken spot, where their annoyance factor was used like some kind of terrorist threat:

And there are some famous people who you just think, really? Has it come to this?

Which brings us, bizarrely, to Stephen Hawking.

Hawking, one of the smartest people in the world has done a fair few appearances, from cameos in Star Trek: The Next Generation and The Big Bang Theory to taking part in the opening ceremony at last year’s Paralympic games. He’s even done adverts before but his latest appearance is one of the most depressing things I’ve seen recently.

Hawking is flogging GoCompare, the price comparison site.

For those lucky enough to avoid them, here’s the history:

In 2009 GoCompare launch an advert featuring a loud, cartoonish opera singer belting out lyrics advising two fellas in a cafe to, well, “go compare”. The ad is mildly amusing and stands out.

At this point noone could imagine the coming horrors
At this point noone could imagine the coming horrors

The character, played by Welshman Wynne Evans and later named “Gio Compario” becomes the star of a whole campaign, with new ads being unleashed on a helpless public every couple of months.

Essentially the idea seems to be that while the ads are annoying and universally disliked they are memorable, and as they say “there’s no such thing as bad publicity”. This is bad enough, but then GoCompare really mess up.

They acknowledge how annoying the adverts.

Yes, despite Gio Compario having put them on the map they begin a campaign dissing him and highlighting this. Now, I know he’s a fictional character and it’s all pretend, but I can’t help finding this a bit off. I mean, it’s okay for us to find him annoying, but for them to try and get in on the act and get a bit more mileage out of the guy by joining in on it is crass. Especially because it is what made them stand out in the first place.

To help this campaign they launched some “defaced” posters:


For the TV adverts they enlisted the following “celebrities”:

  • Sue Barker- the former mediocre tennis player turned bland television presenter.
  • Ray Mears- the poor man’s Bear Grylls who despite playing up his survival skills in “harsh environments” always appeared to be well fed.
  • Stuart Pearce- former England football hero, and no stranger to selling himself to advertisers (see his Pizza Hut ad from the mid 90s)
  • Louie Spence- irritating reality TV star and easily the most annoying man in showbiz

And now joining their ranks is Stephen Hawking. The advert is terrible, and to see one of our greatest minds joining in an unfunny joke to sell something is frankly disheartening. Here it is:

Come on, Hawking, you’re better than this!

Any thoughts? You know what to do. BETEO.

2 thoughts on “Has it come to this?: My least favourite advert at the moment

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