Friday, 18 February 2011

Jamie Theakston, Danone Activia Pouring Yoghurt

One morning recently, blearily-eyed I poured a bowl of crunchy cereal and, eschewing the mainstream lactic complement, reached for a tub of its fermented brethren, and spooned dollops of yoghurt atop the tasty clusters of oats, nuts, raisins and honey. As I did so, Rihanna's S&M blared out on Radio 1, and as the words from Rihanna's lilting voice (I'm pretty sure that description is an indication of latent racism) hit my ears, I came to the epiphany that I was in an S&M relationship too. I was the masochist, suffering the indignity of shovelling yoghurt on to my cereal in the manner that the sadistic manufacturers were forcing me to. Now, I've made this story up because (a) Radio 1 are playing the clean version of S&M, "Come On" and (b) I don't listen to Radio 1 and the last thing I'd want to do in the morning is listen to an abhorrent lardbucket spewing forth bile. However, if we can stay with the analogy for a bit, someone mentioned the safety word(s), and that "someone" is Danone and those safety words are Pouring Yoghurt.

Kindly assisting Danone in spreading the word is Jamie Theakston, who originally found fame in the 90s playing second fiddle to ladette-types, first alongside Jayne Middlemiss on The O-Zone, on which I am sure he grilled pop stars on the tough questions like how Mark Morrison could be singing about The Return of the Mack, when we had not bloody heard of him before (any interview answers from Mark Morrison should always be taken with a pinch of salt given that he is likely to have sent along a lookalike instead). Theakston followed this up hosting Live & Kicking alongside Zoë Ball, in which the home and studio audience would ask the tough questions such as "Who is your favourite singer, and why?", "Who is your biggest influence, and why?" and "Could I have your autograph, please?"

Now Theakston is best known for hosting the breakfast show on capital radio station Heart 106.2. I use the term 'known' lightly, given that many a youngster would see this Danone advert and simply assume he's a jobbing actor. Perhaps with a little more discipline in his career, Theakston could have maintained a higher televisual profile, but then maybe whoring himself out to Danone is his best chance yet to whip his profile back into shape and drag it back up from its radio dungeon hell?

So what of Pouring Yoghurt? I mean, who doesn't like pouring? And who doesn't like yoghurt? So, match made in dairy heaven, right? Well, maybe I like the misery in dolloping yoghurt into a bowl with a spoon. Forget misery, there's actually a strangely satisfying joy to it, something you don't get with milk. So if I want to pour onto my cereal, I'll use milk, and if I want yoghurt on my cereal, I'll spoon it on BECAUSE I'M NOT A LAZY FUCKWIT WHO CAN'T TAKE A FEW MORE SECONDS TO PUT A FEW SPOONFULS ON MY CEREAL AND OH YOU MIGHT BE THINKING BUT THEN YOU HAVE A SPOON TO WASH UP LATER ON WELL IF YOU ARE THEN YOU ARE AN IDIOT BECAUSE YOU NEED THAT SPOON TO EAT THE THING WITH ANYWAY AND GUESS WHAT YOU CAN EVEN POUR FROM A NORMAL YOGHURT POT THROUGH THE MAGICAL METHOD OF TIPPING THE POT SO TO CLAIM THIS IS A "WHOLE NEW BREAKFAST EXPERIENCE" IS A STRETCH TO SAY THE LEAST BUT TO BE HONEST I AM NOT TOO ANGRY ABOUT THIS MY CAPS LOCK KEY JUST GOT STUCK DOWN. Well it didn't really, but let's just pretend it did.

You do get three flavour choices - natural, vanilla and strawberry - which kind of suggests that there is something wholly unnatural about the vanilla and strawberry flavours, but I guess there's nothing sexy about selling a product as 'plain' or 'unflavoured'. If you're about to suggest vanilla is plain and unflavoured, you're a jerk because vanilla is awesome.

Jamie Theakston: 4/10
Danone Activia Pouring Yoghurt: 5/10
Total: 9/20

Monday, 1 November 2010

Gok Wan, Snack A Jacks

It's a little too tempting in reviewing Gok Wan to make fun of his name, but don't worry, Conspirators of Pleasure isn't about to descend into cod racism (I expect to write more about cod racism in my review for Nick Griffin's inevitable Birds (glass) Eye promotion). For the purposes of this review, I watched the entire last series of How To Look Good Naked as "research". I wouldn't otherwise watch it. Honest. For those who haven't seen the show, each week Gok Wan (Hey! That's an anagram of Go, it's too easy) gives fashion tips to a Joanna Public with body image problems, while also giving them the confidence to "bare all" in public. To be honest, all they ever do is show their arse to a baying shopping centre crowd, and I'm pretty sure I could do that already. I don't mean that I would just wander into Lakeside and drop my pants, because if I did that I'd probably be, at best, arrested and, at worst, stabbed. No, I mean that if I were on a catwalk with some Gokettes and had Gok as the master of ceremonies, I'd probably do it. It's all about context.

I'm not really sure why it's called "How To Look Good Naked" anyway. Half the show is about finding the right fit of clothes to suit the subject's body shape or how to wear clothes that give the impression of a more desirable body shape. And as for the naked part, Gok doesn't actually change the way they look naked - they look exactly the same at the end as they do at the beginning. Rather, he justs teaches them to be more confident in their birthday suit. And a bit overly confident at that, almost to the point of naturism. However I suppose that "How To Look Good Clothed And Feel Good Enough Naked To Show Your Backside And Maybe A Bit Of Sideboob In Public And On National Television" really would be a bit of a mouthful.

Though his shows can be a tad leering at times, I find Gok Wan to be by-and-large an honourable person. It's good to show women that curves and having some meat to your figure are desirable. We're living in a post-Christina Hendricks world for Christ's sake! We have even seeing a slight emergence of plus-size models, but since these models are still below average-size, I really they should be referred to as "minus-size".

The Gok Wan/Snack A Jacks promotion, Bag Some She-Time enabled consumers to get some beauty rewards or, better still, win a styling session with "Auntie" Gok himself. Given how Snack A Jacks are already marketed, putting Gok Wan's image and the phrase "she-time" on the packaging makes it even more embarassing for a raving heterosexual man to buy the product (thank the Lord (Sainsbury) for self-service checkouts). Now that How To Look Good Naked not only features fashion/beauty tips for men, but has also had a male as a subject, I feel Gok could do something to correct this problem. Maybe next series a "Wan for the boys" feature could teach us How To Look Good Buying And Eating Snack A Jacks.

In being sweet, Caramel-flavour Snack A Jacks stick out like a sore thumb. And not a very tasty sore thumb at that - like toffee popcorn, it's a sweetness that I'm not overly enamoured of. For the savoury Snack A Jacks, I find the distribution of seasoning to be pretty variable within the packet, which comes as a shock to the system, with my supermarket-ingrained uniformity expectations. I have to say that the only flavour that really has me coming back for more is Sour Cream & Chive.

Gok Wan: 7/10
Snack A Jacks - Sour Cream & Chive: 7/10, Caramel: 3/10, Other Flavours: 5/10, Average: 5/10
Total: 12/20

Thursday, 7 October 2010

Before They Were Famous @ CuiZine

To compliment my reviews here, I've started doing some posts looking at adverts featuring celebrities before they were famous at new food blog CuiZine. The first post is on Matt LeBlanc and Heinz Ketchup. Go check it out!

Sunday, 19 September 2010

Wayne Rooney, Orange Powerade

I first intended to blog about Wayne Rooney's Powerade endorsement in the lead-up to the World Cup. In reviewing a sportsman before or during a major event maximises topicality, but the main drawback is that opinion of the individual is in such flux that the blog can be dated pretty quickly. Conspirators of Pleasure is therefore grateful that Wayne was thoughtful enough to have some £1200-a-night dalliances so that the resulting tabloid revelations would provide topicality without such an immediate issue of shifting opinion.

Jokemakers have got to also be pleased about these transgressions. Historically most Rooney jokes have hinged on him being (a) stupid and/or (b) ugly. They can now add a third form of Rooney joke to the three, though they may also play on the previous two forms: Wayne is so stupid and so ugly, that he has to pay for sex.

In Nike's World Cup Mega-advert (directed by Alejandro González Iñárritu, which rather explains the presence of Gael García Bernal), Rooney imagined that Ribery's interception of his ball would result in him living in a caravan park sporting a beard. Of course, neither player was ostracised in their respective countries for their actions at the World Cup, but rather their inactions, but that doesn't compare to the press treatment followng the hooker scandals the two have been embroiled in. I think it's this treatment which is more likely to lead Rooney to a beardy caravan existence (being pro-beard myself, the advert just serves as a reminder that Wayne doesn't have a beard, so I hope you can understand the resulting automatic points deduction).

Wayne's advert for Powerade sees a water-fuelled Rooney play against a Powerade-fuelled Rooney. For some reason the two Rooneys find it necessary to play shirts versus skins, even though there is only one player on each team (of course, this is Powerade's variation of the "Wayne Rooney's so stupid..." joke - I look forward to the sex-joke in the sequel). It doesn't make for a well-controlled experiment anyway, as it may be that it is wearing a top in those conditions that has a negative effect, rather than drinking water instead of Powerade. This is under the assumption that it is water, but for all we know it could be vodka, in which case it's fairly bleeding obvious that Powerade gives a better performance.

I like small print captions in adverts - it's basically a way of them saying, "Don't come crying to us when it doesn't work because we kind of admitted it might not work, even though we largely implied it would." The first caption reads, "Time lapse used to illustrate benefit during sustained exercise", which means (a) the time lapse has failed to illustrate this because they need a caption to point it out, and/or (b) they are worried that some people might expect Powerade to have a bullet-time side effect. "Prehydrating with Powerade before sports is scientifically proven to delay muscle fatigue and improve stamina in top athletes," we are told. From which we can infer that it may well do bugger all for mediocre athletes like me though? I suppose we can be thankful it can assist our top sports stars. Like Wayne Rooney. Who presumably does drink the official energy drink of the England team. Which is Lucozade.

I picked up the Orange Powerade because that was the one that had Rooney on the bottle. Drinking it I just felt like I had bought an overpriced bottle of diluted orange squash. I much prefer the blue and red flavours, even though their colour is a significant cause for concern. But, you ask, did it delay muscle fatigue and improve stamina for me as it would for Wayne? I wouldn't know, I can't really afford to splash out £1200 on a call girl.

'Beardless' Wayne Rooney: 4/10
Orange Powerade: 5/10
Total: 9/20

Thursday, 9 September 2010

Lionel Richie & Gary Lineker, Walkers Extra Crunchy

And lo, Conspirators of Pleasure opens its proverbial doors for the first time to a product being endorsed by not one, but two celebrities with the advertising campaign for Walkers Extra Crunchy as Gary Lineker is joined by Lionel Richie.

Lionel is singing an altered version of Say You, Say Me, his Oscar-winning song from the film White Nights. White Nights is about an American tap dancer and a Soviet ballet dancer who have defected to one other's countries. I've not seen the film, I'll just wait for the modern update, Street Tap 3D, which will almost surely feature a scene in which our tap-happy protagonist recreates Fred Astaire's tap dance up the walls and on the ceiling. He won't tap dance up any old wall though, he'll do it up the FOURTH WALL! TAPPING ALL UP IN OUR FACES! Anyway, White Nights has got Helen Mirren in it, so we can be fairly certain she takes her clothes off in it, as that's what she does in everything: Caligula, The Cook, The Thief..., Calendar Girls, The Queen. I'm fairly certain that her DBE was for services to boys' wet dreams. I'd say I guess her habit of disrobing is a result of education at a Catholic girls school, if my (non-Catholic) mother weren't educated at the same school, and she is thankfully not so prone to the same syndrome.

I'm not too sure about Lionel's appearance in the advert. While I can applaud that he is happy to send himself up, I feel that it seems to put him in the same ironic bracket as Mr. T (Snickers) and Ray Parker Jr (118 118). But this is the Lionel Richie whose Hello was number one in the UK at the time of my birth, so I don't see how I can score him anything over than a 10. If you doubt this judgement, one only needs be reminded of the classic video, about an arts teacher and his blind pupil, neither of whom have clearly heard The Police's Don't Stand So Close To Me.

Back to the advert: the first time I saw it, I thought that it signalled the end of the partnership of famous Leicester exports, until the face of Lineker appeared. It's a face whose complexion these days has me reaching for the remote to adjust the colour settings. The main problem with the Lineker Walkers adverts is that they've gone on so long that everyone's forgotten that the original intention of his villainous role was to sendup his 'nice guy' image. He has become so insufferably smug these days that I expect the adverts are now largely autobiographical. Further, his nice guy image was in part predicated on his never having got a yellow card in his football career. As Brian Clough once said, "show me a man who never got booked, and I'll show the guy the door for not trying hard enough"(or maybe I just made that up).

Lineker's pun in this behind the scenes video is less Walkers Extra Crunchy, more Walkers Extra Clunky, and as a result I can't possibly bring myself to score him even a single point. Way to bring the average down, Gary.

The marketing of Walkers Extra Crunchy focuses on how they are "made to share". How does their Extra Crunchiness (as a result of being sliced thicker and cooked longer) make them better for sharing? If these crisps are made for sharing particularly while watching television or a film, then I fail to see how Extra Crunchiness (and therefore extra loudness) can be desirable. I think that it's all rather a marketing ploy to corner the booming sharing sector of the crisp market while suggesting we shouldn't binge on their product to appease Saint Joliver. I ate a whole bag by myself in a single sitting just to spite them.

Flavour-wise I found even the more enticing Cheddar & Sour Cream and Flame Grilled Steak to be pretty bland and insipid, while the Extra Crunchiness doesn't deserve Lionel singing about it. I'll stick to Kettle Chips in future, thanks.

Lionel Richie: 10/10, Gary Lineker: 0/10, Average: 5/10
Walkers Extra Crunchy: 3/10
Total: 8/20

Tuesday, 10 August 2010

Martine McCutcheon, Danone Activia

I must begin with a disclaimer. My mum tutors Maisie Smith, whose EastEnders character Tiffany is named in memory of the character played by Martine McCutcheon, so I apologise in advance if this review smacks of nepotism as a result. Let's not forget though that on EastEnders, Martine's Tiff was involved in many groundbreaking storylines, most notably the one where her boyfriend cheated on her with her brother that invented male homosexuality (lesbianism dates back to Sappho, naturally). She is an Olivier award-winning actress after all, but her My Fair Lady co-star Jonathan Pryce was reportedly none too pleased about her receipt of this accolade, and I think we can all trust JP because he was Sam Lowry in Brazil, and I'm sure we can all agree to agree with me that that's one of the best films ever.

Martine's most significant role besides Tiff was as Hugh Grant's Prime Minister's love interest in Richard Curtis' Love Actually, a film which, inspite of myself, I seem to enjoy a little more each time I see it. I'm always troubled by how misogynistic it is though. Don't believe me? Well, to quote my good friend Loyd Grossman, let's look at the evidence. Laura Linney is in love with her company's 'enigmatic' (i.e. boring) chief designer, but nothing comes of it as she responsible for her mentally unstable, abusive brother. Kim Bauer, Betty Draper and an actress who hasn't had a major TV role are easy enough to sleep with the guy from the BT ads, not in spite, but rather because of him coming from Bas Vegas (this being Curtisland, American girls are hotties and British girls are notties, hence why they are always desperate for a 'shag'). Emma Thompson is made to feel guilty for not being a sexy secretary who wanders around in her underwear, Keira Knightley is made to feel guilty for not being in love with two men and the girl who doesn't speak English is made to feel guilty for not speaking English. And what about our Martine? Well comments are consistently made about the size of her arse and thighs, and she is referred to as fat, chubby and plumpy, despite the fact that she is clearly none of the above. Curtis' thesis is that the arrivals gate at Heathrow is a place of concentrated love, and yet what are the words Hugh says to Martine at said gate at the end of the film? "God, you weigh a lot." Richard, I think you'll find that's not love, actually.


Martine is fronting Danone Activia's campaign for 2010 being the year of TLC. Turns out they mean the concept of Tender Loving Care and not T-Boz, Left Eye and Chilli, they of incredibly dated album covers.

While Martine is fronting this campaign, she appears nowhere on the packaging. I think this is because they don't want to deter people like me from buying it. By that I don't mean people who write a blog reviewing celebrity-endorsed food, because based on a sample of me I can tell you that that sizeable demographic will buy anything with a celeb's face on it. No, by 'people like me' I mean men, as I assume Danone felt it might make it appear too girly. That or Richard Curtis phoned them up and told them that if they had a morbidly obese girl on the pot they couldn't really sell it as low-fat.

I can't help feeling they've missed a trick here. Rather than use Gimme Some Lovin' by the Spencer Davis Group, they should have used Martine's UK number one, Perfect Moment, to suggest that a moment with Activia Intensely Creamy is indeed perfect. Turns out though that Perfect Moment is actually a cover! Who knew?

I'd have to say though that a moment with an Intensely Creamy yogurt isn't perfect actually - if anything they are too creamy, and the creaminess overpowers the headlining flavour. Plus, unlike the normal Danone Activia, which comes in standard yogurt pots, they come in round pots made of sturdier plastic which, while admittedly easing your worries about potential splits and spillage inside a tightly packed bag, do tend to remind me of those balls that you put laundry detergent in. And detergent is not the kind of taste sensation I want to be thinking about while eating a yogurt. So unless you've got a full-blown cream and detergent fetish, I'd recommend just getting a fruit multipack, but not the one with old people's flavours like fig and prune.

Martine McCutcheon: 5.5/10
Danone Activia Fruit: 7/10, Intensely Creamy: 6/10, Average: 6.5/10
Total: 12/20

Sunday, 8 August 2010

A broadcast on behalf of Conspirators of Pleasure

With this blog at risk of becoming sports star overkill, I've decided to expand my remit to include food products that, while not featuring a celebrity on the packaging, are quite clearly endorsed by one in adverts. The bonus being that I may be able to ponder why the celebrity is not deemed worthy of appearing on the product itself. I hope that this change will not result in regular readers leaving in droves.