September 23, 2007

Bear Essentials

Whilst the new ad campaign which has Paddington Bear giving Marmite a try (instead of his usual Marmalade) is both charming and, I suspect, effective, I must confess to having mixed feelings about the rewriting of classic children's stories to suit the commercial agenda of one product or another.

Conscious that there is something a touch fuddy-duddy in my reaction, I just about resist throwing up my hands with the cry 'Is nothing sacred?'. I know we can sometimes be a little precious about seeing our favourite performers, teams or even theatres fall into the hands of advertisers (witness the current griping about the naming rights of Lansdowne Road although the Irish rugby team are doing their bit to make sure that this isn't the only thing to disappoint the loyal rugby fan right now). But am I alone in finding that there's something just a little disturbing in seeing classic storylines make way to opportunities for product placement in much the same way as many of the new stories being told in film and games?

Although I'm not a big fan of the Paddington Bear stories myself, I do know that I would be troubled to read that the hero of 'I Am David', my own favourite children's book, was to make his epic journey across Europe to rediscover the taste of true butter rather than be reunited with the mother he hasn't seen since infancy. And I would imagine that there would be uproar at Hogwarts if Harry were to endorse a 'muggle' brand in the course of one of his adventures.

Let's stop the spread. I'm not sure where to draw the line but I am inclined to issue a stern 'hands off' to advertisers everywhere when it comes to the childhood stories that we take with us into our adult lives as part of who we are and how we make sense of the world. Let Paddington Bear stick to his marmalade and let the makers of marmite peddle their spread elsewhere.


Gavin said...

How about a little rewriting of classic Bob Dylan videos for a touch of viral marketing? Slick!

Gerard Tannam said...

I think this works better as the younger Dylan is simply pointing the way towards the older Dylan's body of work. If he were to allow the rewriting to advertise unrelated commercial projects I could imagine Dylan fans (and the younger Dylan himself) being outraged.

On the other hand, it strikes me that Dylan always has an unexpected take on what amounts to selling out so perhaps he'd see it as being somehow ironic.

Jamie Riddell said...

I agree that Paddington is sacred and should not be used to promote other products. The Dylan thing is actually quite cool as it promotes itself effextively.