The Magazine's review of advertising
During Michael Winner's recent appearance on Have I Got News For You, as he answered one question, he looked up at the audience, grinned his trademark smile, and said: "Calm down dear."
The two guises of Michael Winner
The audience stayed largely silent. Paul Merton sighed: "Glad we got that out of the way."
If Winner was made to look a touch silly, he probably wouldn't mind. For nearly three years now, he has been the star - and director - of a series of adverts for insurance company Esure which have been as irritating as they have been effective.
Whether crashing a car, or dressing up in drag and standing on a chair, Winner showed no reluctance to make himself look a bit foolish for the sake of publicity. And the tactic has worked: the company claims it has reached a million policies in less than four years in business.
The catchphrase has certainly made the leap into wider usage, what Francesca Newland of Campaign magazine describes as "the Holy Grail of advertising". A spokeswoman for Esure said awareness has been amazing, with even Rory Bremner doing a sketch incorporating it ("Calm down dear, I'm just the prime minister").
But Winner has now been shunted sideways in favour of a rodent, as the company, having established its name, tries to emphasise its online sales operation instead.
The firm's founder Peter Wood persuaded old friends Sian Vickers and Chris Wilkins to come out of retirement to devise the mouse for him. The pair - whose previous work includes the iconic Smash Martians - created Direct Line's distinctive red telephone for Wood when he was heading that company.
American accented Mr Mouse introduces himself
The character they came up with, which has been filmed in stop animation by a leading animation firm in the US, is "Mr Mouse" - a sort of Roland Rat with a Bronx lilt. The creature, the advert claims, lives inside a computer mouse - a concept Winner had introduced in the last of his adverts. So there is some continuity between the campaigns.
But the feeling of the two is very different. Although the mouse could become annoying in its own way, it is nowhere near as irritating as the Winner adverts. And where the earlier commercials revelled in feeling a bit homemade, the mouse is a serious piece of work - with great animation, a neat voice-over and a witty-ish script ("What? You thought it was electronical micro-chips inside these things?").
Francesca Newland says she doesn't think anyone will miss the Winner commercials, but praises them for having "tremendous 'stand-out'".
The Smash Martians
"They stand out for their awfulness," she says, "but that can be a good tool for advertisers, as long as not many other people try it. If everyone tried it, eventually everybody would turn their televisions off.
"They are very irritating, that's certain, but in this case Michael Winner managed to pull it off."
Esure says Winner remains an adviser to the firm and may well make a return at some stage. But for now, they are hoping people will look to their mouse.
Ad Breakdown is compiled by Giles Wilson
Add your comments on this story, using the form below.
Calm down dears, it's only an advert.
Owen Lewis, Worthing, England
What is the matter with everyone? Michael Winner's ads were nothing short of brilliant
Ray Osborne, Durham
The Winner adverts were masterpieces. "I'm not your sister, dummy!" "Don't listen to him, just go with the quote!" "Your mad, talking to houses!" So many catch phrases. I'll be sorry to see them go.
Guess I'm the only one reading this who actually found the Winner adverts hilarious in their awfulness! I'm going to miss them. Maybe I need medical help.
Nick, Hull, UK
Michael Winner is my hero. Who else can send themselves up in such a fashion as well as get the best table in any exclusive London eaterie? Three cheers for the man - those ads were the work of a comedy genius and I for one will sorely miss them!
Hopefully someone will market a Michael Winner ringtone.
Norman Day, Birmingham, UK
Michael Winner used humour to divert the attention from the boring subject matter: insurance. It was his idea and it worked well. I don't believe they expected to take every customer with the marketing campaign but it has clearly hit the mark with many people. Esure created a brand synonymous with stress-free insurance. Whether it is or not is another matter. Fact is, we all know the brand and they increased their customer-base. Well done!
Seldon Corrith, Tarland, Scotland
If you think Michael Winner is bad try having an erectile dysfunction pill advert every ten minutes through your entire evening. It's always a culture shock to see a UK or European advert over here because of the comparatively high quality and honesty.
Chris Hann, Bay Area, US
I am so glad the Michael winner adverts are over and done with! I not only found them irritating in the extreme on an aesthetic level but also derogatory to women, presenting us as if we were all stupid, weak-willed or emotional wrecks, needing constantly to be told to 'Calm down dear!'.
Jenni Sheppard, Brussels, Belgium
Get rid of Winner completely. Those adverts are the most sexist and aggravating I have ever seen and make me turn over as soon as I see them. Rather than making me want to use Esure they make me think I would use any other firm.
Finally. Obviously the ads were successful, but I for one intentionally chose not to go with esure, even when they provided me with the lowest quote, purely because of Michael Winner.
Michael Winner is unique. His adverts are even more repellent & irritating than the "crazy frog" ones for jamster.
A victory for common sense at last!
Anonymous HBOS worker, Copley, Halifax
Thank goodness these adverts are off the television. The new ads are OK, although I really think we should have stopped laughing about the 'mouse' having the same name as a rodent years ago.
Helen, Cambridge, UK
In general, the "tone" of an ad attaches itself to the brand: if the ad is sophisticated and stylish, then the brand/product/company is seen as likewise. Equally, if the ad is cheap and awful, that can spell the kiss of death for whatever is being promoted. The Winner ads are indeed awful, and thus highly memorable; I predict they will remain a benchmark for awfullness for many years. It will be interesting to see how their business fares with a new campaign.
Rob, London, UK
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