POLITICAL AD BREAKDOWN
Brian Wheeler's review of election broadcasts
Labour's first election broadcast of the 2010 campaign features a junction.
Not a metaphorical one but an actual fork in the road - of the kind you run into when you are trying to find a campsite in the Lake District and the sat nav is on the blink.
One way is blocked by hazards and is partly washed away by a flood. A sign warns of twists and turns ahead.
Title: The Road Ahead
Starring: Sean Pertwee, David Tennant (voiceover), a long road
Key scenes: Speeded up clocks, share price data and New York cabs; Pertwee reaching a fork in the road - one direction is clear, the other blocked with "Road Ahead Closed signs"
The other stretches out across the sunlit uplands, like a long silver ribbon.
Just in case we are in any doubt about which one to take, the man chosen to be our guide soothes us with his rich, earthy baritone: "Things are still fragile, which is why this is not the time to change teams and go off in a different direction."
With his craggy features and his warm but authoritative manner, he is a man you would follow anywhere.
Could it be Gordon Brown?
In fact, Mr Brown does not appear at all in this broadcast. He is not seen as a major electoral asset for Labour.
Besides, most voters would not trust a politician to give them directions to the end of the road at the moment.
Bar charts ain't us
Instead, we have a cypher Brown - played by actor Sean Pertwee - who says the sort of things the Labour leader would say ("My father always said 'don't give up'. Show resolve, he said. He was so right") but in a Southern accent that will not scare floating voters in Kent.
The film features a newspaper which magically mushrooms into shape
The ad is shot in a washed-out, almost sepia tone, as our man wanders through a tourist authority vision of old England, all fishing villages and little post offices.
Subtle it isn't. But then party election broadcasts rarely are and at least this one avoids the shrill tone of the traditional PEB. Nobody is perched on the edge of their desk pointing at bar charts.
This one looks and feels like an advert for a building society. And it is surprisingly gentle in tone.
Perhaps they are saving their view of the truly dystopian vision of life under the Conservatives for later in the campaign.
Either way the message could not be clearer, despite or perhaps because of the most hackneyed of conceits - stick with what you know. Don't risk the other lot.
By keeping politicians well out of it and restricting the stock footage of economic turmoil to a minimum, Labour has produced something which does not look like a party election broadcast at all.
And for that reason, it might just succeed in catching the attention of the casual channel hopper.
Brian Wheeler will be reviewing party election broadcasts during this campaign.
Below is a selection of your comments
"And for that reason, it might just succeed in catching the attention of the casual channel hopper." Well it certainly caught my eye, and I am guilty of Channel hopping. Only half way through did I catch on that this was a party election broadcast. Agree on most of your points, however, if you make a Party Election Broadcast too subtle, you are left wondering, with what the hell was that about.
Vic Singh, West Midlands, UK
Has anyone made the connection between this and the film Equilibrium? Same guy, Sean Pertwee? *ahem* "Libria! You have won! etc.
Foakes, Bath, UK
I'm not a Labour supporter, but I did like the ad. I think the subtlety will be lost on a lot of people though.
Michael M., Sheffield, UK
I thought the actual choice of the road junction was quite clever, although as said in the article not very subtle. The "bad" choice was almost 90 degrees to the right, down a hill and then eventually with all sorts of obstacles, where as the "good" choice was quite clearly straight up the hill. It was a simple message and was conveyed quite well. However this type of message relies to some extent on a negative message, being look at the alternative to us aren't they bad, rather than look at we will do. At least this broadcast didn't have the effect of making me want to intermediately change channels like they usually do.
Colin White, Swindon
This is a rip-off of the Johnny Walker advert with Robert Carlisle. Come up with something new please, you've had 13 years.
David Watts, London
I saw this and thought it could have been a tourist advert for rural England. Perhaps I'm missing the point, but I would like to know if they really have anything to say.
Andrew Smith, Chelmsford, England
That sound bite "Things are still fragile, which is why this is not the time to change teams and go off in a different direction." sounds like the election phrase used in Wag The Dog (borrowed from Abraham Lincoln): "Why change horses in midstream?"