22 JUNE 1974, Page 13


The Gatsby smell

Philip Kleinman

The way in which cultural trends are reflected in advertising, and intensified by that very reflection, provides endless fascination. One current example is the 'twenties. revival embodied in the film, The Great Gatsby and its multifarious .commercial spin-offs.

Schweppes has already produced a Gatsby cocktail, and Pimms an ad campaign showing the drink in an authentic Gatsby period setting. Now I learn that a Gatsby after-shave is due to be unveiled in the near future. Details secret for the moment — the months before Christmas are traditionally the best time to launch an after-shave — but, if the fad keeps up, the manufacturers could be on to a good thing.

Meanwhile a little bit of wind may have been taken out of their sales by another after-shave, 'Casablanca,' which also will not be launched until later in the year but which has had the wraps taken off by Unicliffe, manufacturers of the successful Hai Karate brand.

In case you're not quite sure what Gatsby has to do with Casablanca, it should be explained that the television advertising campaign prepared for the product by ad agency Doyle Dane Bernbach is, as the agency cheerfully admits, a bit of a mishmash of various ideas which were thrown around to start with.

The client did not originally know what he wanted except that he had to break into the upper segment of the after-shave market, i.e. brands selling at a retail price of over El. This is the fastest growing part of the market, and significantly Faberge's 'Brut,' which is the single biggest seller among aftershaves in Britain is one of the more expensive brands.

Hai Karate, like Unicliffe's other brand, 'Censored,' is in the cheaper segment, and the kind of slapstick sexuality which works in the 'Hai Karate' commercials was obviously going to be inappropriate to the more sophisticated image that had to be created for the new brand.

The agency put four competing 2reative teams on the job, and the winning concept derived its ins3iration from Humphrey Bogart. Hence the name 'Casablanca'. On .ts way through the mill — and :he client's office — the Bogey :.heme was considerably toned iown, however. The commercials, :hree of which have now been inade, acquired a hero figure in an .legant white suit who turned out :o be rather more Gatsbyish (in he sartorial sense, pace poor old Scott Fitzgerald) than Bogeyish.

This hero is a mysterious 3impernel-like character, his face always in shadow, whom we first see taking copies of secret iocuments. Police of some Jnidentified nationality arrive, but ie has already given them the slip. The police chief sniffs the air and grunts, "Casablanca." And the :losing punch-line is, "The aftershave that lingers on."

Subsequent commercials show Casablanca, as I suppose we must :all him, in 'Orient Express' and Berlin Checkpoint' type situations. A further episode which the agency wants to make, but suspects the IBA won't allow, would show Casablanca in bed with the police chief's wife but managing to get away before avenging husband enters the room.

The ads, are, of course, spoofs, out they're played deadpan with the comedy understated and are, therefore, what marketing men would recognise as sophisticated. And they have one very strong point, the sniffing police chief and his grunted word. This is the kind of thing which tends to get into popular parlance ("Bisto!" is an ancient example) and thence into newspaper cartoons and the patter of comedians, thus providing the advertiser with an uncovenanted publicity bonus. The packaging of the brand — with an old-fashioned type face. and a pattern of black lines on white — is intended to have a Gatsbyish kind of elegance.

Whether Gatsby after-shave when it appears will actually crib its advertising situations and words from Fitzgerald I'm afraid I can't tell you. But I look forward to finding out.