Fiona McCade: Driven to distraction by advert superheroes

Robert Downey Jr as Iron Man. Picture: PA
Robert Downey Jr as Iron Man. Picture: PA
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I BELIEVE in Santa Claus. He’s a great guy. Everybody loves him and he brings pleasure to millions.

However, if there was an advertising campaign saying: “Santa’s a great guy and everybody loves him. So, why don’t you give up your car and drive a sleigh pulled by reindeer just because he does?” even I would probably say no.

Call me cynical, but I think that if a company is going to use a well-known person as a serious ambassador for its top-of-the-range brand, it definitely helps if that person is real.

The television advert currently showing for the 
Audi automobile company’s latest R8 model is driving me (excuse the pun) mad. In it, the first thing you see is Robert Downey Jnr dressed as Iron Man in Iron Man 3 (fine, it’s a tie-in with the film, on you go). Then, not dressed at all like Iron Man, he gets into an Audi R8 and speeds stylishly through the desert (so far, so acceptable). But then, the following slogan appears on-screen: “Tested by Tony Stark.”

Tony Stark (aka Iron Man)? Seriously, Audi? You’re hoping I will fork out to buy a flash car that was “tested” by someone who does not exist?

I find it difficult to have confidence in the opinions of fictional characters. If the ad said “the Audi R8, as seen in Iron Man 3”; or “as driven by Robert Downey Jnr in Iron Man 3” then, fine, I’m on side. And if it were followed up with “tested by Jenson Button”, I might even be impressed. But Tony Stark? I have news for you, Audi. Tony Stark is not real. He’s the alter-ego of a Marvel Comics’ superhero. It’s like saying: “The new Chevrolet Batmobile, as tested by Bruce Wayne.”

I’m used to being patronised by advertisers, but this is the tipping point. Now, I’m annoyed. This is high-end merchandise and it’s being sold like cereal. Come on, Audi, don’t you think that anyone who can afford that much Vorsprung durch Technik is probably grown-up enough to know that your test driver is essentially a cartoon? I might as well buy a car based on the fact that it’s been driven by Tony the Tiger. Well, he’s a cartoon, too, and I bought Frosties from him and that worked out fine, so hey, why not some wheels?

I’m equally ambivalent about other superheroes. I wouldn’t buy a gym membership if it were advertised by Peter Parker, because I know Spiderman got his powers from being bitten by a radioactive spider. Unless there were real, radioactive spiders at the gym ready to bite me into shape, I wouldn’t be convinced. However, if it were sold to me as the gym that managed to get Tobey McGuire bulked up enough to play Spiderman, I’d sign up tomorrow.

See where I’m coming from? I am prepared to believe in the experiences of actual, real people. I am not prepared to spend actual, real money on something simply because it is promoted by one of the Guardians of the Galaxy.

I’m so sick of being treated like a child by the marketing men, I’ve been ranting on about this for weeks. I think my husband might be getting a bit irritated because the other day, while I was holding forth about how stupid and easily led some consumers must be to fall for stuff like this, he asked quietly, but purposefully: “Remind me, love, what car does James Bond drive?”

Without thinking, I replied: “An Aston Martin DB5.”

And then it dawned on me.

Oops. Obviously, there’s a part of me that believes that James Bond is real. When I answered that question – straight off the top of my head, without benefit of analysis – I wasn’t thinking about films, or actors, or novels.

As far as my subconscious is concerned, James Bond is out there, driving around in an Aston Martin DB5. And yes, if I had the money, I’d probably buy one, just so I could feel like 007.

Evidently, I deserve to have my intelligence insulted. So, if I had to buy something advertised by a superhero, what would it be?

I’d definitely want some Spanx if they were test-driven by the Incredible Hulk. I believe that’s why his pants always contain him so nicely.