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Sunday, 13 August 2017

The Vauxhall Griffin

Vauxhall Griffin TV advert 1973
Summer 1973 Vauxhall Griffin advert (click to play)

We were working out of the office, auditing the books of a small Vauxhall dealer in Selby. The owner was adamant we should watch out for the new Vauxhall advert showing for the first time that evening on television. So we did. It was going to be fantasic. He sounded really excited and enthusiastic.

The next day the owner was seething.

“Did you see it last night? Bloody awful! I don’t know how they expect that to sell any cars. A great big puffy bloke leaping around in tights! Who the hell’s going to buy a Vauxhall after that?”

Watching again now I can see what he meant. This dubious Jack-in-the-Green-type character, loitering behind bushes in what looks like the gardens of a crematorium, seems the kind of guy who might have difficulty in passing a DBS check. What on earth was Vauxhall thinking?

Along with lots of other dealers, the owner was straight on the phone to complain and the ad was pulled within the week. I never thought I’d see it again. Vauxhall must surely have tried to erase it permanently from the history books. Yet like all things embarrassing, it has resurfaced on the internet. If Julian Orchard, the actor, was still alive, he could probably get it removed under the right to be forgotten.

Afterword: the neo-millenials I’ve asked tend to like the ad. They find the griffin no less disagreeable than the meerkats, dogs or opera singers of today’s insurance ads, and the catchphrase “Like me!” fairly memorable. They seem to find nothing untoward about the character at all. Yet to many of the commentators on YouTube he is camp and scary. This was Julian Orchard in his customary role as a gangling, effete and effeminate dandy. He reminds me of the comedian Larry Grayson who before the nineteen-seventies had been considered too outrageous for television. It must be a generational thing. However, now I’ve watched the ad a few times, I think it’s brilliant. Perhaps it was ahead of its time: “Like me!”

1 comment:

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