Column: December 1, 2010

THERE are many amusing examples of items designed to be unfit for purpose – a chocolate kettle, the 2010 Lib-Dem manifesto, the Irish government.

I once had a plastic canoe with an integral gas stove to keep the feet warm while one sliced through the icy waters. Unfortunately, the first time I used it, the stove melted the plastic hull below the water line and the whole thing sank.

I learnt a valuable lesson that day: you can’t have your kayak and heat it.

The most obvious unfit- for-purpose item is, of course, the big winter glove. These bulky hand-shaped garments keep the hands toasty warm right up until the point at which the hands have to operate as hands.

If one needs to unlock a door, operate a touch- screen phone, or hold anything smaller than a rat for any more than a nano-second, the gloves have to come off. It is like having a pair of trousers which only work if one is standing still, and if one tries to walk or engage in any other leg-based activity (hopping, skipping, Kung Fu, etc) the pants transform into some sort of polyester man-trap and make one fall over.

I might as well put my hands in my pockets. At least I wouldn’t lose one of my pockets on the bus.

One would think the big winter glove’s position as “Most Useless Thing In The World” would be unassailable. But one would be wrong, wouldn’t one? Because such a reckoning does not take into account the new John Lewis TV ad.

I don’t know exactly who thought the commercial was a good idea, but I can imagine the thought process behind it. And here I am, imagining it . . .

JOHN LEWIS (EVIL GENIUS BEHIND THE JOHN LEWIS CHAIN) SITS AT THE HEAD OF THE TABLE WITH HIS MARKETING TEAM, A SNAKE WRAPPED AROUND HIS SHOULDERS.

JOHN LEWIS: Tell me about Waitrose .

MALFOY: Oh, it’s a corker, my lord. We’re getting Roger McGough to do the voiceover.

JOHN LEWIS: Ah, that will annoy the people of Liverpool at least, given that we refuse to put a Waitrose in Liverpool. Good . . . but not good enough. I want an advertisement which really winds its target audience up.

LESTRANGE: We did try, my lord. We did that very scary advert where the dark-haired girl grows up into an old woman while the outside world remains exactly the same, like a backward version of The Picture Of Dorian Gray.

MALFOY: Yes, my lord. And we even used one of Billy Joel’s most sour, some would say misogynistic, songs as the soundtrack. And a rubbish version of it, too, just to underline the horror. We have no idea why it did not work.

JOHN LEWIS: We need to be more subtle. You will create a heart-warming Christmas advertisement, filled with images of loving parents sneaking presents into their home, a gentle giant wrapping a child’s teapot, a dolls house placed in the attic . . .

EXTRA: That’s a rubbish idea.

JOHN LEWIS: Avada kedavra!

EXTRA SLUMPS FORWARD ONTO TABLE. THE SNAKE SWALLOWS HIM WHOLE IN AN EFFECT OBVIOUSLY INTENDED FOR A 3-D FILM.

MALFOY: But, my lord, I do not understand.

JOHN LEWIS: You fool. We are using tender images of homes where the children are expecting a visit from Santa . . .

LESTRANGE: Ah!

JOHN LEWIS: And what will happen if a savvy child sees these images of parents hiding away Christmas presents? And puts two and two together . . .

MALFOY:We will destroy Christmas in those households! We will alienate our core customers! Gasp! It is evil genius, my Lord.

JOHN LEWIS: I know. I’m ace, me.

This is the only explanation. You’re a shop, John Lewis, not WikiLeaks.

 

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