Concentrated goodness

Quality time

I usually write about TV programmes, and the manifold pleasures they can bring.  The stories and characters, the artists’ vision.  Deep joy.

On a quiet night in, a good programme completes me.

And occasionally an advert can manage the same trick.

Don’t read any more until you’ve watched the film.

In a way, its appeal is obvious, but let me explain.  John Yorke would call this a fractal; the compact 60 seconds of the Robinsons advert contains all the elements we find in the wider medium.

Everything we want from television is there in concentrated form.

Characters, a story, a mystery, music, a surprise ending and a piece of wisdom.  There’s a fight scene, a quote from a famous film, some sport, some sunny out-doors and some cosy indoors, a potential romance for the future, equality and dependence, humour and love…

It doesn’t have any women.  Where are they… what is going on?  What was the brand manager thinking?! There’s a mystery if you want to think about it.

And the sudden twist.  They aren’t boys at all – one is the other’s father.  It’s an astonishing moment.  Like when Zoe says to her sister Kat: You can’t tell me what to do, you ain’t my mother!  And Kat shouts back to her:  Yes I am!  (quoted by Yorke in Into The Woods), or when Darth Vader says something similar to Luke Skywalker (quoted by one boy in the advert).

When you watch it again, you spot the ‘boys’ shadows, the glasses and watch… it’s all there if you care to look.  Perhaps you noticed it subconsciously the first time.

In another life, I’ve been involved in understanding human needstates – to connect with others in order to feel part of a group, or to escape to another world.  Television satisfies these needs well, but so do novels and films.  And some magazines.  But adverts only really pull off this trick when they are on TV.  It’s the visuals, and music, and who we are with when we watch them and the way they can catch us unaware. Robinson’s manage this here.  Unlike in Eastenders or Star Wars when we see the reveal, we suddenly become the dad or the son – what would it be like to be them and feel that?
And we want to watch the advert again, to spot the clues.

And there’s two other things.  Perhaps Robinsons is just a name.  But once upon a time there was a Robin, and his son was named after him. And it’s British owned, unpretentious and rather lovely. And frankly, given the amount of sugar (natural or otherwise) in orange juice or coke, I’d much rather give my children squash.

In the end, I can admire the craftsmanship that created this advert. But my brain is utterly distracted, remembering my father (who died 30 years ago this Friday), remembering my childhood (even longer gone), thinking about my parenting skills (ahem) and my children, and making a mental note to get some more Robinsons on my next shop.

Two children.  Drinking Robinsons.

Two children. Drinking Robinsons.