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The Death of Tradland?

This ad for Barclays Bank mobile phone payment service currently airing on UK TV is a curious and rather clever egg. On the one hand it might seem to be resorting to the blokey, ‘regular guy’ clichés of the world as imagined/constructed by traditional advertising – Tradland. On the other, it deliberately goes against them, trying to appeal to the male viewer’s ‘blokey’ anxiety that he might be left ‘awkwardly on the edge of his friendship circle’.

Whoa! Isn’t that the kind of talk that used to be reserved for women’s magazines? OK, the voiceover is a slightly ironic-sounding Irish accent but nonetheless…. Plus in Tradland blokey advertising would often be based on exploiting anxiety about being ‘excluded’ – about being ‘that guy’ – but wouldn’t directly spell it out. That would be gay.

The number is wrong too, in Tradland terms. Three is the safe number for an all-male group. A couple of guys could be a couple – so a third was usually added to chaperone them. But four guys, as in this ad, could be two couples. And in fact, I’m fairly sure that this ad doesn’t want to exclude the possibility of gayness in this (not entirely white – and also gingerish) ‘friendship circle’ altogether.

I’m sure Barclays have done their market research and discovered that young men today are a different species to their dads – with many of them happy to kiss their male friends ‘because I love them’. Young men don’t mind and in fact enjoy showing that they need and value their mates. With cute little ‘thank you’ pictures.

Yes, the mates in this Barclays ‘friendship circle’ are depicted doing fairly traditional blokey activities, such as ‘having an Indian’, playing Playstation (a new male ‘tradition’) and going to the footie – but they all appear delightfully drippy and there’s no ‘reassuring’ machismo on display at all.

Perhaps though they should have been depicted snuggled up on the sofa watching The Great British Bake Off on TV, which last week succeeded in persuading more men to tune in than the Arsenal Championship League qualifier.

I have to say however that I’m thoroughly unconvinced by the central premise of the ad. It seems to me that the instant money transfer facility of Pingit isn’t likely to save friendships but rather hasten their demise – with fiendish e-efficiency. After all, if you’re owed money by a chum you can now seethe with indignation all day and every day wondering why they haven’t pinged you your effing pizza money yet.

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