Mobile phone provider Giffgaff’s latest television ad campaign, launched last Friday, portrays Croydon as a dystopian hell hole populated by louts and beset by antisocial conduct in rubbish-strewn, semi-derelict streets.
The campaign – called Ode to Bad – seeks to contrast bad behaviours, ranging from littering, queue-jumping and noise nuisance to inconsiderate parking, brawling and corporate greed.
But there is a happy ending, with a single act of kindness and generosity, apparently representing Giffgaff’s brand message as a business that is “Up to good.”
The solitary good deed, returning a dropped mobile phone to its owner, apparently positions the brand as a mobile network that “values honesty, responsibility and sustainability”.
Luckily for Giffgaff’s creative agency, Neverland, and the film company Blink Productions, location scouts tore themselves away from Soho to make the 15-minute journey from Victoria to Croydon in the search for somewhere that matched the sense of hopelessness and dereliction the ad execs desired for in their dystopian vision of a Blade Runner-style future.
The 60-second noir film is set almost entirely in and around Surrey Street, Overtons Yard and Wandle Road, while also using one of Croydon’s many pedestrian underpasses.
The filmmakers dressed the streets with a few neon signs and burning braziers, while actors screamed, shouted and scrapped, and slung half-eaten kebabs around the place. So much like the average Friday night in Croydon town centre, then…
Luckily for Croydon, the locations are probably only recognisable to locals – for instance, the Royal Standard pub only features as a background blur and Surrey Street’s Art and Craft Bar is replaced with a CGI’d Chinese supermarket on the verge of bankruptcy.
And in any case, is any brief TV ad likely to damage the Cronx’s reputation any further?
It’s another instance where Croydon’s town planners over the past 70 years have provided TV execs with a cityscape to fit their own preconceptions.
Late last year, ITV began using a drone shot of Croydon Town Hall and the Nestlé Building (without the perma-scaffolding that has surrounded the stalled redevelopment) for their between-programmes ident sequence.
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