Things we love

Anatomy of an advert

My favourite ad is one for Baileys, the alcoholic cream liquor. It’s a TV advert which ran at Christmas a few years ago. The scene opens on a snow-kissed forest, where three young women make their way to a Christmas party. They’re in cocktail dresses with full skirts and modern jackets.

They make their way slowly into the lit party, where their jackets are taken and Baileys is offered. A handsome soldier, looking battle-weary and tall, catches our heroine’s eye. But she’s also spotted by a man on a higher level. He’s dressed in dark leather; his tattoos make him look dangerous. Though our heroine is dancing with the soldier, the dangerous man sends in his thugs to tear her away.

There’s fighting, and struggling, but our heroine gets free. Though her soldier couldn’t fight off the dangerous man, she fells him with a well-placed pirouetted kick to the jaw. And although the handsome soldier smiles with relief and offers his hand to her, she goes back to her Baileys—and to her friends.

‘Hang on,’ you may be thinking. ‘This sounds suspiciously like one of the most Christmassy ballets ever written!’ And you would be right. It’s an updated Nutcracker, where Clara is up for a night on the town, the Nutcracker Prince is a darker and grittier war-torn veteran, and the Mouse King owns a club. The fight still ends the same way, though; Clara turns the battle in the ad and the ballet when she bludgeons the Mouse King with her shoe.

Dave Morgan Royal Ballet Crop

(Photo by Dave Rogers for the Royal Ballet, 2012)

Maybe it’s not the most original concept, updating a classic story for advertising reasons, but it’s clever and perfectly executed. All three principals are dancers with the Royal Ballet, with Clara (Iana Salenko) and the Nutcracker (Steven McRae) being onstage partners in many other productions. It feels original and genuine in a way that other adverts don’t.

Baileys the product only makes two appearances—once at the beginning of the ad, once at the end. It doesn’t force anyone to say ‘No thanks! All the fun I need at Christmas is in this glass of Baileys!’ and flash a big grin at the camera. It allows the story to unfold—and we like stories a lot better than we like being sold to.