In an attempt to incite visitors to a celebrity-infested enclave of Los Angeles, the local office of M&C Saatchi has devised an advertising campaign featuring a woman of mystery called Beverly Hills.
The premise of the campaign is that “there’s something magical about Beverly Hills,” says Kathy Smits, director of the city’s Conference and Visitors Bureau, “a magic which M&C Saatchi managed to capture with the whole idea of being seduced by Ms Hills, but in a way that still has an elegance about it and a level of sophistication that is done very tastefully”.
The ads are represented as handwritten letters signed off with, “Love, Beverly Hills”. One reads: “I’ll show you a place where silent film stars were anything but silent, the bar the Rat Pack called their regular watering hole and the pool where many leading ladies were ‘discovered’. Visit soon, will create a few stories of our own.”
Ms Hills is shown in glamorous settings: at a window, wearing a gorgeous gown and lying across an oversized bed in a hotel room. Her face is never fully visible, which is deliberate, according to Huw Griffith, chief executive of M&C Saatchi Los Angeles. “She is sensual and provocative, but not in-your-face or too aloof.”
Much though it saddens me to disappoint M&C Saatchi’s creative team across the water in Tinseltown, their idea is far from new. In fact, we have not just one, but several, examples of almost identical campaigns in this country, all preceding the advent of Ms Hills by years.
Mary Port, for instance, has long been seducing visitors to the Cumbrian seaside town from which she derives her name. Wearing her trademark hair curlers and fluffy pink slippers, and with a roll-up dangling in a come-hither kind of way, Mary is seen reclining in a bus-shelter on the promenade.
The copy reads: “I’ll show you a place where world famous New Balance athletic footwear is made, and where the factory shop stocks a huge range of competitively priced seconds. I’ll take you by the hand and lead you to the Maritime Museum where you’ll learn the story of the town’s historic docks. And when the sun sets over the mudflats and the air is alive to the strains of the punk music festival, I’ll show you a good time you’ll never forget, right here in the darkened doorway of the neo-Georgian Age Concern charity shop.”
Not to be outdone is Mable Thorpe, the temptress who, like a siren bewitching the unwary seafarer, lures many a tourist to the Lincolnshire coast. With her mock leopardskin leggings, tattoos and orange complexion, she is seen at her best posing casually on a DFS sofa, chewing gum and painting her toenails.
The most celebrated ad in the series shows her staring into the lens with a smouldering sensuality made all the more intense by being filtered through an artfully fallen false eyelash.
“Want to play a little darts with me?” she says. “Looking for karaoke and quiz nights? Or does a fish-and-chip supper for two float your boat? Whatever turns you on, from a traditional jukebox to kiddies’ rides and baby-changing facilities, I’ll pull out all the stops and you’ll lose your heart. Love, Mable.”
Of course not every tourist can match the unabashed passion of Mary or Mable. But there is always the subtler, but no less blissful prospect of time spent with demure Virginia Water.
Not for her a port and lemon or the salty language of the seaboard sex kitten. Virginia looks the picture of elegance as she steps from her four-wheel drive in her Barbour jacket, Hermes scarf, tweed skirt and brogue shoes. We don’t see her face, that is part of a mystery, but we catch a glimpse of the sunglasses on the top of her head in all weathers and somehow we know that beneath that soignÃ© surface lies a deep well of boiling passion destined to erupt, possibly at the next Arts Society meeting at the Addlestone Community Centre.
An ad, which carries the headline, “I know a place where we can learn line dancing and bake cakes” reads: “I’ll show you a car boot sale where you can bring the family and enjoy a frightfully good Sunday morning. I’ll show you tearooms where they make real leaf tea. I’ll take you on a picnic with a real wicker hamper. And never mind the ants in the jam, we’ll create a few sticky moments of our own. Love, Virginia. PS bring some sensible shoes.”
But of all the Jezebels who with a sly wink lead the visitor astray, none can compare with Victoria Station, or Vikki to her many friends and admirers.
Cleverly, the ads never show her. But we sense her presence behind the layers of diesel fumes. We can feel her warm breath on our neck as we queue for a Double Whopper and fries, waiting in a place where time stands so still that the 8.35 never arrives.
“I’ll show you,” she whispers, “where track electrification took place in the Twenties under the direction of Sir Hubert Walker, general manager of the Southern Railway. I’ll show you where the eastern platforms were extended in 1960. I’ll show you the South-east shed with its segmented tied arched roof in light iron tie rods arranged polygonally between radian iron struts.”
Beverly Hills eat your heart out.