Belfast Telegraph

Clunes deserves Churchill axe for behaving so badly

By Grace Dent

I was very surprised by their reaction. It was neurotic and very heavy-handed," whined Martin Clunes about being shunted as the face of Churchill Car Insurance following his driving ban.

Clunes had totted up 12 points for speeding. Possibly, he thinks the courts are "neurotic", too.

And those ashen-faced pedestrians who no longer need to leap into hedges when he turns out of his driveway.

Or irritating birds like me, still a bit narky about being run over on a zebra crossing - not by Clunes, incidentally, but by a similar idiot.

The ad agency and client aren't being heavy-handed, Martin. They're showing a rare, remarkable instance of laser clarity and - gasp - morality. You were employed to be the embodiment of "every man who needs car insurance". But if, Martin, you were to call Churchill right now, the phone call would trundle along something like this:

"Hello. I'd like to check what insurance I need to sit redundantly and wholly emasculated in the passenger seat, shouting Vroom, Vroom while my wife drives me to Tesco, for I am banned from British roads due to the court's suspicion that I may kill or maim."

To which the call-centre employee might reply: "Sir. You don't actually need insurance to be in charge of changing the Chris Rea CD or handing out wine gums. Good day."

Clunes doesn't see it this way. "It was quite rude, actually," he moaned. "They washed their hands of me completely."

Keeping in mind that Churchill binned Vic Reeves in 2005 when he was convicted for drink-driving, well, that jowly-faced bulldog has a track-record for bearing his fangs.

I love that Clunes thought he might get a "so long, buddy" muffin basket and a bear hug from the CEO. Clunes owns a 135-acre farm in Dorset. His ad appearance fee was his thank-you.

Churchill Insurance is unique, because it's rare that clients and agencies truly give a stuff if celebs are a good fit for the product they're flogging.

Let's consider the brain-leaps that took Everything Everywhere to hire Kevin Bacon - to whom the pseudo-intellectual cultural meme of the past 20 years claims everyone is connected by six degrees - and to then create adverts which completely misunderstand the meme, leaving Bacon burbling a load of verbal slurry. Harmless, but bloody annoying.

Or MasterChef's Gregg Wallace, who for 12 months has treated interviewers to his painful separation from a woman 17 years younger than he is, as he shrank with heartbreak before our eyes. Now - whoop - he's the face of WeightWatchers. How many WeightWatchers points is "a good cry and two plays of a Leonard Cohen album"?

Of course, Britain's most jarring celebrity ad endorsement right now is Kerry "anthropomorphised slow-moving car-crash" Katona, flogging payday loans directed at young women for the delightful Cash Lady.

Kerry was declared bankrupt in August 2008. It is believed she had outstanding debts, in the form of unpaid taxes from 2004 to 2006, amounting to £417,000.

Katona's 'ladies' are signing up for an APR of 2,670%. Even if they borrow £180 for just 28 days, they still end up paying an interest rate of 378%.

Using Katona as the honeytrap for this deal is reprehensible.

As yet, it's unclear who'll replace Clunes as the face of safe, responsible driving, but I've failed my test six times already, so surely I must be in the running.


From Belfast Telegraph