For the last week, I haven’t been able to escape that Volvic 14-Day Challenge advert. You know, the one with Jimmy. He’s the guy who embarks on a ‘challenge’ to see if his wiry frame can reap the volcanically filtered benefits of drinking a litre and a half of Volvic per day (no other bottled water will do – or tap water, for that matter).
[In the Guardian’s Hard Sell column, James Donaghy proposed that Jimmy should undertake the Guantánamo Bay challenge, where he’s waterboarded by company reps with nothing but Volvic for 14 days. It’s difficult to top that, so I won’t bother. Needless to say, it gets my vote.]
If you’re new to television (or earth) and haven’t yet seen this advert, it’s basically a video diary of Jimmy’s water-drinking experience. On Day One, Jimmy announces that he’s starting the challenge. By Day Four, it looks like he’s drinking Volvic naked on Chatroulette. And by Day 14, he’s dressed like a man whose mind has been torn apart, like economy loo roll in a vacuum flush toilet.
Because in an effort to signpost just how “alert” and “active” he’s become after two weeks of drinking Volvic, he’s dressed up like a psychiatric patient who believes he’s trapped in Eric Prydz’s ‘Call on Me’ video. He’s all yellow tracksuit tops and headbands. Oh, and he’s also randomly wearing a catcher’s mitt, so that he can partake in that most British of sporting pursuits: baseball. It’s all achingly obvious and nothing short of embarrassing.
If the key benefit of drinking Volvic for two weeks was *happiness*, I expect we’d have seen Jimmy painting rainbows and smiley faces onto balloons (humming ‘I’d like to Teach the World to Sing’).
The video diary ends with a reinvigorated, sporty Jimmy shouting off camera: “Watch out, boys!”, before trotting out of shot like Duncan Norvelle. The tragedy of this is that you know there aren’t really any friends waiting for him; only mockery and abuse from strangers.
Anyway, like I said, I was going to write a lengthy blog post about how much I hated this advert (thinking I’d be the first), but I’ve since discovered that (a) it appears to be about a year old (finger on the pulse as usual), and (b) the Internet is already awash with contempt for it. The ad has even spawned two Facebook groups; the imaginatively titled ‘Jimmy from the Volvic 14 Day Challenge is a stupid knob’ and ‘I hate Jimmy the Volvic man, from the Volvic ad!’.
Even someone who actually worked on the advert could only muster a half hearted defence of it on a forum, saying of the actor who played Jimmy: “He’s an OK guy, but comes across like a total prick in the ad!” And to give you a taste of the feedback the advert received on YouTube, one comment worthy of note is: “I wished he’d drink a litre and a half of industrial bleach.” (It was one of only a handful of comments that didn’t include the word “cunt”.)
I might be getting soft in the head as I approach middle age, but my initial hatred of this advert has since given way to concern for ‘Jimmy’. Have his parents disowned him since the advert aired? Is he now on the run from his own showreel? I have visions of a bleak midweek help group, held in a drab local community centre, which brings together a heavily bearded ‘Jimmy’, the Go Compare tenor, Gio Compario, the ‘Poo at Paul’s’ kid, and anyone who appeared in the DFS ‘Rock Star’ ads, all desperately trying to find peace in their lives and reconnect with a society that’s rejected them.
I suppose we should remember that they’re victims too.
But enough of this compassion! I’m going to end this post with a message to the people at Volvic: Do you remember George the Volcano (voiced by the superb Matt Berry) and Tyrannosaurus Alan? That was the golden era of your advertising. Bring them back, please. That is all.