An alien in my salad
You can always tell when a new brood of creative caterpillars has successfully survived its infancy in advertising and grown into beautiful butterflies.

Suddenly, for a few months, those dull, formulaic, panel-tested commercial breaks get flashes of colour and inspiration, as someone with A New Idea gets unleashed on the target market.

We’re going through such a purple patch at the moment.

Firstly, there’s the Florette ad, with various groups of men doing operatic battle in the middle of a field, proclaiming allegiance to their lettuce of choice. “Lollo Rosso,” sings a group of tenors. “Radicchio,” comes the counter-attack from a platoon of baritones. “Lollo Rosso”, “Radicchio”, the salvos fly back and forth between the two advancing parties. The tension is heightened by a skirmishing band of Frissee-wielding counter-tenors entering the fray.

But as the three groups fight for dominance, suddenly dark figures appear on the brow of the hill. “Rocket! Rocket!” from the cloaked bass voices sends all the other combatants flying for cover.

Say what you like about the product itself, but you’ve got to admit they’ve got chutzpah. After all, when was the last time you saw an ad for lettuce on the telly?

Then we have the vaguely disturbing Cadbury’s Happiness campaign, in which ill-looking people are encouraged by their animal alter-egos to eat chocolate. Eerie, but effective, although probably shouldn’t be shown before the watershed. And if I was Philip Pullman, I’d be straight on the phone to my lawyer.

Finally, the one that hit me out of nowhere: Nik-Naks’ Alien tribute. In its recreation of the movie’s most infamous scene, it’s almost perfect.

The dialogue, the camaraderie, the chest-burster, Parker’s headband, the infant Nik-Nak’s gurgle – a great pastiche.

But then they spoil it all by playing Le Freak. It’s just so much at odds with the rest of the ad.

Fair play to them, though, as they probably had no idea how to end the ad. It’s hard to improve a legendary piece of cinema. But it leaves me with a bad taste in my mouth – a little like the product itself. And that reminds me why I never buy Nik-Naks. So on the sales point, nul points guys and girls, but that shouldn’t stop you trying.

Pretty soon, though, the long hours and long lines will wear these bright young things out, and they’ll have Jim Davidson’s agent and double-glazing firms on speed dial.

Like the butterfly, the creative doesn’t tend to have a long life. But while they survive, they brighten up the world around us.