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Hive mind. How are British Gas getting on with their new brand?

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The post-Christmas advertising landscape is a rum old scene. The big retailers have withdrawn - some to lick their wounds, others to bathe in glory and ass's milk. This leaves the field pretty clear for other, less seasonal outfits, to pitch their 'new for 2014' gubbins to a rather calorie rich, cash poor audience. Which is exactly what British Gas have done.

Yes, they're still boring us to tears with their flying workmen with giant heads, but they also have something fresh to bring to the consumer party. Something called 'Hive'.

The product is actually quite interesting - it's a science fiction thermostat for your central heating. If you're out enjoying one of those all-night raves, and you suddenly feel the need to nudge the homestead radiators up a notch, you can. How? On your smart phone, of course. Yep, you can control your heating with an app (and some very expensive technology). So far, so snazzy.

Naturally, a system this new-fangled requires a compelling campaign to launch it. So, have British Gas managed it? Well, yes and no.

The TV spot definitely has a good old-fashioned proposition (sorely lacking in so much contemporary advertising). If 'Hive' can monitor and control your boiler in your absence, then you're free to so anything you like. Although, now I think of it, I don't recall ever being chained to the house in case my thermostat needed adjusting. Anyway, that's the thrust of the message.

This is all wrapped up in some quite pleasing animation. So much more tasteful and imaginative than those horrible, swollen-skulled gonks in the headline BG campaign. Good work there. What's more, these graphics are reflected in the style of the website. So, pleasingly, some proper brand-identity thinking has been applied to the project too.

But there's a catch (there's always a catch). The clip is soundtracked with a rap. Not a full-force, gangsta, Fiddy Cent rap, but a somewhat fey and wobbly rap. And it's ghastly. Not particularly because a campaign adopting a 'street' trend is always excruciating (it is, but I've long since learned to ignore all that). It's more to do with the endless tendency to infantilise all we consume. The 'rapper' whittles on about taking 'parrots to Paris' and playing football with 'giant trout', as if every homeowner is a hypnotised, drooling  toddler, dumped before a wide-screen TV with CeeBeebies on a continuous loop.

Have a look at the advertisement here

This is, of course, exactly the same problem suffered by that other, aforementioned BG campaign, but it isn't unique to British Gas. I've noticed certain weather presenters have recently taken to referring to icy mornings as a 'visit from Jack Frost'. Which sort of makes me want to smash things.

So there it is. A fabulous new way to impress your friends, by switching on the hot water with your Galaxy Android; and a campaign to promote it which falls short of being piping hot thanks to a childish rap. This obviously tells us something profound about the state of British advertising in 2014. But don't ask me what. I just used the word 'snazzy'. 

Magnus Shaw is a blogger, copywriter and consultant

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