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There has been a lot of talk in the British press about the weirdness, incongruity and downright perversity in the Grolsch premium lager spot that features, according to Campaign magazine, "a kneeling pregnant woman licking a tyre."

This is just the kind of journalistic distortion and blowing-out-of-proportion that makes people so distrust the Fourth Estate. The woman depicted in the commercial from Bates Dorland, London,is not kneeling. She is on all fours, and while she does indeed seem to be in the family way, she is by no means applying her tongue to the tire tread, for heaven's sake.

Merely the sidewall.

Anyway, that's just one image from the current Grolsch TV commercial exploring the world of extrasensory perception, including a series of progressively bizarre blackouts on the theme of exciting the senses to discover a mysterious twilight zone of beer reality.

"Come with us," says a goateed host right out of a 1963 chiller-theater TV show, on a set littered with outsize eyes, ears and other sensory organs, "as we awaken our dormant sixth sense through our existing five." Then follows a series of stylized representations of various heightened senses. Here a giant nose being chased by a giant wedge of cheese. Here a blind man massaging (fondling?) a rhinoceros. Here a Louis XIV courtier sniffing a woman's shoe. And, yes, the expectant mother not quite done lapping the performance radial.

"Can you feel it?" the host re-sumes. "The sense that allows you to know the future. You just know what you're going to want later. Don't you?"

Then the theme: "Extra Sensory Perfection." In other words, a paranormal reason to choose your beer. In other words, ESP as USP.

And clever it is. Clever, and amusing, and vivid, and extraordinarily well-produced from the very first frame. It is, in short, a brilliant realization of a plainly terrible idea.

Extra Sensory Perfection, it turns out, is not a very provocative notion. It doesn't really even mean anything. It is rather a banal little play on words that should have been ... but wait, we are feeling strange emanations. Vibrations, you might say. Something tells us that this whole thing began with the copywriter and art director sitting in a room brainstorming about Grolsch, and playing with words until somebody hit on "Extra Sensory Perfection." It was a pun, of course, like approximately 90% of all magazine ad headlines, and it probably should have become precisely that. But, our sixth sense tells us, this pun took on a life of its own, and next thing you knew, it was an entire campaign theme for Grolsch in the U.K.

Close your eyes and you can see: a mediocre headline mistakenly elevated to a tagline and, once so elevated, a theme the advertising itself had to somehow support-in this case, ludicrously, by portraying beer as an enhancer of the drinker's senses.

We know, of course, that the opposite is true. Alcohol is a depressant. And while it may improve your mood, it blunts everything else. So for starters, this is false advertising. But no matter. Considering it barely shows the product and not once mentions the name, we have an odd, intuitive feeling it won't be around for long.

The rating system

The rating system uses four stars to represent excellent, three for notable, two for mediocre and one for pathetic.

Advertising Age International welcomes submissions for Global Ad Review, particularly breaking TV campaigns. Please send 3/4-inch NTSC-format videotapes or 1/2-inch videotapes in any format to Bob Garfield, Ad Age International, 814 National Press Building, Washington, D.C. 20045-1801.

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