Of all the ads for get-back-to-work-goddammit-your-employer-isn’t-happy products, the most obnoxious have to be the ones for Berocca. That Berocca sounds a bit like ‘Baracus’ is unlikely to be mere coincidence.
The manly and clean-cut protagonist of the TV ad takes his medicine to counter the emasculating effects of illness, or perhaps hangovers. A triumphant and energetic return to work in the office dispels doubts about his masculinity.
Being a man, then, depends on your capacity to meet the needs of your employer. In these ads, illness acquires significance through its relation to work. You are not simply ill, run-down or hungover: you are unable to produce, and because you are unable to produce, you are not a man.
This theme is apparently subverted by another TV ad for one of those vile-tasting instant soup products that taste like reheated dishwater. In the ad, the hero takes his masculine assertiveness to goofy extremes, as a means of disguising the fact that he is utterly indolent.
As the camera follows the protagonist around the chaotic office, the viewer is allowed a glimpse of a tantalising reality: office work is an absurd charade, but you’re in on the joke. Naturally, this complicity has a price. Masculinity, along with the magical vision needed to perceive the reality of the office, is conferred only by drinking cup-a-soups.
In reality, there is not much difference between the two ads. Both propose medication as a means of dealing with the sublime misery of the office. The principal difference is in the choice of substance: a sickly orange fizz, or a hot lumpy sludge.
Christ, two Lemsips and I’ve turned into a limp-wristed Media Studies student.