Churchill marketing director Mandy Walker claims the nodding dog insurer’s new TV ads are in fact steps. And not just any old steps. On the contrary, she says they are “the first steps in what I expect to be a fantastic campaign for Churchill Insurance.” That’s brilliant, isn’t it.

But anyone who’s seen the first of these steps (assuming anyone has) will have been in for a bit of a shock. Popular and cuddly – if slightly weird-uncle-ish – Martin Clunges (he of the 50s schoolboy delivery and Carravagian lips) has been ditched in favour of fat but fit (or so she claims) Viper of Dibley star Fawn Drench.

Why the change?, you may have wondered. Assuming you lead a particularly pointless and empty life. Was it perhaps that Churchill suddenly realised that the former Mrs Henry just screams ‘dog companion’ even more than Mr Clowns? Was it perhaps that the latter had simply grown tired of accepting absurdly large cheques for hamming his way through one phoned in self-parody after another in the company of a conversationally challenged and complacently affirmative canine socialite? No it wasn’t.

What it was was that the Clunester got done for speeding and banned, having racked up the requisite 12 points, and got dropped by the insurer like a hot spud with an STD. A petulant Clones branded the firm “neurotic and heavy-handed” for spurning him in favour of a rival national treasure.

Above and beyond some extra cash to tide him over until someone comes up with another Doc Martin or something for him, Clunes is sure to miss all those fascinating chats with his erstwhile co-star. But Churchill (the dog, rather than the firm or the jowly wartime leader) has cast Clugnes off like a shabby and soiled old raincoat.

Mandy Walker – who doesn’t appear to have been told that Churchill or “Churchy” as she likes to call him is an animation not a real flesh and blood nodding dog – says: “The chemistry between Churchill and Dawn is brilliant and I am sure that viewers will enjoy watching the relationship develop.”

In the first ad (or step) viewers will enjoy watching Ms Frunch picking Churchill up at Battersea Dogs Home and preparing to drive him back to her place (at a legal speed of course).

Things may sour a bit once she realises he’s going to be off on dirty weekends all the time with the likes of Melanie Sykes.


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