The Admiral admiral is now an admiral

This post could equally be entitled, “Making the world a better place, one pedantic letter at a time.”

Last July I wrote the following letter to UK insurance company Admiral:


Saturday 30 July 2016

Dear Sir/Madam,

Incorrect rank for your TV advert admiral

I was watching ITV4 last week, catching up with footage of that day’s Tour de France action when an advert for Admiral car insurance came on. I was surprised when I saw the uniform of the woman portraying the character of the admiral.

I was not surprised by her gender: I am very much in favour of equal opportunities within the workplace, including the British armed forces. I was surprised simply by her uniform, and indeed by the rank depicted on her uniform.

Judging by the name of your company I can perhaps presume she was meant to be portraying an admiral (Nato code OF-9), it’s just that I cannot be entirely certain as she was wearing on her cuffs the insignia of a commander (Nato code OF-4).

An admiral wears a broad band with three narrower bands above; a commander wears simply three narrower bands. To illustrate this, I have corrected it very roughly using an image downloaded from your website, overleaf.

Commander vs Admiral
Commander vs Admiral

To anyone with a passing knowledge of British naval ranks this will appear entirely incongruous and I expect will somewhat undermine the trust that one might otherwise place in your company: if you cannot even get the admiral’s rank correct on a pretend costume for a television commercial then how might we be expected to trust you in the more important matter of covering our cars against fire, theft, accident and other such maladies?

I am simply curious why such a decision was made to portray your admiral character as a commander, five ranks beneath an admiral. And whether you have any plans to correct this faux pas.

I look forward to hearing from you.

Yours sincerely

Gareth J M Saunders


I posted the letter and then forgot about it.

About three weeks later, to my surprise, I received a reply from Admiral’s head of brand.

Letter from Admiral's head of brand
Letter from Admiral’s head of brand

Here’s what it said:


Dear Mr Saunders

Thank you for your letter regarding the Admiral’s uniform.

As you will have no doubt noticed the Admiral’s uniform is not an exact replica of an Admiral’s uniform, but was created to reflect the Admiral Brand Icon. That said, I do agree we made a mistake during the development and design on the jacket sleeve.

I’m also sorry to say that we produced all of our commercials for 2016 during one production shoot, so you will continue to see the current uniform until the end of the year.

However, I am pleased to tell you that we are in the planning stages of our next commercial, and I do intend to update the uniform to correct the number of stripes on the sleeve.

It’s good to get feedback from our customers, as this helps us evolve our campaigns for the future.

Yours sincerely,

Paula Lyons
Head of Brand


Fast forward eleven months and here is their new advert, which I first watched on ITV4 last week, while catching up with footage of that day’s Tour de France action.

And look! The Admiral admiral is now an admiral!

The Admiral admiral now has the correct sleeve lace of a broad band and three narrower bands
The Admiral admiral now has the correct sleeve lace of a broad band and three narrower bands
They have even included the executive curl (or Elliot's Eye) for authenticity.
They have even included the executive curl (or Elliot’s Eye) for authenticity.

You are welcome!

Obviously, I’m going to write to Admiral to thank them. It would be rude not to.

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Gareth Saunders

I’m Gareth J M Saunders, 47 years old, 6′ 4″, father of 3 boys (including twins). Latterly, web architect and agile project manager at the University of St Andrews and warden at Agnes Blackadder Hall. Currently on sabbatical. I am a priest in the Scottish Episcopal Church, and I sing with the NYCGB alumni choir.

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