Sunday, 22 February 2009

Not worse, just different

The Times ran a piece by AA Gill recently, laying the blame for the recession at the doors of the advertising agencies. In fact, Mr Gill remarks that he felt it all started going wrong for British advertising when the names of the founders were taken off the doors and replaced with names like "Grandma". Instead of "selling us the idea of capitalism" Mr Gill remarks that "advertising on telly looks dim, frightened and timid".

Now, I do have some sympathy for AA Gill's points. There is a lot of crap advertising on "telly". But I think that people of a certain generation (including myself and Mr Gill) do have a tendency to view the past with rose-tinted glasses. We warble on about the "Golden Age" of British Advertising of the 1970s and early 1980s...but we forget that there was a lot of rubbish around then, too. And I don't mean the stuff that was so bad, it was good, like "Shake 'n Vac" or "Denim". I mean the awful, toe-curlingling cringeworthy ads that most of us have buried deep, deep, deep in our murky collective unconscious. To dredge up just one example, I remember (unfortunately) that one of the first ads I ever worked on was for something called "Top 'n Fill" (if anyone really wants to know, it was a ready-squeezable cake frosting) and involved a character from "On the Buses". I rest my case.

The second, more important point is that the medium itself has changed. We are not all sitting around on Saturday nights for the next installment of some excellent period drama, or future-classic comedy show. No, the TV medium has the odd highlight but you have to trawl through a lot of grotesque reality shows of the Celebrity Sex Change sort to find these pearls. There are also some pearls around in terms of "telly ads". But you are unlikely to catch them at the time they are broadcast - these days, you're far more likely to see them via a link in YouTube.

Which brings me to my final point. There is creativity and innovation in branded communications. But while some of it may be found in the comforting world of "telly ads", most will be found in a totally different medium - online or experiential.

Unfortunately, a telly ad for a dry-cleaner called Bollom (the name used to amuse me for obvious childish reasons) starring Nicolas Parsons has just popped into my memory so I'd better stop now...

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