Written in September 2008

I used to love adverts. They’re like the ultimate in film-making – having to catch your eye, hold your attention and win you over in only a few seconds. But lately it seems the only products being advertised are insurance and anti-ageing cream and not only are these products mind-numbingly boring but their adverts are equally tedious. (And is it just a coincidence that both products are related to maintaining personal status quo?)

So what’s their excuse? My first thought was that maybe, along with everything else rubbish these days, it could be blamed on the Credit Crunch – the budgets of anything creative always being the first thing cut when the money gets tight – but adverts have been crap for ages now and this latest city-boy cock-up thing is fairly new. Anyway, times were hard back in the 70’s/early 80’s too but adverts were way better then than they are now. And surely ads must be so much cheaper to make these days with all the advances in technology? No, I’m convinced it can’t be the money thing. There are thousands – probably millions – of people out there making low-budget mini movies to paste-up on places like You Tube. Real creativity doesn’t need Spielbergian budgets and neither does a good advert designer need a fantastic product to inspire them – look at the old Pirelli advert where tyres save the world from ending. Great ad, dull product.

Could the lack of decent ads partly be the fault of political correctness? I’m sure the old Tango ads were removed because someone complained they encouraged happy-slapping; and would advertising agencies still be allowed to get away with images such as a hot bloke sitting in a launderette in his undies or is that now considered sexist? Or a naked babe in the bath teasing the end of a chocolate bar with her tongue? – Too lewd for the PC brigade? Neither of those ads make my top ten but they obviously worked. Sales of Levis soared and Flakes are still prominent on every sweetshop counter. But if political correctness is to blame, why is no-one shouting out in horror about the adverts for Renault and Money Supermarket, which both portray men as mindless numpties just sitting there (or standing) looking gormless while the missus takes charge? Is this an advertising lie that’s degrading to men or do statistics actually show that women in relationships make all the decisions while their men just nod along passively? And if so, what does that say about the state of the male population?

But that’s another subject and talking of nodding, I can’t write about advertising without getting off my chest my deepest loathing for Nadine Baggot – her of the Olay advert. The garbage spewing out of her mouth is fair enough, I’m assuming she didn’t write it herself and everyone has to pay the bills somehow but what really gets me – the thing that if I saw her in the flesh might give me a brain-ache so bad that I would have to batter her skull into a wall to alleviate my own pain – is her nodding. Nod, nod, bloody nod all the way through the advert. Why does she have to nod with every word? Is it some sort of subliminal thing and that the combination of words like ‘pentapeptides’ along with her nodding will brainwash us all into believing that Olay will work any better than any other face cream? Well call me contrary but Nadine Baggot has the opposite effect on me. I’d rather smear razorblade-loaded lard on my face than use Olay thanks to her and her wobbly head. And for the record – I have freckles, not ‘brown spots’!

Thanks to the lack of quality ads these days, some old adverts are revered way beyond the product they advertised and of course I have to mention the Smash advert here. Even people too young to have watched television back in the 70’s know that ad. People who never have and never will eat instant mashed potatoes know that ad. It certainly wasn’t a sexy product and was it high budget? I suspect not. A high budget advert would be that British Airways one from the late 80’s with all those hundreds of people in red, white and blue moving together to create a face/map. The logistics of making that must have been a nightmare – the queue for the catering van alone doesn’t bear thinking about – but it does seem to mark the end of grand budget advertising.

The last advert I heard anyone talking about with any excitement is the Cadbury’s one with the gorilla drumming along to a Phil Collins tune. This has to be one of the cheapest ads ever made – the royalties for the use of the song alone probably cost more than the hire of the monkey suit, drum kit and studio costs combined – but how depressing is it that an ad using a Phil Collins song became so popular? That advert says more about the current sorry state of advertising than I ever could. Quite frankly, when it comes to monkeys and marketing, I’d rather have a bowl of Coco Pops.

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