This month marks the 60th anniversary of TV advertising in the UK. As part of the celebrations, the marketing world has been voting for their favourites, and shortlisting the top 25. You can join in by following #60YearsTVads.
If like me you’re a child of the 70s you’ll have fond memories of some on the list. Classics like Cadbury Smash Martians, “They peel them with their metal knives, ha, ha, ha”. Or the R Whites guy sneaking down the stairs to, “I’m a secret lemonade drinker, I’m a tryin’ give it up but it’s one of those nights…” Whilst not forgetting PG Tips Chimps Mr. Shifter & Son, “Dad do you know the piano’s on my foot?”, “You hum it son and I’ll play it!”
Of course I’m looking back at these golden oldies through rose tinted glasses. But they all had lovable characters, catchy jingles and taglines. They were the memes of the day. Everyone could recall them, mimic them and importantly share them. Even 40-odd years later.
Obviously society moves on and advertising needs to remain relevant. Technology has made advertising more inclusive and more real. And with the rise of channels like YouTube we see the advent of what could be dubbed the docu-ad. You know the format. The protagonists are filmed either being exposed to or playing out the issue or challenge. As this is done, often there’s a voiceover accompanied by the ubiquitous guitar or piano overlay. Usually they end with a denouement, cathartic post challenge filming and a paradigm shift in attitude.
Now when this genre first emerged it was refreshing, heartfelt and engaging. However indifference is a powerful force, rendering all it touches meaningless. Indifference is the anaesthetic of the familiar. It’s safe, it’s bland, and has no surprises. As such it has no hope of encouraging us in. Ironically the docu-ad, originally so visceral and effective is in danger of becoming formulaic. We are becoming numb to its real life drama, making it victim to the indifference it set out to overcome.
Let’s get back to our 60-year UK advertising shortlist. Who is topping the vote right now? Currently leading is Compare The Market and the Meerkats! Characters we have come to love over time, a catchy meme. Some things just work. “Simples”, no need to make a drama about it.