Monday, 12 December 2011

The great fun of TV adverts - Sky plus-ed to death?

Last week I  had the pleasure of introducing – for its first ever big screen outing – the DVD film Bath The Way We Were which uses the Chronicle’s archive to back up a series of films which give a whistle-

stop tour of the city’s history.
The screening took place at the Little Theatre, in Bath, and its manager, Martin Jennings-Wright, came up with a wonderful idea of getting everyone into the nostalgic mood for the film by showing some long-forgotten TV adverts from the 1960s.

These ads were both a joy to behold – and something of a revelation. We saw Tony Blair’s father-in-law encouraging us to look smart by buying from ‘Temple man’, we saw Lulu (who I swear looks younger now than she did then), encouraging us to wear a particularly natty pair of shoes and we also saw a very detailed advert extolling the virtues of a new bra which showed a woman dancing and saying ‘when things get moving you need to stay in control!’

It’s fair to say they don’t make them like that any more.

The TV advert has been a staple form of entertainment since television began and the sheer quality of many of our favourites over the past few decades have surely led us all, at some stage, to say the phrase ‘the ads are better than the programmes’.

Sadly, however, I do fear that the art of a great TV advert is being missed by a whole new generation and that’s because of that marvellous invention we call Sky +.

Nowadays many people hardly ever watch a television programme ‘live’, they simply record it on their magic digi box and watch it at a more convenient time. And what happens as a result? They merely zap through those ad breaks and I think miss out on telling snap shots of our culture – let alone finding out about new products.

Of course you’d expect someone in my profession to promote the importance of advertising – and this I do – but I genuinely feel adverts can also bring their own unique pleasures. Think of the remarkable Guinness adverts which saw horses appearing out of the sea, think of Melanie Sykes asking if you would like “a flake with that” and think also of how tempted you were to buy R Whites after encountering the ‘secret lemonade drinker’.

Of course the odd ad still does get through and into the public consciousness. Think gorillas playing drums to a Phil Collins backing track or (if you must), those now hideously over-exposed meerkats. But, by and large, I fear the great days of communal TV advert enjoyment may have past. And if you see Sid, tell him . . .

Oh, one final point before you move onto the next programme.

The best and most artistic ads you see at this time of year concern perfumes and after shaves. There are some beautifully crafted mini-epics extolling the virtues of French-sounding fragrances urging us to buy into a glamorous image.

But surely, the only thing that matters is how these products actually smell? So, therefore, maybe the next invention we need for TV ads to come alive is smelly-vision television.   

It’s not to be sniffed at.

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