Dan’s top 7 advertising memories – The analogue television years (Part five – Advertising)

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Adverts are the lifeblood of commercial television.

They have also been a calling card for directors looking to make their break into the movies.

So what are the magnificent seven advertising memories from the analogue TV age?

 

Tudor Crisps:


 

A young Geordie lad is about to go on his newspaper round in the dim, dark recession days of the 1970s.

Is he desperate to earn some money for his starving family of 12? No, he’d rather take a few packets of Tudor Crisps out of his wages (an ‘I’m alright Jack’ Thatcherite if there ever was one).

“Greeat fleeahva, Tewdah!” the simple soul tells his boss who is only too happy to pay the lad in crisps rather than wages and then the boy’s off, whizzing around rainy Tyneside in his bike on his newspaper round.

Next we see our hero on a street corner, offering a “canny bag” of Tudor crisps to another kid in return for delivering his newspapers. Ah but there’s a twist in the tale, as the other boy has to scale a block of flats whose lift is out of order. “Fer Tewdah, I’d climb a moontain!” the boy declares.

Ah, the memories!

 

Crazy Prices:

Gauche, awkward, stiff and that was just its style of filmmaking. Crazy Prices ads could hardly be called a classic of their genre.

And yet, some of us have a weird nostalgia for them.

Forget Roswell. Forget who shot JFK? My generation have been left wondering what ever became of Jim Megaw?

He may have had an Alan Partridge hairstyle and an Alan Partridge dress sense but he at least had a sales pitch that would put ‘The Apprentice’s’ Jedi Jim to shame.

As that damned catchy Crazy Prices theme tune bounced along, Jim offered pre-ceasefire Northern Ireland a glimpse of what life could really be like.

While he bombarded us with the week’s special offers, Jim held out hope of a Northern Ireland where a barbecue summer was just around the corner and a cash laden Christmas box could turn up on your doorstep. Come back Jim! Come back!

 

Bird’s Eye Steakhouse Grills:


 

The product they may have been pedalling may have been as appetising as your dad’s leather shoes but this ad left you with a serious case of earworm.

Set in a labourers’ van on a worksite, it took the classic song ‘Que Sera Sera’ and turned it into a little Cockney ditty speculating on what the passengers would be eating with their Steakhouse Grills for tea.

Would it be chips or jacket spuds, salad or frozen peas? Would it be mushrooms? Fried onion rings (pronounced in a Carribean accent). We’d have to wait and see. Oh, the tension.

They hoped it’s chips, it’s chips…..

See what I mean? It’ll be stuck in your head all day.

 

Guinness:


 

Guinness ads have always been visually inventive – whether it was the simple image of surfer on the waves, the dancing man or the image of a cloud drifting through a cityscape in the current advertising campaign.

But in 2004 they opted for an up and coming actor, a strong narrative and a stirring song to promote their product and came up with ‘The Quarrel’. That actor was Michael Fassbender and the song was the late Mic Christopher’s terrific song, ‘Heyday’.

It begins with Fassbender flicking on the radio in his apartment and catching Christopher’s song. This immediately sparks a cross country trek on foot from Dublin to the cliffs of Co Clare, a dive into the Atlantic and a swim to the Statue of Liberty only to confront an old friend in a New York bar just to say sorry.

Corny? Si, senor. Overblown? Certainly. Pompous? Maybe. But entertaining nevertheless, beautifully shot and handsomely directed by John Brown. This was a stout addition to the Guinness stable.

 

Sony Bravia:


 

Sometimes advertisers come up with an image that simply takes your breath away.

The Sony Bravia ad for LCD TVs in 2005 was one such ad with its multicoloured bouncing balls.

Director Nicolai Fuglsig begins with only a handful of balls surfacing at the top of a hilly, sun kissed San Francisco street.

But as a boy crouches behind some steps, there is suddenly a swarm of around 250,000 balls of all hues bouncing down the streets of San Francisco.

It’s a simple sequence which makes a powerful point – colour like no other.

 

Cadbury’s Dairy Milk:


 

In 2007, Cadbury’s mesmerised viewers with a Gorilla sitting behind a drum kit, waiting to do the solo on Phil Collins’ 1980s hit ‘In The Air Tonight’.

However two years later, they managed to trump that with an advert which featured a schoolboy and a schoolgirl sitting in a photographer’s studio.

The boy presses a button on his watch, prompting the frenzied Freestyle Express track ‘Don’t Stop The Rock’ to blare over the soundtrack and an outbreak of uncontrollable, manic eyebrow wiggling to the beat of the music.

‘A glass and a half full of joy’ was the slogan and there is no doubt Tom Kuntz’s advert, which was imitated on many comedy shows, was one minute of pure joy.

 

Volkwagen Passat:


A bit of humour can go a long way and in 2011, Volkswagen came up with an ad for the ‘Star Wars’ generation which premiered in the US during the Super Bowl.

The advert featured a young boy dressed in a mini Darth Vader outfit trying to see if he had acquired the great villain’s powers. Mini Darth tries it out on a treadmill, on the pet dog, on the household’s washing machine, even on a sandwich but is frustrated by the lack of results.

Then his dad arrives home in the all new Passat and when his son tries out his Darth Vader powers on the car, he mischievously gets it to roar into life with a simple push of a button on its key – startling the boy who thinks he’s acquired the powers of the Dark Side.

Featuring John Williams’ pompous Evil Empire tune from George Lucas’s blockbuster, it is a simple idea that is intelligently and humorously executed and, amazingly, the joke still hasn’t worn thin.

 


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About Author

Dan McGinn has been a journalist since 1989 who has worked for the Irish News, Belfast Telegraph and the Press Association news agency where he served as the Ireland Deputy Editor and Political Editor. In 2008 he joined the Northern Ireland Executive's Information as a Principal Information Officer, working for Arlene Foster and Sammy Wilson during their tenures as Environment Minister. A year later, he joined the University of Ulster as its Director of Media and Corporate Relations. In 2013, he was appointed Media and Corporate Affairs Manager at the Ulster Bank in Northern Ireland. A long suffering West Ham fan, he is married with a Disney and One Direction obsessed daughter. A graduate in Film and American Studies at the University of East Anglia, he has been a film buff ever since he saw 'Jaws' at the age of six in Belfast's Grove Cinema and still loves cinema despite exposure to 'Alvin & The Chipmunks' and 'Nativity 2' as a critic for this website.

1 Comment

  1. In late 2003, I was walking by the Europa on a Saturday afternoon. A lady approached me and said she was running a focus group inside the Europa and if I took part, I could have either 15 pounds Boots or HMV vouchers. I decided to take part.

    There was about 8 people the focus group and it involved watching two adverts and deciding which one I prefer and answering what seemed to be page after page of repetitive questions. What did you like about it, what did you not like about it, how would you improve it, did you like the song, would you prefer it with no song, what if it was just the natural sounds, on a scale of 1 to 5 rate the colour etc. On a scale of 1 to 5 rate the looks of the actors. On a scale of 1 to 5 rate the scenery. We must have been shown the adverts about 20 times with subtle differences (black and white, full colour, hyper coloured, some still shots etc)

    It was the Guinness advert above. One version of the advert was animated and the other was the live version above. I instantly preferred the live version and answered all questions in its favour.

    There were about 3 people in the group who actually prefered the animated version.

    My small and insignificant part in the career of Michael Fassbender.

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