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Rob Thurner | June 29, 2012
British Airways recently brought out an advert that once again emphasised its super special Britishness (as indeed have a lot of companies during this Jubilee, Olympics and Euro 2012 period.) Can you guess what song they used in the background?
That’s right they used London Calling by The Clash. Don’t get me wrong, it’s a quality song sung by a great band. But it is now very swiftly becoming lazy shorthand for “Cool thing to signify Britain” (Various films and TV shows have done this as well, most notably the two part London set episodes of Friends.)
However this is not the only cliché that keeps popping up in adverts. Another good one is for films that have not had great reviews. One example of this was Top Cat The Movie, a redubbed Mexican CGI/traditional two dimensional animated film. While the reviews were rubbish, we were treated to “real” kids saying how brilliant it was with all the enthusiasm of someone about to go to the dentist.
Admittedly some good films do this as well. However this does not tend to happen as often due to the fact they tend to have good reviews and therefore can use them in the second round of TV trailers to say how great they are (naturally these reviews go by very quickly so that you do not see what ones came from film magazines and broadsheets and which ones came from rentaquote tabloids and vaguely demographic relevant lifestyle magazines.)
The advertising world is full of these silly things that seem to keep coming up. A recent trend is this bizarre attempt to disguise adverts as informative mini documentaries in which a celebrity “investigates” a product. They naturally talk to a scientist who confidently explains all the associated goodness involved. Their “results” seem to inevitably point out some kind of scientific miracle that other companies have failed to find, complete with fancy looking diagrams designed to inform and shock.
Given that we have a summer of sport we also have a summer of frankly patronising “man ads.” The gambling sites practically shout in your face with bright colours that wouldn’t look out of place in an episode of Teletubbies. You get soft drinks and snacks that seem to imply that these fantastic athletes live off these treats in order to attain greatness. On the other hand you also get the “funny” equivalents that send out the “hey we can laugh at ourselves” message but often end up being even more annoying due to their excessive self awareness and false self deprecation.
On the other hand we also have the “caring” adverts. These are the companies who aren’t selling you products. No they want to represent you in all your lovely beauty. They’re the bank that isn’t like those horrible ones you read about in the paper. They’re the ones that talk to you and smile like they’re cult members.
Don’t get me wrong I appreciate that the purpose of an advert is to sell a product and useful visual shorthands have their place. However I would argue that if I were pitching an idea for an advert I would want to watch a few first in order to avoid these and other potential groan magnets.
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