Commercial break

TV-Bay Magazine
Read ezine online
The first commercial to be shown on British television was for Gibbs SR toothpaste, transmitted at 20.12 on 22 September, 1955. Back then, according to Lord Thomson, the founder of Scottish Television, commercial television was “a licence to print money”.
The first ad I remember was from around 1960. A bloke in a trenchcoat and hat – not cause for suspicion in 1960 – was hanging around on a street corner, clearly waiting for a girl. She stood him up so he lit a cigarette, and the voiceover ruined Cliff Adams’ wonderfully moody music with the tagline “you’re never alone with a Strand”.
Which would have been fine, but the audience interpreted the commercial as meaning Strand is the cigarette of choice for sad loners. The brand bombed and the ad was pulled. 50 years on, it seems that not much has been learnt.
If you accept what you see in commercials then the cause of the banking crisis is crystal clear. Instead of maintaining fiscal prudence bankers have been pretending to run a radio station. You can never get any sort of service in electrical stores because the staff are too busy taking all the blenders out of their boxes, stacking them up and filling them with radioactive-coloured fruit smoothies.
Next to the electrical store on your local trading estate you are sure to find the motor accessories and cycle shop. The soundtrack of its current commercial consists exclusively of a small girl screaming. How is this going to sell me something? If I go into the store will she be there?
There is a series of television commercials for an online travel agency – in itself a slightly bizarre concept – whose staff are people who really should not be issued with passports. Would you book a flight with someone who locks the combination of his suitcase inside the suitcase?
The ones that really get me going, though, are the idiot advertisers who take a previously unblemished piece of music and trash it. Surprisingly, classical music comes out of this quite well: play the Air on a G String to most people and they will still remember the masterful Hamlet commercials. British Airways spent millions creating a face with a winking eye on a desert island, and the Flower Duet from Lakme seemed like the perfect accompaniment.
No, it is popular song which is massively maltreated by advertisers eager to implant an ear worm. I will pass over as just too horrific John Lewis’s use of a Smiths song for its trite Christmas special, and Tesco using a prettified version of The Pogues’ greatest hit is just plain weird.
UPS has taken the crooners’ favourite Amore and turned it into “logistics”. Not only does it make the song unbearable for ever more, it perpetuates the myth that logistics has anything to do with lorry drivers. A few years back Honda tried to persuade us to consider its diesel cars with Garrison Keillor – not a natural singer, it must be said – urging us to hate something.
My Fair Lady is a pretty good adaptation of a social satire on Britain’s class system. So McDonalds probably should not appropriate it to persuade us to have a burger for lunch, even if their restaurant is on the street where you live. Incidentally, am I the only one who longed to be able to tell Alan Jay Lerner that in England we say we are “in” a street, not “on” it?
I’ve already mentioned The Pogues. The other song that cements this time of year for me is Driving Home for Christmas. It really only works with Chris Rea’s distinctive growl, though. Iceland has some bimbo (apparently an X Factor reject, although I had to look that up) finishing a stadium gig without apparently breaking sweat or getting her carefully coiffed hair disturbed – she really gave it her all, then – and heading straight off without thanking the band to enjoy frozen vol au vents with her extended family.
The success of The Beach Boys came not just from their rich harmonies but the ballsy way they sang them. I’m sure the young man who doodles on music paper and sings Wouldn’t It Be Nice is being amply rewarded by Volkswagen but Brian Wilson is probably sticking pins in his effigy. Debbie Harry would have the same reaction if she heard what has been done to Sunday Girl in an effort to flog scented water.
But this all pales in comparison to the worst television campaign ever, in which George M Cohan’s admittedly jingoistic Over There has been appropriated by a succession of idiots in false moustaches trying to make car insurance fun. If there is anyone who, despite these appalling commercials, has actually gone and compared, please let me know. I can assure you I did not, and I have the cuddly meerkat to prove it.
I hope you survive the Christmas season, and may all your productions in 2012 be creative and stimulating not derivative and irritating. And if you work in advertising: for all of our sakes get it right. Were counting on you to keep us afloat.

Tags: iss060 | commercial television | N/A
Contributing Author N/A

Read this article in the tv-bay digital magazine
Article Copyright tv-bay limited. All trademarks recognised.
Reproduction of the content strictly prohibited without written consent.

Shedding Light on the Blackmagic Pocket Cinema Camera 4k BMCPP4K
Garth de Bruno Austin “What is it about light that has us craving it?” Is the question asked in the opening seconds of Garth de Bruno Austin’s latest short, The Colour of Light. Exploring this natural, human need as well as our innate desire to control it, Garth’s film showcases everyday people going about their lives in differing degrees of luminance, whether that be an artificial streetlight or a natural morning sunrise.
Tags: iss134 | blackmagic | cinema camera | 4k | cpp4k | Garth de Bruno Austin
Contributing Author Garth de Bruno Austin Click to read or download PDF
Using Wireless Transmission
Jeremy Benning Wireless acquisition is a staple of live sports, entertainment and reality shows where cable free capture permits shots not previously possible, for health and safety reasons, and gives the camera-operator greater artistic licence to roam. The same is increasingly true of narrative drama where cinematographers are keen to work handheld or Steadicam where that helps tell the story. Any equipment which frees their movement and time by being lighter, easier to use and reliable in performance is going to tick a lot of boxes.
Tags: iss134 | wireless | 4k | transmission | Jeremy Benning
Contributing Author Jeremy Benning Click to read or download PDF
Accelerated Workflows with eGPU
Mike Griggs From the UK’s National Trust to magazine publishers to manufacturers, digital content creator Mike Griggs has a wide and varied portfolio of clients for whom he creates 3D art, motion graphics and multimedia exhibits. A typical day might involve sampling birdsong near Virginia Woolf’s country estate or creating 3D animations for VR. To keep on top of these demands, Griggs wanted to take the full power of the GPU computing revolution on the road.
Tags: iss134 | sonnet | egpu | amd | post production | editing | Mike Griggs
Contributing Author Mike Griggs Click to read or download PDF
An Obituary to Timecode
Bruce Devlin - new A stoic and persistent character that stubbornly refused to change with the times, Timecode has finally passed on, but no-one has noticed. A long-lasting industry veteran, Timecode was brought into this world at an uncertain date in the late 1960s due to the needs of analogue tape workflows and the demand for synchronisation between audio and video devices. A joint activity between SMPTE and the EBU led to the work on Time and Control codes starting its journey to standardisation in the early 1970s.
Tags: iss134 | timecode | smpte | ebu | edit | Bruce Devlin - new
Contributing Author Bruce Devlin - new Click to read
The Wireless Way to 4k
JP Delport DTC’s AEON group of products have been specifically designed for the 4K market. We encode with the more efficient HEVC algorithm, which means we are taking a 12G signal and compressing it to a bitrate that can be managed over an RF link. So what makes this a leading idea in the 4K revolution?
Tags: iss134 | wireless | 4k | transmission | JP Delport
Contributing Author JP Delport Click to read or download PDF