Bill Hicks once said that if you’re in advertising you should kill yourself. I can see his point : a lot of advertising is just dross, offensive or uncomfortable. It exists to sell a product, and the lack of pure information in a capitalist society means that consumers are basically unaware of your product’s faults, so you can say whatever you like. It doesn’t even have to make sense, like in the famous Cadbury’s advert with the eyebrows. It just has to stick in a person’s mind and get the product name embedded in their decision-making. Or it can be so asinine and horrible that it makes you want to puke.
YOU’RE TALKING ABOUT WIPING YOUR ARSE! YOU’RE TALKING ABOUT WIPING YOUR ARSE ON TELEVISION!
Sometimes, however, adverts stick in the mind for a different reason. Being Generation Y (that comes after X, the MTV generation), I and people my age see so many adverts in print media, television or the internet, that we develop a kind of block that stops us remembering them. It’s sort of like repressed memory syndrome or a blind spot: my brain just glides straight over them.
So it takes a special kind of advert to make me sit up and take notice. Here are some I remember and why.
Volkswagen Golf : Night Driving (2005)
Car adverts are boring and full of incomprehensible things like mpg and apr. For most of them I totally zone out, partly because I don’t drive and my brain regards car adverts, panty liner adverts and banking adverts as belonging to one category, “Shit I Can Safely Ignore”. So when, sitting in a quiet cinema, I heard Richard Burton’s sensual, echoing voice reading the opening of Dylan Thomas’ Under Milk Wood the hairs on my arms stood up and I snapped into focus. This is the only advert I’ve ever seen in a cinema that caused me to stop eating popcorn, just so I could bask in it. That weird, tinkling music is from Cliff Martinez’ soundtrack to Solaris, an otherwise forgettable sci-fi film, and remains one of the best soundtracks anyone’s ever made (sorry, Hans Zimmer).
I don’t even know what this advert is trying to sell: freedom? Night-time? The Volkswagen Golf? I don’t care. I’m sold on the advert. Even today, a billion years later, it still makes me shudder with pleasure. And that’s a weird thing for a car advert to do.
The Climate Change Challenge (2006)
At the risk of offending my American readers, climate change is a thing we should Do Something About. Everybody becomes aware of our impact on the planet at some point in our lives, either as the result of thinking about it or being forcibly confronted with it. This advert has credit for making me aware of how much of an effect we have, just by making the invisible visible. News footage and sped-up weather effects give it a kind of immediacy. Add to that the eerie sounds of Oskar, an obscure English electronic band, and a grim, authoritative Scot telling you unpleasant things, and you end up with a near-apocalyptic feeling. The first time I saw this I was sixteen, and it was enough to fill my pants with fear. I was all like, jeez, somebody should do something! Have I? Has anybody? In a pig’s arse we have.
Sony Bravia TV (2006)
Sony is known world-wide for making mediocre mp3 players, phones and TVs. I tend to regard Sony as a bit intellectually bankrupt, probably without cause: I just don’t hold their products in high esteem. Sue me.
That makes this advert all the more inspiring: it’s so fuckin’ abstract it made me pay attention to Sony. Not for very long, granted, but enough to cause the guys in an advertising agency somewhere to give each other high fives. There’s just something so odd about this advert- it doesn’t say anything about the product beyond the name and the strap line, “colour like no other”. Still, it obviously worked, because I remember this advert seven years later.
Also, whatever happened to Jose Gonzalez? His song, “Heartbeats”, really make this advert. Including the lyric, “one night to push and scream” in the advert might be the first incidence of a LCD TV advert including a prima facie mention of screwing. Weird.
Sky+ HD (2009)
Ahh, Sky. A Megacorporation owned by a parasite who looks like Mr Magoo. an unforgivable blight on the surface of the earth. I hate you, Sky. I hate you, Fox.
So you crossed a line when you borrowed one of my favourite actors of all time and made him talk about one of my favourite movies. You crossed a line. You stepped into my goddamn territory, and my wrath is great.
But god, Anthony Hopkins talking about Blade Runner is enough to give me cold sweats. That man is a boss and that movie is the balls, and he obviously cares about it. The music, “Vladimir’s Blues” by Max Richter, is wonderful.
I’m not going to be able to say anything more about this advert, I have a fanboy boner and I’m crying tears of rage.
DO I NEED TO EXPLAIN THE APPEAL OF THIS ADVERT? Boobs? Check. A woman playing drums? Check. Phil Collins’ best song after “Sussudio”? Check. Is it a spoof of a more famous advert? CHECK CHECK CHECK. I only wish I was a chick so I could support Wonderbra by buying their products. Instead, I’m going to watch this advert over and over.
You have to do your bit to get the economy going, you know.
BONUS ADVERT: Cadbury’s Eyebrows (2010)
HA HA HA HA HA HA HA!
BONUS ADVERT: IRN BRU (2010)
Adverts like these are one of the few reasons to be genuinely proud of a Scottish brand. IRN BRU (who, for the benefit of my English and American readers, make a terrible-tasting hangover cure a bit like liquid Alka-Seltzer) have been producing awesome adverts for years. Apart from that one with the Paolo Nutini song. That one was terrible. But this one is good. It tells you something about the Scottish sense of humour: turning cute animals into breakfast is funny.