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A Cynical Look at Adverts

By Ashleylister @ashleylister
Many years ago, when I was fresh out of Art College, the proud owner of a BA in Graphic Design and full of youthful enthusiasm I was offered a job in a well known London advertising agency.  Thrilled, I trotted along on my first day, dreaming of such big names as Cadbury’s, Sony and Kelloggs.
I made the tea, bought cakes, fetched files and was let loose with a huge pack of Letraset and a dummy box to lay out the words, ‘A BETTER BISCUIT’ in the specified font.Not just once, but ten times, with varying distances between the words.I could cope with that, I decided, as I knew everybody had to start at the bottom and soon things would start to pick up.   I would build up to those big accounts, like Unilever and Schweppes. The following day was very similar, except I had to fill the soap dispenser and lay out the words, ‘ MORE FOR YOUR MONEY.’I can’t remember what it referred to, so as an advert it obviously didn’t cut it.Either that or it never even reached the production stage.
Fast forward a few months and things had moved on.I was no longer filling the soap dispenser or fetching files, although I still found myself making brews and placing Letraset on dummy biscuit boxes.At about this time I was asked to play a very junior part in an advertising campaign for cigarettes.In fact I think my role was still mainly one of tea maker and provider of correct Letraset fonts.I had never smoked (apart from a few attempts at the age of sixteen – once when I was babysitting, and it left me feeling so sick and dizzy that I feared I wouldn’t be able to climb the stairs if the children woke up, and a couple of times in the woods with my best friend, which resulted in us both in a similar debilitating state) so I wasn’t really best placed to extol the virtues of these particular cigarettes.It was the early ‘70s, most of my friends smoked and cigarettes were advertised profusely on TV and bill boards – the main message being that smoking was the height of sophistication, and a prerequisite to being ‘cool’. I was happy to remain ‘uncool’ if the alternative was to feel sick every time I tried to act sophisticated.
The campaign trundled on with texts and fonts being tweaked on a daily basis.Free packs of cigarettes were regularly delivered to the agency, where staff fell on them greedily.Eventually, the campaign was completed and ready to be launched.The event would involve the agency, minor celebrities, canapes, Champagne and, of course, as many cigarettes as the guests could smoke.I can’t say that this launch was a lightbulb moment for me – I think I was too in awe of the celebrities, and too blinded by smoke to take much more in - but I do think it was certainly the catalyst for my subsequent feelings about smoking and about advertising in general.
I began to think about the whole moral aspect of promoting goods that actually weren’t ‘good’ at all, but were decidedly ‘bad’ for us: not only cigarettesbut also the huge amounts of sugary and processed foods that were being pushed, children’s toys that suddenly became not just an option but a necessity.The whole essence of advertising gradually started to make me uneasy.It wasn’t just the cheap coffee and the sugary biscuits that began to leave a nasty taste in my mouth.
By the time the advert went out there were the first whisperings that maybe smoking wasn’t such a good thing after all.It was OK to be cool, but not if it left you gasping for breath, attached to an oxygen cylinder, or worst of all, knocking on Heaven’s door.With a sigh of relief, I left behind the Letraset, the dummy boxes and the false promises and moved on to develop my creativity elsewhere.
These days I love the advert breaks - they mean I can dash to the kitchen for a ‘decent’ cup of coffee.

A Cynical look at Adverts

Researching for this post I came across this advert from the fifties.  It's good to see things have moved on...

 'Simples' by Jill Reidy  (aided by Rio Alcantara Caminero, who researched adverts and suggested alternative lines) OK…….. Let’s 'Work Rest and Play' Till we’re bloated and sick Let’s Get 'Tangoed' And hyper and ruin our teeth Let’s order the chicken That’s 'Finger Lickin’ Good' As you eat it, whatever you do Don’t dwell on its sources Let’s think 'What’s the Worst That Can Happen?' Well, Doctor Pepper, how long have you got? Let’s Plaster on make up 'Cos 'We’re Worth It' But what if we’re not?
Let’s feed our kids Frosties 'They’re GR-R-R-reat' For tantrums and sulks Or 'Snap Crackle Pop' Full of air and high hopes And you know 'You’re Not You When You’re Hungry' Who are you? 'Only Smarties Have the Answer' Really? Where are you? 'The Happy World of Haribo' Climbing the walls 'Everyone’s a Fruit and Nutcase' Let them 'Taste the Rainbow' Till they’re trying to jump it
Then we’ll sit back and relax 'Put the OO in Typhoo” 'Have a Break, Have a Kit Kat' And dream 'It Could be You'
After all, little woman….
'Calm down dear, it’s only a commercial' Thanks for reading,      Jill

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