Advertising seems to be almost everywhere these days, I don’t really object to it in principle as, without it, much of the world as we know it would look very different, but much modern advertising can be annoying. It’s advertising that enables many TV and Radio stations, Newspapers and Magazines to exist. Whether it’s billboards, posters, leaflets, direct mail, point of sale, comparison sites, targeted on the internet, branded giveaways, or even the board the builder put outside their job site, advertising invades just about every aspect of our lives. Even the “advertising free” BBC push their programmes, other stations and iPlayer all the time. Of course without advertising it would be very hard, almost impossible, to successfully launch new brands or products.
Back in the day advertising seemed to be so much simpler. Town cryers and Pub signs were some of the first methods employed in this country. The spoken word and visual images catered for a largely illiterate population. Until WW2 the front page of many newspapers such as the Observer and the Times carried classified advertising instead of news. The Times only finally dropped this practice in 1966. A visit to the cinema was often interrupted by amateur advertising for a local cafe or shop imploring you to “visit them after the show”. During the World Cup Cricket Sky Sports are running a truly awful series of adverts for Pepes Fried Chicken shops, imploring us to visit a different shop on each advert, its a throw back to those 50’s and 60’s cinema days!
One of may favourite advertising experiences came when I was a young lad visiting my Grandma in Hull. Hull is the exception in the U.K., in that, by some oddity of history, it escaped nationalisation and retained its own corporation telephone service. Grandma asked me to phone someone for her, I forget who, it was nearly 60 years ago! I picked up the phone and instead of a dialling tone a voice said “Come to Sidney Scarborough, underneath the City Hall” and I nearly dropped the phone at this strange invitation. It wasn’t a crossed line or a Paedophile, Hull Corporation Telephones were experimenting with advertising and Sidney Scarborough was, it turned out, a shop. I have no idea how the experiment went, but the advert has lived in my memory.
It wasn’t until 1955 that we got TV advertising in this country. It’s hard for some people, in this day of hundreds of TV stations on Satellite, Digital and Internet to believe, but back then we only had one monochrome BBC TV channel before that fateful day when Gibbs SR toothpaste became the first advert on ITV. In my opinion it’s all been downhill since then.
In the late 1950s and 1960 the big advertising agencies took off on the back of the growth of commercial television. Alcohol and Tobacco advertising were the heavy spenders. Then the Nanny state stepped in and started chipping away at just what was allowed. Although Alcohol can still be advertised on TV there are major restrictions on just what can and can’t be done. Some of the best of the old adverts would never be allowed these days, who remembers George the Hofmeister Bear or the Joan Collins Cinzano adverts. Tobacco advertising control has however been much tougher than Alcohol in the U.K. A 2002 Act of Parliament first banned billboard and printed publications carrying Tobacco advertising and then banned sponsorship of sport in 2005. This hit Formula One and Cricket hard. Since 2015 the display of Tobacco Products and Point of Sale advertising has banned and in 2016 Tobacco products have to be sold in standardised plain packs.
The Advertising Standards Authority has been around since the 1960s. It is really a trade body but it controls just about all advertising in the U.K. Now it even regulates claims made on websites, the Lottery and Scratch Cards, Loyalty Schemes and even Buy One Get One Free (BOGOF) offers. If you are worried that your proposed advert could breach its rules you can pre submit it for vetting. It has no real powers but it can and does refer repeat offenders to the Office of Fair Trading which has the power to fine them and bring legal action against them. This is exactly what happened to the TV shopping channel Auctionworld.tv who had over 1000 complaints made about it to the ASA. It was referred to the OFT and fined, eventually calling in the administrators and going out of business. The clothing business French Connection UK also fell foul of the ASA for it slogan FCUK and have been told to have all their advertising pre vetted.
All type of companies have been investigated by the ASA. Apple fell foul over an iPhone slogan claiming it gave access to “all of the internet” when it didn’t support some plugins. An Israeli Tourism poster was banned when Palestinians complained it showed a map of Israel that included the Golan Heights, Gaza and the West Bank. One of its triumphs was to ban the Northampton Furniture company Sofa King from using the slogan that their prices were “Sofa King Low” on the grounds that people might think it was using a profanity. It is no wonder that modern advertising is so vanilla.
If your Advertising passes the ASA scrutiny it may fail elsewhere. Sadiq Khan, the London Mayor, has had Transport for London ban a number of adverting types perfectly acceptable in other places. One of the first bans was on what TfL called “body shaming” images. This was supposedly prompted by the “are you beach body ready” advert from Protein World, but quickly led to bans on adverts for bikinis and women’s underwear that used to adorn the Tube escalators. It has been speculated that this had nothing to do with body shaming and everything to do with the Muslim religion.
TfL has also banned junk food advertising, but has got itself into a bit of a mess on this one. It is estimated that it will cut up to £27 million a year from its £140 million a year Advertising revenue and this is an organisation who’s deficit already stand at £900 million TfL defines junk food as those high in fat, sugar and salt, but got itself into trouble last year when it used pictures of Strawberries and Cream to advertise Wimbledon, breaking its own rules over Cream. TfLs latest ban is on 11 countries that is says have poor human rights. This basically means they don’t support gay rights and some even have the death penalty for gay sex. This ban was initiated by the Green Party who wrote to Khan. This must have put him in an awkward position considering the Muslim view on gays.
Some adverts really annoy me. Half the Car adverts on TV are virtually incomprehensible. They don’t tell you anything about the car, it’s equipment and capabilities. All you get is moody shots of it whizzing along a deserted road. Then you get small print at the bottom of the screen that is invariably too small to read even if it was displayed long enough to be able to read it. On top of that a new thing has crept in, a voice over saying something like “the model shown is not available in the U.K.” What is the point of advertising it then? What really gets me is that just about every advert these days has to be Politically Correct. Just about every couple in TV adverts is one black and one white and every family seems to somehow have one black and one white child. Every group of friends having a drink in the pub has one black friend. What is wrong with reflecting Britain’s population like it is?
What really started me on this piece were a couple of adverts I keep hearing on the radio. The first is the Smartmeter one with the stupid kids wittering on about not wanting to live in a world without Polar Bears. As if fitting a Smartmeter was going to make the slightest difference to the Polar Bear population that is actually increasing. The Polar Bear is not a cuddly plaything. If they so want to see what Polar Bears are like I suggest a visit to one of the small towns around Canada’s Hudson Bay where this 1500lbs carnivore causes terror to the residents. Then there is the advert for glass office Partitions, which plays on their sound reduction qualities. Again rubbish, after working in the trade for years I know that they are not what you use if you want to reduce noise in an open office.
I can add a few more I dislike and groan every time they are on, for example the Budweiser Dilly Dilly one, Halifax Ghostbusters, Postcode Lottery, Foxy Bingo and the McDonald’s “Peely Peely”. I am sure there are many more adverts that drive you mad every time you see or hear them and I don’t doubt you won’t hesitate in posting them.
© WorthingGooner 2019
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