Archive for the 'advertising' Category

Moment#4: How to get ahead in advertising (1989)

3 May 2017


Moment #4 How to get ahead in advertising teamed up writer-director Bruce Robinson with actor Richard E. Grant after the cult success of Withnail and I. In truth, I don’t think it has aged well: the story of a successful adman, stuck on a brief for a boil cream, who grows a talking boil that represents everything dislikeable about advertising. (It’s slightly more complicated than that, but spoilers.)

Nothing about it is subtle, though Grant’s performance is mesmerising. But it is a product of its time, released a couple of years after the hubris of Saatchi and Saatchi’s absurd bid for Midland Bank, when for a thankfully short moment in the dog days of the Thatcher ascendancy ad executives were treated like rock stars.

The moment: Other people might have chosen the moment when Grant, naked but for an apron and a shower cap, decides to rid the house of all products that bear the mark of advertising. But, given the time it was made, I think it’s actually the moment earlier in the film ¬†where we see his office for the first time, a huge corner affair full of awards, career-defining ornaments, a statue of a horse, and expensive leather armchairs, with a view across the Thames to the Houses of Parliament and along the river to Lambeth Palace. There’s a large telescope trained on the Palace of Westminster: the designer has had fun. Much of the scene is in this youtube clip:

The film is a satire, and in its way the location, the advertiser looking down on the institutions of government and religion, makes the point as well as anything else in the film.

The poster at the top of the film is via the blog Random Rambings.

Replacing lost energy

18 October 2010

I’ve been meaning to blog for months about the Lucozade sign which graces the raised section of the M4 as it comes into London, restored after a gap of six years. It was a fine example of ’50s neon advertising, but was taken down when Lucozade’s owner, Glaxo SmithKline, sold its former site by the M4, once the Lucozade factory.

The original is now in the Gunnersbury Museum, and the building it used to be attached to has been demolished, but a replica has found a home near to the former location, following a campaign by local residents.

Of course, for people of my age, Lucozade is either an iconic childhood brand or a triumph of reinvention. When the sign first went up, you drank Lucozade only when sick, which explains why it originally read ‘Lucozade aids recovery’. By the time the drink started appearing in clubbers’ backpacks in the late ’80s (the perfect accompaniment to ‘Es’, if not Wizz), the spread of HIV meant that it needed to be updated. At least that was how I remembered it. But it seems there’s something blurry about Lucozade and memory. It turns out that Ogilvy & Mather had rebranded Lucozade in 1983, before the clubbing boom, shifting it away from ‘recovery’ to ’empowerment’, or some such brandspeak. And rewritten the sign as a result.

The picture at the top of this post was taken by Peter Curry. It is published here under a Creative Commons licence.

Satire makes a comeback

19 January 2010

The Conservative David Cameron posters are just asking to be parodied, and sure enough, at the mydavidcameron site people are doing just that. The number of parodies seems to be increasing by the day. There’s even a template to download the background picture, and advice on which font you need to use, if you want to make your own.

Meanwhile, I’ve blogged before about the attraction of the ‘last days of Hitler’ film Downfall as a magnet for football parodists. Not just football, it seems. The same section of Downfall (is there a template for this somewhere as well?) has also been used for several good satires on Nick Griffin’s appearance on Question Time (this one I reckon to be the best), and by the Electronic Frontier Foundation to parody film studios’ attitudes to US copyright law. Language warnings, in case you’re offended by swear words. And by the way, the director of Downfall is amused by the ‘meme’ he’s inspired.

I could do a short discursion here about the way in which satire emerges when there is a gap between public official discourse (in media and politics) and what people are feeling, thinking, and saying privately. But maybe I’ll do that another time.

Update, 21st January: The physical world follows the virtual one, according to the Daily Telegraph. An actual outdoor Cameron poster in Hereford has been ‘adapted’ to make Cameron look a lot more like Elvis, and ‘with suspicious minds’ has been added to the copy. .

The parody poster at the top, from mydavidcameron, is by Nick Stradling.

The marketing is the message

20 December 2009

Accenture has announced that it has ended its sponsorship deal with Tiger Woods, and staff are supposed to have removed all of those embarrassing advertising posters which say that the company ‘knows what it takes to be a Tiger’. Well, obviously word travels slowly across the Atlantic these days, since there were big Accenture posters with the golfing superstar on them in Copenhagen and Heathrow airports on Friday. One of them, at least, seemed appropriate to the moment, even if it was shot in the days when Woods’ putting was more interesting than his private life, and the ball is impossibly placed off the edge of the green. The caption reads: “It’s what you do next that counts“.