How AdVINTAGEous – It’s frothy man! TV adverts from back in the day

“They peel them with their little knives”

Jack Warner extols the virtues of formica. Geoffrey Palmer slams in some lamb, and turkey tycoon Bernard Matthews declares that his produce is ‘bootiful’. Where else would you get such an abundance of the absurd mixture of products in tiny chunks, but on British telly.

Forget the sand dune which morphs uncannily into the head of a girl positively shimmering with eastern promise. Never mind that shifty sneak sloping slyly downstairs for a secret slurp of R. Whites lemonade. And don’t even bother prancing around your living room with Shake N Vac to put the freshness back. Everyone of a certain age, who had a telly, cannot fail to remember such mid-programming gold nuggets as these, pure gems of cheesy goodness.

Back in the day, TV advertising had it all; quirky graphics, snappy slogans, hammy acting, jolly jingles, and solid, straight facts.

As a lass, I took it as gospel that hands that do dishes can feel soft as your face, unless you had acne or hadn’t shaved, and that every Corona bubble had passed it’s fizzicle. Well why not? I was informed of these facts by a voice of authority. Sometimes I was told things by a sympathetic voice, which oozed comfort, and crooned phrases like ‘Good old Yellow Pages…’ or how nice it was to come home to Baxter’s soup. Clever writers using the right voices to promote the right products to instill in us a feeling of well-being, or convince us that we must have Camay soap in the bathroom or Country Life butter in the fridge.

The creative power of advertising could turn this: ‘Bloody Hell, there’s been a huge cock-up with this new Daz Automatic formula, it’s making washing look really dull’, to this: ‘And when Mrs Hindle did the new Daz Automatic window test, she noticed a bluey-whiteness she really liked.’ I don’t know about you, but I like my whites white. Bluey-white is off-white, and off-white is not right!

So how do vintage ads come across today?

For all their nostalgic popularity these days, how many other ads of that era have inadvertently been shoved to the back shelves? I decided to have a peek down my favourite place, Memory Lane, to see what I’d forgotten about, what I was too young to remember first time round, and to hunt for the obscure and ridiculous. Here are some of my observations.

  • Well-known British actor Frank Windsor is gardening IN WHITE GLOVES. While laundry-product buying housewives from monochrome days may be anxious to discover whether Tide really is as good as Frank says it is, I’m thinking ‘gardening in white gloves? Are you bloody stupid?’
  • The Nimble girl (and presumably also the Slimcea girl) can fly like a bird in the sky. This may be because eating Nimble (or Slimcea) is like eating nothing at all. She should be light enough to lift up from the ground without the help of a balloon.
  • The Smith’s Chipstick advert is very Bamforth’s postcards. Any character voiced by Reg Varney must be after one thing only – and it ain’t chipsticks!
  • Farmer Brown’s animals sing a happy little ditty about anyone being able to ‘eat lots of lovely shapes like me and you.’ Definitely not very Animal Rights to see them condemning themselves to death so cheerfully.
  • Is it offensive for Lifebuoy soap to ‘say no to B.O.’?
  • Coffee doesn’t taste nicer with coffeemate and Mellow Birds doesn’t make you smile. It might make you spit it down the sink and say ‘yack’!
  • In the Drene Gleem contest you could win a choice of £100 a year for life, or a £2500 lump sum cash payment. They hint that you could have a fabulous holiday every year, start your own business, or purchase a huge thatched cottage. All you had to do was ask your or grocer or chemist tomorrow. Why did I get the impression that this was a spoof ad?
  • The Ready Brek kids look like they’ve fallen into a nuclear reactor.
  • A Mars a day helps your teeth rot away.

Modernisation or decline

It seems very sad that modern day adverts (with some exceptions) are not as interesting, innovative, visually captivating, or just plain fun as they were in bygone times of telly. It all seems to me to be a cacophony of cars, insurance companies, claims companies, technology and furniture shops who are having sales. That’s my Statler and Waldorfian view anyway. Gone are the golden days of eardrops, cornflakes, Monster Munch and toilet soap dooming us now to the pit of modern jargon and uninspiring graphics. I watched a car advert recently, marveling at the fact that I didn’t know what an SUV was. Neither could I understand all the terminology of features in an up-to-date mobile phone or ground-breaking science-ey stuff in age-defying creams with bizarre names. Why not just stick to Drene or Gleem, with no terms and conditions?

With a gleam of mischief in my eye, I would love to do the rounds of all the local bookshops, asking old men in pince nez,and old ladies with curly hair if they have a particular book on vintage TV advertising, adding for effect, ‘It is rather old.’ These days I might locate the very thing on t’internet, and joyfully ring them on my mobile phone (who’s features, you’ll remember, I still don’t understand). ‘You do? That’s wonderful! My name, ah yes, it’s J.M.Slawit.’




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