'You can tell the ideals of a nation by its advertisements.' Norman Douglas

First published in News by

Television advertising is dire. Once advertisements were the best thing on television. Remember the sophisticated couple who fell in lust over an instant coffee and the little lad with the big bicycle trudging home to the sound of Dvorak, and the humour of the man with the hapless comb-over in the photo booth who takes comfort in a mild cigar, and the sheer artistic genius of the Guinness advertisements? Happy days.

Now advertising has ditched cleverness and humour and replaced it with length and repetition. Worse, too, it is no longer aspirational – buy this car or stock cube and you too will be James Bond – but plays to the fears that might lurk in our over-anxious psyches. Programmes that might have a narrative flow, like Downton Abbey, are interrupted while we are subjected to long advertisements warning us about our filthy germ-invested homes and the certainty that we shall be involved in an accident and require the services of some dubious actor purporting to offer legal advice.

Worryingly, medical problems are treated as though natural and over the counter cures advocated. Are heartburn and incontinence really a natural by product of being older which in television terms is 25 plus? I would be off to the doctor like a shot.

And what about all those tedious ads for age-defying creams. You would need to have the brain of a top scientist to assess their claims. Or no brain at all. Worse still, if you are unfortunate enough to have to watch afternoon television, advertisers believe that you are financially stupid. Some aged television personality tells us that we are likely to die penniless and our young will be unable or unwilling to afford the cost of a funeral and we should start a saving plan. Insultingly we are offered a pen if we enquire.

Mind you we are also told we can borrow money just by one phone call even though we have proved by our existing debts that we are the last people who should borrow more money.

A horrible recent addition is long trailers for future programmes in the middle of the one we are watching. But there is one advertisement that entranced me enough to follow through. I bought my car insurance and was rewarded by a meerkat toy. It came all the way from Merkova and I was kept informed of its journey by email postcards from throughout Europe. Its circuitous route was so enthralling, the toy so beautiful, the marketing so clever and amusing I am thinking of buying a caravan to get it insured.

There's one born every minute.

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