UK advertising peaked in 1995. And i can prove it!

Was just looking at ad annuals from UK for year 1995. An amazing amount of great stuff. I think UK advertising took a really bad turn in the late 90s. It stopped being dangerous. which was always the UK’s strength. That coupled with great craft skills.

I vividly recall seeing the 1994 D&AD exhibit at the One Club. I wrote the invite for this show for the one club members. i was very excited. My headline was: SEE THE AWARDS SHOW THAT HANDS OUT GOLD MEDALS LIKE THEY WERE ACTUALLY MADE OF GOLD. based on the fact that the d&ad hadn’t given out a gold pencil for advertising for the previous four consecutive years. which struck me as excessively stingy.

The exhibit itself blew my mind. the print alone was amazing.

Now UK advertising has gone all soft-folk driven softness and, yawn, film-y epics.

Time to drop some E and get busy again perhaps chaps!


OK bear with me here. here are some random iPhone pix taken SOLELY from campaign poster awards 95. It’s all very scientific, you wouldn’t understand.

but check out the sheer BIGNESS of the thinking on display. and the executional daring. even the Beamish ads, not classics perhaps, have a brutal simplicity about them. compare this with the recent campaign poster awards. they’re not even playing the same game anymore!

19 responses to “UK advertising peaked in 1995. And i can prove it!

  1. I think the high water mark was 2001’s annual. Perhaps the work isn’t better than 1995, but it’s when things started a long slide downhill.

    Has there been a GREAT ad here since Gorilla?

  2. Select examples please to correlate your story. C -.

  3. I blame research.

    I should qualify. I blame over-researching and over-analysising everything.
    Why, you ask. Um, because often (and let’s be honest, mostly) people don’t have an opionion on ad’s. (Exaggerate that full stop there). They just want to be entertained. So when asked for an opinion, human nature means we rationalise things and express what makes sense to us. This is essentially santising the idea- or in comedy terms… explaining the joke. It becomes unfunny. This is just my opinion of course and we’re you to ask me in research I might completely change it so as not to appear stupid in a room full of strangers.

  4. i would tend to agree with that Ben.

    Proof is on the way John.

    And yes Annie, research sucks the life out of everything it touches. but i’m sure they did research in the 90s too. another factor i’ve heard tell of is the need to create pan-european campaigns. which takes all the UK-ness out of the ads. which is what made UK advertising great in the first place. i mean let’s face it, the Brits are arguably the most entertaining nation in Europe. (dons helmet, jumps into foxhole!)

  5. Looking forward to the proof. And as for the last remark, I’ll agree quietly and then deny all knowledge if ever questioned about this again.

  6. thank you annie. we are nothing if nothing brutally honest here at The Escape Pod.

  7. to be honest, pan-european-ness takes the fun out of most ads .
    I’ve seen some extremely smart (not even neccessarily funny) eastern European ads that are really hard to get without background knowledge.
    no way a Cannes/Epica jury would get it. not even if they had a whole course on ex-communist countries.
    on entertaining nations. (drops “a present” in foxhole, sits on helmet and blocks the exit) you’re wrong: Chzecs are pretty funny and Bosnians are extremely funny.

  8. oh, that would be me with the last comment. accidentally used my nick.

    if you can correct it, it’d be great.

  9. Obviously the reason UK Advertising has gone downhill so badly is because it is no longer upside down.

  10. will do riki.

    and yes bentos. the decision to run ads right side up was an additional factor in the decline of UK ads. just not as interesting

  11. I wasn’t advertising in 1995 so I don’t know what relevance my point has, but I think the fact that the current generation of ad-folk grew up in a time of affluence has a lot to do with it – we never really had to fight for anything, unlike the kids in the 60s, 70s and 80s when life was a bit tougher.

  12. RIKI,

    i have wrestled with being an alien in a strange culture several times. and the answer is to make it human. Pan-europeans are human too!

  13. guy, i’m not so sure.

    i guess it’s important to remember that these ads coincided with a bit of a rediscovery of the UK mojo in general. Oasis, Blur, Blair etc.

    but i have a sneaking feeling that’s an oversimplification. I do however think that UK advertising lacks identifiable creative voices and flavors and styles. it’s all gone a bit plannery. you can tell. and that’s just not very exciting.

  14. “Pan-europeans are human too!”

    of course. the trouble is when an ad comes from a background that has 50,60, 70 years of liberal individualistic affluent atittude into the world that’s been in it for no more than 20 years (less than 1 generation). it just doesn’t bear the same weight and relevance, if you get my point. there’s pretty cool insight here: 8:20 onwards, but check the whole thing)

    and no – “universal” values don’t have the same appeal in all cultures. that’s globalization’s biggest mistake (above described “freedom to choose” being one of it).

  15. i would respectfully disagree. people are people. there is a tendency to overestimate local cultures. like they’re impenetrable and mysterious. they’re not. they’re merely a veneer.

    i don’t think UK-ness necessarily travels well. it’s too distinct a flavour. and i’d guess it would be very difficult to create an ad for Bosnia from London. but that’s not what i’m saying.

    i bet i could create an ad that would score in Bosnia. but only because i wouldn’t lean on any particular culture. i never do. i don’t know how to at this point. i would lean on humanity.

  16. I would like to posit that Advertising Peaked in 4000BC when John’s Hammer Shop installed the first Sign above the Door with a painted Picture of a Hammer.

  17. I would like to tweak my statement. Advertising then re-peaked the day John’s Hammer Shop installed the first Lighted Sign above a store door in history.

  18. yes howie. that was a peak. until john introduced the all new “IRON” hammer. that was quite a moment too. he took that one on the road.

  19. Cheers for that, Vinny. Have a gold star.

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