We here at The Escape Pod were very kindly sent a selection of fab UK ad annuals from the 1960s and 1970s by Ben Kay. Thank you Ben.
Ben Kay is about to become the new Michael Crichton. You heard it here first folks!
And one thing that radiates loud and clear from the old annuals is the Britishness of the work. Or more specifically, the Englishness of the work.
No offense intended to Wales and Scotland. You know what I mean.
I’m from Ireland. So feck off!
London is still generally where it’s at media/culture wise in the so called British Isles.
But it’s this identifiably English tone that gives the ads their appeal.
For a culture with a reputation for calling a spade a you-know-what, the English can be very incisive and cutting given half a chance.
And advertising provides a wonderful platform for very direct communication that is designed to interrupt.
English people are funny. And they know how to have fun.
But they can also be really charming.
And English people are very conscious of the impression they are making. They are sensitive.
And the best of UK advertising reflects all the above. Or used to.
But I have noticed a marked decrease in this trait over the last ten years.
UK advertising seems to be in the grip of a dark force. The work has become increasingly bland and anodyne and lifeless.
It used to be the best in the world.
It used to be populist and cheeky and really engaging.
Is that dark force internationalism? “Will it work in Belgium?” syndrome. London is an international capital after all.
Or is testing? Too boring to consider. Yawn. But probably a factor in the rise of the epic analogy film that neatly avoids
humanity and actual fun at great expense. You know, where the agency press release leads with the cost or complexity of the production. Like that’s going to make it better viewing.
Holding company dreariness stifling creative energy? Lots of that about. But it’s not new.
Lack of interesting UK startups. Have you seen some of the speccy herberts behind some of the latest agencies to pop up in Limeyland? Frank Lowe they ain’t.
The UK ad industry seems to be obsessed with digital and online but seems to have difficulty doing great work in the space.
A lot of UK digital efforts seem to strive to have everything seem “integrated” at the expense of feeling and sounding human. Why not just be random and fun like the Internet itself?
I personally think the very worthy UK focus on craft could also be getting in the way here. Just let it happen maaaan! It’s only the internet.
And of course, planning. It’s big over there. And I fear it’s one of the reasons so much of the work “makes sense”. You can almost smell the limp focus group sandwiches in some of the work.
Love to hear from some UK-ites on this one. It’s a real shame in my book.
Who knows, maybe we’re on the cusp of a cool Britannia for advertising.