Monday, March 10, 2008

...but today we collect ads

This Peter York presented survey of the british advertising industry is viewable on bbc iplayer for the next few days. Timed presumably to coincide with the much hyped US drama Mad Men, York's survey concentrates on the supposedly halcyon days of the late '60's and '70's when ads were directed by people like Alan Parker and David Puttnam. It was during this period that the British ad agencies gained their slightly questionably reputation for innovation and creativity. What is interesting - and what makes up for having to sit through interviews with the odious Tim Bell - is seeing the way that advertising played out very British issues of class, etiquette, social embarrassment etc., usually foregrounded as comedy and used to sell us stuff. Fairly unthinkable just a few years before.

More interesting still is this fascinating archive documentary (from the BBC's dubious White Season) about class from 1966 which attempts to analyse the A,B,C etc social catagorisations that underpinned much of the assumptions behind the adverts described by York. The level of plummy-ness of some of those interviewed is quite remarkable, as is the voice of narrator Trevor Philpott, who's own received pronunciation and BBC patrician tones are obviously assumed to not be part of the content of the programme. York too is posh, but in a raised eyebrow slightly camp way that makes him sound like he's being arch even when he's not. The programme is a bit low on analysis and full of rather rubbish "Britain was booming and the sixties were in full swing" type generalisations but still this is a rare piece of semi-serious social history.

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