Saturday, 17 December 2016


So that was the norovirus, was it? A most unpleasant 36 hours to be sure, and it threw your Saturday Blogger right off schedule. I'll spare you the details.

Advertisements - useful for getting information across, tolerable in magazines (where one can just turn the page), but an unwelcome interruption in the middle of a TV programme, don't you think? I dislike them as a rule, so the ones that pass muster need to have some fairly redeeming features...perm from originality, clever script, good cinematography, humour, even cuteness. They must entertain and they must not be irritating. I knew the man who invented the phrases 'A Mars a day helps you work, rest and play' and 'Do the Shake'n'Vac and put the freshness back'. He never claimed to be very proud of them but they made him a lot of money. I could never have worked in that industry. It was suggested to me at one point and I turned it down flat - soul to Devil.

Advertising on American TV is even more annoying than on English channels. There is so much more of it and whereas in the UK there are clear breaks for commercials, I've watched some US channels where the transition from programme to advertisement is seamless, unannounced; ditto the resumption of the programme. It's bizarre and blurs the line between programme and ad. Commercial breaks during the TV screening of blockbuster movies annoyed me the most - they came with increasing frequency as the movie progressed, till they were interrupting at five-minute intervals towards the end of the film, making it quite clear that the prime intent of the TV channel was to sell advertising, not provide entertainment.

So, advertising BAD, with a very few exceptions and one of those is the series of Cadbury's Smash advertisements which first hit our screens in the early 1970s. I've never bought or eaten Smash (an instant mashed potato product in case anyone didn't know) but over a hundred million servings are still sold every year in the UK. Cadbury's wasn't even the first confectionery manufacturer to launch such a product; Mars had their mashed potato offering on the market a while before. Nevertheless, the Cadbury's Smash advertising campaign soon made its brand the market leader.

The Cadbury's Smash campaign was an early commission for the recently formed agency Boase Massimi Pollitt. John Webster was the ideas man who delighted in paradoxes and verbal tricks. Various pitches had been made along the rather tame lines of "British girls are Smashing" before John came up with the idea of inverting the concept, presenting the potato as a new substitute for Smash with the tagline "It's good, but it will never catch on." The Martians were just one of three treatments for this new idea (another was archaeologists and the third has been lost to memory).

The Martian treatment was a last-minute entry, but it caught the imagination of everybody except Gabe Massimi who threatened to fire Webster if the ad went through (and subsequently left the agency). Webster designed the animatic Martian puppets, his copy-writer Chris Wilkins devised the simple script and they hired Peter Hawkins, celebrated voice-over artist most famed as the voice of the Daleks, to "come down to the recording studio and have a go at laughing like a Dalek." The brilliant puppetry was worked out through hours of extemporisation - and the Martian falling over with laughter was a lucky accident.

The Martian-themed Cadbury's Smash advertisements (I forget how many there were now, possibly half a dozen) were trail-blazers and took on a life of their own utterly removed from considerations of mashed potato, spawning spin-off books, toys and other ephemera. They are also regularly voted the best British advertisements of the (20th) century. Not bad.

And so to this week's poem on an advertising theme, a re-working of something which actually began life as a song lyric that I wrote for my band the DeadBeats, back in the day, hence the curious title...

Baby Just Wants 2
Braless in BIBA black,
born for pleasure
with a smile to treasure,
fresh as a breeze,
heart on her sleeve,
she turns just like a page
in a glossy magazine.

Never on her one,
moth to the limelight.
wild beyond midnight,
doesn't do contrite,
side-steps complications,
avoids real connections
with other people's lives.

She knows this role so well,
the party doll, a pretty shell,
playing as she is played,
but what the hell -
it all means bugger all backwards
at the end of the day, real life.
File under wormwood!

So baby just wants to have some fun,
baby just wants to wash and go,
baby just wants to park and ride,
baby just wants to rock and roll,
baby just wants to kiss and tell,
then baby just plans to cut and run...

Enjoy the brilliant original Smash advert here: For Mash Get Smash

Thanks for reading. Have a good week, S ;-)


Anonymous said...

Very funny. Are those references to Under Milkwood in the poem?

Steve Rowland said...

Yes anon, well spotted. There are 3 references - though the locale/subject was more St. John's Wood than Milkwood ;-)