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I see There There as being about quality of life and reflecting the zeitgeist of today

Posted on 02 October 2010

I see There There as being about quality of life and reflecting the zeitgeist of today.”. Assuming there is a bar in newspaper heaven – surely no god would be so perverse as to deny departed old-time Fleet Street journalists the ambience in which they spent much of their working lives? – you can bet there is a corner reserved for former editors to vent their spleen about the abysmal current state of their once-great papers. These contrasting qualities of conciliator and combatant have ensured that “survivor” is another epithet that can be applied to the short, softly-spoken Scotsman. Charles Allen is neither: the chief executive of ITV offers to “come to you”. When he arrives at The Independent, leaving his chauffeur waiting in the car outside, he says how nice it is to get out of his offices on the south bank of the Thames.
It has been said of Allen that he is anxious to be loved by everybody, but also that he is prepared to put the knife in if you stand in his way. There haughty interviewees who seek copy approval, and those who claim to be so busy they can spare only 20 minutes on the phone.

Surely no agency can afford to dawdle.The author is chief executive of the History of Advertising Trust Archive, which has produced a CD on how advertisers have portrayed UK ethnic minorities, available on 01508 548623. These are people with aspirations and with cash to spend – powerful, fast-growing new market groups. They cannot advise their clients properly.At the same time, the ethnic balance has been shifting rapidly. In Greater London, ethnic minorities now represent 31 per cent of the total population. Advertising agency staff in the UK remain white in the creative and account areas and brown and black in finance, canteen and cleaning. The number of senior executives from ethnic minorities remains minuscule.

This must mean that agency knowledge of the new ethnic minority markets has little experience to draw on. Things were moving.For the next 20 years the pace was slow, so that a campaign like Howard of the Halifax (for the Halifax building society) stands out as something really special, rather than the norm The reasons are not hard to find. The same year, Access credit card introduced a rather middle-class-looking black child to a group of similar white children.In 1980, British Gas had an all-black consumer ad for the first time and C&A used its first black couple in an ad. It was also in the Eighties that the National Dairy Council showed the first black/white couple in physical contact in a UK ad. Black characters usually needed washing, whereas the white characters represented cleanliness and purity. In 1884, Pears’ Soap showed a small white boy scrubbing a black boy white, accompanied by the slogan “matchless for the complexion”.Over more than 100 years, the popularity of black waiters with white clients has not altered, be it the stylised Vimto waiter of 1930 or the seemingly deferential barman with his smart white clients in the 2003 One&Only Ocean Club campaign. After naming the vice presidents and the stewards, the date, time and the price of the tickets – 15s – the last sentence of the ad warns Times readers: “About 100 Africans and Asiatics are expected to dine in an adjoining room.”
This is one of the earliest references to ethnic minorities in British advertising to have emerged from a recent study undertaken by the History of Advertising Trust Archive.

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