Friday, June 21, 2019

Buy This!

Back with the TV ads as my inspirational drought continues.  These are from the eighties and kick off with one of those ads for cat food featuring anthropomorphic felines.  I vaguely remember 'Nine Lives' cat food, (although I didn't eat it myself).  My problem with all ads of this ilk lie with the fact that no real cat I've ever encountered is as enthusiastic about cat food as the ones in these commercials are.  While I haven't owned a cat in a good many years, I have enough experience of neighbours' cats scrounging for alternatives to the cat food they've just been offered at home to know that this is still true.  Indeed, there was one local cat who was well known on the terrace for inviting himself into peoples' houses for meals to the extent that he apparently never actually had any meals at home, where he was only offered tinned cat food.  I would especially take issue with the idea propagated by this ad that cats like rabbit-flavoured cat food: if there is one type of this stuff a cat is guaranteed to turn their noses up at, it is rabbit.  (They are quite happy to catch rabbits and dump them outside he back door, though - presumably in an attempt to tell their owners what rabbit should really taste like).

TV commercials which present 'harmful gender stereotypes' are now banned from broadcast in the UK.  I'm pretty sure that this rule would cover the advert for Bold washing powder, with its clear implication that a woman's expertise lies primarily in the domestic arena.  Note how the mother tells her daughter that she has 'a lot to learn' - about laundry, rather than that job she's trying to get.  THe wider implication being that the world of work will only be a temporary phase for her, before she gets marries, has kids and settles into doing proper 'woman's work': cooking, cleaning and doing the family's washing.  There are a couple more of those 'generic' product ads often seen in the seventies and eighties in the mix, this time for milk and travel agents.  While the latter is simple - basically just a photo of a sunny foreign location and the message, 'call a travel agent, any travel agent' - the one for milk is incredibly elaborate and overblown.  But I suppose that by the eighties the Milk Marketing Board were taking the 'Marketing' bit of their title literally and felt that they had to 'market' a product that everybody buys as a matter of course.  Perhaps milk sales were declining in the eighties, maybe more people were taking their coffee black and pouring neat vodka on their breakfast cereals instead of the white stuff.  It's the only explanation I can think of for this sort of attempt to sell a staple product as some kind of lifestyle accessory: drink milk and you'll lead an exciting, risk-taking life.

Also being sold as some kind of lifestyle choice is Coalite.  Now, if you don't know what Coalite is, which you might well not in our modern world of electric night storage heaters, Economy Seven and solar powered underfloor heating, it was a coke product used for indoor fires back in the day when we heated our houses by directly burning fossil fuels in a fireplace.  When I was a kid, our house used to have Coalite delivered for the fire, (those were the days when the 'Coal Man' used to come round in his lorry and deliver sacks of carbon based solid fuels to your house).  That house (which my mother only sold last year), was built in 1967, yet, like  most houses of its era, was built from new with a coal bunker to store the solid fuels in, so prevalent was this form of heating, even in the late sixties.  'Coalite' was a brand name for the most popular coke-based 'smokeless fuel' of this types: it was lighter and cheaper  than coal, burned better and, supposedly, produced fewer emissions.  Interestingly, the company that made Coalite also produced a chemical similar to Agent Orange, the notorious defoliant with carcinogenic side effects used in Vietnam.  Anyway, if all those noxious fumes given off by those fossil fuels gave you a headache, then there was always Hedex, another of the apparently endless parade of pain killers pushed out by pharamcuetical companies, which continues to this day.  Despite the increasingly extravagant claims made for their properties, it is important to note that they are, in essence, all the same.

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