Advertising: A Sign of the Times

October 30, 2013 § Leave a comment

In today’s lecture with Tracy the focus was upon advertising and its influences and impacts over the decades. Looking back as far as the 1960s I learned a lot about how advertising has changed.


In the 1960s advertising was mainly consistent of music and fashion as this was the time of cultural revolution, with major influence from the hippie movement emerging from the a rejection of the status quo, a generation wanting peace and love,  not war (with the Vietnam war taking place during this time). The difference between the USA and Britain was that America had a large sum of money in comparison, this meant that the US had more in terms of advertising, where as the UK struggled due to losing most of its funds during the war. Humor was implemented into advertising, with William Bernbach’s innovative Volkswagen advert. In the Britain ITV was the only channel that included adverts, advertising became an ever growing industry, with no boundaries, meaning there was total freedom, from here on out graphic design became relevant within this industry.



As the times advanced, so did the adverts along with it, becoming more widely used appealing to many audiences. Like the 60s, there was total freedom in terms of content, there were no restrictions, and with the vast amounts of money that was being invested into the thriving industry it meant that advertisers were going wild. The implications of this ‘no rule’ content meant that the advertisements that were being produced were very sexist (with the 70s being known as a very sexist era), incredibly misinforming (the main example being that cigarettes are good for you!), and quite shocking also with the introduction of shock value adverts displaying images of gore and even death, advertisers would use any means to sell their products or services to you. By the end of the decade TV legislation was introduced, putting an end to all these controversial advertisements, deemed politically incorrect. During the 70s the economy was going through a very unstable period, with unemployment at an all time high, this ultimately meant that the retail industry was being negatively impacted by this. To combat this advertisers had to come up with new schemes to attract audiences, creating scenarios where the advert became a sort of mini drama, with a story unfolding, also often implementing factors that make it relate to their audience, one famous example is the OXO family, a contemporary version of this are the BT adverts, also including a family.

Other problems that had risen during this time frame included the oil crisis, IRA terrorism, the cold war and world famine. The greatest levels of unemployment were reached when labour took over government rule from the conservatives in 1974, the country’s employment rates were looking more hopeful when Margaret Thatcher became prime minister in 1979, however a negative reaction was had from the youth culture and subculture due to her suppressions on society through financial cuts and unemployment. The rave subculture was entirely against her due to the party ban, not allowing any raves or student parties at all, on top of this was punk culture which incorporated fashion and music as a rebellious force as well as spitting and obscure hair styles in protest against Maggy and her views. It was during these times that advertising came into its own.


Consumerism was on the rise by this time, and with large amounts of consumerism comes large amounts of greed. The divide between the rich and the poor was enlarged, with the North and South divide of Britain being more pronounced, social inequality was ever growing, largely at Thatcher’s fault. What was now being known as the designer decade for it’s style over substance attitude included contradiction as well as complexity in advertising. New technologies revolutionised advertising, and by this point there was huge amounts of money in the advertising industry by this point, as a result of these two factors there was far more visual design.


New media, globalisation and the internet along with it’s web explosion are what drove the 1990s. The designer decade transcended from the 80s through to the 90s with wonderful design of the likes of Apple, making it’s presence globally known and respected, this also included the UK’s fashion and music scenes. The communication industry had to respond these new factors to transform and keep with the times. The global reach of Apple began, developing into what we know it to be today. The Blair Witch Project was released as an online viral advertising campaign making it seem realistic at the time grasping it’s audience through new technologies.


As we entered the noughties the advertising approach evolved, with weird and wonderful adverts and designs emerging. Adverts such as John West salmon’s bear fight video, Cadbury’s drumming gorilla, Sony Bravia’s bouncing balls ad and the Guinness: noitulovE (Evolution in reverse) advert. Creativity and fun advertising took priority over the ‘hard’ sell on customers, often having great success, some of the greatest and most memorable adverts came from these wacky concepts. ‘less is more’ became a prevalent design principle in this period, with Apple leading it with it’s sleek beautiful designs.

Top 5 industry ads of the last 100 years:
1. Levi’s – Laundrette
2. Heineken blues – Sadness Is My First Name
3. Hamlet – Cigars
4. Tango commercial – Orange Man
5. Cadbury’s – Smash

From this we were told that in order to be a truly strong designer you must keep focus on how the design forecasts are affected through different times, as we can see from what I’ve written about times can change quite dramatically. The better my knowledge of social, economic and environmental  impacts in the world the better my design process can be.

Immersion and the cinema experience

To finish the lecture off we briefly looked at cinema experience and it’s immersive properties, with this cinema is a completely different experience, allowing for the viewers to feel as though they are doing more than just watching the film, they are immersing themselves in the moment. There’s often a form of group behaviour when at the cinema, you’ll rarely see anyone entering a cinema without another friend, with the most frequent number in a group being three – this group behaviour has this latching affect, where you all (hypothetically) attach to one another, an example of this in a different context is when someone is road raged, they use their car (to which they are part of, or latched on to) as an expansion of themselves, they become larger beings where they can vent anger without the fear of any proper retaliation, other than a few beeps of the horn.


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