TV advertising: tasteless or tempting in 2014?

It’s undeniable.

It’s undeniable. Television is the hot topic of the moment. From BBC Three becoming an online only channel, to the debate around whether it’s better to watch online, television is something that has taken us over.


We’ve talked about the merits of different channels, on demand TV and certain shows that we love or hate, but is it fair to say that TV adverts are as much a part of our viewing experience as the shows themselves?


Everyone seems to be making the switch away from adverts. More people are choosing to watch TV online and use ad blockers, which even blocks ads on sites like 4OD. Equally, almost all of us have switched over to Sky boxes or Freeview packages that allow us to fast forward through adverts meaning, if we choose to, we can see less and less advertising. Even YouTube, who greatly irritated everyone when they started advertising before videos, has a ‘SKIP’ option.


On average, we’ll see six to seven different adverts during each commercial break, ranging from beauty products to cars to charity appeals and promotional clips of other upcoming shows. Although people still complain about the length of some adverts and how often they’re repeated, advertising is something we’ve just grown used to, and they often get us talking.


So, if it’s not the existence of the adverts themselves, maybe it’s the content that’s causing the controversy.


Annoying adverts

Surveys recently listed some of what the UK deemed to be the worst adverts of 2013, and there are some corkers on the list.

Go Compare took quite a beating with people obviously tiring of the company dragging out its idea from several years ago to have an opera singer do the sound byte. Nobody liked it back then and it’s even worse now. He doesn’t even sing anymore, he drives a coach, which is a truly depressing end to an opera career.

They’ve even tried taking the mick out of their own brand idea by roping in celebrities to dispose of Gio Compario (bet you never knew that’s what they named him!) Watching Stephen Hawking blast him into a black hole was the only one worth watching, and even that was only entertaining once. But seeing as you’re reading this you might as well watch it one more time.

EE is another company that came under fire for its persistent use of Kevin Bacon, who doesn’t even dance, let alone reinact some of the better scenes from Footloose. Firstly, it was a strange idea for him to start presenting British TV adverts anyway, and secondly, I’m not sure that many of the young people on EE even know who he is.

This is another classic example of a brand being stuck in a contract with a celebrity or figure for just that little bit too long, and things are starting to look desperate. Maybe EE can take a leaf out of Go Compare’s book and start firing Bacon out of canons or something just a bit better than this.

* Note: when I went to YouTube to look up the advert I actually typed in Richard Bacon by mistake because that’s how little he means to me.

Weightwatchers is a particular pet peeve of mine, although sadly not voted as one of the worst advertisers around. My personal hatred for their adverts comes, mercifully not from using their products, but from their inability to understand the subtext in what they say in their adverts.

Their most recent advert opens with ‘seeing how close my daughter and I have become since I lost weight,’ is everything that’s wrong with diet brands. If your daughter didn’t like you when you were fat, as implied by Weightwatchers, you need a whole separate kind of counselling.

Way to present strong family values WW. Keep up the good work with the yoghurt.

On a slightly less cynical note, let’s face it, TV adverts do give us something to talk about whether we hate them or not. It’s usually more fun to hate them or quote them incessantly in people’s faces, but there’s something about TV ads that keep us talking.

Studies still show that TV adverts are 2.5x more effective than advertising in the press, and they’re more likely to get us. Even if all we do is tweet about it, we’re still raising the profile of the brand and helping them on their way to better promotion.

I really don’t hate TV advertising as much as you might think. In fact, I’m one of those people that sits through the ads on 4OD because I sort of feel obliged to. So on that slightly more positive and appreciative thought, here are some of the best adverts doing the rounds at the moment.

Mattessons is a personal favourite of mine and not just because my Dad was involved in the design and production of the advert. These are nice to see because they play on a classical image in a good way e.g. not Kevin Bacon in a spacesuit, using a phrase that everyone can relate to. Mattessons reported a 30% increase in sales after these ads started to air, and a £30 million increase in profits. So if you’re ever starvin marvin, you know where to go!

Cadbury do us proud as an English brand that usually manages to keep us smiling with their kooky and fun adverts.

They’ve done us proud so far this year with a James Corden, motivation boosting, smile launching kind of ad that promises that the sun will come out in Britain soon, and even if it doesn’t we’ve always got plenty of chocolate to keep us going.

Don’t think about being less than yourself!

Barclays has an old favourite of mine from a few year’s ago, but it’s guaranteed to make you smile. This was the first advert that really ever got me to notice creative advertising in the first place, and will stay with me for a very long time. Sometimes the motto of life is to just let it all go and be carefree, although that’s probably not the most solid advice when it comes to your banking. Oops.

So, are we moving forward in the world of TV advertising or taking a giant step backwards? Should adverts mean something in this day and age, or is putting a big cheesy grin on our faces all that’s really needed?

What do you think? Have your say in the comments section below.