It’s the late seventies, a weekday, around 4 pm, and my mum has just brought home a new device the size of a small fridge – something called a VHS Video Recorder. None of us can comprehend what it is or what it does as she unwraps the device and heaves it onto a table next to the TV. After attaching the cables, it whirrs into action, and a large mechanical slot rises from the top of the machine with very little grace. Less than ten years after Neil Armstrong touched down on the moon, here we were, taking our own small steps by pressing the play and record buttons – precisely at the same time and with enough force to launch a rocket – ready for our own giant leap into the future.
Two minutes later, we were watching a 30-second recording of Dr Snuggles in amazement.
By the mid-eighties, like many homes up and down the country, we had our own little library, with eight blank videos ready to record at will, each nestled in a plastic case that looked like an old book and a small acetate sheet that had things like “Auf Wiedersehen, Pet – MUM’S DO NOT RECORD OVER” written on it.
It hadn’t taken us long to learn that we didn’t have to watch adverts anymore; we could fast-forward the tapes at each ad break. We could watch what we wanted when we wanted. Life was almost complete when the remote-controlled versions turned up.
We didn’t care that advertising was the thing that paid for the programming outside of the BBC. It was all about us and how we consumed entertainment.
That selfishness has continued to evolve rapidly, especially over the past twenty years with streaming. The more selfish we become about what we want and when we want it, the less room for advertising.
So it has to be forced on us, and we don’t like it. Well, I know I don’t.
The funny thing is that many businesses – made up of individuals like you and me – try to do the same thing. We try to force our sales messages onto people who haven’t asked for it and don’t want it. It’s as if we forget how much we hate adverts as soon as we walk through the office door.
Whether it’s social media posts, comments on social media posts, web pop-ups, or email footers (and the list goes on), we try to cram in a sales message as if it’s what people want (or expect). We convince ourselves that it works. Meanwhile, we continue to skip the adverts placed in front of us.
But. All hope is not lost. Good advertising can be amazing. It’s why I remember from a simpler time that the Milky Bar Kid is good and tough and that if you hear a squeak inside your VW Golf, you must oil your girlfriend’s earring.
Despite being bombarded with adverts daily, if you can inject quality, relevance and a splash of humour (and don’t take advantage of every spare pixel every single time at every opportunity), you may just be in with a shot of standing out.