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The Don-ing of the Age of Ad-quarius: A Missive from Don Draper

Plus ça change, plus c’est la même chose. The more things change, the more they stay the same. Since the 60s, commercials have made some bold changes. Colour, fashion, music, technology – the trends of each have shifted. Commercials have held a mirror to each decade, and reflected something that seems markedly different from the one before. But really, is it?

Smoking is bad for us, but the dream sold by cigarette companies in the 50s is the same as the dream peddled by health supplement companies today. Buy this product and you will have an edge over your peers. ‘Edge’ as an adjective is often ascribed to musician Declan MacManus, the featured drummer on 1973’s R White’s lemonade commercial. MacManus’s father Ross wrote the song and provided the lead vocal. So who is this guy? Descended from hunter-gatherers, the man is hereditary king of carbon-based life, used to facing impossible challenges in his bid to find food to provide for his family.

Now he has it all. Refrigerated stocks of fat and sugar. Once rarefied, these items are now in abundance, and controlled by a wife who has to restrict her husband’s desire for the very thing he has laid on the table through hard work and sacrifice. The protagonist, his expression of maleness hobbled by modern impositions of feminism, spousal subservience, has to sneak down to the kitchen in the dead of night to enjoy this font of fizzing, masculine energy. A carbonated oasis. A husband’s secret fantasy.

The same year bread company Hovis conjured an image of mythical Albion using a wannabe sci-fi director and a piece of music by a Czech composer, arranged for a Yorkshire brass band. The boy on the bike is the past, present and future. It looks nostalgic, and makes the audience remember a time that never even was.

As the century closed, dewey-eyed, rose-tinted memories were replaced by bloody noses and orange-dipped fat men. Tango used casual thuggery to sell us more carbonated drinks. Nobody knows how they did it, but it tapped into something more sophisticated in a market that was ready to be told not only that violence and sugar went together, but that it was a good thing).

That same sophistry was at play during Intel Inside’s 90s and 00s campaign. Before them, microchip manufacturers targeted the manufacturer, selling semiconductors to people who knew for sure what they did. But when they came up with the most expensive microprocessor anyone had ever seen, they knew that managers of companies would shun the higher price. What did they do? Broke straight through to the people to help them understand the value of their new product. Showed them that they needed this – even if they weren’t quite sure what it was. Soon, IT managers all over the place were under pressure from their customers to include Intel’s technology.

But nostalgia never went away. A look at Jackpotjoy’s series, featuring one of the great emblems of England, proves it. Babs Windsor and Bingo go together. Jackpotjoy have harnessed Babs as an icon of Englishness, and she inhabits the role – just as she did cheeky Carry On Camping – perfectly.



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