Stop Being So English

This year's British Television Advertising Awards promotes a new identity

Perhaps not surprisingly, the ads for "old-fashioned" newspapers employ realistic black-and-white to celebrate face-to-face community over electronic exchange. The Independent opposes its free-thinking paper--and the physical pleasure of reading--to espouse "Just Say No" conservative litanies and disembodied communication ("Don't touch," "Don't Drink," "Don't Think," "Don't Masturbate," "Don't Read"). The Sun shows its tabloid self passed from hand to hand, generation to generation, occupation to occupation, and from loo to cat-litter pan, applauding the solidarity of "the British People" with Tinky-Winky, football, Britpop, and a Darwinian chorus ("only the strong survive"). Alternately, BT (British Telecom) presents quotidian phone chat as community adhesive, suggesting that "I fell," "I lost weight," or "I got dumped" is the most momentous news of the day in the real world.

Ultimately, the new Brit program (now in its 24th year) evinces not so much confident self-deprecation as high anxiety at Britain's--and even TV's--status in cyberspace. In this year's competition, Sony took the top prize (affectionately known as "The Big One") for its Playstation spot featuring goggle-eyed humans and an ominous slogan-threat: "Do not underestimate the power of PlayStation." PlayStation, like the remote controls and VCRs before it, grants players the power to avoid adverts. Talk about risky business. Might this brave new digital world render TV ads--and the people who make them--redundant?

 

Do not underestimate the power: Sony PlayStation's goggle-eyed denizens put the public in control
Do not underestimate the power: Sony PlayStation's goggle-eyed denizens put the public in control

The 1999 British Television Advertising Awards screens December 3-22 at Walker Art Center; (612) 375-7622.

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