Mike Le Cocq, director of sales and marketing
IN 1952 Lord Reith compared the coming of advertising to television screens with the introduction into England of the Black Death and bubonic plague. But the appearance at 8.12pm on Thursday, September 22,1955, of two 60 second commercials, the first for Gibbs SR Toothpaste and the second for Cadbury’s Drinking Chocolate, was greeted with a polite cheer from the 500 guests celebrating at London’s Guildhall. The commercials were also watched avidly by 66% of the 169,000 sets capable of receiving ITV in London.
As far as the Channel Islands were concerned the first commercial to be seen was for Chivers Marmalade, but the very first local advertisement was a 15 second one for Allen’s Travel of Jersey. It consisted of a slide with the announcer’s voice behind it.
But hasn’t television advertising changed? If we return to the Gibbs SR commercial we hear a brisk, clipped voice saying the same thing as the equivalent press ad. It was an illustrated lecture. ‘Tingling Fresh’ was the toothpaste but certainly not the commercial.
It was only a decade later when the differences between press and television advertising were appreciated that commercials became well conceived and produced. And the differences were, with hindsight, obvious. TV moves. TV has sound, music, effects. TV can be heard and read. TV can make the viewer view. TV commercials intrude into viewing.
Channel Television makes more than 150 commercials a year. Apart from the hard work we’ve had some fun along the way. There’s the one about the Jersey Milk Commercial which needed gallons upon gallons of good, rich, milk being poured into a bath of heavy duty polythene rigged on the studio floor. Marvellous — until someone dropped a pair of scissors, points down, on to the polythene. Suddenly the studio floor was flooded with milk. Not so marvellous!
Then there’s the one about the three foot high model of the Channel Islands’ lottery mascot, Superfred. The size and strength of the waves were misjudged and out to sea floated Fred.
And the one about the visiting ‘creative expert’ from a major London advertising agency, who couldn’t seem to understand why planning a commercial involving a pair of high speed power boats wan’t such a good idea in mid-November. And when told that the tide would be out in Jersey on the afternoon he insisted on recording the commercial, he decided that we would tape it in Guernsey where the tide would obviously be in.
Mind you it can be less than fun. Part of the commercial for the Le Brun’s French Bread necessitated a camera crew, a director, members of the advertising agency and me being on Jersey’s New North Quay at 5.00am. when the snow lay unmelted on the ground. That was the time the load of French flour was unloaded and therefore that was the time we had to be there.
And it was cold!
A year after Channel went on air the then Sales Controller, Ron Blundell, wrote in the Channel Viewer how gratified he was to see the steadily increasing number of Channel Islands advertisers.
In those days local advertisers were limited to advertising their wares on 16mm film or on slides with voice-over by the duty announcer. No, that’s not strictly true! In addition there were those unusual methods of bringing the local advertiser on to the screen of Channel Islands homes.
Remember Channel Classified? For £4 a time on Tuesdays and Wednesdays, the presenter, Phill Mottram Brown, appeared live on air at exactly 6.42pm behind a table bearing all the products to be advertised that night. Beside him was a caption stand, and when he’d finished extolling the virtues of one product he would tear off one caption to begin the next. Great! Except on the night the heat of the studio lights had half thawed a pound of frozen scampi. Phill took a stream of icy water down his sleeve, but after his initial gasp of horror struggled manfully on through his sales pitch.
How about the advertising magazines? They were known by just about everybody as admags and were finally banned in 1963. Viewers loved them and welcomed the regular appearances of presenters like Kenneth Horne, Sylvia Peters, John Slater, Doris Rogers and Jimmy Hanley whose Jim’s Inn ran for 300 editions over six years. We at Channel had our own admag, Island Shop, starring Eileen Watkins and Phill Mottram Brown. A sample from November 1962 went as follows:
‘What’s this Eileen?’
‘You’ve been working so hard that I thought you deserved a cup of tea.’
‘Thanks. Cooper’s Tea, I hope?’
‘Cooper’s Ceylon Tea to be exact.’
‘What I like about Cooper’s tea is that I can get a good, strong, rich flavoured brew…’
It continued until Eileen decided to discuss ladies’ underwear from Le Bas Bar.
What is especially interesting is the list of advertisers — Richard Whinnerah, Noel & Porter, Office Supplies, Cooper’s, Le Bas Bar, Briggs, Allen’s Travel Bureau, Channel Islands Co-Operative Society, Patricia, among others. Alas, so many of the businesses are no longer with us.
Now, of course, local advertisers have the use of video tape for commercials. And, as we have done for the last few years, we make commercials for our advertisers very cheaply and very rapidly. We still use slides with prerecorded sales messages and music and sound effects.
Twenty-five years ago advertising on Channel Classified cost £4 a time. Well, peak time advertising has become a little more expensive during the last quarter of a century but advertisers can still buy an afternoon spot for £14. And that’s not bad value, is it?