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 Island’s 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 wasn’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, decided that we would tape it in Guernsey where the tide would obviously be in.
That there are a fund of similar anecdotes is simple to explain. As Channel Television currently makes about 150 video commercials every year, naturally there are occasions when things didn’t go exactly according to plan.
Yes, that’s right, 150 video commercials a year. Since Channel Television took that bold step four years ago and abandoned film in favour of tape, we have become leaders in industrial video production. Despite the recent influx of Johnny Come Lately’s, no other television company or facilities house in Britain has had so much experience of commercial making on video.
But let’s go back to the beginning. Remember at the start when all commercials were in glorious black and white? Whilst the first commercial ever shown on British television was for Gibbs SR toothpaste, the very first commercial on Channel Television screens was for Chivers Marmalade.
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 Island 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 screens of Channel Island homes.
Remember Channel Classified? For £4 a time on Tuesdays and Wednesdays, the presenter, Phill Mottram Brown, appeared live on air at exactly 6.42 p.m. 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, 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.
Remember “Island Shop”? Elsewhere in this magazine you can read about the heyday of advertising magazines before they were banned by the I.T.A. “Island Shop” was Channel Television’s own, starring Eileen Watkins and, once again, 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 Island’s Co-Operative Society, Patricia, among others. Alas, some of them are no longer with us, but twenty one years later most of them are still television advertisers.
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 and we still use voice overs of our duty announcers although of course we can pre-record sales messages with music or sound effects.
Twenty one years ago advertising on Channel Classified cost £4 a time. Well, peak time advertising has become a little more expensive during the twenty one years but advertisers can still buy an afternoon spot for £6. And, that’s not bad value, is it?
Local advertisers represent some 40% of all advertising on CTV. And of course, advertising is how we survive. It’s virtually our sole source of income — no part of the licence fee comes to us. But that doesn’t mean that anything goes.
Controls over television advertising are among the most comprehensive in the world, and far more stringent than newspapers need to abide by.
Because television advertising is so powerful, so effective, not only the content but the amount and nature of advertisements must be in accordance with the Broadcasting Act plus the extensive rules and principles laid down by the Independent Broadcasting Authority.
There must, for instance, be a total distinction between programmes and advertising. There are several classes of possible advertisers who are unacceptable to television contractors, and there are several methods of advertising which are equally unacceptable. Special attention is paid to advertising in relation to children, financial advertising and the advertising of medicines and treatments.
Misleading claims and presentation are rejected, as is offensive material such as swearing, undue violence, nudity, salaciousness or jokes exploiting, for instance, physical disabilities or religious beliefs.
Cigarette advertising is not permitted, nor is that for hard liquor, nor for matrimonial agencies, fortune tellers (a mass medium perhaps?) undertakers, betting tipsters, private investigation agencies or political or religious bodies.
Advertisements must not unfairly attack or discredit other products or advertisers. Testimonials must be genuine, children must not be encouraged to enter strange places. The size and scale of toys and games must be made easy to judge and sweet eating throughout the day must not be encouraged. These are just a few of the controls exercised over television advertisers.
The Company Lawyer at General Foods once required a copywriter to prove that a barbecue sauce actually did have “an old fashioned flavour” before the agency were allowed to use the innocuous claim in a series of advertisements. So you see, advertisers do care what they say.
They care because their consumers pay attention to what the commercials claim. They care because television advertising is so important. They care because television has become the most powerful advertising medium the world has ever known. It’s a selling tool that uses colour, sound, vision, motion and, perhaps most important of all, emotion.
Here’s to the next twenty one years of television advertising in the Channel Islands.