If there’s a better way to pass a few idle hours on a midweek evening than trying to guess what exactly it is you’re trying to be sold in the Dinner Date break within the first five seconds of each advert, we’re yet to have stumbled across it.
We’re not the only ones it seems. The ad-mad archivists at the British Film Institute (BFI) must share our passion for bellowing “UM…LIFE INSURANCE?” and “DAIRY MILK! DEFINITELY DAIRY MILK!” at the telly if the news emerging from London’s Southbank today is anything to go by.
Following on from the runaway success that was its remastering of the classic Ridley Scott directed “Boy on a Bike” advert for wholesome wholemeal loaf specialists Hovis, the BFI has decided to digitise 300 archive film and television adverts before making them free to watch via the BFI Player streaming service.
Tracing a century of advertising history, Commercial Break: British Advertising on Screen explores how cinema-goers and home audiences alike have been engaged, enthused, and enthralled by ads over the past 100 years, with each of the adverts in question being culled from the BFI’s gigantic collection of over 100,000 examples of crowd-pleasing commercials.
“There’s an art to selling, as any man or woman will tell you,” says BFI National Archive curator Steve Foxon. “Britain’s screen advertising has been a central part of the British film story since its earliest days. It found its feet in the cinema, transformed television and its ripples have even influenced Hollywood.”
As anyone who’s ever enjoyed the sight of jug-eared former England striker Gary Linekar shilling for Walkers will tell you, half the point of watching adverts is to see which celebrities have been paid handsomely to get the general public to add a frozen prawn ring to their shopping basket, and accordingly, the BFI’s celebration features everyone from Peter Cook and Dudley Moore through to Michael Caine and George Best.
The archive is ready to be tucked into right this second.
- Josephin Ritschel presents architecture and its surroundings as a stage for storytelling
- Gender, sexuality and male identity as seen through the lens of Jorge Perez Ortiz
- Gab Bois transforms things we’ve seen a thousand times into something spectacular
- Aysha Tengiz on her joyous, colourful and slightly depressing illustrated scenes
- Satellite photography, drawing tools and interactive logotypes feature in Double Click September
- Lego reveals first brand campaign in 30 years, Rebuild the World
- “All you see is lazy photography everywhere”: Martin Parr discusses his career, Brexit and obsession
- The work of Xiangyu Liu is weird and fantastically unpredictable (some NSFW)
- Caterina Bianchini Studio designs a dog-themed identity for a conveyer belt cheese restaurant
- Ikea invites people to “try on” Virgil Abloh furniture collection at LFW
- Hans Findling on his experimental and multidisciplinary approach to design
- Introducing the It’s Nice That Graduates of 2019!