A legitimate complaint about modern day cinema is the sheer number of adverts for things that you have to sit through before you even get to the film trailers. Even then, a simple film trailer has evolved into a five or six minute taster in some cases. Even the most ardent fan of Fast & Furious 6 will have been tested by that last summer, especially if they happened to be a regular cinemagoer.
But there’s also the fact that cinema advertising has lost some of its charm, that it’s got too glossy, and that it’s very rarely vaguely entertaining.
Yet it wasn’t always so. We’ve dug back over the past 30 years or so and come up with a collection of good and bad commercials that we miss seeing for different reasons, or just give us a pang of nostalgia. Some of these also appeared on television, but they were most notable for their appearances on the big screen…
Cinema’s own promos
Let’s start from a low base. Some of the introductory and promotional videos that cinemas themselves use have been part of the fun over the years, with slanted fonts, day-glo colours and the promise that you could rent the screen for your own private screening. We never met a person who did.
But then they went and got all slick, taking all the joy out of the in the process. They told us about their websites, about the latest gossip, and about their sodding loyalty cards. Never have we seen a cinema in-house promo as bad as this monstrosity for Showcase, however…
“I Can See The Pub From Here”
Booze and fags were the staple diet of cinema advertising in the 1980s and 1990s, especially as more and more legislation came in curtailing the way such products were advertised on television. As such, the Hamlet adverts, Carling Black Label and Castlemaine XXXX were seen on the big screen more than Burt Reynolds even at the time. Here then is one of the most popular Castlemaine adverts, followed by the Carling Black Label one that spoofed it…
Smirnoff wasn’t the worst offender for the most oft-repeated advert on cinema screens in the early 1990s, but it had a damn good go. This was about the best one, taking on a bit more of a sinister turn than the other version, where a waiter walked amongst posh people.
Health Education Authority
Not a name you’d think would make such a list, but then this particular commercial brought the house down every time we saw it. The gold is the look on Mrs Dawson’s face at the very end. It was one of the few adverts that united teenagers and older than teenagers in mirth. We hope Sheila is still as happy.
There were two different, equally notable Kia-Ora adverts doing the rounds. The first, with the infamous “I’ll be your dog”, also played on television, and ran like this…
The second talked about a hard-working projectionist, not having time to pop out for a beverage himself. Cue a lament about projectionists being the last thing you’d find in a multiplex today….
Bacardi: “The Dog And Duck, Down The High Street”
We hated this one, but it’s a rite of passage for those regularly going to the movies at a certain point in history.
Bluntly, anyone who went to the cinema more than once around 1991-1993 will have, as a consequence, seen this particular commercial every single sodding time. It played – with no exaggeration – for years before Bacardi finally gave into ravenous mobs at his headquarters pleading for them to change it for something else. People waved banners saying things like ‘That’s no bloody Auntie Beryl’ (changed to Auntie Morag in Scotland) and ‘take next door’s bloody budgie with you while you’re at it’.
If this is the first time you’ve seen the advert, then you may wonder what all the fuss is for. However, picture it every single time you went to the cinema for years. It almost made you pine for Ray at Reef Radio, with his particularly smug brand of smirk.
The Weetabix Robin Hood advert
As with the bulk of adverts on this list, this wasn’t exclusive to cinemas, but bonus points to Weetabix for its inspired cashing in on a pair of Robin Hood films arriving in UK fleapits back in 1991. The Patrick Bergin-headlined Robin Hood was the lower profile (going straight to telly in the US), so it was before Robin Hood: Prince Of Thieves that most will have seen this one. Marvellous work from the Weetafolk.
Westler’s Hot Dogs
The promotional approach for Westler’s hot dogs varied over the years – there was an animated version at one stage, if memory serves. However, you could, in the live action takes, always rely on a lustful shot of a Westler’s sausage, sometimes interspersed with manly images such as cowboys and stern people in hats. The camera operator clearly leered at a Westler’s hot dog in the manner that others may stare at porn. As well they might.
Butterkist, Butterkist, Ra Ra Ra
It is to the immense failure of YouTube that an embeddable version of the Butterkist advert that delighted so many of us in our younger years is not available on its site. Tsk. Still, whilst whippersnappers may look in despair at the chant of ‘Butterkist, Butterkist, ra ra ra’, for some of us it remains a cherishable, important part of our youth.
Corporate shennanigans put a life span on Orange’s now infamous movie pitch commercials, although the firm had retired the ad campaign before it decides it should be called EE instead. That said, the hit rate of the individual adverts was really very strong. If we had to pick a favourite? It’d probably be the Steven Seagal one, although if you asked us again next Wednesday, we might pick a different one. We like lots of them. Anyway, sayonara Seagal…
Pearl & Dean
The proper version, not the digital one with no grain and pitch perfect Dolby sound. Where’s the nostalgia in that? Nope, this is the one that used to get the audience singing along. This was played on an ancient relic known as a ‘projector’, which scandalously didn’t used to come with a hard drive attached to it…
The local Tandoori
Finally, the ad we miss the post. After a night out at the movies, what do you most desire? Easy! The curry house around the corner. Canny local advertisers realised this too, and thus cinemagoers across Britain were teased with the idea of an Indian restaurant, that was generally a number of yards away from the fleapit you happened to be sat in. In a world of glossy adverts and over-elaborate marketing campaigns, we miss the simplicity of something like this (note: you need to skip to 3 mins 11 seconds).
Feel free to add your own ‘favourites’ in the comments. Please note that we’re not endorsing any of the products here, with the exception of Butterkist popcorn and the local curry house. Yum.
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