Why classic adverts should be brought back to cinemas

Mark concludes his series of articles for making the cinema great again, by calling for the return of the big-screen classic ads...

For the modern cinemagoer, pre-performance adverts are part and parcel of the experience. Millions are spent on cinema advertising every year in an attempt to convince us that we really really need to purchase the latest cars, watches, toys and vodka. As the cinema audience is a captive one, it’s a great way for advertisers to get through to their target market. Equally, it’s a great way to annoy a heck of a lot of people.

Cinema advertising in the UK seems to have got worse since the dawn of the new millennium. As more and more cinema chains have popped up, the increase in the sheer number of advertisements we are forced to watch has meant the time taken to get through them all is getting beyond a joke. When I were a lad, I remember watching just a few adverts for concession snacks, local businesses and a couple of big name brands, followed by one or two trailers for upcoming films before the main presentation began. Now, you have to sit through at least fifteen minutes worth of adverts and five or six trailers before the film you actually paid to see starts.

It’s not just the length of time adverts take up that I have a problem with either. The quality of messages behind the advertisements has dramatically decreased as the creative bods behind them, with large budgets to spend, have decided to make them more sophisticated. Many leave you baffled as what the actual point of the advert is, with only the briefest glimpse of the product at the very end of the spot letting you in on the act.

It didn’t used to be like this. When going to the cinema meant heading down to your local independent to catch one of three screenings on that day, advertisements were often specific to that area. In my old stomping ground of Wakefield, an advert for a local teashop was a regular, complete with old women smiling to the camera. It was extremely charming and had just as much, if not more, impact as with the expensive, stylish advertisements of today. It would be great to see some of these localised, small budget adverts back on the big screen.

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Beyond local advertising, cinema commercials for big companies back in the day were far more memorable than they are nowadays – other than those Orange adverts, which, I have to admit, do raise the odd smile. So much so, that I think they should bring back some of the classic, retro adverts from a bygone era. Mix them in with the new flashy commercials and the audience might actually start to take notice again.

Fun, memorable and effective, here are a few adverts I think should be brought back:1)    ButterkistButterkist Butterkist RA RA RA. ‘Nuff said.2)    Let’s All Go To The LobbyDespite my deep hatred for cinema junk food, here’s one aspect of selling snacks that I’m sad has gone away. Obviously they’d have to bring back intermissions to bring this back but it’s an advert that’s so good, featuring various all-singing, all-dancing snacks convincing you to go get some grub, it, alongside other similar spots promoting lobby snacks that Pearl and Dean used to run, deserves a place in any cinema. Failing that, how about the Simpsons’ excellent take on it when Homer ends up eating the dancing hot dog?  3)    Cigarette advertsBefore smoking was banned in public places, adverts for cigarettes and cigars were regularly seen in cinemas. Hamlet and Benson & Hedges did some of the best, with pretty big budgets, some with big stars such as Spike Milligan. The creatives were clear, memorable and always a talking point.4)    Indian restaurant advertsDo you remember when Indian restaurants were always being advertised at the cinema? I used to love seeing the faded pictures of what was on offer for my dad and me when we’d finished watching classic movie fodder such as Beastmaster.5)    Kia-OraWhat do you get when a boy, his dog and some crows start singing about juice? One of the best, catchy advertisements in living memory. A regular at my local cinema, this one has stuck long in my head. It’s just for me and my dawg.

Read Mark’s previous piece in this series here