When I was invited to talk, I had a couple of ideas. And I worked through them and they just weren’t working for me.
So I started again. From scratch. I turned to music. I tend to listen to music when I’m stuck. It was whist doing this that I heard a track that brought on a smile. One of the tracks that takes me back to a certain time and place. And that got me thinking about a tv ad and the nostalgia that accompanied that.
Now, I work in B2B and there is some great work taking place in that space. And I could, and probably should, talk about that. However, I want to step out of that bubble and talk about a couple of old ads that I love. Before I go on, I want to make this clear I am by no means an expert in what I’m going to ramble on about. I’m simply interested in the format. I just want to share it. There’s no deep insight, no analysis, no future gazing, no trends. I’m simply looking back. Someone comforting nostalgia in a period of chaos. Please consider this a high a high level take on two tv ads that I love.
At times like these we have to take comfort in the old stuff. Things that will make us smile. These two ads always put a smile on my face and I hope they do for you too. They might not make you laugh out loud. But they might just brighten your day. They might take you back to the same era and similar ads from that period. And yes these are old ads, dating back to 1995 and whilst they are two very distinct ads, they do have much in common; there’s no dialogue, a great soundtrack, excellent visuals, art direction, and two iconic directors. The one major difference is one is certainly more famous, and more awarded, than the other. Most importantly, however, they tell a story. Remember when adverts told stories? These tell stories, they don’t talk about product features.
So this track that I heard is from what is probably my favourite ad of all time, a song called Novelty Waves by Biosphere. And whenever I hear this track I’m transported back to the commuter belt town in which I grew up. It takes me back to the early nineties.
The advert is Drugstore by Levi’s. This absolute gem was directed by Michel Gondry, who went on to work with Daft Punk and direct the likes of Sunshine of the Spotless mind and Be kind rewind. I have absolutely no idea when I found out he directed it, I certainly wouldn’t have known at the time but that doesnt matter. The advert itself was released in 1995, during a period when Levis were arguably at the height of their advertising powers. When seemingly every song used on a Levis advert went to number one in the UK charts. Babylon Zoo, Stiltskin, Shaggy. The track from this advert didn’t. It peaked at 51.
I don’t even remember how I found out about the title of the track. But I remember buying the single from Our Price on cassette. Because everything about that advert, for me, boiled down to that track. It was so perfectly distinct. Up to that point Levis had really only used old soul or rock. So this was a departure for sure. They would later revisit it with Flat Eric and the music of Mr Oizo. But this track, at this time, just hit me.
Interestingly, I interviewed for Levis whilst I was at Uni. It was basically to be in the marketing team that supported their touring programme. At then time they were heavy sponsors of the likes of Jamiroquai and so on. I thought I’d nailed the interview, only to be called the following week to say that I didn’t have the job. And, this is the killer, they thought it was very amusing that I tend up for the interview in a suit. What the F**k? Lesson learnt.
But coming back to this advert, I believe it did several things for me. The soundtrack the art direction, the execution, the cinematopgrtaphy, the production value. It feels solid, weighty. Pure. It opened me up to several possibilities. Music, film, photography and a career. At the time I was studying business studies and at that point I knew it was marketing that I wanted to get into.
The second advert is by Gucci and it features I feel love by Donna Summer. Or at least an interpretation of I feel Love. It was directed by Chris Cunningham, who also produced the track. I am more than likely biased here, because I was and am a huge fan of Chris Cunningham work in music videos for the likes of Aphex Twin, Squarepusher and Bjork. And of course the Playstation ad. And when I’d heard that he was working with Gucci on an ad and I must admit, I wondered how that would work. Had Gucci seen the video for Come to Daddy?
Someone on YouTube commented that it should be illegal for Chris Cunningham works to be viewed in anything less than 4K and in the case of this advert, I wholeheartedly agree. I mean c’mon that butterfly effect. But of course its the music that’s deployed to great effect, a totally emphemeral and 70s/80s take on the sound. There’s not much in the way of romance here. Which by all accounts isn’t in the Gucci code. Instead, its haunting and almost melancholy, cold even. Which I guess does reflect on the work of Cunningham’s previous output. Apparently, he managed to get Dionna Summer to re-record the vocals for the track, which is something in itself. Incidentally the full track isn’t fantastic. The first 90 seconds are great, and its application to this video made me smile when I first watched it. And then that butterfly effect, thats Chris Cunningham. It just works. It makes me smile.
As I said no insights, analysis or lessons learnt. These are just two ads that I love. I want to share them. I hope you enjoyed them and my ramblings. And if you enjoyed them great and if it means you donate to The Samaritans, even better.
Hopefully I’ve helped in some little way.
This originally appeared as an Isolated Talk.