Monday, July 13, 2009

Advertising Many Years Time Ago.

There are always surprises to be found on YouTube. One of these is the commerical above, a Molson Canadian ad from circa 1985. This ad, which features a cover version of the Beatles' "A Hard Day's Night," predates Nike controversial use of the original Beatles recording of "Revolution" in a TV ad by two years. I saw this ad numerous times during its run on Canadian TV and it stuck in my head, so it was interesting to stumble across it on YouTube after not literally seeing it for 24 some years.
Pop culture is often ephemeral, but TV commercials by their very nature are extreme examples of this. While a musician, novelist, or filmmaker hopes their work will be a hit and have a long life those who make commercials know that their works will in the majority of cases have a limited lifespan. Their life may be as short as a day or two, and in general most ads hang around only for a few weeks. There are of course campaigns with longer lifespans, but even in those cases they tend to alter gradually as time passes, and even the most successful will eventually outlive their usefulness. Eventually today's successful ad elements like Erin Esurance will join the Taco Bell chihuahua in the nostalgic memories of those who saw them.

Given this it's surprising to see such "ancient" material online. Things that people might be expected to want to experience again, like TV shows and music, have often been the subject of less than careful treatment. An example would be Doctor Who, for which some of the earliest episodes are no longer available because the BBC didn't bother to preserve them. Old commercials are even less likely to be preserved, since their intended goal has been accomplished and there is no real viewing audience that would be interested in acquiring them on DVD. So their appearance on YouTube is mere luck of the draw, the result of being captured when a TV show or movie was recorded for later viewing off TV. It's reasonable to assume that for many ads the only existing copies will be such happenstance archiving, especially those ads made locally or regionally. So don't be surprised if that Coke ad you really loved in 1989 isn't available online.

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