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factfile1.6 TV Adverts


Commercial television in the UK is not so dominated by the demands of advertisers as it is in the USA and there are far fewer interruptions to programmes. Yet the amount of airtime allowed by the Independent Television Authority for adverts has increased significantly in the past thirty years - from seven minutes per hour in the 1970s to twelve minutes today. Forty-two minute TV programmes imported from the USA are given one-hour slots on UK TV, resulting in almost a third of the broadcast being taken up by commercials.

productsThe first TV advert, screened in 1955, was for Gibbs SR toothpaste. Early commercials were
predominantly for soap powder and food and were cheaply produced in the studio, with crude lighting and sets and unsophisticated scripts. The standard approach was to use a well-known presenter, often shouting at full volume, telling viewers why they should use the product, together with a scientist or expert who would explain the technical side with the aid of some kind of chart or diagram. This type of advert was the precursor of the celebrity endorsement commercial that is commonplace today, especially for hair and skin care products.

With the advent of colour television in the 1970s, the format changed and commercials tended to emphasise lifestyles and values, inviting viewers to identify with the actors using the products on screen. Viewers were more TV-literate and consequently demanded higher production values. Jingles (the name derives from the idea that they stay in the memory – they "ring a bell"), which are now more common on radio than on television, were also popular then, combining a memorable slogan with a catchy tune. Adverts were often 60 seconds long forty years ago, but are now more likely to last only 30 or even 15 seconds.

In recent years, the development of new media has created a host of fresh platforms for advertisers, including ecommerce and viral marketing, which exploits social networking and word-of-mouth sharing of entertaining or interesting content through email, blogs, messaging and so on - often in the form of funny video clips, images or text. Sometimes a shorter advert will promote a link to a longer advert on a promotional website.

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