Friday, July 28, 2006

The Shake n Vac TV Ad - 1980s NOT 1979

I have an extensive collection of newspapers, and access to an archive dating back to the nineteenth century. The first reference to Shake n' Vac I've found dates to 1982, when it was a free gift with the new Hoover High Power Junior vacuum cleaner. I am absolutely convinced that the Shake n' Vac ad is later than 1979, and finds like this do nothing to sway my conviction.

Hello, good evening and welcome! Tonight we're going to look at the serious issue of hyping the 1970s. The 1980s, we have decided, are total baddies - full of greed and yuppies. From the first second of 1980 to the last second of 1989 everything was about looking after Number One. The 1960s were total goodies, but they have been overdone. So we must sell the 70s. How do we do it? Well, if something judged by many to be good - a TV programme, toy, fashion, record, etc, came out in the late 1960s, then we'll call it "1970". If a similar item came out in the early (or even mid) 1980s, we'll call it "1979".

1979 is terribly successful - already cropping up an awful lot where it shouldn't, eating up 1980s pop culture faster than Pac-Man ever could. Let's take an example. In the early-to-mid 1980s, there came into being a terrible television advertisement for a product called Shake n Vac carpet freshener. Lord knows when the product itself was launched, the earliest newspaper advertisements I can find date to 1982 when a packet was being given away free with each new Hoover Junior vacuum cleaner purchased.

Free giveaways such as this were a popular gambit with NEW PRODUCTS.

I'm not saying that the Shake n' Vac ad began in 1982 - I suspect it was a little later. I'm not even suggesting that Shake n' Vac itself was launched in 1982. All I am saying is that the famous TV ad was definitely later than 1979.

In the ad, a woman called Jenny Logan, playing a highly intelligent housewife, sang a retro rock n roll (1950s) style jingle, and did a '50s dance, whilst de-ponging her carpet. In the Year 2000, this advertisement was arousing nostalgic twinges. But it began in the early-to-mid-1980s! Oh dear, that will never do - call it "1979"! Yes, that's it! So, in a Channel Four programme called 100 Greatest British TV Ads, the advert, which came 19th, was listed as "1979". It worked a treat.

The Internet buzzed as young 1970s fantasists marvelled at this newly discovered item of "70s" pop culture. Andrew Collins, who was born in 1965 and perhaps should know better, edited the Friends Reunited book, and, it seemed, simply couldn't wait to list Shake n Vac as a "1970s Television advertisement". I'm not sure how Jenny Logan, the ad's star, viewed all this, but nobody else gave a damn so another piece of non-1970s pop culture was added to that decade by 1970s hype-ists. You can still view the ad on the internet today, marked "1979", together with a companion ad from 1988, implying that the campaign ran, on-and-off, for at least nine years. It didn't. We couldn't have stood it.

It all left me pondering over Box Of Delights - a book by TV writer Hilary Kingsley, published in 1989, which states that the Shake n Vac ad began in 1985. Each telly year covered in the book (from the birth of ITV in 1955 to the book's publication year, 1989) contains a "Commercial Break" section, and I quote from 1985:

... an inane housewife cavorted around the lounge doing the Shake 'n' Vac. Was that what Emmeline Pankhurst fought for?

Actually, I hadn't long moved house when the ad campaign started and that move took place around 1982/83.

So another sucessful coup for the 1970s hypers. And not a mention of power cuts, the Winter of Discontent, the 1979 playground shootings (which led to the Boomtown Rats' chilling hit I Don't Like Mondays) or the 1979 ITV strike, which knocked the channel off the air for 11 weeks. In fact not a mention of anything that was, in reality, 1970s. It's all terribly simple...
Well, as it turns out the ad was first shown earlier than I originally contended, but in the 1980s, not 1979 - 1980, to be precise. The product was launched in 1979, but advertising delayed until 1980 due to the ITV strike of 1979. So, there we have it. At last!
The information comes from the World Advertising Research Center site, which contains a great deal of detail from "back in the day". Here's their Shake n' Vac info:
Shake n' Vac: A New Product Launch
Hilary Rose, Mike Stefan and Carol Reay, Institute of Practitioners in Advertising, IPA Effectiveness Awards, 1980

Launch of a new powder carpet and room freshener. Sold in 1979, but advertising delayed to 1980 by ITV strike. TV only used. Results: consistent sales growth (Nielsen Food Index); sales growth linked to advertising; awareness, brand recall, levels of trial, all satisfactory. Regional variations on ad weight relate positively to sales and share (Nielsen). Contribution to profit and overheads in first year claimed, though not substantiated.
So, there we are. I wasn't absolutely right. Hilary Kingsley wasn't at all right. And neither were the 70s hypers. Considering that everybody from Friends Reunited to ITV itself have claimed that this ad debuted in 1979, I wonder why pop culture researchers can't seem to do research? Or is a determination to hype the 70s the reason?
Read the full info here.

Thursday, July 27, 2006

Wikipedia - Inaccurate 1970's Information

I've never really understood the idea behind Wikipedia. It's an online encyclopedia that anybody can contribute to at the drop of a hat, so facts seem to alter daily, but although it is, no doubt, monitored, it is massively guilty of 1970s hype.

I fear that 1970s revivalist geeks and nerds are rewriting the decade for Wikipedia, just like the researchers for the BBC's I Love 1970s and channel 5's That Was The Decade That Was series did for television in Britain.

Suddenly, the 1960s, a genuine era of rapid change, are unimportant.

Whilst stating that events are often wrongly attributed to the 1960s, Wikipedia then goes and does exactly the same thing with the 1970s. I certainly don't remember the feminist thing being the "be all and end all" of the 70s. It began in the 1960s (indeed media from that era suggests that it was very well advanced before the end of the decade), and was just as prevalent in the 1980s as in the 70s.

Gay rights? True, there were developments there in the 1970s, but the intial impetus came from the 1960s (homosexual acts between consenting adults in private were legalised in England and Wales in 1967) and the developments continued into the 80s and 90s and, indeed, beyond. The impact of AIDS, once touted as a "gay plague", had a huge impact on gay rights campaigns.

According to Wikipedia, everything of import happened in the 1970s.

The UK TV section refers to "innocent" 70s sitcoms. I remember an awful lot of smut. Isn't rosy coloured emotionalism clouding objectivity?

The Wikipedia 1970s section is HUGE, compared to its miniscule 1960s section. How this can be justified, I really cannot begin to imagine.

But then I do not understand the idea behind an online encyclopedia where anybody can write anything anyway.

The "let's glorify the 70s" ethos spills over into Wiki's accounts of adjacent decades and other sections, giving a unique and totally inaccurate account of the importance of the 1970s as a 20th Century decade. What is written is very similar to the (perhaps sometimes rather over-the-top) accounts of the glories of the 1960s in the media of the 1970s and 1980s.

Except that the 1960s were genuinely worthy of note.

There is something extremely amateurish about the 70s hype allowed on Wikipedia. One can smell the reasoning behind a lot of the waffle...

I write good things about the 1970s because it was my youthful era and my generation are special!

I write good things about the 1970s because I'm a nerd with no life in the current day.

If Wiki's 1970s information is anything to go by, then I certainly wouldn't use the site for research purposes. It is simply not of a standard professional enough to be trustworthy.

In fact I can only recommend that serious researchers avoid Wikipedia - or take the whole thing with a large pinch of salt.