Whisky ads are rarely seen in television commercial breaks these days. Brian Townsend asks why the medium is rarely used?
It has long struck me that what is really revealing about commercial-channel TV programmes is the adverts that go with them.
For instance, afternoon quiz and antiques programmes always have ads for funeral payment plans, stairlifts, incontinence pads, denture fixatives and electric tilting armchairs. Evidently, the advertisers see most viewers as somewhere between semi-infirm and gaga.
On the other hand, programmes on the royal family, current or historical, are larded with ads for hair dyes, shampoos, conditioners and skin moisturisers. Evidently, they see their audience as largely female and worried about advancing grey hair and wrinkles.
What intrigues me is that very few ads are for whisky. There are adverts for gin – and supermarkets advertise wine deals at Christmas. But TV ads for whisky, and most other drinks, are vanishing.
I can recall the days when ads for Cockburn’s Port, Harvey’s Bristol Cream, John Smith’s bitter, Martini, Campari and much else aired regularly. Some may recall the corny advocaat doggerel “Evenings and morninks, I drink Warnick’s”, and who can forget Leonard Rossiter sloshing Cinzano down Joan Collins’ cleavage?
Yet I can barely recall a whisky ad from recent viewing. David Beckham posing as James Bond pushed Haig Club a few years ago and there was the high-styled Johnny Walker ad recently, but it seems TV is not seen as a good medium for extolling whisky.
Could there be other factors at work? An old industry adage is that you only see heavy advertising when a product isn’t selling. So perhaps whisky and other drinks are doing well enough during the lockdown, so why advertise? Also, Scotland has minimum pricing, so cut-price brands won’t advertise.
There is also the anti-drink lobby that tends to accuse advertising of pushing people to drink more. Frankly, if people are drinking more, I suspect it’s lockdown.
Perhaps things will change once the pandemic is behind us and ads for whiskies and other drinks will return, hopefully with the wit and humour of those gems of old past.