Lead Forensics

10 Interesting Facts About TV Advertising

29 July 2019

Here are ten facts that shine a light on the weird, wonderful and occasionally tragic world of TV advertising; a world you’re not shown on your television screens…


Let’s kick off with a cool little fact about ice cubes. The most famous of them – those featured in TV advertisements for beverages – are actually frauds. Yep, turns out these superstars of the ice cube world are actually acrylic cubes. This is apparently the result of an aversion to the heat given off by studio lighting, which if you ask us, just reeks of Prima Donna.


Advertisers are known for pulling out all the stops to instil positivity towards their brand in the minds of consumers, and nowhere is this more evident than in the case of watch brands. Indeed, most wrist pieces advertised on TV have their hands set to 10 minutes past 10 due to the smiley face that manifests. Of course, Apple has to be different; the electronics giant sets its hands to 10.09. Why? Who knows.


It’s hard to imagine a time when cigarette brands were permitted to advertise on TV; the sad irony is that it’s the marketing history of one of the industry’s biggest players that best encapsulates the reasons why a full ban now exists. The ‘Marlboro Man’ was one of TV advertising’s most iconic creations from the mid-1950s through to the outlawing of smoking ads, yet this brand fame came at a cost. Three of the men who portrayed the cowboy in Marlboro’s ads sadly succumbed to smoking-related illnesses in later life; a fact that led to the brand’s association with the phrase ‘Cowboy Killer’.


The representation of diversity in media is a topic of strong debate, and rightly so. Have you ever wondered when the first TV adverts to feature homosexual and disabled characters first aired? Well, in 1994 Ikea became the first brand to centre a campaign on homosexual characters, when a male couple were seen shopping for furniture. Sadly, the campaign only aired once, with small-minded prejudice seeing the company inundated by threats of arson in the US. As for the first TV advertisement to feature a disabled character: that would be a campaign by Levi’s launched in 1984, which sees a wheelchair user pop a mean wheelie.


One of the key reasons behind the reverence reserved for Volkswagen’s ‘Think Small’ TV campaign in the 1950s is the fact that, somehow, the brand succeeded in making a car that had been designed for Adolf Hitler a huge, era-defining success in the USA; a country at the time still heavily involved in rebuilding Europe after World War II. That’s the power of advertising.


Ever met a food stylist? No? Well, they exist. That succulent pork belly you’ve seen on TV; the reality-defying salad that leaves you craving all the greens; every single M&S food advert ever aired: all are the work of food stylists. Tricks of the trade include stuffing enchiladas with instant mashed potato, sunscreen instead of milk on cereals, and incense to create the steamy appeal of freshly made pasta.


A Toyota Altis campaign featuring Brad Pitt was banned in Malaysia due to concerns from the government over the effect his good looks would have on the self-esteem of Malaysian men. Who’s for lobbying for a similar move in the UK?


In the UK there is a limit of 12-minutes of advertisements per one hour – representing one of the strictest sets of legislation in Europe. Conversely, Nielsen estimates that approximately one quarter of all programming on American television is advertising.


The most expensive TV advertisement ever made cost an eye-watering $33 million. Chanel No.5 parted with $3 million alone for the services of Nicole Kidman – as well as a guy who was in Lost. Though, with that sort of outlay, one could be forgiven for expecting the Queen of England and the President of the United States.


At the other end of the scale, the first ever TV advertisement – a 60-second commercial for Bulova Watches broadcast in 1941 – cost an estimated $150 to air in today’s money. Though interestingly, in the UK research from Thinkbox and ITV shows that the average TV spot now costs just half a penny!

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