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Last Updated: Tuesday, 7 September, 2004, 16:52 GMT 17:52 UK
Happy hours with non-stop ads?
AD BREAKDOWN
Magazine's review of advertising

Playstation advert
Spooky art from the Playstation advert
It was probably inevitable. The Advert Channel, believed to be a world first, has started broadcasting to some TV viewers in the UK. So will this be the way to while away many happy hours?

The logic is sound.

Anyone who has dived into the ocean of multi-channel TV will know the particular frustration of having many hundreds of possibilities at their fingertips, but being unable to find anything worth watching.

Yet on the way from auction channels to extreme sports, the eye can easily be caught by a well-made advert. So why not, the reasoning goes, have a channel which shows just adverts - without the need for making expensive programmes? Pure genius.

Ad Breakdown regulars need no reminder of how fine a good advert can be. Beautifully conceived, tightly written, magnificently crafted.

Courage advert from the Advert Channel
Our Henery shows folk of a bygone age what his arm was for
In its first day, the Advert Channel reminded viewers of such moments - like the monumental Playstation ad ("I have commanded armies and conquered worlds"), or Mohammed Ali running for Adidas ("even though critics may doubt you, it's OK to believe impossible is nothing").

Adverts being the product of the trading of cultural currency, there are some fascinating signs of how times have changed, such as an advert for Courage Tavern in which Henry Cooper socialises with his mates to a voiceover: "When Henry was in the ring, he always used to save his right arm. Ever wondered what for?" Linking the pint you drink to sociability and sporting prowess are both strictly forbidden nowadays.

And ads from around the world can still be compelling, even though the "aren't foreigners funny" seam which was first opened by Clive James now seems to be running a bit thin. When you've seen Bill Murray do it so well on the big screen, even seeing Eddie Murphy trying his hand at Japanese just doesn't seem as comical as it once might have.

118 advert from the Advert Channel
Feeling good
But regulars on this page will also know there is a huge number of adverts which, while mildly interesting to see again once or twice, do not justify much more repetition than they have already had. (Ariston and on and on?)

Purists may be a bit disappointed with the Advert Channel in that the adverts do not run back-to-back but are interspersed with aspiring presenters doing their best to be enthusiastic. There is a bigger problem, though.

Non-commercial

It's something of an irony, but the trouble with the channel is that there are no adverts. There are plenty of adverts, of course, but no adverts, at least not in the sense that anyone is paying for them to be shown.

So when the Advert Channel shows the classic Agent Provocateur spot in which Kylie rides a velvet bucking bronco, Agent Provocateur is not actually paying for the ad to be shown.

And when you admire again the feelgood vibe from the 118 twins running through the park to the Rocky soundtrack, no-one is paying for us to be so entertained. And when you see inventive Ikea ads from round the world, there's been no outlay from the Swedish head office.

The Advert Channel
Adam the television a constant presence
This means the company running this channel has to try to earn its money elsewhere - and it has thus departed from the model of being 24-hours of just adverts.

It is raising its money by running interminable "call now and win this really cool Sega Megadrive" competitions, offering downloads of famous advert themes, and encouraging viewers to send texts at 1 each. The channel will also use the jukebox-style voting seen on music channels. And in a touch reminiscent of Live TV's News Bunny, a man dressed as a TV hangs around the presenters, waving.

Co-founder Chelsey Baker believes people will watch the channel for the extra bits between the adverts. And eventually, she says, they may sell conventional advertising time between the classic ads. Interest in her formula has come from around the world, she says. "No-one does adverts like the British, though."

But viewers may feel that the bits between the adverts are so below the par of the best of the ads, that the channel has, perversely, proved the old adage that the ads are the only thing on TV worth watching.

The Advert Channel is on digital satellite channel 694, and on cable in the next couple of months.

Ad Breakdown is compiled by Giles Wilson.

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