Billions of pounds are spent each year trying to attract our eyeballs, even if just for a few seconds. And for their trouble, advertisers are never far from the headlines, with controversies and debate galore. Ad Breakdown here marks the passing of another year with a look back at the highs and lows of 2004.
The Magazine's review of advertising in 2004
GET THE CELEBRITIES OUT OF HERE...
This was the year that David Beckham became the black and white chin-stroking face of Gillette - for a reported £40m over three years.
Despite - or perhaps because of - allegations of him sending explicit text messages to Rebecca Loos, his contract with Vodafone was also renewed. M&S stopped using him, but his appearance in an epic Pepsi ad (which helpfully was featured on the front page of the Sun) was rated as the ad which had most mentions in newspapers all year.
Beckham for Pepsi makes the news
But with one in five adverts now featuring celebs, there is no shortage of other candidates. Sex and the City's Kim Cattrall took the place of Tetley's Sidney, Jeremy Clarkson became the face of BT, Richard E Grant pushed his Argos ad as far as it would go, Mel Sykes invited us to wonder at the lengths to which she would go to hydrate her skin, David Dickinson told us Comet was "cheap as chips", and Nicole Kidman played a celebrity looking for a quiet life in a multi-million-pound mini-film for Chanel No 5.
And of course no Ad Breakdown review would be complete without Linda. This year's she was joined by David Seaman in her Curry's advert, which won the honour of being named the most awful celebrity ad by Campaign magazine. "As if Linda Barker wasn't bad enough. Well done, Curry's and ad agency M&C Saatchi, for making one of the most excruciating celeb appearances even worse by the addition of His Woodenness, David Seaman."
Advertisers should note, though, that the value of their celebrity endorsees can go down as well as up - viz Paula Radcliffe, quietly dropped as the face of Quaker Oats - slogan "Helps you go the distance".
Third generation mobile phone network 3 has tried a number of gambits to get people buying its phones, including showing people's frustrations in reconstructing Premiership goals, the message being that with video clips they need not bother.
This year we've seen Anna Friel swimming in an exotic garden, talking mysteriously about how things evolve. But it's the Japanese cowboys and the dancing giant jellyfish which will probably be remembered - it may even become a new law in advertising: once you've tried every angle, there's always the "appeal to those who wish to communicate with free-swimming invertebrates" ploy.
Curiously hypnotising: 3's dancing jellyfish
Many adverts annoy simply by virtue of their repetition. But some raise the ire of viewers at the first showing - and among Ad Breakdown readers, McDonald's Salads Plus was one such advert.
Three trendy young women, Bridget Jones/Sex and the City types, meet each other for lunch in McDonalds, where they eat all sorts of healthy salads. No burgers, fries or shakes in sight.
McDonald's Ladies who lunch
The voiceover introduces new items on the menu, then adds: "These girls are also new in McDonald's. Impatient Sophie, sensible Charlotte, and... Joanna, who's always late!" One reader said: "Apart from the fact that trendy 'sassy' women would rather gnaw off an arm than eat in McDonald's, the phoney and patronising 'new customers' are about as convincing as a pantomime horse." The ladies who lunch were quietly dropped.
Incidentally, particularly amusing was a disclaimer on the magazine adverts accompanying this campaign. They introduced another character, Anna, who "loves alcohol but hates bars". The small print read: "Anna is intended to illustrate a possible customer-type and is not a real person."
Also mentioned in your e-mails was the Renault Megane advert ("I see you baby"), a version of which was banned by the advertising regulators after complaints that images of people shaking when the car passed them were offensive to those with conditions such as Parkinson's.
Another favourite irritant of Ad Breakdown readers was Jennifer Aniston climbing through cupboards, showing what amazing things her Barclaycard could do, and what amazingly stupid things doe-eyed men could say to chat her up. One reader said: "Is this just a connection I've made, or does the blue shape on the new Barclaycard represent Jennifer's blue-jeaned bum?"
Are ya lip guy? Jennifer does it for Barclaycard
The authorities were kept busy, with complaints galore.
Sloggi underwear (slogan: "It's string time") became the first ad to be banned from display near a place of worship, after a complaint from a mosque. One newspaper was annoyed that while it was not allowed to be shown near mosques, it was acceptable for it to be placed near churches.
A Virgin Mobile advert in which Christine Aguilera bounced up and down on an office chair, and thus looked from certain angles like she was having sex, allegedly annoyed parents.
A Somerfield radio advert in which a man complains that his wife keeps cooking him "faggots" was banned for being derogatory to homosexuals.
A Land Rover advert in which a wife looked like she was about to shoot her husband, but was revealed to be using a starting pistol, was also banned after complaints that it glamorised gun culture.
Not for the first time, a Tango advert ran into grief. The commercial showed a man rolling downhill in a carpet filled with oranges which are then burst by a tree - it was banned because of fears of children copying it.
CONTROVERSIAL IN A GOOD CAUSE
Two adverts stand out as being controversial but for good cause. First is the British Heart Foundation anti-smoking advert, which shows fat oozing out of cigarette, as if out of a blocked artery, and smearing on a smoker's trouser leg. A disgusting image which sidesteps all the traditional warnings about smoke which many have become hardened to.
Amnesty's domestic violence poster has you looking twice
Second is a poster campaign by Amnesty International, taking on the issue of domestic violence. A model looks into the camera as if to show how her moisturiser has kept her beautiful, when you notice the bruises on her shoulder. "Cachez - Gentle skincare for bruising relationships" the tagline goes.
Farewell to Kit Kat's Have a Break, which has earned a break after almost 50 years and is now replaced by "Make the most of your break". Goodbye too to the Flake girl, writhing in her bath, and the Cheltenham and Gloucester boy, diving for Pearls. Ta-ta to teatime favourites, the Tetley folk, and good riddance to the FCUK logo, at last given some time off by French Connection.
Farewell Flake girl
PLEASE ENJOY IN MODERATION
Enjoy responsibly... drink in moderation... with messages like these, this was the year that alcohol adverts joined those for mortgages ("your home is at risk...") in making sure the small-print warning was clear for all to see.
There is concern rising in the government about junk food advertising targeted at children, and the general level of obesity. Who knows, it may only be a matter of time until similar warnings are on a huge range of goods.
"Look both ways before crossing" on those cool iPod adverts, perhaps, or maybe "Avoid RSI - shoot discriminately" for Grand Theft Auto.
But let's conclude on an up.
Ad Breakdown's favourites this year include the Smirnoff "Ten times filtered" ad in which the narrator's ashes are converted into a diamond which is then implanted into a woman's tooth.
The ad for Lynx, in which a young couple wake up naked and retrace their steps - and clothes - through town until they reach the frozen food aisle where they first met is clever and stylish (though no doubt ripe for a "Enjoy fragrance-inspired casual sexual encounters responsibly" line in 2005).
'I thought everyone knew' - Peter Kay for John Smiths
The Velvet toilet tissue workers casually jumping into a big pile of rolls is a novel angle and has a fly-on-the-wall reality feel to it.
John Smiths continues its patronage of the work of Peter Kay, with him playing a wedding DJ and, by careful choice of a Kid Creole track, tells the bride that her dad isn't her real father. Beautiful.
All of which go to show that, sometimes, flicking between channels during commercial breaks is the least good way to spend three minutes.
Ad Breakdown is compiled by Giles Wilson.
Add your comments, and your own highs and lows of the year's adverts, using the form below.
I quite liked the adverts for Premiership manager on the radio featuring Gordon Strachan and a hapless news hounds:
"Gordon...can I have a word?"
"Isn't that three words?
"Not when I say it"
I'm glad to see the Velvet toilet tissue advert getting the recognition it deserves!!!
Peter Mulcahy, London
The current 3 Mobile radio adverts with the irritating squeeling alien pandas has to be the most irritating ad. I feel like I've tuned in to a childrens channel.
Paul Stevenson, Crawley
The Citroen C4 advert with the Transformer - Robots in Disguise car. The choreography is so sleek, the special effects are amazing and the music is funky - single to be released soon? It's accomplished a feat only really ever done before by Renault Clio (Nicole/Papa), an ad that makes people remember what car it's promoting.
Lesley, Dundee, Scotland
The 3 mobile advert featuring the singing cherries deserves to win an award - not only is it utterly bizarre but it has brought a new lease of life back to Chicago's career!
I think that the Citroen C4 advert, where the car turns into a transformer and dances is not only the best advert of 2004 but the best comercial of all time!!! Quality.
Mark , Northants
It's interesting the Bacardi advert (in the railway station) and the Virgin advert with Missy Elliot did not make their way into the list of most annoying adverts!!
Warren Kandasamy, London
I cannot believe that the string of Cadburys adverts with the tigers have not been mentioned. They are very possibly the most irritating adverts of all time. I have switched my allegiance to Galaxy. Yes, it bothers me that much.
I REALLY love the WKD adverts this year they all made me laugh my head off
The Land Rover ad gets my vote as by far the worst. I watched it once because I didn't know better, another time to see if I'd missed something and then changed channels every time it came on after that.
I know most people hate the Esure adverts, but I think they are genius. My favourite being the "I'm not your sister!" ad.
Ian Blandford, Nottingham, UK
'Those cup-a-soup adverts were hilarious, remember the marathon runners passing the table of near boiling kettles and randomly selecting a cup a soup sachet as they haplessly try to keep on the go, and then pouring it over their heads to 'cool' them off, brilliant!
Better seeing Jennifer Aniston crawling through cupboards than hearing people repeating the phrase 'quote me happy!' The makers of ring tone adverts have a lot to answer for also!!
Stephen Beattie, Woking
The BBC have some of the worst adverts for their own programmes and radio stations. The adverts are too long, meaningless and over used to the extent of boredom. Also the repeated advertising of programmes which are to be screened over a week in advance. As for the latest fast food advert the only bit which I could recall is about calling their father a slap head. Everytime it is screened I run for the controller
Why has no-one commented on the alarming trend in women's face-care products? Claudia Schiffer making faces at a baby, only to hear the doom-laden words "All these actions lead to the appearance of fine lines on your face!" Great - so now women can be made to feel ugly and guilty for playing with babies, laughing etc
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