Let’s be frank: hard as it is to say, no-one likes it when ad breaks interrupt the TV programme they were happily watching. No-one actually wants to see the ads.
But, like it or not, those ads are there, and – while there are products to be sold, brands to be paraded, and shedloads of cash to be made by the TV channels, from the cost of each slot – they ain’t going anywhere.
But there’s a preliminary round before the proper ad break starts: the idents which sandwich TV programmes, leading into and out of the full ads.
Due to their frequency alone (an hour-long programme, with four ad breaks, means that the same idents/ad will be seen eight times), they run the risk of annoying viewers and potentially damaging the brand. As the signifier for the full ad break, they also bear the brunt of that initial groan / roll of the eyes / sulky walk to the kettle.
However… some brands get it spot on, matching the perfect brand/sentiment with the perfect TV programme.
Cadbury’s sponsored Coronation Street – a cracking idea. The idents served as a reminder to settle down to Corrie (one of the UK’s favourite soaps) with a cup of tea and a big slab of Dairy Milk, snuggled on the sofa with a loved one/the whole family after a hard day at work.
If people didn’t already have chocolate in the house, I bet it made them want to sneak out and get some from the nearest shops, or just make sure they had Cadbury’s chocolate the next time they watched Coronation Street.
Harvey’s, the furniture store, also sponsored Coronation Street – another good idea. They constantly advertised their sofas. The idents themselves were pretty cheesy, but if you’re snuggled on your sofa, watching Corrie, you may well think ‘oooh, we could do with a new sofa’. Good, simple thinking.
At one point, E & J Gallo wine sponsored Hollyoaks. Again, this was – to my mind – perfect. Hollyoaks is a pretty trashy soap (a get-home-get-in-your-PJs-switch-your-mind-off soap), and Gallo is a middle-of-the-road / cheap wine brand. Trashy TV, glass of cheap Rosé… aaaand relax.
But, sometimes, I’m sure brands just don’t think, when it comes to idents. My no-brainer TV programme (last thing before going to bed), is Nothing To Declare – all about Australia’s border controls at their airports. It follows stories about people trying to smuggle drugs or food into the country, people sending concealed drugs via post, and immigration/work visa stories. Often, people have done nothing to warrant getting stopped by airport officials, but some of the interesting stories centre around the crazy ways people try to smuggle drugs.
The programme – to give it a tone – is loud, brash, and aggressive: full of confrontation (as you can imagine, when people are getting accused of wrongdoing), and with an angry electric guitar theme tune running throughout.
So, I was baffled when ad breaks first came up, with completely irrelevant idents for Oykos: a soft, silky, luxurious yoghurt, with real fruit pieces and/or honey. The ads are clearly aimed at the female market, with a woman lying on a couch and pressing a doorbell, to be greeted by two semi-naked men, with six packs, bringing her yoghurt on a silver tray.
What has this got to do with an aggressive, testosterone-fuelled programme on Australia’s border controls, all about drug smuggling and immigration? Where’s the link?
Because of this, I find the idents irritating: from a story about a possible heroin smuggler (just at the point where we’re about to find out if he’s in trouble)… to a soft, silky advert about fruit-based yoghurt…eh?
In fact (strange chap that I am), every time I go past the yoghurts in a supermarket, I’m slightly annoyed as I pass the Oykos pots (if I happen to spot them); ‘It’s those bloody yoghurts that always interrupt my programme’. Prior to watching Nothing To Declare, I didn’t care about Oykos one way or the other.
So, my view is that idents can still work, and they don’t have to induce a pre-ad break roll of the eyes, but only if they have relevance to programme they sandwich.