Selling points

PUBLISHED : Sunday, 13 December, 2009, 12:00am
UPDATED : Sunday, 13 December, 2009, 12:00am

The advertisements that precede movies are often more imaginative than the films themselves. This is especially true in Britain, where creative thinking, high budgets and advanced visual communication skills elevate commercials into witty short films. The cream of the crop can be seen at the British Television Advertising Awards website ( Ranging across diverse genres, the ads on show are so well produced they were recently honoured with a back-to-back screening in the cinema at New York's Museum of Modern Art.

There are comedies, which usually highlight the British preference for irony. There are some disturbing documentary-style ads about the dangers of binge drinking and knife violence - two social issues gripping the country. And there are also experimental films, mini-dramas and animations.

The Gold Awards section features two brands that have a legacy of innovative advertising, PG Tips and Hovis. PG Tips, a popular brand of tea, has a long-standing tradition of featuring primates in its adverts. The company's award-winning ad features a toy monkey and comedian Johnny Vegas gooning around to the song The Stripper as they prepare their breakfast. The advert has special relevance for British viewers as it's a take on a classic 1970s sketch by comedy duo Morecambe and Wise.

Viral advertising - videos that are so funny that they are passed from user to user on the Web - now has its own category at the awards. PG Tips again shines. This time the monkey is posing as Queen Elizabeth delivering her traditional Christmas Day speech. As the monkey messes up each take, it gets progressively drunker on champagne, and even manages to knock over the royal Christmas tree. As is often the case with Britain's postmodern style of advertising, the PG Tips tea is hardly mentioned.

Drama is also present. A big-budget advert for Hovis bread is a take on Forrest Gump. A young boy picks up a loaf of Hovis in a shop in 1920. On his way home, he passes through some major events from the last century before he reaches his house. Filmic experimentation is present in a Volkswagen car ad that uses the sounds of a car to make a rap record.

The most charmingly risque commercial is for Diesel clothes, with cute animations dropped over the 'naughty bits' of 1970s porn films. Advertisements are a great training ground for directors of films. Filmmakers such as Alan Parker and Ridley Scott began their careers in advertising. The BTAA site shows there are more talented filmmakers waiting to be plucked from the commercial world.