Comment: Not happy Jan! Where did all the ads go?


Thanks to Sydney's lockdown, and the Olympics, I started watching free-to-air TV again and rediscovered a lost love.

It is time to bring back advertisements during movies and TV shows. Bring back the jingles, bring back the iconic lines and bring back Rhonda and Ketut!

Who can forget the ads of their childhood? The challenges of running to the toilet, getting snacks or flicking through channels just to make it back in perfect time for the show to restart. Yet, still somehow, absorbing the ads on screen. Now, as streaming services take over our nightly television routine, we miss these experiences.

For more than 70 years, advertisements have been an important, sometimes annoying, part of our culture, connecting generations through slogans and tunes. Every night families would sit down to watch tv and unconsciously memorise the order and repetition of the ads. When else do we get to see videos of backyard cricket, learn about the best ways to put on sunscreen (Slip, Slop, Slap) or watch the love of Rhonda and Ketut grow? If you don't know these ads, then, where the bloody hell were you?

We would sing jingles in the playground such as, "I like Aeroplane jelly, aeroplane jelly for me", Wouldn't it be nice if the world were Cadbury" or "More safe, More Smart, Moretein". Aussie kids and adults were connected by these tunes and could remember them years later. Now, with the option to skip (which I know we all do), we've lost something, we don't get to appreciate these authentic Aussie creations.

I am part of the crossover generation. I was raised on free-to-air TV, transitioning to streaming services in my teens; I was a Weetbix Kid and went on to binge-watch Brooklyn Nine Nine and How I Met Your Mother. So, I can't say that I hate streaming services. I just feel like with their takeover of media, a large part of our Australian culture has been lost. Certain ads have a place in my heart because they were so relevant to my childhood. Before I had even learnt my home phone number, I had memorised the Reading Writing Hotline. Who didn't chant 1300 6555 06? Long after we stopped using the Yellow Pages, the 2006 "Not happy Jan" catchphrase still occasionally crops up in conversation.

NOT HAPPY JAN - Yellow Pages

We need our connection with ads to be more prominent in our lives again. It is part of the Aussie experience to know what is going on in Home and Away via the promos without watching it; or waiting for the latest lamb ad campaign each year. In thirty-second time slots, we get a short window into the ad world's version of our Australian lifestyle. The advertisements we watched when we were younger shaped us; kids aren't getting the same experience anymore. We don't connect every fast-food restaurant with a slogan, like Maccas' "I'm lovin' it", KFC's "Finger-lickin' good" or Subway's "Eat fresh".

Recently, thanks to Sydney's lockdown, and the Olympics, I went home and started watching free-to-air TV again and was reminded of the beauty of ads and promotions. I hate to admit that I have cried happy tears when watching Helga's "Love thy neighbour" ad, they know what heartstrings to pull. Still to this day, I get chills when I hear the classical melody of The Royal Flying Doctors.

Paul Smarter White Milk

Ask any Aussie adult, they can tell you the favourite and most despised ads from their childhood. My personal favourite is Pauls Smarter White Milk. Not only was it funny but it captured how many people felt in response to the explosion of so many different kinds of milk at the time. "I just want milk that tastes like real milk." As I write this, I realise, I am part of the last generation which will connect with the nostalgia these ads, once so prominent in our lives, bring back. I miss them, I miss randomly having a tune stuck in my head and not knowing where it was from. So, what can I say? When I watch Australian ads, I am a happy little Vegemite.

Thank you to lockdown for bringing me home – to ads.

Australian Lamb: Make Lamb, Not


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