Well, this is interesting. I wonder how many people spat out their half-time lager/tea/laverbread during the England/Wales rugby world cup advert break - or choked on their acid during This Is England 1990 on Channel 4 - when they saw the 'cat and budgie' Freeview advert interrupted by a robot a bit like ED209 from Robocop marching towards them and telling them to conform (and upgrade and subscribe).
I had to wind it back myself, just to check what I'd actually seen. Sure enough, there's a little interference at the start of the advert, which slowly gives way to what looks like a pirate feed interrupting the usual ITV signal.
What is this? A They Live!-style subconscious message we suddenly all became aware of? A pirate signal? A spot of adbusting? No, it's a Freeview advert that's needling the Sky/Virgin/BT orthodoxy of how we watch television these days. Here's why - and how:
We are moving towards an economic system that's based on subscriptions. This makes sense when you think about it. Most of our digital services - and much of the hardware the serves them - are subscribed to. You don't buy Virgin - you lease a box and the services from them. You don't buy the internet, online storage or telephony. If you think about it you subscribe to your utilities. You don't just pay a one-off fee and get electricity for the rest of your life. You only ever really 'own' your house after 30 years of the most expensive hire-purchase agreement you'll ever enter into.
— -abbiher (@askalaaa) September 26, 2015
Telecommunications, multimedia and infotainment systems also run like this, because it's easier to upsell packages in this manner and because these apps and systems regularly need upgrading. I suspect we will move towards a subscription system in many walks of life - mobility, food, leisure - in the next couple of decades.
Why buy a car you use for four per cent of the time when it depreciates like a lead ballon? Why not, instead, pay a monthly fee for an integrated transport service that includes use of a car (like ZipCar), access to taxis (like Uber) and public transport? Frankly that system makes a lot more sense in some regards.
Do anyone else see that weird advert Interruption on itv or was that just me? #RugbyWorldCup
— Mara (@SamaraLouiseJW) September 26, 2015
But here's the rub - and wha the 'hacked' Freeview advert. You buy a 12-, 24- or 36-month subscription that looks great value. You get hardware, continued services and some added fripperies. And then six months later you get a letter saying your monthly bills have to rise. And six months later you get another. Then your set-top box becomes redundant and you have to upgrade. Then everything's on HD so you have to upgrade again. Then you have to get some brilliant new channel because that programme all your mates are watching means upgrading.
Before you know it you're paying £100 a month to watch a bit of telly, look at the internet and rent a landline (here's my regular BBC bit too - you complain about the licence fee and pay a grand a year to watch adverts. What's wrong with you?).
Did anyone else just see the weird subliminal TV hacking on ITV+1?! #disturbed
— M.H.J (@MeganHJames) September 26, 2015
And that's what this Freeview advert is about. We've sleepwalked into stumping up a grand a year to watch more telly. As far as I'm concerned this hasn't made me happier, expanded my horizons or meaningfully opened up quality new television to me. So recently I lost patience, on receipt of another letter from Virgin telling me I had to pay for the same service - and I slashed my package.
My favourite advert with the singing cat & budgie just had some weird subliminal shit interrupting it. WTF ITV???
— James M (@Arrogant_Duck) September 26, 2015
I pay the minimum amount for the minimum number of channels and I honestly have not noticed the difference. In all likelihood I'll buy a Freeview box before long and be done with the whole silly merry-go-round of subscribe-upgrade-conform.
Which, for me, makes this clever advertising from Freeview - certainly it makes more of an impact than the cat-and-budgie ads or even the lovely Left Behinds advert. They're quite nice, but they didn't really mean much to me.
— Chris Wilks (@SirWilks) September 26, 2015
This Freeview advert certainly got people talking - and it seems to have genuinely rattled people. For my money, anything that gives people a jolt while they're shovelling takeaways and sugary gak down their gaping maws as they stare slack-jawed at the telly is fine by me.
Normal service will now be resumed...
Set Yourself Free Freeview Advert
Here's the full - and pretty lengthy - Freeview advert these inserts have been building up to. It's called Set Yourself Free.
And here's a load of bumph about the entire campaign from Freeview.
Freeview, the UK’s no.1 TV platform, is set to unveil its biggest ever advertising campaign to launch connected TV service Freeview Play.
Airing today (Friday 2 October) the new TV Freeview advert Set Yourself Free will launch as a premiere ad break during Emmerdale under ITV’s Proud to Present banner and will be introduced by the channel’s continuity announcer. The advert is a two minute CGI film which opens in an Orwellian world with an army of TVs brainwashing inhabitants to ‘conform’, ‘upgrade’ and ‘subscribe’.
In this world is the advert’s young Hero TV, at odds with those around him, and a girl with her dog who long for a better way to watch TV. As the Freeview Play Hero TV escapes the dystopian world, the viewer follows his journey until he is united with the girl and dog and opens up a whole new world of free-to-air television to them.
Set Yourself Free is set to a new version of the iconic I Dreamed A Dream from Les Miserables performed by Sarah Kingsmill and recorded specially for the advert. Since last Saturday Freeview has been teasing the new campaign with a version of the brand’s Cat and Budgie advert interrupted by an evil TV from Set Yourself Free.
The TV campaign will also include 60 and 40 second versions plus Freeview adverts which explain the features and benefits of Freeview Play. It will also be complemented by in-store, print and outdoor advertising as well as digital and social activation.
Freeview Play launches this month and combines catch-up TV, on-demand services and live television, bringing the ability to watch what you want, when you want, as easily as possible, to the mass market. The service is free from subscription and works with all existing broadband services.
Guy North, Freeview Managing Director, said: “Freeview Play is the biggest development in the brand’s history and our new advert perfectly illustrates that with it viewers are now free to choose the TV service that best meets their needs.”
Owen Jenkinson, Freeview Head of Marketing, said: “Set Yourself Free is really an emancipation story. The aim of the advert is to challenge category norms and show that there is a better, savvier way to watch free TV in a visually striking and compelling narrative.”
Set Yourself Free was created by Leo Burnett with visual effects by Electric Theatre Collective. MEC is Freeview’s media buying agency.
Freeview advert press release
Why would you stay in a Travelodge? I mean, seriously, why would you choose to stay in a Travelodge? These are the very few reasons I've stayed in A Travelodge:
• There is nowhere else open
• There is nowhere else with a room
• It is (on rare occasion) the cheapest room available
• I have been put up there by my work
• I have been put up there by a client
What those reasons have in common is that the decision was essentially made for me, by circumstance or proscription. I had no meaningful choice. And that's why people stay in Travelodges - or whatever other cheap hotel chain you choose to mention.
Staying in one of the identikit chain-hotel rooms is as enjoyable as a National Express journey, eating a microwaved curry or having a wank in the toilets at work. A thing you do that's borne of necessity - not because you actually think that it would be a nice thing to do; not something you'd regard with much sense of achievement, pride or fondness. Not one, perhaps, to tell the grandkids.
But that's exactly what this advert suggests. Let's take a look at the lyrics:
I'm that shrewd part of you; that likes finding value;
I'm excited to see; Travelodge's new;
Upgraded rooms with comfy new king sized beds;
To stay anywhere else you'd need rocks in your head!
Now, this is where I have a problem: To stay at anywhere but a Travelodge, you'd have to be mentally subnormal. That's quite a claim, no matter how much you want to dress it up in a silly song.
Just imagine an advert where someone is trying to convince you to rub one out in the bogs at work by singing 'to wank anywhere else you'd need rocks in your head!'.
You'd be disinclined to agree - and more than likely write a stiffly-worded letter to the Advertising Standards Authority.
A bed this size; is a lovely new addition;
I can stretch out; starfish; adopt this strange position;
North, south, east and west; they're right across the nation;
There's even one in Colwyn Bay that's handy for the station;
This may be true, but I'm still not going.
So when you want to stay somewhere; don't sit on the fence;
You should stay in a Travelodge; when you hear the evidence;
Great rooms, great beds, locations; this place has it all;
And for such amazing value; that's Travelodgical.
Is it amazing value? Is it, as the advert implies, the logical choice? That's a subjective question but personally I think it represents neither good value nor a logical choice.
During a recent spell of work in North London - a kind of desert for hotels, pubs, restaurants and much else of any interest - I found myself staying in a variety of rather depressing hotel rooms and B&Bs. These sordid little grief hovels - in the words of Chris Morris - were invariably tiny, depressing and rarely costing anything shy of £100 per night.
So I did what any sane person would do in the circumstances and stayed at an AirBnb about a mile away from my place of work. Whenever I arrived I was greeted with a friendly smile, amiable chat and cup of tea. In the morning breakfast was waiting. WiFi was free. I could come and go as I pleased and I had a large loft room with space to work and a private en-suite. It cost me £37 a night.
I'm not blind to the inherent problems with the so-called sharing economy - AirBnb may be disruptive and inventive but it has little to do with sharing. But it does pose an existential threat to the established hotel business - especially the modular, no-frills chains including Travelodge.
Because you can almost certainly find an AirBnB room that really does 'have it all' - and at half the price. As I found In London and as I found when I recently travelled around New York and New England via various cheap, lovely apartments and rooms found through AirBnB and their lovely hosts.
The new Travelodge rooms look quite nice, as it goes, and I have a lot of sympathy with those finding their livelihoods threatened by disruptive marketing and new upstarts such as Uber and AirBnB.
But a double room with breakfast and WiFi staying in Wembley would cost me £95.95 as I write. And that's Trav-illogical.
• It should also be said that while I love The Muppets - who in their right mind does not - I find the miniature puppets here utterly aggravating and I enjoy imagining them trapped in a steaming Corby trouser press.