As TV directors, producers and composers became aware of the possibilities offered by electronic equipment in TV shows and adverts in the 70s, a brand of rather disturbing, ambient, electro surrealism found its way onto TV screens in the shape of Doctor Who, Space:1999, Blake’s 7 and Survivors. Plus a dash of Steven Toast. A synthesis of these elements here conspire to make what is perhaps the weirdest advert ever.
Firstly Chromakey, also known as CSO, was an extremely popular technique in programmes like these, achieved by filming actors against a blue screen and filling in the background with a picture of space, an underground cavern or another gravel pit.
Secondly, synthesizers, sampling and sheer experimentalism – pioneered by the superb BBC Radiophonic Workshop – came to the fore, and led many composers to abandon musical sensibilities in favour of wibbly, farty, unsettling electronic burbling.
Thirdly, possibly inspired by the high-concept visuals and themes of 2001: A Space Odyssey and other ethereal sci-fi movies of the 70s, a kind of terrifying acid-trip surrealism found its way into traditional tea-time fare.
Lastly was a preponderance for synthetic materials in the shape of terylene and bri-nylon, which would clearly be the materials of choice in the future. These would usually be presented in the shape of futuristic safari suits which, as we all know, have been incredibly popular since their introduction in 1974 and great fun for collecting static electric shocks from furniture everywhere.
All of these elements are brought together in this advert for ICI, which is simply frightening and baffling in equal measure: A doorway in a desert; a reflection of a man who isn’t there; ‘patterns like you’ve never seen’; doric columns; the hypnotic repetition of the phrases; the shrill wobble of the music and ethereal warbling.
A nightmare dimension of bizarre juxtapositions, moustaches, whispering synths and polyester suits. All it’s missing is a screaming Martin Landau or Paul Darrow smirking into a green sunset.
The New Way to Dress… Crimplene for Men… If that was the future the 70s promised, it’s no wonder everyone was so depressed.
Weirdest advert ever.